I can imagine Theri being conceived in Atlee’s kitchen. A shiny new kitchen quite like the one in the movie. He writes earnestly, pen to paper, flanked by an army of assistants feeding him ideas and black tea. The same black tea that his lead man so loves. He writes earnestly, about a lovely little family torn apart by malice. An old fashioned revenge drama with a bona fide star headlining it.
Once done, he looks at his script. He’s done, but not quite satisfied. The plot has cracks he can’t quite paper over, holes he can’t quite fill. But he knows what he needs to do.
He takes the script and dunks it in a big drum of fine, aged cheese. He dunks it again. And again. Until all he can see is cheese. And some corn.
Either that, or Deepak Chopra wrote the script and forgot to take credit for it.
Every line in Theri is loaded with preaching and values, every interaction as far from reality as you can possibly imagine. A dying wife won’t die till her husband tells her what type of wife she was (naturally, he tells her she was like another mother). A possible suitor talks non-stop to his fiancee’s dad using motivational posters from Instagram (”Love is between two people, Marriage is between two families”). And frequently, after these motivational speeches, people break down and cry. There are tears. In. Every. Single. Scene.
And through this muddle, Vijay struts around like the star he is. With the very photogenic Samantha for company, he rescues the movie almost all by himself, turning a corny tearjerker into something approaching a stylish revenge drama.
Over the years, Vijay has morphed into a competent actor, a natural who is capable of conveying nuanced emotions. Atlee the director, though, was having none of the nuance. And turning most serious interactions into chatter between cartoons who have this alarming habit of calling each other baby. Witness Vijay talking to Samantha about their ideal life; she names several (clichéd) things (idyllic village, laidback life, rainy weather) and as he listens, Vijay slips into his old Vanakkamnna mode, a serious performer who has probably been told it is uncool to actually act.
The movie opens in an idyllic village with a laidback life and rain on tap. Vijay is a single dad with a precocious daughter. He is overly submissive à la Rajinikanth in Baasha, and it is obvious that there is a not-so-laidback backstory to this very peaceful man that runs a bakery.
It is this backstory that occupies the bulk of the screentime. A lovely little family, torn apart by malice. And somewhere in here is Amy Jackson, a British girl playing a Malayalee school teacher with a hideous hairpiece and without a trace of irony.
The comparisons to Ajith Kumar’s recent Yennai Arindhaaal, which also featured a young daughter and a flashback sequence much like this one, are inevitable. And Gautam Menon’s superior filmmaking skills are a stark contrast to Atlee’s hammery; the sequences between Ajith and his daughter were sensitive with not a trace of cheesiness. And Menon had to pull this off with Ajith, who is an extremely limited actor.
Theri features two villains. One of them, Mahendran, is a director of some repute, who is debuting here as the quintessential bad politician. The other is music director GV Prakash Kumar, whose score is spectacularly poor. That the songs are rehashes (a dubstep number here, an old Hindi song there) can be overlooked; but not the loud and lazy background score with a hilariously terrible signature double screech for the lead man.
As the end titles roll, just after a preachy sermon about fatherhood, it’s hard not to feel let down. Theri, yet again, is a disappointing star vehicle from an inexperienced director whose glossy first movie did nothing to inspire confidence. It is puzzling how the two reigning Tamil superstars, Vijay and Ajith, pick scripts as if they’re trying to one-up each other with inanity. For every Puli there is a Veeram; for every Vedalam there is a Theri.
Meanwhile, other people named Vijay are churning out far better movies.
The Theri 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.