Chandramukhi 2 is P Vasu's latest spin-off of Fazil's Manichitratazhu, and it opens with a bunch of bad things happening to a very rich family. Someone ends up in a wheelchair. Someone dies. That sort of thing. Radhika Sarathkumar plays the matriarch. With her ever-changing wardrobe of silk saris, she seems to be waiting to celebrate Deepavali in those ads that come on our screens before the festival, and her huge necklaces make you worry for her lumbar health. But bigger worries are in store, so the family priest advises them to visit their family deity in their family hometown. One young woman scoffs at these beliefs. The godman says: Just like your ancestors' DNA are in you, your ancestors' presence exists in your hometown. This is a film where the double helix coexists with double roles and double-crosses. The tag line could be, "Cloned from the genetic material of the first Chandramukhi…"
Raghava Lawrence takes over the Rajinikanth role – or at least, he does the supernatural things Rajinikanth did in the earlier instalment. But nothing is as supernatural as his opening scene where he sees a schoolbus being set on fire. He revs up his bike, zooms towards the back of the bus, crashes through the metal and glass, picks up two kids and seats them on his bike, and crashes out through the front of the bus. That hard sound you hear is that of Balakrishna's action director hitting his head against the side of the bus – the only part left intact – about not thinking up this stunt for his hero. Raghava Lawrence is not bad. He plays Raghava Lawrence in all his films, so you can't really call it a "performance". But at least, he doesn't take himself too seriously. And that helps.
The story gets going after Radhika lands up in her hometown with her necklaces and her mega serial-size family. Several eerie things begin to happen. One cheap-looking set appears after another. Srushti Dange disappears in the second half. Vadivelu keeps searching for at least one joke that will make us laugh. Raghava Lawrence rescues a woman from being trapped in a rangoli. (I swear this happens. And if you ask me why this woman is in the film, I have no idea.) A matted-hair ascetic who looks like the "before" guy in a shampoo commercial lurks around. Very fake-looking dogs and owls and panthers keeps prowling about. Best of all, we witness an archaeological marvel: Lakshmi Menon is excavated from wherever she was hiding all these years.
And what about Kangana Ranaut, playing the OG Chandramukhi, whose backstory is what this film is about? Given her lack of classical-dance abilities, she is asked to pull off too many stretches of choreography. She is also asked to witness at least three beheadings, which seems to be the new fad of killing in Tamil cinema. Kangana is not bad in the serious portions, but her character just isn't given enough screen space to become something memorable. And if you really look at Chandramukhi's origins story, you'll see that it's nothing new to Tamil cinema – or indeed, Indian cinema. The trick with sequels is that we don't want them to stray too far from the first film, but also don't want the very same film. Chandramukhi 2 manages this to an extent, but if there's a Part 3, this is what it would be: the ghost of Manichitrathazhu waiting to take revenge on these two Tamil remakes.