Thangamagan

A good core wasted in a masala template

Thagamagan.jpg

You can see why 7G Rainbow Colony is referenced in Thangamagan more than once, first when Thamizh (Dhanush) is shown cheering in the theatre, and next, when you’re shown a poster in the background as he’s talking to Hema D’Souza (Amy Jackson). Just like in that film, Thamizh here hails from a lower middle-class family. He ‘picks’ a girl who seems beyond him, both in terms of looks and socioeconomic status. And to wear her out, he employs that notorious I-shall-be-your-shadow technique. As Thamizh regressively puts it, “Azhagaa irundhaa, follow pannanum.” The problem with Thangamagan though is, it doesn’t want to be a 7G Rainbow Colony. It doesn’t just want its love story, or should I say, stories. No, it doesn’t want to be a 3 either. It likes its mass moments way too much—you know, when the camera fixates on Dhanush after he says a punch-line, and walks away, smiling smugly at his verbal emasculation of the villain, as Anirudh’s background music kicks in. Like in VIP, but Thangamagan doesn’t just want to target the youth, like VIP did. It wants to appeal to the family audiences too. So, it doesn’t want to be any of those films, and yet, in a way, it is a disappointing mixture of all of them.

And to think it all starts so promisingly. Thamizh is shown without any fuss—no punch dialogue, no slo-mo camera. He’s the son of an Income Tax department employee (K. S. Ravikumar), and in college. And when heroes are in college, what do they do? They fall in love, of course. With friend and wingman Kumaran (Sathish), he sets about getting Hema, a girl way out of his league. And he knows this too. At least in one instance, both Hema and Kumaran point out that he has very average looks. Even he admits so in a scene. Is there another star in Tamil cinema, home to many average-looking stars, as eager to use such self-deprecatory dialogues? In one scene, he even begs for forgiveness by lying prostate at the feet of his beloved. It’s a relief that unlike some other stars, he still remembers that he isn’t the most handsome man in all of Tamil Nadu, and has no problems saying as much.

The story, admirably, doesn’t overreach; not for a long time. It’s about his love life for a while, but more importantly, about a problem his father runs into… It’s all fairly middle-class, and I enjoyed that. Amy Jackson (playing Hema D’Souza, or as Thamizh calls her, Hema Kasamusa) though is a discomfiting presence. Her lip-sync is bothersome, and in such little stories, it’s crucial that you not be reminded that you’re watching a film. Amy diligently brings that to your attention every now and then. And even though Velraj, the director, introduces her as a girl born to a British father and a Brahmin mother (that probably would make for an interesting love story by itself), her dialogue delivery is rather inconsistent. In some scenes, the accent is fairly Indian, and in some others, she talks like she just landed from London. To be fair to her though, some of the dialogues are badly written. A case in point is the scene in which Hema gets drunk and lands a tirade of abuses on Dhanush for ‘affecting’ her. She points to her chest and says, “Inga ennamo pannita da.” And for good measure, she keeps calling him “panni” too. It’s all too juvenile, even if they are both college students.

The dialogues continue to be a menace throughout, with the punch-lines falling flat. Merely jingoistically playing on the hero’s name being Thamizh doesn’t cut it at all, and is simply a cheap gimmick. Like in reality dance shows when sometimes, contestants dance to a patriotic song by bringing flags, and make all the judges stand up in mock-devotion to the country. For somebody as proud to be called Thamizh and belong to Tamil Nadu though, the protagonist sure does seem interested only in the fairest of them all. Which brings me to the second heroine in the film, Samantha, playing Yamuna, Thamizh’s wife (as I’m sure you know already from the trailer). Hers is a rather regressive character, as she’s shown to be an embodiment of obeisance. Her life revolves only around Thamizh, and as she says in their first night, she wanted a husband, so she could be “taken care of and be made to feel secure.” Her chief duty every day seems to be to ensure that Thamizh doesn’t forget to take his tiffin box to work, and in the rare occasion that he forgets, she runs behind him on the streets to give him the box, even when she’s pregnant. How dated is the idea of a woman running behind a man, carrying his tiffin box?

Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed how contained Thamizh’s problems are in the film. It’s just about his family, and he needs to find a way to rescue and redeem it. It’s a relief to see that he doesn’t have to rescue all of society. Even the big twist is not overly cinematic. But the problem with Thangamagan, especially its latter portions, is the lack of subtlety in treatment. I would’ve loved to see the core story being made into a grittily realistic drama, devoid of heroism, and pointless love tracks and uninspiring fight sequences. After all, when you and I save our families, it usually happens without us having to prove our mettle as a street-fighter. And thank god for that.

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