- Release Date: 18/06/2021
- Platform: Netflix
- Cast: Dhanush, Joju George, James Cosmo, Aishwarya Lekshmi
- Director: Karthik Subbaraj
I have no way to review this film without giving away spoilers. So for all those of you who plan to watch this film and don’t want it spoiled; it would be a good idea to stop reading now. I wonder if Dhanush and Joju George were not a part of Jagame Thandhiram, would this even be worth a watch. I can’t help but ask myself why a director like Karthik Subbaraj who made edgy and novel films like Pizza, Iraivi, and Mercury would settle for such a mundane and generic concept for his feature with the talented Dhanush. I believe he was making this film for the front benchers alone as it was destined for a theatrical release. There are clues to that fact peppered all around the film and while these visual cues would have made the audiences erupt in theatres, they most definitely would not have shrouded the thinking man’s mind from the fact that this film’s plot and prayer for suspension of disbelief is too far-fetched to be taken seriously. The covid-19 pandemic got the better of the film and it was eventually released on Netflix. That might just have resulted in the kind of scrutiny that every frame of this film will now be subjected to.
Suruli (Dhanush) is a low-level gangster who has done his share of killing and looting in Madurai. He also runs a Porotta outlet that he uses as the base of his operations. Peter (James Cosmo) is a white supremacist and a gangster who is at loggerheads with his Tamilian immigrant counterpart Sivadoss (Joju George). Sivadoss rises to power in the city’s underworld at a tantalizing pace and with his rise comes more safety and refuge for the Tamilian refugees coming into the country. Peter wants the Refugees gone and also wants to take over the control of Sivadoss’ crime empire. He is also a supporter of the proposed anti-refugee law known as Bicore. Sivadoss is backing the politician going against the Bicore law for evident reasons. Thus the stage is set for a rollicking confrontation between Peter and Sivadoss. Peter realizes that the whites can never penetrate Sivadoss’ organization and flies in Suruli from Madurai to eat away at Sivadoss’ organization and annihilate him.
The film falters from the get-go. How Suruli is brought to England is laughable. Even for a commercial masala potboiler, how he is recruited by the meanest gangster of England to get rid of his arch-enemy is not only ill-advised but also comic. His arrival in England and the ease with which he penetrates Sivadoss’ organization is shocking. He then kills one of Sivadoss’ closest aides and also a truckload of other gang members. What one would expect after something like this is that Sivadoss would go for Suruli’s head and swiftly clean him off. He does capture him but Suruli talks and bargains his way out of the situation. This was totally unacceptable as the one he killed was not only respected but much loved. The men wanted Suruli’s head on the platter and yet Sivadoss, for no apparent reason, not only grants him life but also gives him a chance at joining his crew. This results in a bigger catastrophe later that leads to some more atrocious and unbelievable events.
If frequent lapses in logic were not enough to ruin the story, the lack of novelty would definitely do the job. After Suruli plans and executes Sivadoss’ assassination at the hands of Peter he settles into a comfortable life only to realize through his newfound love, Attilla (Aishwarya Lekshmi ) that Sivadoss was, in fact, a savior and the last hope for all the immigrants who were shooed by India and found safe haven in England. Once he realizes this, he is hell-bent on correcting himself. This was one of the most predictable turns of events and was done with no heart. The way the crew member of Sivadoss accept Suruli and bring him back into the squad and hand him over the reins of the organization was bafflingly stupid. Not only that, he guns for Peter in the most insane manner and is able to get the better of the man without breaking a sweat. One can only accept as much in the name of mindless entertainment. Jagame Thandhiram frequently jumps over the thin line between “senseless fun” and “aggressively unacceptable stuff”.
The character of Attilla played by Aishwarya Lekshmi is one of the most confused characters that I have seen in a film this year. I didn’t know why she fell in love with Dhanush or what he did to deserve such love and devotion from her. I didn’t understand why she didn’t effortlessly shoot the man after he had caused the death of Sivadoss, who was her guardian angel. I also didn’t understand what made her change her mind finally and do what was needed to kill Suruli. While Aishwarya evidently did her best to breathe some credibility into the character, the fact that it was written so poorly with so little inspiration behind most of its actions that even her heartfelt rendering of the character couldn’t save it from spiraling into an abyss.
Dhanush is the best thing about this film. He is an outrageous charmer who can make you take him seriously even when he is running with a country bomb with his tongue crunched between his teeth. He sells almost every bit of the character and looks the part in the sequences that need him to exude heroic charisma. In short, if it was not for Dhanush, no one wouldn’t care to complete this film. Joju George is equally good. Again, he has the kind of charisma and screen presence that lets him make some of the most outrageous scenes of the film feel real and possible. He has a minuscule role but even in that, he makes an impression that is a lot more far-reaching than what the antagonist of the film (played by James Cosmo) is able to achieve.
The only department that the film excels is in its technicalities. I loved the visual presentation of the film and its editing. While at 2 hours and 30 minutes plus, the film is on the lengthier side, it is so because of its storytelling and not so much because of its shot-to-shot and frame-to-frame movement. While there are many things wrong with it, its speed never lags and the film constantly surges forward. This is one of the few saving graces of the film. I also loved its plush and rich visual feel that complements its many sequences and frequently changing mood.
Jagame Thandhiram is a major miss-step and one of the rare occasions when substantial talents of the Tamil film industry collaborated to churn out something that was anything short of remarkable. Offensively poor writing, terrible story, utter lack of logic, and shocking retread of assembly-line mistakes about foreign characters make this film one of the rare Dhanush films that should be avoided. Even with his charm and able support from Joju George, Dhanush is unable to make this film a worthy watch.
Rating: 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)