I only have one rule in life. When a Dhanush film releases, I have to watch it first day, first show, especially when it is premiering globally on multiple digital platforms on the same day. I’m kidding. But I am 100 percent sure there are enough Dhanush fans around the world who follow the first-day-first-show rule, online or off. The South Indian movie star’s latest “Jagame Thandhiram” (transl. The Universe is a ruse) probably also got the same reception on its June 18 Netlfix release as it has been on ‘trending’ since.
Written and directed by Karthik Subbaraj, the Tamil-language (also available in other Hindi languages) gangster movie draws a lot of inspiration from Hollywood while keeping the vibrancy of South Indian cinema alive. One of the biggest names from the South, with a string of successive hits under his belt, Dhanush delivers another power-packed performance in the lead role, maintaining the flawless consistency he’s had most of his career.
Suruli (Dhanush), a small-time gangster and paratha chef from a small Tamil Nadu town, is headhunted by a London-based gang to work for them. Lured by the prospect of earning huge money and to escape some gang war-related problems at home, Suruli leaves for England to work under Peter Sprott (James Cosmo), a politically-connected gangster and white supremacist.
Dhanush’s job there is to eliminate Peter’s arch-rival Sivadoss (Joju George), a Sri Lankan Tamilian gangster who is also the rescuer of illegal immigrants and refugees coming into London, something that Peter hates him most for. Suruli, with his ruthless cunning, manages to destroy Sivadoss’ gang and to have him killed at Peter’s hands. But Suruli also meets another Sri Lankan migrant Attilla (Aishwarya Lekshmi) and falls in love with her. As their lives intertwine, Suruli realizes he has chosen the wrong side and decides to make reparations.
Jagame Thandiram is fashioned like a Hollywood gangster epic. Its storyline, setting, the way it begins by introducing each of the main characters, feels like the film is mirroring an old-school gangster movie. The background scores, OSTs, and also the film’s length of 2h 37mins strengthen the similarities. But Jagame Thandiram is not a Hollywood film.
Right from the opening scenes, you know you are being taken into the Tamil Cinematic Universe where you expect a hero with all the swagger and jive in the world who is always a step ahead of the villain and who has a heart of gold despite being morally compromised. Suruli is that hero for you and Dhanush, with the immense talent he exfoliates, makes you live through the TCU without even realizing you are being shown an atrociously fictional sequence of events that disregard basic logic. But you don’t watch action movies for logic, do you?
Produced to be an all-out action film, Jagame Thandhiram’s story also has undertones of refugee issues and migrant crisis. Some flashbacks show the civil war in Sri Lanka and the exodus of Tamilians from the country to Europe in search of safety. But the filmmakers do not delve deeper as they probably wanted their content to be light enough for mass consumption.
And mass appeal, Jagame Thandhiram does have, despite some major flaws in storytelling and the film’s unclear timeline. Dhanush is the biggest appeal but on the downside, as he outshines everyone else, any scene without him dips in energy. Dhanush is a fireball in Jagame Thandhiram and that’s both a curse and a boon for the movie. The film’s music and cinematography are the only elements that seem to match Dhanush’s energy and combined, their synergy just blows you away in some scenes.
Who should watch it?
Jagame Thandhiram is exactly what had been missing from Netflix’s new releases section for some time. The film, as suggested above, attempts to put itself in the leagues of Hollywood gangster movies. Honestly, it falls way short. Still, the combination of Dhanush’s acting skills put to test in a film that almost entirely revolves around him, with brilliant cinematography and intense background music/OSTs, makes this film worth the time for movie lovers of all sorts.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Genre: Action, drama
Actors: Dhanush, Joju George, James Cosmo
Director: Karthik Subbaraj