Movie review: Jigarthanda is a failed attempt at showing stylised brutality

  • Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times, Chennai
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  • Updated: Aug 05, 2014 15:36 IST
  • Jigarthanda

    Jigarthanda is a Tamil gangstar film with Siddharth and Lakshmi Menon in the lead roles. The film is directed by Karthik Subbaraj. (jigarthanda/Facebook)

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  • Lakshmi Menon

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  • Simhaa

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  • Jigarthanda

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  • Lakshmi Menon

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Film: Jigarthanda
Direction: Karthik Subbaraj
Cast:  Siddharth, Lakshmi Menon, Bobby Simha, Karunakaran, Nasser.
Running time: 170 minutes
Rating: **

Director Karthik Subbaraj’s forte has been thrillers. He debuted with Pizza, a supernatural story, and is now on to Pizza 3. But between these two, he wove another film, Jigarthanda, the tale of a fledgling helmer and his compulsion to create a gangster movie.

Diffident but with a dream in his eyes and a song in his heart, young Karthik Subramaniam (played by Siddharth) goes to a producer, who asks the debutant to make a violent film and throws a few DVDs on the table. One of them is Godfather, the other a Quentin Tarantino work.

While Siddharth – whose passion is arty stuff – agrees to the producer’s diktat, secretly deciding to make a Mani Ratnam copy, well something like Nayagan or Thalapathy, Subbaraj is decidedly inspired by Tarantino’s violent imagery and the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men. But unfortunately, Subbaraj fails to get to the kind of stylised, orchestrated brutality and bloodshed which the two American auteurs have perfected with not just extraordinary conviction but finesse.

And set-in-Madurai Jigarthanda turns out to be a crude copy of sorts – with blood flowing freely, men doused in petrol and burnt alive and with the butcher’s knife used to scoop out the guts! When a cop walks into the house of “Assault” Sethu (Bobby Simha) where the drama of gore is being enacted, the body is quickly dragged away, and sambar is spilled on the blood to camouflage it.

Also read: Jigarthanda is a con story packaged as a gangster film

The point is either you have it in you to make such sadism work or you do not. Tarantino has, Hitchcock probably did not, and so he chose to make murder most foul appear as pleasing as possible. Subbaraj stands somewhere between these two helmers, clearly undecided, like his young hero, whether to go the Tarantino way or adapt the Hitchcockian style. So he picks a bit from here and a bit from there.

And, Jigarthanda drags us into 170 minutes of needless songs and a distracting love story (between Karthik and Lakshmi Menon’s Kayal, who steals saris from shops) to present a plot of potholes – where some scenes reminded me of Gabbar Singh’s legendary acts in Sholay. At other times, Subbaraj, who also wrote the movie, transforms Sethu into a buffoon, with an instructor teaching the Madurai gangster (the temple town has taken on this unholy tag of being a goonda’s paradise with some violent stories being set there) and his henchmen how to act.

What follows is a film (within the film) by Karthik where Sethu seems like a circus clown. Karthik’s movie is of course a hit, and audiences are in splits. So, the kind of fear that Sethu had been evoking (Sleep my child, sleep or Gabbar will descend on us) among the Madurai men evaporates into mirth and merriment in the darkened auditoriums. Fright flies out, fun darts in.  

If Subbaraj wanted to send a moral through his work – shed no blood – Jigarthanda flounders  in a maze of 1960s kind of explanatory dialogues, and images that confound, and these  despite fine performances by Simha (great expressions and body language) and Karunakaran as Karthik’s  sidekick. As for Siddharth, his just about manages to look bewildered, and all the time!


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