Pattas: Dhanush and Sneha strive to lift this wholly predictable film that lacks soaring highs

A wronged warrior woman has been held captive for many, many years, and she’s been biding her time, collecting leaflets — of information, in Pattas — plotting revenge against the man who took her husband and child away from her. Unbeknownst to her, her son is up and about, and armed with his father’s strengths no less. It is impossible not to draw parallels between the stories of Pattas and Baahubali. In fact, in a crucial scene, as Pattas alias Sakthi (a Dhanush who impressively looks as young as he did in mid 2000s) holds a martial arts posture, the chanting you hear in the background seems like an accelerated form of that bit at the beginning of Siva Sivaya Potri in Baahubali: The Beginning. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not at all suggesting they lifted the story. This idea of a son, who survives against all odds, emerging to avenge his fallen father, is an age-old idea that’s been milked for hits over the years. The efficacy of such films is decided by the individual moments within, and whether or not the highs and the lows of the film impact you as they should. Remember when Devasena feels instinctively, in her bones, that her son is close? Remember what you felt as Baahubali runs to his mother in chains, his enemies behind him, as music and slow-mo visuals combined to deliver a classic mass moment? The problem with Pattas is that its highs don’t overwhelm you, its lows don’t shatter you. On paper, they all seem in place, but in execution, on account of their dilution, they don’t affect you as they should.

This isn’t for lack of commitment from Dhanush though. He seems driven, and where some martial arts sequences may even have seemed amusing, his conviction goes a long way in convincing you of their seriousness. He’s forever been thought of as our own Bruce Lee, and so, I suppose, a film about martial arts was always on the cards. This isn’t quite a martial arts film though, even though there’s one at the heart of this story. But the makers won’t care; all they want to do, as they say with that last line, is to popularise an ancient Tamil martial arts form called Adimurai. Let’s return to Dhanush for the moment. Look at how impressively he sells the age difference between the characters. Look at not just his body language, but the wisdom in his eyes when he plays the senior character, Thiraviyam. In contrast, look at the impishnes when he plays Pattas. Look at him even believing in the blatantly commercial moments—like the lengthy solo dance routines in the opening song, Chill Bro. Or if you, like me, are one for subtlety, look at him in that blink-and-miss flashback moment, when his child tries to pick a fight with him. Dhanush, who’s hugging Sneha, mock-kicks his child, as a gentle rebuke. No dialogue could convey what this instinctive playful gesture does. There are a quite a few of these effective moments in the film’s flashback portion.

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