The Cop Runneth Over…Kamal Haasan’s Thriller Is A Whammy – Subhash K Jha reviews Thoonga Vanam (in Tamil)

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Starring Kamal Haasan, Trisha, Prakash Raj

Directed by Rajesh M Selva

15nov_Thoongavanam-Poster01The Tamil can do it better than the French. At least, this time. The redoubtable famished-to-the-finish actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan’s insatiable hunger for new challenges now leads him into sin.

Kamal Haasan plays a grey, eminently corruptible cop who lands up in a mess when he tries to outsmart some very dangerous drug dealers who retaliate by kidnapping the cop’s young son. Interestingly the little kidnapped boy looks more bored as a hostage than frightened, probably because the boy knows if you have Kamal Haasan as a father there’s no way the baddies would beat you.

Not by a long shot.

Or maybe the boy has watched the French film Nuit Blanche while Dad’s been cruising the crime beat. We are told, in fleeting moments of domestic revelation, that the cop-hero Diwakar has not been a good husband (to Asha Sarath, so effective as the cop-mother in search of her murdered son in Papanasam, here deduced to a shadowy apparition).

Diwakar tries to be a good father, though we don’t see much of the father-son bonding thing here. No time for moistening the thriller with family lubricants. Director Rajesh Selva doesn’t squander the film’s playing time in character-bonding. Briskly, the narrative, done up in shades of black and bright, moves into a crowded all-night club where the activity on the dancefloor (a snatch of the R D Burman track ‘Chunri sambhaal gori’ shows on dance floor) is far out-witted by the stunning shenanigans of gangsters and drug dealers from behind the scenes.

The film’s real action eventuates in the club’s loos, kitchen and back rooms where a fierce game of cat and mouse is played out between the cop-hero Kamal Haasan and a drug dealer(Prakash Raj) whose balls are squeezed by powerful gangsters. Then there is Trisha’s complete image-breaking part as a ballsy cop enhances the film’s heart-in-the-mouth quotient. And the ‘cop’ runneth over.

Kamal Haasan’s cop, played as a mix of a ruthless selfserving cop and a caring father, provides a backbone to the story without lording over the proceedings. Forever the master of his craft Kamal Haasan is, on this occasion, determined to let the sizzling plot play itself out without his overt interference. Kamal’s Diwakar is a man in a rush. The storytelling stays just behind its protagonist, letting Kamal’s Diwakar take charge of the proceedings without losing a grip over the larger picture.

The clenched plot is smart enough to remain ahead of audiences. But also sensible enough to not run amok with its own smartness. The tension is enhanced by the reined-in violence. In one sequence we hear Diwakar thrashing a drunken man molesting a woman in a loo. But we don’t see the violence.

Less, is definitely more in Thoonga Vanam. Drawing a deep inward breath the one-night narration moves through the crowded club with relentless curiosity. An undercurrent of intense anguish that never lapses into desperation cuts through the plot.

This is a thriller with balls. It dares to explore the theme of narcotic nemesis without getting judgemental about the two sides.

There is a never a doubt as to whose side we are on. But this clever compelling thriller lets us peep on the other side without guilt or apology. Quite an accomplishment, that.

Our Rating

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