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A period film set in the 80s about the golden Rajini-Kamal era in Tamil cinema is reason enough to make a beeline towards a theater playing ‘Engitta Modhathe’ directed by debutante Ramu Chellappa. However, whether he has fully satisfied the viewer with his tale of cutout politics remains to be seen.
Natty Natraj plays Ravi a cutout painter who is also a fanatic Rajini worshipper while his colleague and close friend Perumal (Rajaji) is an ardent Kamal fan. Natty beats up a policeman for discoloring a Rajini painting and the duo are forced to move to his hometown Tirunelveli where they become successful artists. Rajaji’s mother and sister (Sanchitha Shetty) move in and the girl falls for Natty, while Rajaji sets his sights on a neighbor girl played by Parvathi Nair. When Rajini’s ‘Manithan’ and Kamal’s ‘Nayagan’ release on the same day a fight between the two fans irks a local politician Chidambaram (Vijai Murugan) who with the blessings of the theater owner cum Minister hopeful Radha Ravi plots to ban cutouts in the town. Meanwhile Natty and Sanchitha affair causes a rift between the two friends with Rajaji joining forces with the enemies and what happens next forms the rest of the screenplay.
After ‘Sathuranga Vettai’ this is Natty Natraj’s best performances as he has nailed a Rajini fan to perfection with his voice modulation, body language, gait and even when he is simply standing. He has done the fights and the love scenes with gusto and his dancing too has improved a lot. Rajaji gives a neat account of himself throughout, but sadly post interval his role has been unjustifiably reduced to an extra. Sanchitha Shetty is fetching as the 80s lower middle class girl and provides the oomph factor in the songs. Parvathi Nair on the other hand has very little to do as Rajaji’s love interest. Art director Vijay Murugan takes to evil like a fish to water while the scheming politician role is just another walk in the park for the seasoned Radha Ravi. Muruganandham and the other actors playing the Rajini and Kamal fans provide some natural comedy that tickles the funny bones most of the time.
The highlight of the film is the shedding of light on the hitherto unknown politics that Rajini and Kamal fans played when they were in their peak even though the legends themselves stayed away from it. Radha Ravi tells Vijay Murugan that Rajini and Kamal fans are more powerful than the stars themselves kind of sums up the theme of ‘Engitta Mothathe’ .
Natarajan Shankaran’s songs and background score fit nicely into the period of the story and he sure is a welcome find. Cinematographer C. Ganesh Chandra has not experimented too much and has gone for the sepia tone to get the 80s feel while editing by Athiyappan Siva, art direction by Aaruswamy, stunts by Miracle Michael all pass muster. Writer-director Ramu Chellappa has done great detailing in the first half to transport the audiences to the eighties era and his dialogues are crisp and impactful. There is enough conflict between the two friends that could have parallelly collided with their ideology as fans of Tamil cinema’s biggest superstars. The director, however completely writes out Rajaji’s character in the second half and instead focuses on the war between Natty and the politicians which is superficial to the story he set out to tell. In the fight sequences Natty beats up innumerable goons armed with weapons while there is not even a scratch to show on him. The entire team obviously forgot the fact that Natty is only a Rajini fan and not the Thalaivar himself. After a point, especially in the second half the scenes become repetitive and border on boredom.