Review: Jagame Thandhiram

‘Jagame Thandhiram’ is streaming on Netflix. Here is our review of the latest OTT release. 

Madurai-based gangster Suruli (Dhanush) is enlisted by Peter Sprott (James Cosmo), a powerful gangster based in London. Now, Peter is an immigrant-hating White supremacist who wants Sivadoss (Joju George), a Tamil-speaking smuggler, to be snuffed out. He trusts Suruli to do the job. But least does Suruli know that he is playing into the hands of a racist who hates brown people. Attila (Aishwarya Lekshmi), who plays Suruli’s girlfriend with a hidden agenda, changes the direction of the hero’s life. 

Who is Attila? Is Sivadoss an evil guy? What does Suruli do to defeat Peter at his own game? Answers to these questions are found as the film advances. 

It’s interesting that director Karthik Subbaraj has cast a pakka Tamil mass hero for the role of Suruli. Dhanush fits the bill and he makes the film the kind of mass Kollywood showreel that it was intended to be – at least to a small extent.

James Cosmo of ‘Game Of Thrones’ fame lends himself to a role that is atypical as far as Indian films are concerned. He is a bad guy but his badness is political, too. Joju George and Aishwarya Lekshmi are impressive in their respective roles.

Kalaiyarasan, Soundararaja, Sharath Ravi and others look their parts.  

Technical Departments:
Santhosh Narayanan’s ‘Rakita Rakita’, the chartbuster, comes across as over-rated in the film. Its placement is found wanting. Most of the songs are limited to the jukebox. Shreyaas Krishna’s cinematography is pleasing, especially the snowfall in the climax fight is captured well. 

Pa.Ranjith has in the past welded politics and mainstream masala genre in ‘Kabali’ and ‘Kaala’. Director Karthik Subbaraj, who is known for new-age mainstream movies, follows in his footsteps. The similarities end there. Subbaraj doesn’t get obsessed about stuffing his film with too many metaphors, allegories, etc. ‘Jagame Thandhiram’, to be sure, is a straightforward gangster drama. 

What is its politics? The rights of refugees. The crisis faced by stateless people. To be more specific, it is all about Tamil refugees. When Dhanush’s character sucks up to Peter, he gets labelled a traitor.

The film falls flat in every sense of the term if not for its overt politics. Subbaraj must thank films like ‘Kaala’ for introducing to the audience new sensibilities. 

When it is not about its core strengths, the film’s narrational power goes for a toss. It’s all about making the villain look dumber than he is. And the hero looks more carefree than he actually is. He is the average Joe in the presence of his love interest. But in the presence of the antagonist, he is omnipotent. That’s why ‘JT’ is a run-of-the-mill masala flick if you rob it of its politics. 

The film is streaming in 17 languages, but it is unlikely to strike the right chord in any language other than Tamil. The action scenes, the gun battles, the shootouts – these don’t look outdated but they are not engaging either. 

If you are a fan of mindless action entertainers, you might find ‘Jagame Thandhiram’ okay. If you are expecting a smart Karthik Subbaraj film, this film will leave you mighty disappointed. 

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