Jigarthanda: Six Red Herrings

Moments after the final reveal begins (there is even a countdown before the final reveal!), Karthik Subbaraj shows us a few moments from  Chaplin’s “The Circus” and chooses to lay bare the reveal for discerning movie-goers. I could not help but smile at the clever audacity. The same concept was used in a Malayalam film before and its Tamil remake, but Karthik Subbaraj has the craft to pull this off and the way he pulls this off would have even made the Little Master smile!

Jigarthanda_posterPizza, which was essentially a CON film but disguised as a horror one, did prepare me for this film a bit. Expect the unexpected, I told myself. In fact, I wrote this in my last week’s review of Pizza 3D – For people who have not watched the original, the original recipe is so good, even though this is not the original fresh baked Pizza and is only a leftover, it still tastes good. For people who have watched the original, a guy called Karthik Subbaraj, who made the original Pizza, is coming out with his next (mainstream) venture Jigarthanda next week! The only thing that I would have changed about what I wrote was the word mainstream. Jigarthanda is hugely entertaining, but I would still not like to call it mainstream. It is heartening to see the indie spirit in a director, whose second film is this big!

The movie opens with a tongue in cheek title card thanking God (in Tamil) and Karthik Subbaraj begins weaving his craft from that moment on.  In the first scene of the film, a character enters a movie hall, which plays the film Pasamalar, through the back door. (It is written on the door in Tamil – Regular movie goers may enter the hall through the other door!!) But we, as audience, get the POV of this character and we are made to enter through this door. There is a movie playing, but it is unlike a movie hall as this is the back side of the screen. People are drinking and playing cards and in the background screen, the movie is playing! Right in the first scene, Karthik Subbaraj warns us to expect the unexpected! He shows both his middle fingers to Syd Field and opts for a 6 act structure with a red herring in each act. The script is clever, funny and absolutely crowd pleasing, but in the hands of a lesser director, it could have gone either way. Karthik Subbaraj, like his  namesake protagonist, knows his craft and knows it well.

jigarthanda-posterThe only problem that I had with this film was the casting of Simha as Assault Sethu. The crowd loved Simha and I know many reviews are favorable to him, but Simha does the calm, witty, tongue-in-cheek roles better. (He was a revelation in Neram and Soodhu Kavvum). But Assault Sethu, we are repeatedly told, has a streak of psycho running in him and I couldn’t imagine what a natural hammer like, say a Prakash Raj, would have brought to this role! (I had similar problems with Sudeep in Eega). To his credit, Simha is not entirely a bad choice, as he delivers the desirable result to an extent. But Karuna faces no such issues. (Between Simha and Karuna, it a role reversal of sorts when compared to Soodhu Kavvum!) In a role that is written with him in mind, Karuna generates laughs like no other comedian has done in the past few years.

In one of the scenes in the film, two cold hearted characters, have an opportunity to kill each other, or co-exist, and they choose to co-exist. Karthik cleverly gives this advice to struggling film-makers. Opportunity knocks at your door once, choose to survive or get your aspirations killed! Subbaraj had grabbed it earlier in Pizza and he does it again in Jigarthanda. It is a clever and funny film with many layers, but is also mighty entertaining! Do you require anything else to go to the movie hall?

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