'Thuppakki' Review: cracking the Tamil cinema formula
by Gautaman Bhaskaran
In recent years, Tamil cinema has been swinging between novel themes and unintelligent execution, refreshing stories and unbelievable scripts. Worse, Tamil films have often been distracted from their core plots by silly song-and-dance romances.
Director AR Murugadoss – who gave us the Aamir Khan-starrer Ghajini in Hindi and later a science fiction in 7aam Arivu (Seventh Sense) – plots a terror tale in his latest Thuppakki (Gun) with actor Vijay, popularly called “Ilayadalapathy” (Young Commander), whose fan following is singularly impressive. Stars like Vijay or Rajnikanth can do no wrong on screen, and those who direct them get them to perform incredibly far-fetched roles. So, it was not surprising to see a packed auditorium at an early morning show on Diwali day in Chennai. Most of them had come to see Vijay and his antics, armed with tubs of popcorn and cans of Coke, a poor substitute for the traditional idli-sambar Diwali breakfast washed down with steaming hot filter coffee.
Their sacrifice would not have been in vain, for Vijay gave them almost three hours of relentless gun fights and wrestling bouts, tempered with daredevilry and, well, love on the Swiss Alps with Kajal Aggarwal, a Punjabi who probably cannot speak Tamil. This is another of Tamil cinema’s “highlights” of roping in north Indian actresses –or better still foreigners (Amy Jackson is a classic example) – to play leads.
At the start, Aggarwal’s Nisha is demurely waiting for the boy, whom she hopes will marry her, while his parents and sisters are anxiously pacing the platform at Mumbai’s Central Station. The auspicious hour is ticking away, while Vijay’s Captain Jagdish and his Army mates are frolicking through the lyrics of a song on a picturesque locale, where their train’s engine is being repaired. Well the train finally arrives, and the dishevelled boy does meet the girl with a just a few minutes to go before the golden hour disappears.
But Jagdish does not like Nisha, for he finds her too traditional. Fortunately, she is not, for Murugadoss whisks us back to her home, where she strips into shorts and heads for the boxing ring. Yes, she is a boxer! However, this is not what Thuppakki is all about as I find a little later into the movie.
It is about terrorism, the kingpin essayed superbly by Vidyut Jamal, who operates out of Kashmir and is planning to wipe out Mumbai. He has tens of sleeper cells and big shots in the Indian administration to carry out his orders, and as he sets off the first blast in the megalopolis, Jagdish, on a holiday though with his team, gets cracking – working alone, as most Tamil heroes do. Heading the Indian Army’s intelligence wing, Jagdish does not take the help of his bosses, preferring to rely on his men and a cop friend of his (Satyan), perfectly willing to be Dr Watson to Mumbai’s Sherlock Holmes.
The policeman is so explanatory that it seems so outdated and boring in the context of modern cinema. After reels and reels of a cat-and-mouse game between Jagdish and the villain – when friends and relatives of our hero are placed in death-defying situations – Thuppakki ends with tame predictability, the path to which is peppered with coincidences. Not, though before, the girl and the boy have had their costume drama staged in picture postcard places, with Santosh Sivan’s camera capturing light and colours most wondrously. But then a film is not a string of ad shots that struggles to hang together on a no-no script.
Sadly, a subject as significant as terror has been made to run as some kind of cheap comedy with the an Army officer taking law into his own hands, and the police sleeping in the shadows. A bomb goes off in a bus, in a shopping mall and tens of people are killed or hurt while Jagdish goes about trying to nab the terrorist – all by himself.
Now Vijay’s diehard fans would say, take it or leave it. The openings of Kamal’s or Rajni’s movies invariably see fan frenzy with huge cutouts of the stars garlanded with fresh flowers and anointed with milk and sandal paste. Vijay will soon be as similarly eulogised. That is, if it is not being done already.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran may be contacted at email@example.com)