Vijay fans can celebrate a green Diwali this time with Mersal, a cracker of a movie that will make up for bursting expensive fireworks. Director Atlee who had delivered the superhit Theri roughly a year ago, returns with a tightly packed thriller with a much better script this time. Mersal is more than just the usual Vijay fare. It’s in fact a cut above his earlier release Katthi in packing a socially relevant message, in this case, the need for universal free healthcare—the question “If governments can give us TV, home appliances, laptops, etc for our votes, why not free healthcare?” will connect with the masses.
As part of the punchlines, Vijay also attacks GST and governments’ apathy in looking after the health of the citizens thus “while Singapore, with just 7% GST, can afford to give free healthcare to its citizens, why can’t India that levies 28% GST provide it?”
The makers did not make it a secret that Vijay appears in three different roles in the film. The three roles and how they are related to one another are progressively revealed in the film through two different flashbacks—one before the interval and one after that. One of them, Dr.Maran who is known as “five-rupee doctor” works towards the goal of providing free healthcare for all. The film, as any other story of a hero taking on the system, offers simplistic solutions to complex issues and adds a social cause to personal revenge. The message, nevertheless, is not completely lost in the proceedings that end up glorifying the hero. Take for instance, the villain played by SJ Suryah, predicting in late 70s how healthcare will be one of the biggest businesses years down the line and starts doing C-sections in place of normal deliveries to build acceptance for such practices even among the rural people.
The script is richly packed with all the elements of a mass masala movie to please Vijay fans and the family audiences alike. Vijayendra Prasad, the writer of Bahubali, adds his signature in the flashback scenes. AR Rahman’s BGM and the Aalapporaan Tamizhan song match the energy of the film. Among the three heroines, Nitya Menen has got the meatiest role, which she plays with perfection with her powerful dialogue delivery and chemistry with the hero. Vadivel’s comedy track does not run parallel to the main plot as in most of his other films because his character is central to the story. His tongue-in-cheek mockery of cashless economy in a robbery scene triggers loud applause in the theater. SJ Suryah is his menacing best as the villain. Atlee seems to be following the footsteps of his mentor Shankar who had started the trend of vigilante movies in Tamil with Gentleman, Indian, and Mudhalvan.
Vijay is described as Thalapathi and not as Ilaya Thalapathi in the titles. With rants against misplaced priorities of political parties and governments, critique on the system of buying votes with cash and freebies, arguments on why healthcare must not be allowed to run as a business, and the scene in which Vijay is shown as entering a theater to take on a criminal politician almost like MGR whose movie scene plays in the background...it’s all there for the people to see and draw their own conclusions. Do these signal the entry of the reel Thalapthi in to politics? We don’t know yet. For now, it’s celebration time for Vijay fans as the hero has added yet another big blockbuster to his kitty.