Seenu Ramasamy’s Dharmadurai traces the life and many love affairs of Dharmadurai (Vijay Sethupathi).
True to his name, Dharmadurai is a righteous man, in an unprincipled, uncouth family. And like the infamous Mahabharatha character, he has one fatal flaw. Consumed with fury after a tragic past, Dharmadurai has become an alcoholic. Drunk and dishevelled, the man with a medical degree is now wasting away as the village loser.
There’s an unsettling backstory there, we can tell.
When his siblings plot to kill him, he escapes with the help of his loving mother (Radhika Sarathkumar).
“Run far away,” she tells him. “Go to a place where you feel happy, and come back after a year. So much can change by then.”
Dharma follows his mother’s instructions to a T, and winds up at the Madurai Medical College, where he trains to be a doctor.
A trip down memory lane is in order. Dharmadurai travels far and wide, from his hamlet in Theni to Tenkasi, trying to find the man that he was, before he lost everything.
Through a series of flashbacks, we meet the Pazham gang – a de-glam Srushti Dange, Tamannaah Bhatia, and Vijay Sethupathi at the Madurai Medical College.
Tamannaah’s character, Dr Subhashini, is written as a bold, no-nonsense woman who walks away from a selfish husband, and spends her time providing medical care for people in rural areas. But Tamannaah plays Subhashini as a frail, milquetoast character, while Srushti Dange is saddled with a role that has her drawing hearts in medical textbooks. The object of all this love is Vijay Sethupathi. The Hulk lookalike is too old to pull off this role. Unlike Dhanush, he has neither the physique nor the indeterminate looks to convincingly pass for a first year student. He does try his best however.
Seenu Ramasamy fills Dharmadurai with idealistic young men and women. Dharmadurai, his friends Stella and Subhashini, and most of the other medical aspirants in this Madurai college are angels without wings. In a memorable scene, when Dharma asks his friend for a bike, he agrees almost instantly. “My bike is like yours, machan,” he says. An admirable sentiment. But very, very, far from reality.
The film, much like this scene, has its heart in the right place. It wants to tell a dozen different stories – about a young woman from Vaigai Dam whose words reach far off places, the idealistic young man who loves her, the middle-class doctor who turns away from a selfish husband, and most interestingly, a live-in relationship in the conservative town of Tenkasi.
The trouble is, the characters are one-dimensional. Between the staunch villains and the do-gooders, there’s no middle ground. Also unusual is the presence of scenes that pander to the Vijay, Ajith fan groups. The camera lingers on photos of Vijay and Ajith. Seenu includes scenes with Vijay Sethupathi dressed as Rajinikanth from Dharmadurai, and we see a variety of references to Sethupathi’s Naanum Rowdy Dhaan.
All these things would’ve worked in a mass entertainer. With Seenu’s brand of realism though, it just doesn’t fit.
Barring a promising performance by Aishwarya Rajesh (standing tall as Anbuchelvi), Dharmadurai is largely an unsatisfying film. The storyline is interesting, with plenty of potential for drama – all of which is lost in execution. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music, while pleasant, doesn’t do much to help matters.
It therefore falls to Vijay Sethupathi and Radhika Sarathkumar to anchor much of the film. Indeed, when these two are onscreen, Dharmadurai reaches dizzying heights of drama and entertainment .
When they leave though, the film falls flat.
The Dharmadurai 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.