Cast: Siddharth, Lakshmi Menon, Simhaa, Karuna, Naren, Ambika
Direction: Karthik Subbaraj
Music : Santosh Narayanan
Rating : 4.0/5.0
Synopsis : Karthik, an aspiring filmmaker, gets a chance to make a film, but his producer only wants a gangster tale soaked in blood. So, he goes to Madurai to research about Assault Sethu, a fearsome gangster who will not hesitate to murder those who try to even write about him.Movie Review: In a poignant scene in Jigarthanda, an elderly man tells Karthik, a young guy who is on the verge of directing his first film, about the attitude of debutant filmmakers. They will demand everything and not compromise, the old man says and goes on to narrate how he, when he was all set to direct a film after a decade of toil in the industry, refused to accept the request of his producer to cast two of his relatives and walked out of the project saying he will get a thousand other producers for his story. "Aana, kadaisi varikkum aayirathula oruthan kooda varala," he says to make Karthik understand that he has to grab the opportunity that is knocking on his doors, despite the conditions it brings along with it.
Given that Jigarthanda was the first script that Karthik Subbaraj had written before he 'compromised' and made Pizza (the applause that his name generates during the title credits show how influential this young director has become), he should know how a good filmmaker can exploit a compromise. And, that is essentially what the film is all about — a filmmaker forced to make the worst possible compromise turning it into the best possible chance.
The film begins with an award-winning director ( Nasser, in a cameo) and a producer ( Naren) fighting over the merits of Karthik's ( Siddharth) short film on the sets of a reality show. The director dubs it "kuppa padam" and the producer, who clearly has personal issues to settle with him, calls it the best he has seen on the show and announces that he will produce Karthik's first film. But when the young man approaches him, he tells him that he wants not a message movie but a bloody gangster movie. He lists Hollywood films in the genre (The Godfather, Scarface, "Tarantino") and tells Karthik, "Idhu madhiri oru script ready pannu," and without pausing adds, "Illa idhaye script-a pannalum OK".
But like any self-respecting first-time filmmaker, Karthik has too much integrity and so decides that he will make a gangster film based on a true gangster. He gets to know about Assault Sethu (Simhaa), a fearsome gangster who calls the shot in Madurai, and decides to go to the temple town to research about Sethu and come up with an authentic gangster movie. He entices his Madurai-based friend Oorani ( Karuna, who carries forward his Yaamirukka Bayamey form) to help him in the task but the duo is hardly able to make progress. But Sethu enters his life in the least expected way leading to situations that could put both his filmi career and life in danger.
If Pizza was a con movie dressed up as a haunted house horror thriller, Jigarthanda is basically a comedy cloaked as a gangster movie. In the first half, the director provides us the gangster thriller that the trailers promised us — a villain who is both awesome and frightening, his quirky underlings (one of them is a teetotaler and a god-fearing man whose weakness is porn and the scenes where Karthik and Oorani try to woo him by supplying him porn are a blast), brutal murders, and a tense interval block. There is even some virtuoso camerawork by the cinematographer Gavemic Ary, and a lengthy shot in the scene where an attempt is made by a rival to murder Sethu is remarkable. The heroine, too, is an interesting character and isn't there just for the romantic track. She and her mom, an idli seller who cooks for Sethu, are Sourashtrians (this is the second film in recent times to show the heroine as a Sourashtrian, after Naan Than Bala), and they are part of a group that steals saris from cloth stores!
The tone gradually shifts in the second half and unlike Pizza, where a single reveal altered our view of the film, here, we never realize that we are seeing a film different from the one we had seen in the first half. The mood lightens considerably over the scenes and we never find this shift in genres jarring when the mood turns somewhat serious again towards the end. The intensity drops in the second half, which does have shades of the Malayalam film Udayananu Tharam (which was influenced by the Steve Martin-Eddie Murphy-starrer Bowfinger) but this is certainly not an 'inspired' film. Also, Sethu's transformation in the end seems a little predictable (and also sentimental), but the actors, especially Simhaa, who owns this role and is terrific in the climax, make us forget this niggle to a large extent.
Karthik Subbaraj has called the film a musical gangster film and the soundtrack is definitely eclectic and involves a melange of genres. Santhosh Narayanan uses everything from funky Tamil folk to pieces that recall Ennio Morricone's scores for spaghetti westerns in the background. Then, there are also film songs that are used as montages. The film opens to the strains of Paasa Malar's Malarnthu Malaratha (we see it first playing in a theatre where a shootout happens but in what is a frequently employed style in the film, the song spills over into the next scene where it plays as the hero's ringtone), but there is also the mandatory Ilaiyaraaja song (here, it is Kadhalin Deepam Ondru) and even something as recent as Pesuren Peuren from Pannaiyarum Padminiyum. And, if the heroine tells a 'kavidhai' involving rain and Ilaiyaraaja, in a scene that wants to inform that the 80s was not just restricted to the maestro, Sethu tells in another scene that he is a fan of Shankar-Ganesh! This kind of subversive streak is what makes this film singular and reinforces that Karthik Subbaraj as one of the exciting filmmakers of our time.
Jigarthanda is still a good appetising drink, that you can sip on.
Verdict - Good