Thupparivaalan: Fascinating Moments Weakened By A Lack Of Rootedness
Movie Review by Trijai Nerthi (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Director Mysskin has always been a man with a unique outlook towards life. So, when he decided to make a vernacular version of Sherlock Holmes, I was excited to witness what he had in store for us. Unfortunately, Thupparivaalan is a hit-and-miss affair. The film retains Mysskin’s signature. It even has a handful of spine-chilling sequences. But the use of English dialogues and relying heavily on references from Sherlock Holmes (TV series and film) takes away the authenticity and regional appeal of the film.
Kaniyan Poongundran (Vishal) is a Chennai based detective whose passion lies in decoding unsolvable crimes with his partner Mano (Prasanna). The eccentric detective finds himself going through a rough patch as he is unable to find challenging cases to solve. Just as he is about to break down, a little boy steps into his home with an intriguing case, where they have to hunt down the man who murdered the boy’s dog. But as Poongundran gets closer to solving the case, a web of crime untangles, leaving him caught inside the devil’s workshop.
Being inspired by Sherlock is one thing. But blindly borrowing many aspects from it to make a regional equivalent is another. Director Mysskin’s Thupparivaalan belongs to the latter category. A few minutes into the film, Poongundran mutters “What an uninspiring life! Can someone give me an interesting case to solve?” These are direct references to the original Sherlock and fail to strike a resonance with the local audience. It is also easy to see that there is only half-hearted attempt at character establishment.
Poongundran is introduced as an eccentric detective. But the director never establishes his eccentricities and deductive reasoning capabilities properly. Without a proper character establishment, his arrogance appears to be misplaced and his intelligence lacks depth.
A good detective’s key characteristics include an impressive observation power and a spotless deductive reasoning. Both these characteristics though present in Poongundran, are not effectively portrayed onscreen. For instance, when he solves a classic case of a missing husband, the deductions he makes appear quite silly.
Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan too is loosely based on The Godfather. Even though you can sense the influences, Velu Nayagam’s character is the only one that comes to mind whenever you think of a southern Indian gangster. The way Ratnam brings about a regional appeal through his rooted vision for the film was the reason for its success. What Thupparivaalan lacks is that original vision. What you actually expect from a creative director like Mysskin is a Holmes inspired Detective, whose eccentricities and appearances are rooted.
Another crucial problem that arises in the film is the lack of a ticking time frame. For every significant case, an equally pressing time frame must be established. But Poongundran here, never races against time, he leisurely proceeds to solve the case. This relaxed approach slows down the narrative, never conveying the seriousness of the case at hand.
One of the main reasons why Holmes’ deduction method appears interesting is because of the revelations that shortly follow. In Thupparivaalan, the deduction method is applied by Poongundran but the revelations are delivered too late creating disinterest among the audience.
Nevertheless, the auteur in Mysskin leaves you with a handful of fascinating scenes. In one scene, the villain casually goes about sipping coffee while he mutilates his victim’s body with a hacksaw. This scene is spine-chilling. The climax action sequence too is executed quite tactfully. Set in the mangrove forest of Pichavaram, every shot in the climax follows a perfectly crafted ‘conceal and reveal rhythm’ of storytelling. Humor too, is handled subtly by the director. For instance, (Spoiler alert) the heaviness of the climax is lightened when the villain regretfully utters “I’ve gotten away with killing many people. But because of your dog I got caught.” (Spoiler ends) Lighthearted scenes like these resonate with your thoughts, in turn making you smile.
Vishal’s play against type, as an eccentric detective is a hit and miss. In his eccentricities, Vishal comes across as unconvincing. But in stunt sequences, the actor is a total pro. As Mano, Prasanna’s presence becomes noteworthy in the second half; the actor makes for a smart side-kick. Andrea Jeremiah is stunning. She plays a ruthless villain with a devil-may- care attitude. Her portions with John Vijay are especially entertaining. As the gang leader, Vinay fits into his role effortlessly. His voice and demeanor are quite intimidating. Bhagyaraj and John Vijay play their parts well. Their portions constitute some of the most memorable scenes in the film.
As stand-alone pieces, Arrol Corelli’s soundtrack is beautiful. In the film though, they are overpowering. When the little boy narrates his case to Poongundran, melancholic music takes over the scene, distracting you from the proceedings. Similarly, in many instances, the BGM takes the mystery out of suspense scenes.
Cinematographer Karthik Venkatraman’s visual-storytelling is top-notch. He presents us with an admirable amalgamation of low-angle shots, silhouettes and rustic establishing shots.
On the whole, Thupparivaalan has its share of fascinating moments. But the bigger picture is weakened by a lack of rootedness and proper character establishment.