In Maamanithan, meaning the great human, Radha Krishnan (Vijay Sethupathi) is a very honest man. He is emotionally well-sorted and lives a content life with the earnings he makes by driving a for-hire auto-rickshaw. He has loyal friends, and everybody in Pannaipuram town seems to hold him in high regard.
Krishnan’s life seems nearly perfect. He has everything that a man could ask for to live a happy life. A loyal wife Gayathrie (Ambalika) and two healthy children. An independent spacious house with a private well and garden. His profession as an auto-rickshaw driver seems to be fetching enough money to sustain and protect what he already has. He’s probably living his dream. At least, it’s the dream of millions of middle-class Indians. But, at one point, he fails to count his blessings. And his life falls apart.
To put it like Denzel Washington, “In your highest moments, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you!”
Krishnan becomes the slave of his wishes and he begins to pine for things that he doesn’t have. In other words, he gets greedy. He finds himself at the crux of a real-estate boom, and he seizes the opportunity. He makes a deal with a seller that he would help him sell off all the plots leveraging the goodwill he has with local people. In return, he asks for a share in total profits. The seller agrees and Krishnan trades his khaki uniform for a white cotton dhoti and shirt, marking the change in profession. He looks like a politician. The costume sort of foreshadows the possibility of Krishnan lying and deceiving to make sales happen.
Krishnan switched his profession to real estate because he wanted to provide an expensive education to his children. That’s his excuse to begin desiring quick money but everything else he does after that is just for himself. He gets his hand dirty and damages his clean consciousness with corruption. The malice has now taken full control of Krishnan. And it seems he is almost beyond redemption.
Is Maamanithan an anti-materialistic movie, which asks its audience not to nurture ambitions or get rich? That would be a very shallow reading of this film. Seenu Ramasamy, who has also written the movie, seems to want his audience to understand the importance of strengthening and protecting one’s spirituality. The movie seems to argue that providence would go out of its way to protect the good ones. And it will subject people to gruelling punishments to cleanse them of residues of their intrusions.
Vijay Sethupathi seamlessly fits into the role of a man trying to solve the mysteries of life through repentance. Supporting actors Guru Somasundaram Gayathrie, and Jewel Mary bring a lot of realism to the movie through their performance.
Maamanithan is Seenu Ramasamy’s meditation on life. And according to him, the man who knows to be content living on less is great.