Film: 'Manmadhan Ambu'; Cast: Kamal Haasan, Madhavan, Trisha, Sangeetha, Oviya, Usha Uthoop, Ramesh Arvind, Oorvasi and others; Cinematography: Manush Nandhan; Music: Devi Sri Prasad; Story, Screenplay & Lyrics: Kamal Haasan; Direction: K.S. Ravikumar; Producer: Red Giant Movies; Rating:***
First, the storyline. Major R. Mannar (Kamal Haasan) is an army officer-turned-private detective. Ambu (Trisha) is a popular actress known by the name Nisha, who is in love with a businessman Madanagopal (Madhavan). Madan is suspicious about Ambu's activities and keeps questioning her integrity. Ambu has enough and walks away.
Madan meanwhile hires Major R. Mannar's (Kamal) detective services to find out about Nisha's 'affairs' with her co-stars. His motivation is to prove her immoral and insult her in the eyes of public before formally parting ways.
Mannar takes up the assignment as he has to earn a huge sum of money for the treatment of his close friend who suffers from cancer. Deepa (Sangeetha), a divorcee with two children, is Ambu's close friend who goes on an European tour aboard a luxury cruise. Mannar joins them on board to carry out his surveillance over Ambu.
After watching Ambu closely for a few days, Mannar tells Madan that his fears about her loyalty are unfounded. Madan then loses interest in the results and turns passive when Mannar asks for his fee. Smelling Madan's cunningness, Manar starts a game wherein he (mis)leads Madan into believing that Nisha slowly develops an 'affair' with someone on the ship.
Things take a different turn when Mannar's trap not only fixes Madan but also takes in other unsuspecting individuals. Mannar seeks Deepa's help to end the game. A producer, who had long been chasing Ambu, joins the scheme of things thus making it a laugh riot.
Meanwhile, Ambu feels guilty as she finds that an accident caused by her three years back had killed Mannar's wife. While Mannar is not aware of who is responsible, he is in no mood to take revenge for what happened in the past. This attitude makes Ambu come closer to Mannar.
The rest of the story is about whether or not Madhan and Ambu come together and what Mannar and Deepa's roles were in untying the knots.
Kamal has penned the story, dialogues, screenplay and lyrics. He has deftly handled the myriad emotions of suspicion, anger, fear, expectancy and relief of the lead players. The complication in the relationship between Madhavan and Trisha has been depicted well. Their verbal duel has come out sharp and credible. Ambu's self-assertive character, her deep-rooted friendship with Deepa, Mannar's ploy to save his friend and Madan's suspicious outlook have been nicely put together to provide us with a clean entertainer.
The problem with the movie is it's neither a full-length comedy nor a serious film. The second half could have been pacier and the climax, more credible.
Too many English dialogues might affect the overall impact of the movie, as many important conversations are in stylish English.
Director K.S. Ravikumar, who has worked with Kamal in quite a few movies, has kept up his reputation of executing the script perfectly. It is interesting to see the flashback sequences narrated in the 'reverse' mode.
It is surprising that Kamal has enacted a role which could have been done by any actor. There is nothing special in his role and there is little scope for the veteran to showcase his skills. Madhavan and Sangeetha, on the other hand, have almost got the role of their lives in this film. Both have utilized this opportunity and have delivered astonishing performances. Trisha has improved her acting prowess a bit, though her looks have lost some of their charm. But her (own) voice sounds good, so she can continue to dub in her own voice in the future too.
Oorvasi, Ramesh Arvind, Usha Uthoop and many other artistes have done their roles, albeit brief ones, perfectly. Manush Nandan's cinematography, in his debut film, is top-class. Devi Sri Prasad's music is just about okay.
'Manmathan Ambu' does impress but it lacks the punch to captivate the audiences.