Director: Karthik Subbaraj
Gangster movies are in abundance in the Kollywood world. Every director has tried to establish his/her own style of what they conceive to be a gangster film. Karthik Subbaraj is not new to this concept and has already established his style with Jigarthanda and Petta. Jagame Thandhiram follows this very same style of a gangster movie which makes it very predictable and monotonous.
In the opening scenes of the movie, we are introduced to 3 main characters, Peter Sprott (James Cosmo) a ruthless thug in London, Sivadoss (Joju George) his rival and a Srilankan Tamilian and, of course Suruli (Dhanush) a small-time rowdy in Madurai. Till the end of the movie, it is the flawless performances of these three characters that makes us want to watch it in entirety. The movie follows the story of Suruli who is hired by Peter in the UK, to destroy Sivadoss and his lucrative business. Suruli, being someone who aspires to earn a lot of money, does everything Peter asks him to do until he does something that he cannot take back. It takes Attila (Aishwarya Lekshmi) to tell the truth and actually change his mind about what he has actually done.
The first half of the movie is very engaging as it keeps the audience hooked with good comedy. The dialogues written by the director himself and the references to early 80’s-90’s pop culture including Thalaivar, are the main interesting aspects of the movie. Karthik Subbaraj, having established a style for gangster movies and the twists and turns in such movies, has failed to keep us curious to know what’s next. Within the first half hour of the movie, one can easily predict what is to follow for the next 2 odd hours.
The movie talks about the Tamil Eelam issue on one hand and racism or white privilege on the other. While the refugee crisis becomes the main issue on hand, White Supremacy and Xenophobia, which are introduced into the movie, are just concepts left hanging loose. At one point, the focus shifts entirely to the Tamil Eelam issue, while actually trying to convey the backstory of Sivadoss. It is at that part that the entire flow of the movie is diverted to a completely different direction. A fun Suruli, who is known for his dark humor and untimely comedy, suddenly turns into a serious gangster in search of redemption. This doesn’t fit perfectly because Suruli is introduced in a completely different way and it becomes almost unlikely for him to just change overnight.
The film has its own entertaining bits with Dhanush wearing a ‘Veshti’ in the climax scene or when he spies into Sivadoss’ activities to understand his secretive business. All other characters except for the three main gangster ones are not given much screen time or importance in the movie. Aishwarya Lekshmi tries to do justice with the little time she does get on screen. Just like any other Kollywood cliche, the female lead of this movie too is only used for a small contribution to the continuity of the story. She is as usual a name-sake heroine. However, actors like Kalaiyarasan and Vadivukkarasi are completely underutilised in the movie.
Jagame Thandhiram is Karthik trying his hand at Tarantino like gangster films. While he may have not entirely pulled it off, he has done quite the justice to what seems like an International gangster film. The movie also provides enough scope to show around the UK. While the climax of the movie felt like a callback to the climax of Petta, there is a John Wick-like touch to the way the climax moves.
In many parts of the movie, Karthik tries to convey his so-called ‘Karuthu’ which does not really workout because the movie focuses on too many things. While the title of the movie is a reference to the 1979 song Siva Sambo from ‘Ninaithale Inikkum’, it is apt considering how this movie involves unpredictable people from different parts of the world.
Apart from the performances, another excellent aspect of the movie is its cinematography. The frame continuity and some shots in the movie are just too good. Of course, the scene right in the middle of the movie, where Peter meets Sivadoss, is not unseen in Karthik’s movies. But, the spinning shot showing the changing expressions of the characters just kept the audience at bay for a while longer. The screenplay of the movie has quite a few flaws and has led to the monotony of the story.
The music composed by Santosh Narayanan is one of the biggest blessings in the movie. The apt background score for various scenes is what helped carry the movie forward. Dhanush’s acting is on a whole different level with him doing complete justice to the different emotions he was provided with. On the whole, Jagame Thandhiram is a one-time ‘entertainer’ with Dhanush’s performance as Suruli leaving a mark in your mind!