Thani Oruvan


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.



Naiyaandi I’m a huge Dhanush fan, so despite the negative reviews it was inevitable that I would make the effort to see his latest film in the theatre.  And to be honest I don’t think it was quite as bad as reviewers have described, although it is still fairly terrible.  Naiyaandi is billed as a comedy and at least for the guys beside me in the cinema it delivered as promised, since they were literally rolling around in their seats laughing.  But I can’t work out if Sarkunam actually wanted to make a comedy or an action masala flick as the film ends up combining aspects of both genres without ever managing to form a coherent whole.  Naiyaandi is more like watching a TV comedy show with a series of skits, some of which work, and some which don’t, interspersed with the odd fight scene.  It does have a few funny moments, mainly in the second half but generally this is one to skip and wait for the DVD.

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Naiyaandi begins by introducing Meera Krishnan as a desperate mother trying to find a bride for the eldest of her three sons.  Her dilemma is quickly explained when the eldest son is introduced (Sriman), sporting an impressive paunch and seemingly well past marriageable age.  Matters look almost as bleak for the second son (Sathyan), however there is perhaps more hope for the younger son Chinna Vandu (Dhanush) who is much younger (and thinner) than his two brothers. For some unexplained reason, Chinna Vandu doesn’t live with the rest of the family, but rather lives with his uncle (Imman Anachi) in a small village and spends his time lazing around with his friends.  This also involves mooning after Vanaroja (Nazriya Nazim) who is visiting the village to spend time with her grandmother (Sachu).

On the surface Vanaroja should be fairly sensible; she’s apparently a dentist and comes from a loving and wealthy family, but she has irritatingly stupid habits which make her seem childish and inane, and generally she has the personality of wet tofu.  After a few days of being followed by Chinna Vandu, who uses more and more ridiculous methods of trying to attract her attention, Vanaroja decides that she has fallen in love with her stalker and plans to marry him.  Even though he appears to have no job prospects and she knows little about his family. Seriously – no-one is this dumb – even in a ‘comedy’!

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At this point Sarkunam seems to feel that the story needs a villain, so provides one in Vamsi Krishna whose psychotic determination to marry Vanaroja is perplexingly stubborn given that he’s only met her briefly.  However since his sole purpose is to provide a reason for our hero to abscond with the girl, presumably his lack of rationale doesn’t really matter.  Vamsi Krishna does the usual villain shtick, but it’s all very half-hearted and he’s neither menacing enough to be truly evil, or too over-dramatic to be funny.

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Things do improve in the second half where Vanaroja and Chinna Vandu are trying to hide the fact that they have become married from the rest of his family.  The only way to allow them to disclose their relationship is apparently to get Chinna Vandu’s two elder brothers married off, but this could be more difficult than ever since both brothers have their hearts set on Vanaroja.  Sriman and Sathyan provide some much needed comedy, which generally hits the mark and is actually pretty funny.  Whether it’s Sriman pulling in his stomach every time he sees Vanaroja, or Sathyan trying to get her to read his poetry, the two work well with each other (and with Dhanush) to make this section of the film more entertaining.

Nazriya Nazim doesn’t have much scope, but she is also better in the second half and actually seems to develop some personality as she dodges the two brothers while simultaneously contriving to meet Chinna Vandu in secret. Unfortunately this doesn’t last, and the final scenes are clichéd and ridiculously over the top without managing to raise many laughs. This is the first time I’ve seen Nazriya Nazim but she didn’t impress, although that is probably more due to her uninspiring and clichéd character which didn’t give her any opportunity to make an impact.


To add to the disappointment of an unimaginative storyline, the songs are uniformly terrible with bizarre choreography and obviously shot on a tight budget.  At least that’s the only explanation I have for the cheap and nasty costumes worn by the backing dancers in Switzerland.  Dhanush wears a succession of outlandish outfits which don’t suit him at all, and both he and Nazriya get little opportunity to actually dance.  I can’t decide if this was supposed to be part of the comedy or if the songs were meant to be taken ‘seriously’, but this is where the FF button and the film on DVD would be appreciated.


However, despite the terrible storyline, unfunny dialogue from Soori and Imman Anachi in the first half and nonsensical villain, there are a few things to enjoy about the film – even if only briefly.  Sriman and Sathyan are genuinely funny and the older Tamil songs that accompany some of their deranged imaginings are a good touch.  I did laugh for most of the second half of the film and it does seem better written with wittier dialogue.  Even the fight scenes are better.  Dhanush is fine in his role and always watchable, but the character here doesn’t require him to do anything special and such an unremarkable role is particularly disappointing after his impressive performance in Mariyaan.  Overall Naiyaandi is worth a watch for Sriman and Sathyan and the latter part of the film, but I think I’d recommend waiting for the DVD and judicious use of the FF button.