The world is full of trickery - Jagame Thandhiram! But for mere mortals, it is worth the risk. Karthik Subbaraj takes one such risk in his 2021 flick Jagame Thandhiram, released on Netflix. It is not just another gangster movie from the director of Jigarthanda and Petta. It is a crude bomb with a heavy mix of politics of migrant crisis, a clash of ideological differences, contrasting philosophies, and all this wrapped tightly with a slick gang war plot.
When the bomb goes off, the audience is sure to be hit by one or more shrapnel. Only time would reveal how deep they managed to pierce.
Dhanush's Suruli is a man who basks in the glory of his ignorance. But only till a deluge of realisation drives him out of his hole. It then lays him bare under the harsh realities craving for redemption.
Life and status changes fast for Suruli as he leapfrogs from his small-time thug life in a Tamil Nadu village to being an integral part of Peter Sprott's band. Peter is a racist British warlord played by James Cosmo who profiteers from the UK migrant crisis.
Money and his dream of having a decent life along with his mother Manimegalai (Vadivukkarasi), his love Attila (Aishwarya Lekshmi), and friends dictate Suruli. And he commits an unpardonable mistake by becoming a tool to target Joju George's Sivadoss, a Sri Lankan Tamil, who is a godfather to migrants from the Tamil Eelam and similar stateless people who seek refuge in Britain. How Suruli realises his mistake and redeems himself forms the crux of the story.
Karthik's stylised yet profound storytelling and striking dialogues are the highlights of the movie. He found strong allies in Joju and Aishwarya, Santhosh Narayanan (music), Shreyaas Krishna (cinematography) and Vivek Harshan (editing). Joju was convincing as a revolutionary and a sympathiser of the cause in every aspect minus the dialogue delivery. The Eelam Tamil dialect was missed dearly in Joju. However, watch out for Aishwarya's portrayal of a displaced yet determined Lankan Tamil girl. The supporting cast has also held their ground with stellar performances.
Dhanush had only one job to do in the movie - to carry on with a swag we have seen only in his in-law, Rajinikanth. And he does that with ease. Suruli's intro is a tribute to Rajinikanth's character, Petta Velan in Karthik's Petta.
Karthik has tactfully infused references of The Superstar and Ilaiyaraaja throughout the movie. But he missed the same kind of acumen while trying to discuss some of the heavyweight subjects juxtaposed on a popular storyline. Jagame Thandhiram could not be considered equal to Pa. Ranjith's Kaala or Kabali, where the director used the popular figure of Rajinikanth and his Style Mannan avatar to drive home a political and ideological point. But it definitely will hold its place. Viva la Revolution!
(The movie is available on Netflix)