A police officer has just moved into a new city with his pregnant wife. He has anger issues that he is largely in control of. He exhibits his anger only where he feels it is required. One day, while chasing two suspects, he sees one of them hitting a pregnant woman. Losing himself in anger, he goes after them harder than before and hunts them down violently. One dies soon after and the cop, realising his folly, grapples with his own guilt while navigating work and life. He tries to find peace everyday. Now if that sounds like an interesting premise (and it did to me), that is what you get somewhere in the middle of this nearly three-hour movie. That this storyline did not last more than half an hour is an illustration of the tremendous missed opportunity that is Rudra Thandavam.
Rudra Prabhakaran (Richard Rishi) is a cop who loves the power that the job brings. He is the judge, jury, and executioner with no regard for law. Now this isn’t a new character and there is no rule that a police officer must be shown only as a good person. But where the director falters is in providing a sympathetic gaze to a person with power with no realisation or acknowledgement of said power by the person throughout the film’s runtime. The cop’s benevolent-dictator-like actions are affirmed constantly. Again, I’m not saying a character like this cannot exist. But it does not make for great drama or by extension, for interesting cinema.
Mohan G‘s previous outing Draupathi was quite controversial, to say the least. The director, who was criticised as a casteist provocateur for that film, addresses it through the protagonist of Rudra Thandavam in quite the malevolent manner. Rudra Prabahakaran, at one point in the film, gets slapped with the Prevention of Atrocities Act and the director shows certain well known real-life figures, who have been fighting for the oppressed, as the people responsible for knowingly falsely booking the cop. For a film that tried its best in the first half to present a grey character who believes he is white, this turn really doesn’t flow naturally. It screams, “I understand your criticism and here is me showing how you are all wrong about it.”
It doesn’t stop there. The use of Radha Ravi, whose ideologies off screen are well known, to espouse the same but as an oppressed voice is quite mischievous, to say the least. At a time when people of different classes, castes, and gender are asking for better representation in cinema, the least we can do is listen. The film, the protagonist, the director are all somehow intertwined and refuse to listen to the actual voices within and outside. The biggest irony of it all is when the wife of the protagonist, Varahi (Dharsha Gupta), actually threatens to leave him when he refuses to listen to a different world view.
Cinema, for a long time, has been at the mercy of the censor board. In India, this doesn’t mean just certifying a film for different age groups, but also recommending cuts and changes. As someone who believes a creator’s vision should be shown as they see fit, and people left to judge for themselves, the hoots that this film got – when it paints the entire communist movement in an evil shade and vilifies other religions – sent actual shivers. Creators in India often have to self-censor lest their vision gets mercilessly chopped at the censor table. But where does that line get drawn when films like Draupathi and Rudra Thandavam get to see the light of the day? When they paint the exception as the rule? When they genuinely can influence the minds and hearts of a generation that is still learning about its privileges? That is a question that only the director knows the answer to.
This Rudra Thandavam review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.