Mandela movie review: The timely political satire is a must watch this election season

Mandela film cast: Yogi Babu, Sheela Rajkumar
Mandela Film Director: Madan ashwin
Mandela Film Rating: 3 stars

Director Madon Ashwin’s latest film Mandela debuted on Netflix on Monday, a day after its television premiere. Yogi Babu-Starr is a metaphor about the weakness and strength of our political and democratic structures. It really seems like a ready reckoner about the importance of voting without prejudice amid the high stakes of Tamil Nadu assembly elections.

While cash for votes is one of the men thwarting the electoral process across the country, its spread in Tamil Nadu is quite wide. State politics is notorious for giving free cash and cash to political parties to participate in elections. In the Netflix satire Mandela, director Madon stated what happens when voters fail to fulfill the authority and importance of their vote, and are swayed by such freeloaders.

The film is set against the backdrop of a remote village where the number of eligible voters is less than 700 and they are divided by caste lines. Rathnam (GM Sundar) and Mathi (Kanna Ravi) are half-brothers, but they belong to different castes. Rathnam is the head of the northern part of the village, while Mathi lives in the south. His father, however, is a decent and honest man, played by Sangli Murugan. He is the head of the Gram Panchayat.

When he falls ill, he refuses to take any of his sons as his political successor, but that does not stop Ratnam and Mathi from contesting elections. If they give permission to set up a factory, they are tempted by a corporate proposal of Rs 30 crore, to the chairman of the new village. Encouraged by greed and lustful arrogance, the brothers do nothing to win the election. And a deeply divided village makes their work completely easy. All the brothers have to do is to incite caste hatred among the people and they should be proud of the collective development of their village and the progress of their personal lives. The real challenge is when a village nobody, played by Yogi Babu, dissipates the power to decide the political fate of Rathnam and Mathi.

We see the character of Yogi Babu as a person who abuses and exploits everyone in the village. He even forgets his name because people use him many insults. This all changes when he meets Tomoji (Sheila Prince), a good-natured postman who named him Nelson Mandela after the great South African leader. Mandela’s life changed drastically as he became the most important elector of the village overnight.

The village is engrossed in drama as the leaders use corrupt methods to woo Mandela and get his vote. But, the villagers do not pause even for a minute and think about how valuable Mandela’s vote is. Madonna hopes that the audience will do this while watching the film, besides laughing at her courage.

The film exposes the fault lines running deep in our electoral process – from caste division to pole free. Politicians turn everything into a matter of pride, including defecation in a newly constructed public toilet.

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