Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thaandavam - true action is blind.

The biggest joy of watching the Tamil action flick Thaandavam was probably seeing it with stimpy, an old friend and a fellow Vikram fan. With her I could simply chuckle at the ludicrous bits of the plot, and also laugh at the genuinely funny intended comedy (with Santhanam playing a hapless cabbie). Still, the overall take-away from the film was still that it did not quite work. 

Vikram plays Kenny, a blind man who plays piano at a London church. His paths cross with Sara (Amy Jackson), a British-Tamil beauty queen, who quickly falls in love. Meanwhile, a detective (Nasser) is trying to hunt down a killer who kills seemingly random targets, and afterwards always seems to leave behind his driver, the completely foolish Tamilan cab driver (Santhanam), who is not of much help with the investigation...

The first problem with the film is what I described above is only half the story, and in an 90 minute flashback we get to see the majority of the story - Vikram's character's past, and the scheme that lead him to where he is now. This part of the story is genuinely quite gripping, though perhaps suffers from a plot hole or two. It also adds to the cast the hugely likable Anushka Shetty, who also acted alongside Vikram in the splendid Deiva Thirumagal (review here). This all improves the film, but it takes quite a while to get to the backstory, leaving the beginning of the film to feel hopelessly slow. 

Vikram's action sequences as a blind man are pretty impressive and nicely choreographed, but I wish they were surrounded by a better movie. The plot holes really start to stack up towards the end, and when the film ends you're left with more questions than got answered during the film. It's not a good sign when whatever you can't figure out on your own (ie that isn't completely predictable) is just very confusing. While I appreciate that the villains here aren't your usual terrorists, it would've been nice to see a more coherent story around them.

I also emphatically question the casting choice of Amy Jackson, a white British girl, in a film that is strongly about Tamil pride (every Indian in Thaandavam's London happens to speak Tamil, amusingly enough). Kollywood film makers (and Bollywood, Tollywood etc film makers), you can't have it both ways - you can't be about nationalistic or linguistic cultural pride and loudly proclaim that Tamil is best, Tamils are the smartest, and then go and cast a white girl from the model school of acting, clearly picked not because of her acting prowess but because of her looks. We all know the problem with promoting white beauty as the standard in non-white countries; harmless skin-lightening products and the works. I'm not against white actors in films when their casting makes sense (like in English Vinglish, or Rang De Basanti) or when they're actually good actors (I wouldn't tell Kalki Koechlin to hit the road). When the case is neither, I'm just annoyed. Sorry, Miss Jackson, I understand you're just getting work where you can - it's the producers and directors I'm blaming, primarily.

But back to the film: even the soundtrack was pretty uninspiring. Still, I suppose it's worth seeing if you like Vikram, like Anushka and don't mind a bit of Nasser and Santhanam, either (their scenes together are pretty hilarious). Vikram's career post-Raavan/an has been pretty sparse, but seeing as how I enjoyed both Rajapattai and Deiva Thirumagal, I don't really mind the fact that Thaandavam flopped (for me, at least). It's also streaming on the US version of Netflix, so you can easily catch it there if you're a subscriber!

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