The Kollywood star system in recent past has become a totally overpaid and overhyped factory churning out one dud after the other. This is a three pronged problem with limited script bandwidth, over inflated star egos & packets, and so-called ‘Midas touch’ directors who are under pressure to deliver from the minute they even think of a project. Amidst this backdrop, A.R.Murugadoss and Vijay were always set to have one heck of a tightrope to walk on, especially considering ARM’s rather weak 7am Arivu and Vijay’s search for that exclusive masala blockbuster of ‘Ghilli’ and ‘Pokkiri’ proportions.
Thuppakki tells the story of a few interesting days in the life of Jagdish(Vijay), an army captain who comes home to Mumbai for his holidays and gets happily embroiled in a web of devastation to be wound by a bunch of sleeper cells masterminded by Vidyut Jamal(honestly can’t recall his screen name being told anywhere). Obviously he does this between having a funny yet passionate love story with Kajal, cracking a few jokes at the expense of his Sub-Inspector pal(Sathyan) and his reporting officer(Jayaram in a hilarious cameo) and of course squeezing out a few lines of gyaan and senti on the armed forces. Jagdish gets pulled into the thick of things when he accidentally bumps into a terrorist while travelling on a bus with his friend. The Army man and DIA (Defense Intelligence Analyst) that he is, he starts his own thread of investigation on the web of sleeper cells and their power centre.
The movie’s core lies in about 4-5 scenes equally distributed between the 2 sides of the intermission. Though the initial scenes of investigation with the terrorist and the security-in-charge are very cold blooded and classy, the first half’s moment of orgasmic masalaness comes when Jagdish thwarts the massive multi-location blast operation. The second half too is consistently racy with the baddies playing cat and mouse with the hero and there are many high-points such as Jagdish’s risky operation involving his sister, the sequence where the villain scares the crap out of Vijay and all of the concluding portions, barring some mandatory silliness in the climax.
Even the usual commercial trappings of comedy and romance are in just about the bearable proportions and at the right junctures. Kajal looks gorgeous as always and has some genuinely sweet and hilarious moments with Vijay. Sathyan doesn’t have much of a comedy platform to perform but excels big-time in the one ‘Petromax light’ moment that he gets. He does well as the cop-next-door and the genuinely caring friend of the hero. Jayaram in the 2 or 3 scenes and 1 or 2 blink-and-miss moments that he gets shows his rock solid dependability as a great comedian.
There are a variety of factors which make Thuppakki tick as a cracker of a masala movie and I would like to point out the top 3 of them. First and foremost, it is definitely a reboot of sorts for Vijay. He does the global masala routine of saving the world and coming out unscathed, but with large doses of subtlety, assured poise and lots of intelligence. Going by his bests, this is one up on even Pokkiri, as there he had a screen by screen brief to follow The Prince. Secondly, ARM has mostly got the basics right. Be it sticking to Mumbai as the one city of action and backing it up with largely authentic detailing, getting the language to match the context at most junctures, strictly focusing on the relevant and rather underrated menace of sleeper cells and keeping the heroism and loudness quotient in check amidst such a serious setting, all these are true aces up the sleeve. Lastly and most importantly, there is tremendous respect given to the intellect of the villain and his side. Be it thinking or even out-thinking the hero at every step, they are always right there at his throat.
Technically, the movie is of the highest quality. Santhosh Sivan justifies the act of calling in someone as senior as him and shows Mumbai in arguably its most authentic form at least in Tamil cinema history. Sreekar Prasad’s editing is quick and razor sharp. Even at 2 hours and 42 minutes a length maniac like me could not find anything chop worthy. Dialogues were effective overall, with the one main punch on why good guys should be ready to sacrifice their lives when radical fidayeen very easily do so. In this august club, Harris Jeyaraj’s music is one department I was letdown a bit by. The BGM had 2 main pieces namely, the one on the trailer which was very nice and another piece which was a straight lift from the theme of Race (Bollywood film). Songs, though not jarring, were all made of the same old Harris thread. Other than ‘Google Google’ and ‘Vennilavae’, I could not even remember any song, once out of the theatre.
Speaking of other negatives, the climax fight scene where the villain after having everything in his pocket, so easily fritters away the advantage, is right up there. Though it is routine masala fare, in an otherwise taut movie it is a low. There are few other small blemishes like all of Jagdish’s batch mates conveniently being in Mumbai, Jagdish talking to them nonstop in Tamil (when the villain gets a nice Tamil voiceover), the villain talking easily in Tamil all of a sudden and so on. The military song with a senti undertone is totally unwanted in the end and the movie could have tautly ended with the hero-villain finale.
But overall, considering the amount of energy and sincerity invested in creating a taut masala product, these blemishes can be happily overlooked. Vijay’s new stylish, crisp and compact avatar is definitely inspired to a large extent by Prince Mahesh’s brand of cinema. For any doubts refer the only 2 other Vijay masala movies which created such an aura (Ghilli and Pokkiri) and both were remakes of Prince’s mega hits. What adds to the winning recipe here is Murugadoss’s tadka of terrorism, detailing and screenplay. 3.5 stars happily and just a wee bit short of a 4.