Madonne Ashwins Mandela, which is unconventional in different ways, is the latest to join the list of political satires in Tamil cinema. It doesnt belong to the movies which had Yogi Babu doing what he was expected to or what he does often. The film begins with a few people in a rural area unapologetically engaged in open defecation. A few moments later, they realise that a public toilet has been built at their village, much to their surprise. The happiness and astonishment, especially on the ladies faces, was palpable. However, their delight was short-lived - as the men over there, who are split into two groups on the basis of caste, started quarrelling over who should use the toilet first. They jointly decide on an elder person (Sangili Murugan) who both the caste groups look up to for inaugurating the toilet. But the issue only becomes worse after sometime. The whole stretch is hilarious to say the least, thanks to the performances of each character in the frame.
Later, the village gears up for a local body election and the leaders of both caste groups calculate the total number of votes their respective parties are likely to garner. When both of them realise that they get equal number of votes from their respective caste members, they pin hopes on getting one more vote to emerge victorious in the election. Interestingly, it is during this time that an underprivileged hairdresser (Yogi Babu) at the village who doesnt have any identity to prove his citizenship gets a voter ID card with the name Nelson Mandela as suggested by a post office employee. A nobody in the village, the elicha vayan as he is referred to by most of the inhabitants there becomes the darling of both the groups overnight. He gets to live life king-size as both of them woo him with freebies. But little did he know that voting for one group will invite the wrath of another.
The movie is outright hilarious from the word go, though it deals with umpteen relevant, sensitive topics. The screenplay which reflects todays politics has several thought-provoking dialogues on freebies, candidates faking their assets, various election tactics and so on. The performances of artistes who even appear in a scene or two stand out, thanks to the writing and relatable humour in it. Yogi Babus Mandela goes through various emotions because of the roller-coaster ride in his life. The character arc is organically built - there are moments where we feel for him when his naïve character becomes helpless - there are moments where we cheer for him when he gets scenes which remind us of the mass-y scenes of our superstars. There is an unusual auction scene in which the two caste groups plan to cut off the protagonists arm, but the way the scene is structured leave us in splits.
We have had more than enough films which had hero saving a village, with mass-y scenes written surrounding it. Among the many scenes in Mandela, one intriguing sequence which stands out is where a whole village comes together to save a vulnerable hero who is on the verge of getting killed by thugs. The movie, which inarguably has the best performance of Yogi Babu till date, is also aided by earnest performances by Sheela Rajkumar, GM Sundar and Kanna Ravi among others.
Vidhu Ayyannas beautiful visuals of the village, Philomon Rajs sensible cuts and Bharath Sankars music act as ideal catalysts to Madonnes captivating narration.

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