The opening minutes of the intriguingly titled Thamizhukku Enn Ondrai Azhuthavum hint at one of those films that’s so out of the box that the box is here and the film is on the moon. While our big-name filmmakers refuse to budge from formula, we look towards newcomers to take us someplace… well, new, and first-time director Ramprakash Rayappa at least has the right ideas. Simi (Bindu Madhavi) lies trapped in a pit at a construction site, and hovering over her, dangerously, is an eighty-ton slab of granite, a vaastu stone that’s being hoisted to the top of the building. Elsewhere, as call-taxi driver Raja (Sathish) gabs into his phone, a bomb ticks away inside his cab, awaiting a signal from a terrorist. And did I mention that a solar flare has crippled all mobile networks?
Everything’s in place for a ticking-clock thriller that answers these questions: Will Simi survive? Will the terrorist’s plan be foiled? Okay, so the answers are a no-brainer – we don’t exactly step into films to watch our heroines get ground to a pulp, or to find out that the bad guys have won. But even if the what is a given, the how can be interesting. And the biggest how is this: How will a nail-biter of a narrative more suited to the song-less, comedy-less, romance-less Hollywood style be adapted to suit our audience?
But the director is clear about his priorities – his style is all Kollywood. He gives us songs, comedy, romance – everything, in fact, except the thriller elements those initial scenes promised. Science geek Vasanth (Nakul) is paired off with college student Harini (Aishwarya Dutta), while real-estate agent Mugil (Dinesh) falls for Simi, who’s a counselor. And Raja finds that his mobile phone is stolen, which sets off a romantic complication that’s played for laughs. In short, we’re back inside the box.
But dusting the cobwebs off clichés is a skill too, and Ramprakash Rayappa wields a decent mop. Both sets of romances are interestingly done – the situations are fresh and fun. Simi, for instance, develops feelings for Mugil as she learns how to abuse him. It sounds nuts, and it needed much better actors, but at least this contrivance is something we haven’t seen before – and it works, somewhat. The supporting characters help. Oorvasi has a high old time hamming it up as Vasanth’s mother, a housewife who’s something of a science geek herself. Comedy, when done right, can become great art. Thamizhukku doesn’t aim that high. It’s content to leave us chuckling. But imagine the alternative. Two serious love tracks, with tears and drama. We get a hint of this in a flashback, and we realize we’re better off with the comedy.
After a while, I stopped treating the film as a thriller. There’s no tension, no sweat. There’s none of the desperation the characters need to feel, we need to feel. The terrorist remains an alarmingly generic construct. Who is he? Whom does he work for? We’re not supposed to wonder. All we need to know is that he’s the man with a finger on the trigger. But I liked the fact that there’s no hero here, which means there’s no heroism here. These are small-sized people, unaware that they’re caught up in something much bigger – but not so big so as to become larger than life. It doesn’t say much about a movie when we walk into a thriller and walk out of what’s mostly a comedy – but with so many laughs, why complain?
- Thamizhukku Enn Ondrai Azhuthavum = in mobile-phone lingo, “press one for Tamil”
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