Jyotika's latest outing—Ponmagal Vandhal—reminds us of the pain and unanswered questions around countless child abuse and murder cases that haunt us. The film, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, throws light on the dark side of society and a flawed legal system that often denies justice to victims of abuse. With Jyotika at the helm, Ponmagal Vandhal breaks the usual macho hero-turns-saviour narrative.
The film opens in 2004, with a shot of the beautiful landscape at Lovedale in Ooty. Suddenly the sound of a gun shot cuts through the pleasant chirping of birds. We learn of a double murder—two young men are killed by a woman. The film then moves on to explain the story behind the gun shot—a woman named Jyothi aka “psycho” Jyothi is a serial killer who targets children. Police investigate the case, while parents protest for justice and Jyothi dies in a police encounter. And 15 years, Petition Pethuraj ( Bhagyaraj) files a petition in the court, seeking justice for Jyothi. His daughter Venba (Jyotika) appears for him in court despite severe opposition from the public.
What follows is an enthralling courtroom drama, where Jyotika as Venba brings in all evidence in support of Jyothi. As the very first court scene begins, it is clear that Venba has strong evidence and an even stronger reason to revive a 15-year-old case. And debutant director J.J. Fredrick’s script adds weight to the character as he brings in twists at every stage of the argument inside the courtroom—from eyewitnesses, police, parents of affected children and even survivors.
The entry of advocate Rajarathinam (Parthiepan), who represents the influential father of one of the young boys killed by Jyothi, elevates the plot as Venba begins facing obstacles with his arguments in court. As the hearing proceeds, it gives the audience a sense of a legal drama crafted around high-profile VIPs who could influence police and the prosecution. But soon it turns out to be melodramatic when Venba brings in emotions more than evidence inside the court.
The 123-minute film, which begins by saying justice is served based on evidence and not logic or emotions, later plays on emotions that revolve around child abuse. A courtroom drama, the film could have been more engaging and intense, rather than emotional. For a film that deals with subjects as hard-hitting as sexual violence and murder, Ponmagal Vandhal is not chilling enough.
Jyotika holds the thriller together with her stunning performance as a crusader and confident advocate. While Jyotika takes the lead role, the characters of Bhagyaraj, Parthiepan and Prathap Pothan are not defined well.
The visuals from Lovedale in Ooty go together with the emotional storyline. Debutant director Fredrick’s Ponmagal Vandhal has been in the news for sometime after the team's decision to release it on an OTT platform, skipping theatrical release.
Film: Ponmagal Vandhal
Director: J.J. Fredrick
Cast: Jyotika, Bhagyaraj, Parthiepan, Prathap Pothan, Pandiarajan, Thiyagarajan