Thaanaa Serndha Kootam
Thaanaa Serndha Kootam: A Fluff Entertainer That Lacks Clarity
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
To call Thaanaa Serndha Kootam, a remake of Special 26 would be unfair. Just like the opening credits state, Director Vignesh Shivan has taken the core story of Special 26 and adapted it to his taste. He’s made it his own by throwing in mass flavour, action block scenes and a light-hearted approach. Has these elements worked in his favour? Some do exceptionally well while the others fail him miserably. When viewed as an entertainer, the film fares well. If you dig any deeper, everything starts to fall apart.
Set in the 80’s, Thaana Serndha Kootam follows the life of Iniyan (Suriya), an angry young man who takes the law into his own hands when corruption prevents him from following his dreams. All his life, Iniyan dreams of becoming a CBI officer but this dream is shattered by corrupt officers who dismiss him because his father works as a clerk in the same office. A devastated Iniyan then forms a CBI team of his own. Whether or not he emerges victorious in creating this Robin Hood scheme forms the crux of the story.
Comedy has always been director Vignesh Shivan’s strong suit and he scores tremendously yet again in this department. He takes up many predictable scenarios and gives it his signature twist. For example, in an emotional scene between Iniyan and his father, we are briefly led to believe that the father is on the verge of committing suicide. Instead, just as the tension soars, his father comes out of the room and says “Just because you didn’t get a job why should I die?” The whole theatre erupts with laughter in this scene. The director transforms many such predictable situations into comical moments.
The first half flows breezily and packs in entertainment aplenty. You are taken through Madras in the 80’s and even the songs leave you in awe of the nostalgic references. Wherever the fun con gang travels, we are overcome by laughter due to their mishaps. From the Telugu language confusion in Hyderabad to RJ Balaji’s hilarious references to the increasing film ticket rates in the future, you are served with more than a generous dose of laughter.
But beyond a point, the happenings in the film appear pointless. You start to wonder why the director saw it fit to set this story in a retro backdrop in the first place. Furthermore the screenplay is filled with tonal inconsistencies. One minute the film laughs at itself and the next instant, it pleads you to take it seriously. For example, in one scene, you laugh at a Sasikala reference and the in the very next scene, you are asked to immerse in the central character’s emotional journey. If the director had approached this story with clarity on the amount of comedy this subject can hold, the film would’ve had a defined point of focus. Without such clarity, the film is all fluff.
The first time a CBI raid is staged, it evokes your interest. But as the director goes on to stuff the narrative with more such repetitive raids, the film starts to get boring. For instance, Vetrimaaran’s film, Aadukalaam uses a rooster fight as its central point of interest. This rooster fight appears only in two scenes; once in the beginning and the second time during the climax. This limited exposure retains the interest of the audience. In Thaana Serndha Kootam though, the repetitive use of sham CBI raids only lead us to lose interest in the story.
Director Vignesh Shivan also leaves many loose ends untied in this story. Keerthi Suresh’s character arc is dropped mid-way and you never find out what happens to RJ Balaji and the van full of CBI officers who accompany him. The film is filled with many such logical loopholes.
It is refreshing to see Suriya loosen up in such a fun role. As Iniyan, he is much more charming than a predictable Durai Singam. In the beginning, he appears too polished to play the role. His physical appearance is especially unsuitable in a film that actually demands his brother, Karthi’s casualness. Nevertheless, this is a small step in the right direction for an actor who has recently devoted his time to making only heavy-duty action block films.
Keerthy Suresh has very little screen time in the film. In the first half, her spontaneity and the manner in which she takes a dig at Suriya’s character is smart and funny. But her character’s story track is left incomplete. Till the end, you never discover the reason behind her sudden disappearance.
Ramya Krishnan is brilliant. Her scenes with Suriya are especially entertaining. Her ability to build the ‘Jhansi Rani’ image only to completely break it later on is impressive. Thambi Ramaiah and Senthil have memorable roles to play as well. However, Karthik Muthuraman’s character sketch is left quite uneven. His eccentricity is interesting at first, but it is never seen through completion. But this incompletion only points a finger at the director, not Karthik, whose performance is otherwise spot on.
Anirudh’s music is the backbone of Thaana Serndha Kootam. Its retro character is impeccable and the fun undertone it brings to the film is quite refreshing. The background music though, is a letdown. It overtakes the film’s narrative in many scenes.
Cinematographer Dinesh Krishnan’s visual palette is mostly pleasing. But in places the lighting is too heavy and jarring. The yellow tone this film takes up is sometimes too overwhelming.
The authenticity of the costume designing in Thaanaa Serndha Kootam is questionable. At times, it is in tune with the 80’s but at other times it is too current to be passed off as retro. This inconsistent approach could’ve been rectified. The production design too seems restrictive in many scenes. For instance, the frame blocking in many shots seem to be restricted to purposefully retain periodic authenticity. But this only points to the limitations of the production design.
On the whole, Thaanaa Serndha Kootam is unclear in its approach. It takes itself too seriously sometimes times and loosens up way too much at other times. But if you look past this lack of clarity, the film leaves you with a fairly entertaining experience.