Thani Oruvan

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Thani Oruvan pits a dedicated police officer against a corrupt scientist in psychological thriller that has plenty of drama and action. The writing collaboration between director Mohan Raja and Subha results in a cleverly plotted story with some unexpected twists, but the real success lies in the detailed development of the two main characters. Neither is completely black or white, although the shades of grey are relatively muted, while the cat and mouse relationship between the two provides good structure to the film. Excellent performances from the whole team but particularly Arvind Swamy as the villain of the piece ensure that Thani Oruvan is a better than average police drama and one that’s well worth a watch.

You know a film is going to be pretty epic when the story starts with a dramatic birth. Sengalvarayan (Thambi Ramaiah) is a party man through and through to the point where it’s more important to him that he ties flags for his leader’s appearance rather than take his heavily pregnant wife to hospital. The leader senses an opportunity for some good publicity and sure enough, the baby is born in the back seat of the politician’s car leading Sengalvarayan and his new son Pazhani to develop a relationship with the man who will later become Chief Minister (Nassar). The significance of these events doesn’t become apparent until later on but they provide an instantly intriguing start to the film.

After the dramatic opening, the story moves to a group of young police officers in training and their vigilante-style activities against the local criminal community. Despite the group’s best efforts, the crooks never stay in jail and Shakthi (Ganesh Venkatraman), Suraj (Harish Uthaman), Kathiresan (Sricharan) and Jana (Rahul Madhav) all look to their friend and natural leader Mithran (Jayam Ravi) for a solution. Naturally Mithran has a plan, having spent the last few years investigating all known criminal activity and discovering that all crimes are interlinked and ultimately committed by a small group of individuals. As a result he’s made it his mission in life to eliminate one of these top 15 criminals responsible for all of the crime in India, and of course his buddies want in on the action. He has a shortlist of three possible men to choose from; Ashok Pandian (Nagineedu), Perumal Swamy (Madhusudhan Rao) and Charles Chelladurai (Saiiju Kurup) who between them (according to Mithran) account for 80% of the criminal activity in the country.

Mithran’s biggest problem is which one to choose, although I’m not entirely sure why he couldn’t decide to eliminate all three given that he has his whole career ahead of him and could work on knocking off one every 10 years or so. Regardless, while he is working out which one to target, he discovers that all three actually work for a much bigger villain – highly respected scientist and Padma Shri awarded Siddharth Abimanyu (Arvind Swamy). Siddharth is known for his work in the pharmaceutical field but in reality he’s the mastermind behind all sorts of criminal activity and not a nice man at all, despite his designer suits, fashion model wife and impressive collection of University degrees.

Siddharth is of course the grown up young boy from the start of the film and his inept father is now the Health Minister in Nassar’s government, allowing Siddharth to do basically whatever he wishes. Mithran and Siddharth cross paths when an American drug company owner comes to India to open access to lifesaving medications – something that Siddharth and his associates will go to any lengths to prevent. Once Siddharth becomes aware of Mithran and his attempts to put him out of business, the contest between the two begins in earnest with each determined to eliminate the other no matter what it takes.

The characterisations are the key here and while Mithran doesn’t have all the answers he uses a methodical approach and informed reasoning to work out what Siddharth will do next. Almost too good to be true, Mithran is depicted as a dedicated and passionate police officer with a strong sense of social justice, who is almost hyper-aware of crime in his surroundings. However as he gets drawn into a battle of wits with Siddharth his obsession threatens to take over his life while his friends and allies become tools to use in his fight. His motto is that a man’s capability is defined by the quality of his enemies and by that measure he needs to be very capable indeed. Mithran’s passion for justice is what makes him get out of bed in the morning, so he has none left over for potential love interest Mahima (Nayantara) and as time goes on, little patience to deal with his friend and colleagues either. These shades of grey give Mithran more credibility and offset his tendency to indulge in pompous and long-winded speeches about truth, justice and the rights of all to obtain cheap pharmaceuticals when required. Jayam Ravi is perfectly capable as Mithran but he is very serious and it would have been good to see an occasional smile outside of the obligatory song with Mahima.

Siddharth is a more cerebral villain than usual and uses his political influence to neutralise any threat from Mithran while his quick reactions and scientific knowledge also stand him in good stead to outwit the police officer at almost every turn. He doesn’t throw tantrums, swear vengeance or send out gangs of thugs as Tamil criminal masterminds are wont to do, instead he simply adapts, moves on and changes direction.

Arvind Swamy is excellent as the criminal mastermind, with the beauty of his characterisation lying in just how very ordinary his Siddharth is. He’s rich  – designer suits, trophy wife and beautiful house all attest to how wealthy he is, but on the surface he could be any scientist working on medical breakthroughs with no indication of how cruelly callous he can be when required. Those moments when he casually orders someone’s death or explodes into controlled violence are almost totally unexpected and seem to come out of nowhere, making Siddharth a very effective and chilling villain despite his generally debonair persona.

Nayantara’s character Mahima is interesting too. On one hand she’s the typically dumb love interest who thinks that by following the hero around and declaring her love at every eventual opportunity she will eventually wear him down – and to be fair that is what happens here too. But on the other hand, she’s a forensic scientist who has some good ideas to help Mithran’s investigation, and appears coolly capable and professional in her work. If only Mohan Raja had avoided the ‘love at first sight’ cliché and given Mahima and Mithran a more plausible and realistic romance I would have liked her character more. But Nayantara does give Mahima professional competency and a no-nonsense approach most of the time that fits well with the overall tone of the film.

