Jagame Thanthiram – My Flash Review!

The much awaited film, Jagame Thanthiram finally got an OTT release and is now streaming on Netflix. Much awaited because it is directed by Karthik Subbaraj and has Dhanush in the lead. As I watched the film, I understood or rather derived the logic behind the title. Jagam or Jaga means place, so the film is about one’s right over his or her place or the lack of it. If only the screen play also displayed equal sense of logic.

Basically it is a gangster film dealing with their rivalries. Just that the rivalry is less about money and more about immigration and refugee politics. And in a strange setting, a local Madurai based gangster ends up taking on a London based Brit gangster in London. And don’t ask how our Madurai don played by Dhanush landed up in London. The screen play is contrived in more ways than one.

In the initial scenes, the fight is over North Indians taking over place, business and jobs in Madurai. This then moves to how Sri Lankan Tamils had to move out of their homeland and live as refugees in foreign land. Then it is all about “Us Vs Them” strife in western countries due to the illegal immigration issue. All this packaged around gangster rivalries and gory violence.

Jagame Thanthiram has all the trappings of a Karthik Subbaraj film which we are all mostly used to. A Madurai angle in the story, a Madurai element in the proceedings (here it is the Parotta kada, Sivakasi pattaasu…), local gangsters, that dim lighting in most frames, old Ilaiyaraaja songs playing in the background often, Hat tips to old films like Nayagan and if I may add now – promising story but lack of a taut screen play. We saw this in his earlier film Petta and we see this in Jagame Thanthiram.

Karthik Subbaraj in my opinion is an extremely over rated film maker. Yes, he showed a lot of promise in his first film Pizza and shows flashes of brilliance now and then. But I believe he has a long way to go still, to be counted as a top notch film maker in Tamil. Even in this film, we can see his flourishes in staging of some of the scenes but that’s about it. For example, the encounter between two dons is very well staged, so are some action sequences set in Madurai. The interesting premise of the story gets muddled in issues like migrant labour, Sri Lankan refugees issue and finally illegal immigrants’ issue.  The climax is a total disappointment and pulls down the complete film.

Dhanush is in fine form but one cannot miss the fact that he has started aping Superstar and at times Vijay in terms of body language and reactions. Don’t know if that was the brief. Cast also includes Joju George of Nayattu fame who has very limited scope in this film as a rival don but gives a good account of himself in his first Tamil outing that too in his own voice.  Aishwarya Lekshmi as the female lead also has little scope. The Brit Don played by James Cosmo is impressive and good to see him sticking to English dialogues and is not run down as a caricature.

Majority of the film is filmed in London and one would expect to see London it its glory. But being a Karthik Subbaraj’s film, even London looks run down the way most scenes are filmed. The action scenes are filmed and choreographed very well. The background score of Santosh Narayan adds to the heft of the scenes. The songs though, are disappointing. If the song “Rakita, Rakita…” stands for a rousing chart buster song these days, I think I am a dinosaur.

I read somewhere that Subbaraj wanted to make this film with Al Pacino or Robert De Niro. Well, the producer must thank his stars for finally managing with James Cosmo in the villain role.  With a patchy screen play, Jagame Thanthiram only manages to disappoint.  Just watch only if you are a loyal Karthik Subbaraj fan.

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