While the Indian film industry is constantly churning out entertaining films in a variety of languages, occasionally you come across a special film that catches you by surprise and causes you to stop and replay ... and replay ... and replay.
Here are five reasons why this action crime thriller stands alone as one of the best films to watch if you are new to Kollywood, the Tamil film industry.
While the film deals with the oft-used idea of good vs. evil, it portrays this theme with modern sensibilities that offer a fresh perspective on tackling issues of greed and cronyism.
The story revolves around police officer ASP Mithran (Jayam Ravi) who is passionate about identifying and destroying the most corrupt person in the country, thus toppling a large criminal empire by removing the kingpin.
When he discovers a vast web of crime and corruption connected to the popular, wealthy and well-educated Siddharth Abhimanyu (Arvind Swamy), he also finds a brilliant adversary who challenges Mithran's well-organized tactics to expose and indict the criminal mastermind.
As Mithran and Siddharth play a dangerous game of spy-vs-spy-cat-and-mouse, they find they are equal rivals. They also discover that one small misstep can become a huge advantage for the opponent.
As an adult, Siddharth is a cold and calculating loner who has built up a community of supporters by pretending to have a heart. While you witness Siddharth as a teenager turn a terrible situation to his benefit, you are not privy to how he became so deviously manipulative. While he has publicly made great strides in the medical community as an adult, in private his practices are unethical at best. He doesn't view his achievements as something for the greater good but for his personal good alone. He exploits those around him and covers his unscrupulous acts to achieve goals only he understands. If he sees you as an challenge to his plans, he will smile in your face while planning your permanent elimination.
Mithran is a loner as well, but his fight against corruption manages to connect with others. People are drawn to his clarity of purpose and some are willing to give up their lives to support his mission. It is this support that bolsters his ability to continue when he begins to question his efforts.
There are several humorous moments into the story, adding some light to the thriller. These are not comedic performed for big laughs. They are reflections of the personalities of key supporting characters who amplify the good vs. evil theme.
One comes in the form of Sengalvarayan (Thambi Ramaiah), Siddharth's father who now holds the position of Health and Welfare Minister. But it is clear that he is a puppet for Siddharth as the man has no useful ideas of his own. Siddharth uses his father's ignorance as a strength and often Sengalvarayan finds he is an uncomfortable confidante of his son's wicked plans.
The fun camaraderie of police academy graduates help humanize Mithran while he carries out his task. While Shakthi (Ganesh Venkatraman) is the most outspoken, it is Jana (Rahul Madhav) who often offers his own brand of humorous commentary on various situations.
By the end of the film, these blithe spirits confirm the true natures of Siddharth and Mithran.
Mithran's love interest is Mahima (Nayantara), also a police academy trainee. However, hers is a one-sided love affair. When Mithran gently but definitively, rejects her, she decides it is better to maintain their friendship than push for a stronger relationship. She turns her love into respect and support.
Siddharth's live-in girlfriend Shilpa (Mugdha Godse) has no idea that her loving boyfriend is a criminal mastermind or that there is a heinous backstory as to why they are together in the first place. She does not know that Siddharth has little understanding of what love is. In one breath Siddharth admits to his father that he really loves Shilpa and in the next he is planning her demise.
The film benefits from an energetic soundtrack that adds power to this "good vs. bad musical" thriller.
From the opening credits of the film, music director Hip Hop Tamizha sets the tone of the film by presenting a rap mashup of English and Tamil with two opposing voices in the title track - a power ballad pitting good against evil.
Both Mithran and Siddharth have their own themes. Mithran's theme "Aasai Peraasai" ("The Greedy Good") reflects his ability to weave together a web of clues that reflects his patriotic passion. Siddharth's theme "Theemai Dhaan Vellum" ("Awakening the Monster") is more measured, reflecting an arrogance that defies opposition. This theme is used to bring emotional power to the film's climax.
The romance between Mahima and Mithran begins with a delightfully playful "Kadhal Cricket" ("Love Not Out") reflecting Mahima's side of the love story. Later, the more romantic "Kannala Kannala" ("The Melting Point of Love") is artistically picturized on the two lovers, providing a short interlude before the tables are turned in Mithran's favor in the cat-and-mouse game.
Thani Oruvan is the last Tamil film to be shot on film (rather than digital).
The following playlist features trailers and music from Thani Oruvan.
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