Thoongavanam review: Has a lot going for it but not the taut-thriller Kamal Haasan promised

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November 16, 2015 07:22:14 IST

By Prathibha Parameswaran

Kamal Haasan’s latest bilingual Thoongaavanam  (Sleepless night) in Tamil and Cheetkati Rajyam (in Telugu)  is a remake of the French film Nuit Blanche directed by Frederich Jardin. The film written by Haasan, has been directed by Rajesh M Selva, Kamal Haasan’s long-term assistant and a self-confessed fan.

Kamal Haasan plays a Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) cop with seemingly dubious motive separated from his wife Sujatha (Asha Sharath,) a doctor. His disconnect with his son, Vasu (Aman Abdullah) shows at the breakfast table when he realizes that his son prefers soya milk with his cereal and later unwittingly reminds him to carry his cricket bat when he only plays football. Things go awry, when Vasu is picked up by the drug lord Vittal Rao (Prakash Raaj) for the ransom of the cocaine seized by Diwakar the previous night.

Thoongavanam Facebook page.

Thoongavanam Facebook page.

The scenes now shift to Insomnia, a night club owned by Vittal himself.

Diwakar’s early conversations with his colleague Mani (Yugi Sethu) smack of criminal intent. As the night wears on it becomes harder to guess his real motives. Is he a good cop or a shady underhand dealer? Kamal Haasan is convincing as the calculating cop and the discomposed father desperately seeking his son’s release. It doesn’t help that his ex-wife keeps checking on the son demanding to speak to him. He is disconcerted, yet is able to think on his feet. He has a window of hope—but there are considerable risks. Despite the promising premise, the slow progression of events often ticks you off.

Diwakar’s turmoil is evident when he chooses to simply walk by a potential rapist, and only intervenes as an afterthought, because the event seems to disturb his trail of thought. He is attacked by total strangers, yet he makes no attempts at a comeback. The film also has its odd points where scenes  look synthetically fused in. There is a forced romance with a nurse (Madhu Shalini,) set up with deliberate lip-locks, scenes where there is no chemistry between the characters. There are also allusions to the actor’s real-life persona and to the controversy surrounding the delay in Utthama Villain’s release; thrown at us at instances when we least expect them.  And there are some blah jokes. Kamal Haasan, the actor often overwhelms the script.

Trisha gets a meaty role as a fellow cop, Mallika, who attempts to thwart Diwakar’s plans. She is persistent and credulous in equal measure and is a formidable match for the protagonist. The friction between Haasan and Trisha’s characters is unmistakable and piques our interest. Yet we see much less of her than we would like. The post interval stunt sequences featuring her and Haasan benefit the film to a great degree.

Prakash Raaj is at ease in his role as a smuggler, gifting us a few genuine laughs in the movie. Sampath makes fleeting appearances and looks menacing enough to keep Vittal in check. Kishore is adequate as the manipulative police chap. Aman Abdullah wins loud cheers from Kamal fans, especially towards the end.

The roving camera succeeds to an extent in giving us a sense of the live environment, yet it is often set at a documentary mode rather than live mode, robbing us off the sense of urgency. The sounds have been carefully woven into the film especially, the EDM blaring out of the club.

Thoonga Vanam has a lot going for it, but it isn’t the nail-biting thriller that it could have been.

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Updated Date: Nov 16, 2015 07:21 AM