Jigarthanda is the kind of movie that draws you in, mostly succeeds in engaging you, and stays with you after you leave the theatre.
The movie is about a film maker, named Karthik (Siddharth, who looks sleepy or confused or both), who for all we know, is the director’s version of himself. He is dispatched by his producer on an assignment to make a gangster movie, the kind where blood and limbs all swim in front of your eyes. Karthik arrives in Madurai, and with the help of his friend Oorni (Karunakaran, making his character worth remembering), tries to delve into the life of much feared gangster Assault Sethu.
Assault Sethu, played by Bobby Simha (yes, the same man who built a temple for Nayantara in Soodhu Kavvum) is scary and enjoyable all at once. It is a joy to see the actor let himself go on screen, essaying the role of a gangster with so much abandon that you can’t help but cheer for him. Karthik and Oorni begin tailing Assault Sethu and his henchmen, taking down notes and clicking pictures; with Karthik simultaneously pretending to be in love with Kayal (Lakshmi Menon) just so that he can get closer to Sethu.
The movie takes a different turn in the second half, with Sethu finding out about the duo following him, Kayal turning vengeful (revenge of the scorned lover), and Sethu announcing that he will star in the movie being made about him. To Karthik, this feels like an anticlimax, the abysmal end to everything he has worked for, and the destruction of his dream to make an action movie with Vijay Sethupathy (Vijay Sethupathy as himself).
Jigarthanda now becomes a movie about movie making itself, a departure from its first half, which was about the lives of the henchmen. It is now about the trials a director with an uncompromising vision has to face, it is about a movie going out of your hands right before your eyes, it is about satisfying everyone around you but feeling a sense of betrayal, it is about acting and directing, those who can and cannot do it, it is about film making and it is about the movie itself. These different layers are what makes the movie intriguing and interesting. We find ourselves wondering how much of this movie has happened in the director’s life, and if that’s the way Vijay Sethupathy listens to scripts in his office.
Sometimes when watching movies such as these, which start out wanting to be different, you get a sense of desperation – of really how different the movie is trying to be.
The love triangle of sorts, which is resolved through the course of the movie – some of it seems a little odd. Why exactly does Kayal like Karthik in the first place? Is it a nod to the way heroes fall in love with heroines at first glance time and again?
The character of Assault Sethu being reduced to a laughing stock in the second half – I genuinely felt bad. Such a glorious character should not have been so cruelly handled.
The movie does feel a little jerky – some of the proceedings tend to come across as too convenient. I suppose the movie has to move on, and eventually end.
Jigarthanda is definitely worth a watch. It is unapologetic in its tone, not pausing to explain itself or its context (a big relief). The music is whacky like the rest of the movie, you may hate it, but you can’t ignore it (puzhudhi parakkum paaru will be playing in your head). Also – nice touch with the Thalapathi/ Nayagan issue – the supposed villain being noble à la Thalaivar in Thalapathi, and the hero taking after Kamal in Nayagan (neenga nallavara kettavara?).
There are so many wonderful sequences in the movie, the supporting cast is excellent. The scenes where the acting coach takes class are hilarious, but something seems to be missing – is it a case of the whole not being as good as the parts? Is being different good enough? Dare we ask for more? A movie so good that we don’t even want to question anything? All that aside, I’m waiting for Karthik Subbaraj’s next movie! If one movie makes me think and talk so much, I can only recommend it everyone I see!