Jagame Thandhiram Movie Review: Dhanush starrer fails to tap into its political theme

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Jagame Thandhiram Movie Review: Dhanush starrer fails to tap into its political theme
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Title: Jagame Thandhiram

Cast: Dhanush, James Cosmo, Joju George, Aishwarya Lekshmi, and others

Director: Karthik Subbaraj  

Rating: 2.5/5

In Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi's 'Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy' (2019), the British ruler was reduced to behaving like an evil landlord. He was menacing in the presence of the landless. This made him look like a caricature. In 'Jagame Thandhiram', which has been touted as an action-comedy gangster film, the British racist is packaged to look like a typical landlord-like figure hating the landless in an average South Indian movie. He makes his White supremacism obvious, much like a zamindar would make his supercilious attitude obvious elsewhere. And because he is an anti-immigrant barbarian who is too busy reveling in his White supremacism, he is clueless about how to save himself when the enemy is at the gate. All too conveniently! 

Writer-director Karthik Subbaraj, who is usually averse to pandering to run-of-the-mill sensibilities, expects the audience to buy into the farce because the challenger is a true-blue Tamil hero and the villain is a lowlife foreigner. This becomes the biggest undoing of 'Jagame Thandhiram', which doesn't push the envelope in its portrayal of the David Vs Goliath fight.

Suruli (Dhanush) moves from Madurai to London when Peter Sprott (James Cosmo, a racist White gangster) enlists him to remove the nuisance called Sivadoss (Joju George), who is a Tamil-speaking gangster in his own right. Since Suruli is a Tamil-speaking gangster, Peter believes he is best suited to know the ways of Sivadoss, who games the system in London. In no time, Suruli cracks his modus operandi and Peter is thoroughly impressed. In an unexpected turn of events, Suruli realizes that he may be a pawn who doesn't understand the complex web of politics he has willingly walked into. Can he redeem himself?

As a storyline, this film works. It's interesting that a native gangster becomes an unwitting saviour in a foreign land in unusual circumstances. It's also to the film's credit that it infuses the themes of xenophobia and statelessness with a fairly engaging backstory. 

But the hits don't outweigh the misses. 'Jagame Thandhiram' doesn't come into its own before or after the segment where Suruli finds a new direction in his life. It feels generic beyond the pro-refugee sentiment it promotes and the anti-racism politics it so strongly denounces. 

In the initial portions, Suruli takes a cancelled wedding in his stride. He always assumes an attitude that can instantly win the respect of Peter, who is an embodiment of racist pride. But the film can't shake off its itch to be comical in a Kollydoodian way. So, we have a jester for a translator. The situational reference to Mani Ratnam's 'Nayagan' and the pop culture references to Rajinikanth would have worked as a Tamilnadu theatrical experience, not as an OTT ride meant for a pan-India audience. 

James Cosmo, who rises above the very ordinarily written character, would have been way better had he been depicted as a narcissist in a shocking scene. It's stunning that it takes the precious insights of a relatively rookie gangster for him to even know of the modus operandi of his sworn enemy. Like in Anushka Shetty's 'Nishabdham', the Tamil-speaking characters bump into Tamil-speaking people by design or accident in a foreign land. 

The semi-political film doesn't milk the apolitical nature of Dhanush's character much. He gets enmeshed in the crosshairs of Left vs Far Right politics easily and finds a way out of it even more effortlessly. Lazy writing, more than anti-racism, is the stubborn theme of 'Jagame Thandhiram'. 

The undeterred performances in the face of underwhelming writing need applause, though. Dhanush is superb. Aishwarya Lekshmi's character is routine at the outset but is unfleshed as the film progresses. There is a stateless dishwasher who feels that dirty plates converse with him every day. A poignant scene where last rites are held in a folkish style comes in the pre-climax phase. If the film had such emotionally moving scenes in a good number, it would have been a respectable outing. 

The action choreography department deserves a mention, so also Santhosh Narayanan's background music and Shreyaas Krishna's cinematography.

Check out trailer of Dhanush starrer below: 

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