Imagine a Quentin Tarrantino movie with that climax bloodshed with all guns blazing, but instead of the usual cowboy, we have a Tamil hero wearing Veshti/Mundu. There is a certain level of appeal to that concept, and maybe one among the reasons why Karthik Subbaraj came up with this gangster thriller idea named Jagame Thandhiram could well be that. There is a political layer to the movie that deals with migrant lives, but the focus is more on the swagger, and hence it never comes across as a movie with a strong foundation. You would love the style element for sure, but the narrative has too many broad strokes.
So the story is set in London, and we have two gangsters. One is Sivadoss, a Tamil-origin man who helps immigrants lead a peaceful life in Britain. The other person is Peter Sprott, a racist gangster who uses all sorts of power to keep the immigrants away from Britain. In order to understand and takedown Sivadoss, Peter decides to bring an Indian gangster to the scene. Thus our hero Suruli, a Madhurai based gangster, is brought into the picture. How the power dynamics change after the arrival of Suruli is what we see in Jagame Thandhiram.
The introduction scene of Suruli and the way he talks to Sprott in those initial conversations would give you hope that the movie will have many quirky elements. But soon after the first act, the film slips into this clumsy phase where the screenplay and the editing seem to be facing a major crisis. The idea is to show us that Suruli has grown as a gangster in London, and he now has an established base. And they have to bring in this love angle too. All of this is happening in a very limited time, and somewhere I got this feeling that Karthik Subbaraj was skipping through all these events in the screenplay so that he can eventually show the viewer that stylized climax, which I mentioned in the beginning. This inefficiency of the script to create a solid way to narrate the growth of Suruli has made the movie sloppy.
Dhanush is playing a character that is in his comfort zone. We have seen him playing similar characters in the past, and this one, in comparison to those roles, has a slightly better level of freedom and irreverence. The way he carries himself makes him that believable gangster. Joju George has minimal screen time and dialogues in the movie. But I must say that he has that aura of being an empathetic human being which works for the film. James Cosmo as Peter Sprott was also pretty good. He wasn’t that usual gimmicky English villain, and the dialogues written for him were also pretty impressive. Aishwarya Lekshmi, as the leading lady, was a major letdown due to her inability to pull off the dialect. I am no expert in judging the Srilankan Tamil dialect. Still, in a crucial scene in Jagame Thandhiram, Aishwarya Lekshmi’s Attila narrates her life to Suruli. Because of that dialect which at times sounded like Malayalam, I couldn’t focus on the emotion of that scene.
Looking at the movie’s climax, I would say that Karthik Subbaraj should stick to his crafty ways to say politics. The scene that shows Sprott receiving a big can of water was a simple and brilliant way of showing how empathetic these migrants are. I sort of wished those middle portions of Jagame Thandhiram, which had this political theme, were presented in such a subtle way. The introduction scene of Suruli, the Porotta shop fight, the confrontation scene featuring Sivadoss, Peter, and Suruli, etc., were some of the sequences that really showed the craft in Karthik Subbaraj. But he fails to create a compelling story, and the political agenda of the movie stood out. The cinematography matches the quirkiness of the narrative. The editing in certain areas totally destroys the rhythm. Santhosh Narayanan’s music is catchy, and luckily you don’t have any pointlessly squeezed in songs.
The broad strokes you see in the storytelling feel like a major disappointment because Karthik Subbaraj was never someone who followed that path. Even though Petta wasn’t his best, it had this engaging feel to its credit, largely due to how every event and character were linked to one another. Here a lot of things are on the uneven side, and those flaws kind of stood out. The sporadic outburst of style is making Jagame Thandhiram a watchable gangster flick. But it never becomes a memorable experience.
The sporadic outburst of style is making Jagame Thandhiram a watchable gangster flick. But it never becomes a memorable experience.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended