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Theeran – Adhigaaram Ondru Review: A Gritty, Riveting Tale & A Stellar Performance By Karthi

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You know what case the film is based on. You know what ultimately happens. Yet, for a major part of H Vinoth’s 161-minute sophomore effort, you’re sitting at the edge of your seat, your heart pounding. When the lights come on during the interval, there’s a palpable sigh of relief. There’s no crunch of popcorn, no laughter, no phone blinking away. You are that absorbed in the world that the director has created. Little else needs to be said about how riveting Theeran – Adhigaaram Ondru is.

It takes a sensitive filmmaker to show you brutality in a manner that is fearsome and not distasteful. Vinoth aces it, and that’s important in a film where the first half is all about the violence unleashed by a gang of robbers who loot and murder entire families, leaving behind nothing but their fingerprints. They strike at will, and though a sincere cop DSP Theeran works to solve it, the establishment does not move till a ruling party legislator is killed.

The gang strikes closer home, and Theeran and his deputy Sathya swear revenge. Not enraged by anger or grief, but rather driven by it. The detailing in the investigation is a joy to behold. Unlike films where cops are superheroes, the ones on screen are real, who can love, yearn for their family, get tired while chasing criminals, and wonder how to raise funds for feeding criminals and those arrested, if they must not accept bribe. A shamefaced Karthi tells them to take from those who have money, and spare the poor. Not a righteous thing to do, but the best in the situation. Full marks to Vinoth for not walking down the regular route, and desisting from creating superhero cops.

Close-ups reveal a director’s confidence in his cast. Vinoth goes all out with them, you see every quiver on the faces, Oma Bawaria’s rage, Theeran’s righteous anger, a tender smile… everything. The framing of shots by Sathyan Sooryan is everything what this film needs. The camera drags you along with it; you feel the wetness of a rainy day, the fear inside a dense jungle, the desolateness of a rocky terrain. The scenes before the final confrontation will stay with you for a long time. No one knows what the night holds, and when the gang members spring forth from the sand, it’s almost like they will disappear any minute — because they do, like apparitions.

Vinoth has worked hard on the film, and it shows in the details that many might miss. Be it the fingerprint expert at work, using reptilian references to remember prints, or the loo (a hot, dry summer wind) that gently curls its way through the desert landscape.

You are made part of the learning process too, as Theeran researches the history of criminal tribes in India. It’s refreshing that a director trusts his audience enough to insert lessons in history, albeit in storybook form, in a thriller.

If at all the film slows down, it is in the romance portions. Did we need all those scenes to show that Theeran and Priya (a chirpy Rakul Preet Singh who develops spunk when it matters) love each other? And, in a film that celebrates everything cerebral, we did not need a dialogue where a friend asks Theeran to ‘follow’ the girl to earn her love. In this case, it’s a reciprocal love story, but how many stalkers will know the difference? The ‘item’ number in the desert with Scarlett Mellish Wilson does little to add pace to a story that’s already galloping.

As for performances, there’s hardly one misstep by anyone. Karthi shines in a role where his face speaks a thousand words, and his fists some more. This is a film he can be proud of, and one that will be seen among the top in his filmography. Bose Venkat is ever dependable as Sathya, and Ahimanyu Singh as Oma (whom many of my generation mooned over in the Hindi serial Nazdeekiyan years ago) plays the kind of criminal who drives fear into your heart.

The action scenes (Dhilip Subburayan) are among the most realistic you’ve seen in a long time. There’s a lot of grappling on the floor, kicks and punches, all delivered from the ground, and not while flying. It’s ultimately about brute force; that alone will determine who lives to tell the tale.

Ghibran’s music soothes when it has too; at others, the BGM is meant to match your racing heart. The ‘kabadi kabadi’ bit is a masterclass in using sound as reference.

The film uses a voiceover to show how a team of policemen from Tamil Nadu travelled across the country to nab a gang of criminals who targeted houses along the state’s highway. This, when they had to depend on legwork, and not much on technology, to get to the gang. This film is based on a real story, and after watching it, you want to do to the original officers what the young cop does on seeing Theeran years later. Salute them.

*****

The Theeran – Adhigaaram Ondru 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.

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