Movie Review

Jagame Thandhiram review: Dhanush, Karthik Subbaraj film is just about serviceable

Jagame Thandhiram movie cast: Dhanush, James Cosmo, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Joseph Joju George
Jagame Thandhiram movie director: Karthik Subbaraj
Jagame Thandhiram movie rating: 2 stars

Status report: I’ve spent 2.5 hours hoping for a film that starts out disappointing to better itself. After all, this is Dhanush, right? The actor who is a crafty chameleon, and can dissolve into pretty much anything. And this is also Karthik Subbaraj, who is capable of madly stylised story-telling, encased in startlingly psychedelic colours, yes? So why is Jagame Thandhiram, pitched as a gangster tale with sociological underpinnings, so underwhelming? No, dear readers, it doesn’t improve.

Suruli (Dhanush), a loutish fellow with superfast fists, finds himself transported from Madurai to London, there to help Peter (James Cosmo), a ‘racist, supremacist, xenophobe’, clear obstacles in his way and get rid of immigrants washing up at UK shores. Peter gets his jollies from slicing heads and wiping blood off his cashmere woollies, and growling at brown-and-black-skinned people.

A white villain is not enough. So, a fellow Tamilian, the sturdy, dour Sivadoss (Joseph Joju George) is rustled up. And Suruli is all set, scything his way through hordes of gun-toting baddies from both sides, as we get politicians on TV spouting wisdom on anti-immigration laws, and beleaguered refugees streaming in from all parts of the world.

The clunkiest part of the film is the inclusion of a love interest for Suruli, in the shape of the very shapely Antilla (Aishwarya Lekshmi), a nightclub singer with secrets. When they begin circling around each other, there’s a bit of fun to be had. He gets gooey-eyed the instant he hears her sing, and she looks at him bemused. There’s nothing more, though, and the big reveal is a convoluted thread about a long journey from Sri Lanka to England, via choppy seas and dark vans and shady agents, and a long-lost brother.

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One character stands out: a paper-less emigree who finds solace in washing dishes. American plates, Russian plates, all those dirty plates in the sink tell stories, they talk to me, he says. And instantly the film lifts. This is character we haven’t met before, and a bit more of his story would have been very welcome.

Meanwhile, Dhanush-in-veshti strides across sleety England streets in slo-mo, doing Rajini but wisely keeping it low key, channelling the street-smart, lovable scamp he specialises in, when not going all out gangsta familiar to us from such cracking films as Vada Chennai. Serviceable. Just about.

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