Writer-Director Mari Selvaraj had a generational revenge drama on his hands, but somehow, mid-way, it seems he decided to make a film on caste politics and the electoral powerplay in the country. The new film Maamannan features entertaining performances by Fahadh Faasil and Vadivelu. Udhayanidhi does a decent job of playing the hero, although his frozen face does become tiring considering the 157-minute runtime of the film.
The story of Maamannan begins by setting up the confrontation between Rathinavelu and Athiveeran, which becomes the catalyst for mending the bond between Athiveeran and his father, Maamannan. Maamannan goes through a radical change in his personality and starts his fight against the oppression that he has endured in the name of tradition.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens in ‘Maamannan’?
The seed of the story was sown many years ago. Maamannan’s son Athiveeran went swimming with his friends in a well, which apparently ‘belonged’ to upper-caste men. The upper-caste men decided to teach them a lesson. They pelted stones at them, and the kids helplessly tried to swim out of the well. Only Athiveeran survived, while the rest of his friends succumbed to their injuries. Maamannan approached his party leader, Sundaram, to get the men arrested. Sundaram, who was a shrewd politician, couldn’t risk losing the entire village’s support, so he told Maamannan to leave the matter alone. Maamannan, who was a simpleton, couldn’t muster the courage to go against the upper-caste men. He continued to serve the party. His connection with his party, however, severed his connection with his son, who ran away from home.
Fortunately, a mentor found Athiveeran and instilled in him the values of a disciplined martial artist. He was the one who made Athiveeran return back home. Athiveeran saw the mentor as his father figure and stopped seeing eye to eye with Maamannan. He stopped talking to him and went his own way to seek education and start his own martial arts center.
Maamannan was rewarded for his conformist attitude. Sundaram suspected that the village would become a ‘reserved’ village, meaning only a person of a specific caste could be elected from that village. Maamannan fit the category, and seeing him as a loyalist to the party, Sundaram helped him become the local representative. Sundaram soon passed away, and Maamannan became a relatively powerful figure, ending up becoming a member of the Legislative Assembly, yet he was the same conformist and timid man from the inside. Athiveeran knew this and kept away from Maamannan’s politics. He kept himself busy managing a pigsty and soon came face to face with Sundaram’s murderous heir, Rathinavelu. The chain of events laid the foundation for repairing the father-son bond between Athiveeran and Maamannan.
What Do The Pigs And The Dogs Symbolize?
On the one hand was Athiveeran, who loved his pet pigs and taught his pupils self-restraint and courage so that they could face any challenge coming their way. On the other hand, Rathinavelu organized dog races and killed the dog if he didn’t emerge victorious. Maamannan’s forefathers belonged to the caste that reared pigs, and they were oppressed by the upper castes. Athiveeran’s affinity for his pigs was symbolic of his inner inclination toward abolishing unequal treatment. Rathinavelu was obsessed with fierce dogs, which symbolized his desire for power.
How Do Athiveeran And Rathnavelu Collide?
Athiveeran and Rathinavelu lived in different worlds. Their paths wouldn’t have crossed if it weren’t for Leela. She studied at the same college as Athiveeran’s and realized that he liked her. The attraction was mutual, but she saw him as Maamannan’s privileged son and did not pursue the matter any further. She wanted to help the underprivileged, and hence she started her teaching mission, where she and some other educators started to give classes for free. Rathinavelu’s elder brother ran a private institute with high fees, and when he started to incur losses because of Leela’s free education program, he decided to break her spirit. First, he managed to get her education center shut down. When Leela visited Maamannan for support, she came to know about Athiveeran’s horrific childhood and how he hadn’t spoken to his father since that event where his friends died. Leela’s entire perception of him shifted, and she started to see Athiveeran in a different light. Athiveeran helped her by letting her use the dojo for her classes.
Rathinavelu’s elder brother sent his goons to attack Athiveeran’s dojo. They beat the students that were studying there, not knowing that Athiveeran would come back with a vengeance. Athiveeran and Leela’s students attacked Sundaram’s private educational institutes, and Rathinavelu had to take cognizance of the matter. When he came to learn that Athiveeran was Maamannan’s son, his worry subsided because he saw him as a spineless fellow whom he could easily control. After all, all the respect he had was because of Rathinavelu’s father, Sundaram. Had Sundaram not helped Maamannan politically, he would be a nobody instead of the minister that he is now. He didn’t take into account Athiveeran, who would not let the past be repeated. Athiveeran attacked Rathinavelu when he disrespected Maamannan by not asking him to sit as an equal.
Did Maamannan Win The Election In The End?
Rathinavelu, who didn’t even spare his pet dogs if they lost the races, couldn’t digest that Athiveeran, who was the descendant of the caste that Sundaram and the rest had kept under their boot, had attacked him. He went in for the kill, but the Chief Minister of the state gave him direct instructions not to harm Maamannan and his son. The party stood against inequality, which is why the Chief Minister tried to persuade Rathinavelu to drop the matter. Rathinavelu understood that Athiveeran’s spirit had to be broken, and just killing him would not help him gain back control over their caste. The spirit of ‘social justice’ had to be squashed. Rathinavelu left the party and joined the rivals for the upcoming elections. He had spared Athiveeran’s life but let his wild dogs feast on his pigs.
Athiveeran was enraged beyond anyone’s control. He would have killed Rathinavelu, but the mentor’s training didn’t let him. This was a war bigger than his personal feelings, and the victory gained in anger would bring defeat in the long run. The incident with Rathinavelu had made him speak to his father for the first time in fifteen years, and Maamannan too, began to change. He stopped respecting Rathinavelu just because he was Sundaram’s son. He realized how he had been conned by Sundaram in the past and that all his political positions could not really be termed ‘power’ as he couldn’t influence anyone. He left the decision to stay in the party upto his son. When Rathinavelu gave them both an open challenge that he would win the next election, take their political power away, and then proceed to crush this spirit of rebellion, Maamannan took charge and accepted his challenge. He wasn’t going to back down this time.
Rathinavelu tried every tactic to stop them from winning. He even went and apologized to the Caste Association and made a deal with them to not allow Maamannan’s convoy to come into their villages for their election campaign. It looked like his evil politics would work, and Maamannan would lose, but Athiveeran’s good deeds came to the rescue. The students he had helped study in his dojo came to help him. They used their presence on social media to spread Maamannan’s message.
On Rathinavelu’s behest, people of Maamannan’s own caste came to oppose him. They did so because they believed that Maamannan’s was against the traditions and customs that were so necessary to retain the unique fabric of society. It was the toughest battle Maamannan had to fight, but his wisdom ensured he did not retaliate. Athiveeran faltered a bit, and on the day election results had to be announced, it looked like Athiveeran had cost Maamannan the election by engaging in brawls, but ultimately Maamannan emerged victorious, and Rathinavelu felt powerless more than he had ever done. Maamannan went on to become the speaker in the State Legislative Assembly, and Rathinavelu was left as the local goon, with no respect and no one to back him up. Maamannan felt he had finally atoned for his sins against his own son when the portraits of Athiveeran’s three young friends, who had drowned in the well, were installed to honor their memory.