The rest of the cast are good with Thambi Ramaiah providing some laughs as an inept politician, but mainly giving a further insight into the character of Siddharth. Rahul Madhav is the best of Mithran’s friends, Vamsi Krishna is suitably menacing as Siddharth’s hitman, while Mugdha Godse is good in her brief but important role as Siddharth’s wife. The film looks good too, with effective use of split scenes and an effective mix of technology and good old-fashioned fight scenes. There are a few leaps of faith required but they aren’t too ridiculous and mostly the plot makes sense.

Thani Oruvan is an intelligent thriller with a good mix of action and drama and excellent characterisations. It is a little overlong, but the story keeps moving along at a good pace and like any good page-turner it’s always worth finding out what happens next. Worth watching for Arvind Swamy’s villainous scientist and the psychological cat and mouse game between Siddharth and Mithran. 4 stars.

 

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Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru

Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru

I’m really not a Hansika fan and tend to avoid her in movies as much as possible, but with nothing else releasing here this weekend I decided to risk it and headed out to watch the latest Sundar C. romantic comedy Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru.  Rather surprisingly I enjoyed it! Haniska wasn’t too annoying mainly due to limited time onscreen, the film made me laugh even without subtitles and judging by the audience reaction it was even funnier if you did understand the dialogue.  Siddharth and Santhanam make a good comedy team and with the help of a good support cast, the film turned out to be well worth the drive out to the bijou cinema at Monash.

Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru

The story is fairly straight-forward, easy to follow and doesn’t break any new ground.  Siddharth is Kumar, a bit of a nerd who works in an IT company where he’s essentially just another anonymous worker. At home he has a loving family who have a history of romantic marriages and seem to care for Kumar despite his generally apathetic attitude towards life. Although he works in an office full of women, Kumar doesn’t seem to have much interest in romance, but then the beautiful Sanjana (Hansika Motwani) starts working at the same company and suddenly Kumar falls in love.  Sanjana has to put up with the masses of frustrated IT workers falling at her feet, but seems to show a preference for office hero and all-round overachiever George (Ganesh Venkatraman). This could be the influence of a string ensemble and massive bouquet of flowers, but to be fair with his looks, success at work and dedication to romance, George really has a lot going for him.

Theeya Velai Seiyyanum KumaruTheeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru

Seeing that his affair is destined to fail unless he takes some kind of action, Kumar consults love guru Mokia (Santhanam) to try and help him win the girl of his dreams.  With Mokia’s help, Kumar learns how to ditch the glasses and nerdy attitude but also discovers that devious deception is the way to win a girl’s heart.  Having used Mokia’s often dodgy advice, Kumar gets the girl but discovers that using unscrupulous means doesn’t mean that he will be able to keep the girl, especially when Mokia discovers exactly who it is that Kumar has been chasing.

Santhanam and Siddharth

The real star of the film is Santhanam who keeps the laughs coming and makes an effective partnership with Siddharth.  This is a role that Siddharth has played before but he is less hyperactive than usual and his geeky Kumar is just realistic enough to garner some sympathy for his ineptness. Santhanam suits this type of comedy where his character doesn’t just rely on one-liners but rather uses some physical comedy and his facial expressions to good effect.  Although his love guru is strictly in it for the money he does still manage to make Kumar more presentable and increases his confidence levels despite his rather dubious methodology.  Quite an impressive effort given what he had to work with and his own style choices.

Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru

The support cast also add to the comedy and include a number of faces from TV including RJ Balaji and Bosskey who are both effective in their roles.  I don’t know the names of the actresses who played Sanjana’s friends at her lodgings, but they are good value and make the scenes with Hansika less excruciating to watch as well as having some genuinely funny moments of their own.  Manobala pops up as a brothel owner rather appropriately attired in red silk while Samantha and Vishal Krishna also make brief guest appearances.

Hansika doesn’t have a lot to do except look pretty and she actually does look much better than her last few films.  I’m not sure if she dubbed for herself in this film but her voice is rather screechy and irritating, although at least she doesn’t get a lot of dialogue.  Sundar C. has kept her role to a minimum and she is fine as the love interest, although there is minimal chemistry between her and Siddharth.

What doesn’t work so well though are the songs – the one above is probably the best of the bunch. All are pictured on Siddharth and Hansika and between Siddarth’s dreadful clothes and Hansika’s woeful dancing they really drag despite some pleasant locations. Hansika really can’t dance and to make her try to move in high heeled shoes and boots is just cruel, but somehow also quite amusing. In the pictures below you can see the high heels that she tries to dance in which perhaps goes some way to explain why she looks so stiff and inhibited.  There are times where it’s obvious she’s concentrating really hard on the steps, but that doesn’t seem to help and she looks very restrained compared to Siddharth.  Overall the choreography isn’t impressive and the backing dancers in Japan are particularly odd which adds to the overall disappointment.

Theeya Velai Seiyyanum KumaruTheeya Velai Seiyyanum KumaruTheeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru

If the songs are disappointing, at least the comedy is of a much higher quality and the cast do an excellent job of keeping the film from dragging.  Of course I noticed that Siddharth gets to wear some trendy glasses (as do quite a few of the cast) and there is a brief contact lens interlude which I appreciated. The humour is genuinely funny throughout and both Santhanam and Siddharth are engaging and work well to compliment each other.  Although the rest of the cast add to the comedy it’s all reasonably subtle (for Tamil comedy!) and best of all there are no terrible comedy uncles.   Overall Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru is a non-taxing and amusing watch which may not tread any new ground but does manage to entertain successfully.  And after all, that’s a lot more than I was expecting.