With most films, a critic prepares for a dissection. With Thodari, it’s more of an autopsy. The film is dead on arrival. You come away with the impression that director Prabhu Solomon gives one hell of a story narration. What else can explain why an artist like Dhanush signed up, despite situations that have him dancing on top of a train speeding at 120 kmph, wearing magnetised boots? Okay, we’re not exactly told about the boots, but with Dhanush’s frame, can you imagine another reason the wind (or Imman’s overblown score) didn’t whip him right off?
The premise – a combination of vehicular disaster and epic romance – could be titled Titanic on a Train. Pantry worker Poochiyappan (Dhanush) falls for Saroja (Keerthy Suresh), who’s travelling in a first-class compartment. This takes up most of the first half. The train gathers speed and won’t slow down – it has to be stopped. This makes up the second half. Along with commentary about politicians, the media, about how bridges built by the British are sturdier than the ones that came later. Now we know where James Cameron screwed up. Where were the rants about climate change, which produced the iceberg? Why did no one bring up Marx to illustrate the differences between Jack and Rose? A Tamil filmmaker would have thrown in Che Guevara as well.
Bad movies make you laugh. Sometimes, they can make you cry. This isn’t about the sub-standard visual effects. This is about something as basic as a reaction shot. When authorities announce a rescue mission, we cut to passengers doing high fives. (They are watching the news on their laptops.) When the mission fails, we cut to these passengers biting their nails. After 100 years of cinema, is this the craft on display in a major movie? Thodari, seemingly, has everything – action, drama, romance and lots of comedy from the heydays of Bindu Ghosh. (Saroja wants to become a singer, but she can’t hold a note, haha!) Nothing works. At 168 minutes, the film feels as long as the train ride from Delhi to Chennai. My hand kept searching the air above my seat, desperately hoping for a chain to pull.
- thodari= train
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