Jagame Thandhiram(Tamil, Netflix)
Starring Dhanush, Aishwarya Lekshmi ,James Cosmo,Joju George and Kalaiyarasan
Written & Directed by Karthik Subbaraj
Rating: * ½
Anticipating a huge multi-ethnic response I believe Netflix has dubbed Dhanush’s latest film Jagame Thandiram into a multiple languages. But alas,not Chinese. China deserves this violent gift of the grab more than any other people. They have earned it.
As for the rest of civilization as we suffer through this 2 ½ hour torture, we can only console ourselves by thinking we must have sinned really awfully to have to be subjected to this. Jaga
me Thandiram is your worst cinematic nightmare come true. It is loud, boorish, uncouth and splashy. And it dares to cloak all its creepy kitsch in a message on Tamil immigrants’ plight in London where according to this film, they are welcomed with open arms …and ammunition.
If we are to believe this outlandish heretical fling into feverish fights, staged as though the film’s life depended on them, the Tamilians in London are heavily into gangsterism.
At the very outset our hero Suruli(Dhanush) is a parotta selling eatery owner in Madurai moonlighting as a gangster who is summoned to London by a British goon Peter Sprott(James Cosmo). Don’t as how, or why. I have no clue.
From these bristling beginnings we can clearly see that director Karthik Subbaraj thinks brutal killings are funny.When we first see Peter he bludgeons a woman to death and then wipes his scarf cribbing it was “pure cashmere”.This can be counted as the only “pure” moment in a film that legalizes fraudulence and legitimizes ethnic violence .
What makes the violence deeply disturbing is the half-baked laughably lowbrow and shallow introduction into the plot of the ethnic violence that killed or expelled Tamilians from Sri Lanka in the 1980-90s.
In a film as kitschy as this, any stab at politics is purely a hoax. Subbaraj and Dhanush hardly seem interested in the plight of the Tamilian migrants in London as anything anything but a tool to plough the plot with seeds of melodramatic discontent. The shoot-outs involving ethnic minorities and British gangs are shout-outs to loud comicbook violence.
Formulizing a deeply sensitive political issue for some quick kicks and stolen grunts is a deeply offensive ploy, and eminently avoidable.To watch an actor of Dhanush’s stature fall for this bleeding-heart ruse that backfires, killing any claims to credibility that the film may make, is embarrassing, to say the least.What was the actor thinking?
The love-at-first-sight-thesis-comes-with-a-price theme plays itself out with a sheath of accompanying melodrama. Aishwarya Rajesh playing Dahnush’s Sri Lankan Tamilian beloved , comes with a screechy clumsily shot backstory with no claims to any seriousness.The couple claims to be in love when all around them, London is painted a fiery blood-red colour by a director whose inspiration seems to be Tarantino and Mani Ratnam. Violent shoot-outs are staged as homages to the former while the frequent songs and dances honour Ratnam .
Ambition here is definitely not a tool of inspired storytelling . Dhanush as the kingpin of ‘Little Madurai’ in London goes comic and quirky with risible results. What a comedown after his last film the masterly Karnan!
From the supporting cast Joju George(brilliant in the Malayalam Nayattu) as London’s Tamil population’s messiah is as convincing as the script allows him to be, while archvillain James Cosmos ends up as caricature of a xenophobic.
“A rupee is a lot sexier than a pound,” says Dhanush. Don’t know about that. But there is nothing sexy about a film that trivializes ethnic violence and boils it down to a bland bloody formula.