If there’s a reason to watch Sigaram Thodu, it isn’t the technique. The visuals are often gimmicky. The number on a milestone becomes animated and begins to count down to zero. The hands of a clock move at hyper-speed to indicate the passage of night. At one point, the camera doubles as the face of a goon at whom the protagonist, Murali (Vikram Prabhu), aims a punch – as the fist retracts, the centre of the screen is left with a bloody splotch. And the background score is scarily overdone. Murali’s father, Chellappa (Sathyaraj), is a cop who’s lost a leg in the line of duty. Early on, we see him sit down and strap on an artificial limb. But he’s taken this blow on the chin and moved on. He’s a trooper – still the first one to show up at work. But the music wants us to see what a tragedy all of this is. It makes the kind of fuss the man himself isn’t making.
Chellappa’s ambition is to see Murali become a cop. Murali, though, wants a safe job, a job at a bank. He isn’t selfish or unpatriotic – merely practical. He’s seen what being a cop has done to his father, and he wants none of it. The sly joke of the film is that the world of finance is equally dangerous. The opening credits appear against a montage of debit cards and CCTVs, and we soon witness a robbery at an ATM. Gradually, we learn how vulnerable our money is, how these crooks forge cards with our names and pin numbers, how they track the infusions of cash into ATMs, how they can wipe us out – it’s terrifying. You may never want to step into an ATM again.
Instead of tightening the screws and playing on our fears, the director Gaurav operates with the wisdom that a tale of crime is best told with romance and comedy. These portions are badly written and the air quickly leaks out of the film. The first half is practically a write-off. After the first ATM robbery, we are taken on a picturesque tour so that Murali can meet Ambujam, played by Monal Gajjar. The actress is fair-complexioned. There’s no sync in her lip-sync. As for her performance, we could point to the fairly mundane scene where she tells Murali that he should take her out for dinner – she seems so excited about her idea, you’d think it’s the 1960s and she’s touched the hem of a Beatle’s shirt. A long career in Tamil cinema seems preordained.
The point, clearly, is to postpone the moment when Murali will realize that he’s cop material after all – but is anyone in the audience in any doubt? And is anyone unaware that Chellappa’s actions will engineer this transformation? Sigaram Thodu is the silver screen’s answer to a weight-loss programme. After some two hours on a treadmill, the flab finally melts away and we get the lean, mean thriller the material deserved. I liked how the villains were portrayed – one’s the brain, the other the brawn. And they’re not larger than life. They’re – if this is the word for it – realistic, and this realism colours the final action stretch. Best of all are the procedural bits, which are well-researched, well-portrayed. Murali finally comes into his own and uses the smarts that were nowhere in evidence earlier. Better late than never, I suppose.
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