Film Review: Ponmagal Vandhal (The Golden Girl Arrives)
Starring: Jyotika, Parthieban, Bhagyaraj and Thiagarajan
Director: J.J. Fredrick
The Tamil film ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ (with English subtitles) hit the headlines earlier in the year as one of the first South Indian films to go for a straight-to-digital premiere, bypassing cinemas altogether. And, with the Covid-19 pandemic transforming cinema-watching habits the world over, it is in no way an anomaly as scores of Indian films search for new homes across various over-the-top (OTT) platforms – including Amazon Prime where this courtroom thriller finally landed.
Venba (Jyotika) is a bright young lawyer who sends shockwaves across the quiet vales of Udhagamandalam, commonly known as Ooty in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, when she decides to reopen a historic serial murder case involving a serial killer dubbed “Psycho Jyothi” for her alleged involvement in a string of child murders.
Venba is backed up by her activist father, dubbed Petition Pethuraj (Bhagyaraj) for his appetite for launching petitions in court on behalf of the underdog. Together the father-daughter team come across as a formidable force out for justice for what they are convinced is the wrongful conviction in the child abuse case.
Their fight pits them against the might of a well-heeled lawyer, Rajaratham (Parthieban), known for his winning streak in court and the powerful politician who hires him to shut down the case, Varadarajan (Thiagarajan). As the courtroom drama flits between flashbacks to years ago and the pages of a worn-out diary, it becomes clear that there is more to the serial murder case than a woman’s psychotic urge to kill children.
This is a moderately well-crafted thriller, which will keep you guessing through some of the frames. Jyotika’s performance, as the proverbial golden girl from the film’s title on a mission for justice, is flawless. Some of the other performances lack similar punch but nonetheless make for a worthy cinematic journey.
For a film that tackles a very difficult and uncomfortable subject of child abuse, ‘Ponmagal Vandhal’ manages to strike a good pace and tone. The music and scenic shots of Ooty add a special flavour to the experience and the clever use of CGI in certain segments is also well handled.
Overall, it may lack some of the hard-hitting elements of other courtroom dramas but most definitely worth a watch.
*iGlobal Review Series