Mandela is a political satire written and directed by Madonne Ashwin, and produced by Sashikanth under the banner YNOT Studios. It has Yogi Babu playing the lead role while Sheela Rajkumar, Sangili Murugan and others play crucial supporting roles. The music is composed by Bharath Sankar and Vidhu Ayyanna has handled the cinematography.

What difference does a single vote make? This is a question we often hear whenever elections are around the corner. Director Madonne Ashwin has built his entire film on this line. What happens when the result of one election boils down to a single vote? Yogi Babu plays the role of Smile, who is the barber of his village. He doesn’t have a home as such, and sleeps on a tree. Owing to his caste location, he is not respected by the villagers as well.

In hope of realising his father’s dream of building a saloon in the village, he saves money consistently and decides to open a bank account in the post office. Since his official name isn’t known, the Postmaster (Sheela Rajkumar) decides to name him Nelson Mandela. It is Mandela’s vote that is going to decide who’s going to win the elections because the village is equally divided into 2 caste groups.

What is most amusing about the film is the way Yogi Babu’s character has been written. It has so much dignity and there’s not a single scene where he is body shamed. The dignity reflects in the humour as well. Without offending anyone personally, almost every joke lands. What’s more amusing is that the humour is not overdone. The merit of each scene is judged properly and the intensity of humour varies.
Yogi Babu gives one of his best performances in recent times. He not only shoulders the film with his performance, but also gives equal space for the largely fresh supporting cast to showcase their skills. Sheela Rajkumar, who has given matured performances in films like Tolet and Draupathi, adds another feather to her cap.

The film also gets its politics right. The writing shows the amount of research done by the director and how well he understands the politics on the field. He also makes a commentary on how caste group leaders end up gobbling a lot of money through caste politics while portraying themselves as the saviour of the masses. All this is done without taking names.

He’s superbly complemented by Vidhu Ayyanna’s cinematography, and even more by debutant Bharath Sankar’s music. With the right mix of folk and electronic sounds, Bharath’s work stands out throughout the film. He’s one name to look out for in future films. The music and crisp editing also helps the film’s cause by making sure that the energy is sustained throughout.

There are minor flaws here and there, and it might seem as if the pacing slows down in the second half, but those are issues you notice only when you start nitpicking. Mandela ends as a honest film that has been treated with a lot of respect and that is visible. The lack of any adult scenes and little violence makes this watchable for family audiences as well. This will end up as one of the most memorable films of 2021.

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