Debutant writer-director Madone Ashwin’s Mandela, which premiered on Netflix on Monday, is a political satire that’s both entertaining and extremely impactful, especially in the ways it addresses issues such as caste-based politics. The film makes one realize the importance of a single vote, and why it’s essential to understanding modern-day politics in Tamil Nadu.
Set in a small village, the film follows events leading up to a local body election, and how two half-brothers won’t stop at anything to win. The village is divided by two prominent caste groups which are led by the brothers.
Watch the Mandela trailer here
Yogi Babu plays Mandela, a barber who doesn’t belong to either of the groups and is considered an outcast. He cleans toilets and does all sorts of menial jobs. But when it is learnt that it’s his single vote that will decide who will win the elections, he becomes the centre of attention. From an outcast, he ends up becoming the most important person in the village and his fortune changes overnight.
You could take this story and set it in any small village in India and the message will still resonate strongly. One of the prime reasons why the film works effectively and mostly stays relevant is because of its comical treatment. Yet, it does strike quite a few emotional chords without getting overly sentimental. Another reason Yogi Babu and his earnest performance. Mostly used to play silly comical characters in films, Mandela allows Yogi Babu to truly showcase his potential and he plays the titular character with so much sincerity.
First-timer Ashwin’s writing deserves a lot of praise. Without ever making a mockery of the caste-politics, he deals with the issue with a lot of maturity. His understanding of how the oppressed are seen and treated as per everybody’s convenience is on point, and it never goes overboard in its representation.
The film feels slightly long-drawn in the second half but the way it ends leaves a strong impact. It gives us a front row seat to the times we live in, and it works like a charm. If there’s one film you need to watch before you cast your next vote, this is it.
Director: Madone Ashwin
Cast: Yogi Babu, Kanna Ravi, Sheela and GM Sundar