Reviews for big budget star films don’t really have any bearing on their box office results. We have seen this time and again through films like Ready, Bodyguard, Rowdy Rathore which were trashed by critics yet went on to become huge blockbusters. And this review of Thuppakki will have even less or zero effect as the film only released in Mumbai ten days after its release in Tamil Nadu and overseas and the film from all accounts is doing particularly well at the box-office. But duty is duty so review one must.
Now, AR Murugadoss and Vijay films cannot be reviewed for cinema theories, subtle aesthetics or even semiotics. And Thuppakki is certainly not going to be referred to in How to Read a Film. So the question, plain and simple is, does the film work well enough as a ‘commercial entertainer’ or not? Well, barring a few bits here and there, not really.
In a masala film, what are the elements one looks for? I would say an engaging enough story with interesting and well-fleshed out characters, a good romantic track with nice cute feel-good moments, some hilarious comic scenes, hummable music, good song picturisations with innovative choreography in picturesque locales, edge-of-the-seat action and some fresh treatment and style, all integrated together interestingly in a strong, technical package. Thuppakki, while having an engrossing enough story, and which it has to be said, it tries to mostly stick to, fails on most other grounds. The romantic track is stupid, the comedy moments don’t work though Jayaram does give you the odd funny moment, the songs including Google Google prove Harris Jayaraj is fast losing it, the shoddy song picturisations are not helped by lousy choreography (a criminal offense as Vijay, such a brilliant dancer, is not given even one memorable step), the background score is awful, and, fatally for an action thriller, there is no really exceptional action sequence at all barring a really well-executed and yes, thrilling sequence wherein the army team individually tracks out and kills 12 sleeper cells. Even cinematographer Santosh Sivan is nowhere near his best.
The story goes something like this. Captain Jagdish (Vijay) of the Indian Army comes to Mumbai from Kashmir. Immediately, he is made to see a girl, Nisha (Kajal Aggarwal), for his marriage. He turns her down saying she is too homely and traditional only to find out she was made up so for the ‘meeting’ and is actually quite the modern hep girl into sports. He now falls for her. Meanwhile in Mumbai, one day while travelling by bus, a passenger’s wallet gets stolen. Jagdish, on the bus with a police officer friend, Balaji (Sathyan), starts searching each and every co-passenger only to have one run away from the bus. Chasing him, he turns behind to see the bus explode. He catches the terrorist, hides him at home, tortures him by cutting his fingers and finds out that in 2 days time, a series of sleeper cell attacks are planned all around Mumbai. Somehow with the help of his army buddies, he thwarts the attacks destroying all 12 sleeper cells. The person behind it all in Gulmarg, Kashmir (Vidyut Jammwal) decides to come to Mumbai and take charge of things. He tells Jagdish he is coming to which Jagdish replies he is waiting…
The script fails to incorporate all the ingredients intelligently and coherently even if does stick to basic storytelling without any undue gimmicks. For once, characters in Mumbai, even if they are Tamilian, speak in Hindi or English to non-Tamils though the Hindi and English dialogues are quite corny. But yet, even giving the film enough cinematic liberty, many sequences are difficult to digest – Vijay bringing the terrorists to his house and torturing them without anyone knowing, for instance. One even escapes in the day, but of course, no one from the family notices. Vijay is the one man army, barring the operation he conducts with his army buddies, and the police are totally inactive. But the one that takes the cake, icing and entire bakery and would perhaps have even Rajinikanth loudly applauding is where in the climactic fight, Vijay snaps his broken arm back in place and proceeds to bash up the villain. There are many, many more such idiocies. In the romantic sequences, only the first meeting of Kajal and Vijay comes off somewhat ok, the rest of the track being easily the worst in the film. And talking of Kajal’s irritating character, barring Vijay and to an extent Vidyut Jammwal, all the other characters receive step motherly treatment at the hands of the writer-director.
Still, Vijay does hold the film together in his own way even if you feel he has been reined in and at times you see him struggling to break free. If I had seen this first day first show on 13th, I wouldn’t have been sure that Vijay fans had enough going for them in this film but the huge box response seems to suggest they are easily pleased and more than happy. I have to admit though, he is presented quite stylishly. Kajal Aggarwal proves yet again after Singham and Maattrraan she doesn’t know even the basics of acting or dancing. And for someone who is an all round sportswoman in the film, she only manages to show us how bad she really is in each sport, making her look even worse. She could have been removed from the story and it would have no bearing on the story. In fact, it would probably have been a much tighter and tauter film then. Vidyut Jammwal has good screen presence but is otherwise wooden as an actor. Jayaram proves in his few moments he is head and shoulders above the other actors even if his scenes aren’t always funny, while Sathyan is just about bearable.
A word here – how did the film get a U certificate with all the violence in the action scenes and torture scenes? Or is there something deeper to this because a U certificate in Tamil Nadu means the 30% Entertainment Tax is waved aside. And this is something we are seeing in many, many big budget Tamil films where the U certificate given to them is highly debatable.
All in all, Thuppaki is a heavily loaded gun that does fire but unfortunately it misses the target. At least for this reviewer.
Tamil, Action, Drama, Color