Through the Looking Glass: Why Maanaadu works and Jango doesn't
Jango, the first ever time loop film in Indian Cinema released on 19th November and a week later we get another time loop film Maanaadu on 25th November. So people who have seen both the films would definitely compare the two and see how both of them fared in using the time loop concept.
Jango was a disappointing affair predominantly because of the way the time loop concept is used in the film. Both Jango and Maanaadu have the same goal of stopping the loop, but the reason why Jango feels rather underwhelming is because of the fact that neither the screenplay is given importance nor the sci-fi element is explored in detail. There are multiple reasons why Maanaadu and Jango have stark differences whilst having the time loop concept in common.
The first and foremost reason why Maanaadu edges Jango with ease is Venkat Prabhu's superior writing. Jango is amateurish by bringing in alien spaceships and tries to justify the time loop by using that. At least, had the alien angle been explored further, there would be something refreshing in Jango. Jango is the Indru Netru Naalai but with time loop you expected but it's clearly not. Time loop gives you a single day to work with but infinite possibilities which the writer of the film must use to his advantage.
Maanaadu links the hero's purpose to the time loop and the rationale behind the purpose is what the film is trying to convey to us. Like how Indru Netru Naalai would cease to exist if you remove the element of time travel, Maanaadu too wouldn't find its footing had the concept of time loop been removed.
Both the films, Jango and Maanaadu have similar elements such as the protagonist predicting events in the loop because he has experienced the entire day before and how the antagonist's day is also looped. Venkat Prabhu ensures that even a person with zero sci-fi knowledge appreciates the film but Mano Karthikeyan makes Jango unenjoyable even by people who have watched countless Hollywood sci-fi films.
The protagonist in Jango, over the course of several loops embraces the fact that he is in a loop but that doesn't add any momentum to the story. He is a one-dimensional character who is just a renowned doctor trying to save his wife who is an investigative journalist from being killed by the villain. However Simbu in Maanaadu pieces together new information in every loop and minor references from the first loop can be seen all the way to the penultimate moment in the film. He is much more than a person working in Dubai who tries to stop the Chief Minister's conference. He tries to save his friends, subvert the belief that Muslims mean terrorists and tries to save innocent lives from being lost in a communal riot. All of these would seem like the standard template for a commercial action movie hero but the treatment of Venkat Prabhu by infusing the time loop makes it refreshing.
Hareesh Peradi, who plays the antagonist in Jango isn't threatening. There is no moment in the film where the hero feels powerless due to the actions of the villain. Jango could have been made even without the time loop concept as underneath its shell, its a very ordinary film disguised as a sci-fi film. Venkat Prabhu shows that time loop isn't a separate genre, but rather a tool which accentuates your existing plot. SJ Suryah manages to outwit Simbu multiple times in the film which shows how many times Simbu failed in achieving in purpose.
In every department, Maanaadu edges Jango by a huge margin. Then you might wonder why I am even doing this comparison. This shows how two movies which released in consecutive weeks, having the same concept of time loop are poles apart from each other. One is just a time loop film whereas another is a political action-thriller. The time loop in Maanaadu is interwoven with the screenplay giving us a cohesive celluloid. Jango as mentioned earlier doesn't really find its way out because of its amateurish film making and time loop concept which is not utilised effectively.
Venkat Prabhu also manages to pack in organic humour in the film which stems from the characters themselves which is a delight to watch. The pace of the movie is brisk with hardly any low points. Jango on the other hand, has multiple songs in it for a movie which can do away with songs entirely; this hampers the flow of the movie thus derailing the audience's attention which was hardly present from the first place.
Usually films which aim at introducing a unique concept to the audience serve the purpose of welcoming people to a new genre of films but wouldn't be a commercial or critical success. That's the purpose Jango served, introducing people of India to the first time loop film in Indian Cinema. Whereas Maanaadu aims at combining the mass commercial elements of Tamil Cinema with a new sci-fi sensibility, which has already been established by an earlier film, Jango in this case and Venkat Prabhu has accomplished that feat.