Have you ever been to a stand-up comedy show which wasn't uproariously funny but not boring either and instead just pleasant? That is how Moone Moonu Varthai is. There is a plot but it exists mainly for us to hang out with the characters, catch a few moments of their lives, smile — not laugh, mind you — at the jokes cracked, and feel good when the movie is over.
The film begins with K Bhagyaraj (yes, the real Bhagyaraj) admitted in a hospital for a panic attack and Arjun (Arjun Chidambaram), who is also at the hospital, proposing to narrate a story to him. The director tells him that he will ask him to stop if he finds it uninteresting. Madhumita uses this as a Scheherazade-esque framing device and plays on Kollywood's common perception of Bhagyaraj — she is going to narrate a story that even the 'master storyteller' will be hooked on to.
And the story is about Arjun, who has lost his parents and has been brought up by his doting grandparents (SPB and Lakshmi striking up an easy-going chemistry). This has also made him a carefree young man who goes to the extent of resigning his job just because his boss did not give him permission to go and watch a CSK match! He is, in short, a guy who has time only for beer and bromance. When his friend, Karna (Venkatesh Harinathan), is asked by his company to resign, the two hatch upon a novel business plan — to start a bad news delivery service, through which they will act as messengers for conveying unfortunate messages. He also strikes up a relationship with Anjali (Aditi Chengappa), Karna's flatmate. During one of their assigments, they stop a wedding not realizing that the bride is Anjali's sister. The lovers break up and how they get back together forms the plot.
This could have become a generic romcom but Madhumita's touch is very light that every development, big and small, is treated in a low-key manner. Even when Arjun and Karna have a fallout, things do not get sentimental and instead, the whole episode is brought to close with a nicely written patch-up scene that is far removed from melodrama. The same goes for the scenes involving Arjun's grandparents (who are named Malini and Krishnan, referencing Vaaranam Aayiram), which feel natural.
As for the romance, it follows the regular arc — a meet cute scene, a romantic moment, a conflict and a resolution — but is narrated in a breezy manner. The leads aren't exactly terrific but they don't make the moments feel offkey. But the film might prove to be a breakout for Venkatesh Harinathan, the designated 'nanbenda' here. Though he comes across as a motormouth, his is a brand of genteel comedy filled with puns and inoffensive one-liners. Of course, his jokes do not hit the mark all the time and some of them are plain mokkais but when they do click, we marvel at the wit.
But the movie isn't for everyone. The plot-obsessed viewers will, in fact, hate very much because there is hardly any 'weight' in the developments. Even the ones who find it entertaining will never love it but simply like it. The scenes have an episodic quality to them (Madhumita even manages to find place for a ghost story, the current rage in Tamil cinema), especially after Arjun and Karna set up their business, and in these segments, it is the supporting actors (MS Bhaskar, Robo Shankar, Harathy) who are put in the spotlight. These episodes have a TV skit vibe to them and might work better when they play in bits and pieces on television. Some scenes are too talky (the initial booze-fuelled ones in particular) that they make us restless. But there is something sweet-natured about the film that makes us ignore these issues.