Chandramukhi is definitely a Rajini movie. And as a Rajini fan, I was not disappointed. The characterization is treated differently, but it is nevertheless a movie with the Thalaivar trademark at a lot of places. On the whole, I was impressed with the packaging of the movie, with not too many compromises made either to the original screen play. The fact that the story was (unusually) ready-made with limited scope to project Rajini as a superman (in fact, Mohanlal’s portrayal as Dr. Sunny Joseph in the original Manichitrathazhu was restrained) works positively in this direction. But for all of you, who are ambivalent towards Rajini, the gravest injustice you could do to Chandramukhi would be to go to watch it with visions of Padaiyappa in your mind.
Chandramukhi is fun, with Thalai’s comic sense in full flow. The Thalai-Vadivelu combo certainly matches with his combos with Senthil and Goundamani in other movies. But that’s were any comparisons should end. This is not your typical Rajini padam. That is good, mostly. To be very frank, I think I would have squirmed in my seat at the few instances of double entendre if I had been watching with a "knowledgeable" person of the opposite sex.
I would also have appreciated the movie better if there were not so many close ups used. Like LG indicated in his Mumbai Express review, close ups don’t gel in a comedy track and contributes negatively to the Rajini – Vadivel (and to a disappointingly lesser extent, Nasser) comedy track which is one of the strong points in this movie. Another point that I would need to make here is the fact that some of the scenes seem incomplete and without explanation. As someone who saw Manichitrathazhu a couple of years ago, I will say that this movie mostly stays true to the original. So the incompleteness seems to be more due to our inability to fathom a lot of issues in the movie in the face of the Rajini aura which is what lot of people expect to see and keep searching for, with some success. Any more effort to explain the technicalities of the mental issues relevant to the movie, would probably make the movie bulkier.
I am unable to decide whether Jyothika's performance needs to be appreciated. But that might be just because, Shobana, being the trained classical dancer that she is, won the National award for her performance. I feel that Jyothika did her usual “raised eyebrows, I am pissed off” routine, albeit with a devilishly made up face complete with botched kohl around the eyes and jasmine strands falling apart in her hair. Prabhu does not have too much of a role, but again this is true to the original. Actually it has to be appreciated that the producers did not view this as a pad to re-launch Prabhu’s non-existent career. Nayantra and Malavika add to the beauty quotient, while Vijaykumar appears in an almost invisible role. And just when I was thinking whatever happened to the 'Punnagai Arasi' K.R.Vijaya, she makes a late appearance here as Prabhu's mom. And I’d have been happier if Thilakan had been roped in to reprise his original role as the tantrik with a healthy attitude to the science of psychology. The jibes and the unspoken words between Thilakan and Mohanlal in the original were amusing, but here, Rajini’s interaction with the tantrik does not raise above the normal. For all you trivia mongers out there, Vineeth is Shobana’s real life cousin. He seems to be only actor currently in the business who can handle a classical dance sequence with ease. And that is a valid enough reason for his presence, though he looks kind of jaded in the flashback-esque scenes, as does Thalaivar in the same scenes which is one of my few grouses with the movie.
But I think I am still stuck on the original to do enough justice to this movie. Also I think I spent too much time whistling than listening to the lines. So, a second watch definitely beckons. In fact, multiple watches! As for comparisons between CM and Mumbai Express, you should watch Mumbai Express before deciding whether u liked either or both or neither of the movies. Don't rely on reviews to decide whether a movie is good or bad or plain ugly. Reviews are PERSONAL OPINIONS, not gospel! I, for one am certainly going to watch Mumbai Express, as soon as I get the chance.