It's always hard to understand how a film with a brilliantly scripted plot, perfect comic timing and hilarious one-liners can ultimately fail to strike a note with the audience. Fortunately Manmatha has none of these, so there's nothing hard to understand about it. The film is about a young man who makes it his life's mission to brutally murder adulterous women and burn their bodies. If you are wondering why, well, he has to do something with the bodies, right?
Let's begin at the beginning. Mythili (Jyothika) has a nightmare that she is raped by Madan (Simbu), whom she does not even know yet. A little later, she discovers she's pregnant. She's thinking about how the Church now has a new problem to worry about, when Madan, who she's met in this time, points out to her that it's all a mistake and that she's not really pregnant. She promptly falls in love with him, since anything is better than getting pregnant.
All this time, little does she know that her Madan is a modern day Dr. Jekyll with a dark side. When night falls, he identifies women who cheat on their husbands/boyfriends, and has sex with them. With the women, we mean - this film has enough complications already. All these women are inevitably scantily dressed, "fast", and making love to him in nanoseconds. If you're wondering what he got that you don't, you'll be thankful when you find out - it's blood trickling down his nose. It's one of the several pieces of inexplicable crap in this film.
The flashback is that Madan had a younger brother whose girlfriend cheated on him, and who therefore brutally killed her, her lover, and then himself. Madan feels that he let them off easy, and decides to wipe out all women in the world. Or close to that - women who sleep with other men. In a final dramatic monologue, he states, "I don't know whether my actions are right or wrong." Yeah, now there's a real toughie. We're going to need more than two lifelines to get this one right. Or we'll just leave it to God (we approached Him, but even he refused to do this review).
It's dignifying this one to even analyze all the things wrong with it - the script-writer of this joke of a flick would be tried for crimes against humanity if anyone took it seriously. The first half of the film, though, is tolerable compared to the never-ending second half, thanks to Jyothika's screen presence.
Simbu appears in a double role as both the older and younger brothers, and does a pretty good job, especially compared to most Telugu heroes his age. The performances are all fine, though Jyothika actually doesn't have much to do with the main story - surprising, since the main reason that this film was released was that she's hot after Chandramukhi.
Sindhu Tonali as the cheating girlfriend just sits around and looks pretty. Yana Gupta and Mandira Bedi are in blink-and-you-miss-them roles. The few decent dance numbers appear at random places in the storyline, but since that happens in 99.99% of all movies, it would be unfair to give the whole credit to the fimmakers. And we must admit that Simbu and Jyothika do complete justice to the totally "mass" dance steps.
It's almost impossible to understand how this one fared however it did in Tamilnadu. And as a parting shot, we'd like to see how a film about adulterous men being murdered would do.