Note: This was a write-up which was originally meant to be written as a quickie but has ultimately turned up a few days late. That in a way sums up my state of mind, induced into a state of flux by Prabhu Solomon’s latest Tamil film, Thodari featuring Dhanush and Keerthy suresh.
An NSG commando (Harish Uthaman) has a major anger management issue, so much so that he is under stress and is on medication. But there’s much more to him than just that and we come to realize that soon. A railway pantry manager Chandrakanth (Thambi Ramaiah) who claims to be an ex-military man, leading a team of waiters and cooks, none of them taking him seriously. One of the pantry car waiters is named Vairam (Karunakaran) and he claims to be an aspiring poet, his name alluding to the one and only Vairamuthu. And then we see a central minister (Radha Ravi) who seems to be ruffled by the political developments of late, especially the treatment being meted out to him. All of them are travelling on board Chennai Express from New Delhi to Chennai and of course we also have the protagonist Poochiyappan (Dhanush), a railway pantry waiter who falls in love with Saroja (Keerthy Suresh), the touchup person accompanying a popular actress in the first AC compartment.
Prabhu Solomon’s previous film Kayal (2014) did not really bring in as much critical appreciation or make as much money as expected. And Dhanush had a lukewarm outing in the form of his last film, Thanga Magan (2015), so in a way Thodari looked like a chance for both Prabhu Solomon and Dhanush to get back on track. However for some strange reason the film perhaps just did not generate as much curiosity as one would expect out of a film involving names like Dhanush and Prabhu Solomon. Neither the songs nor the promos created a stir in the minds of the audience and thus when the release date was being shuffled around a bit there was no discussion regarding the same either. These were worrying signs no doubt, giving a feeling that something seemed to be wrong. However I always believe in giving the benefit of doubt to the film and wait till it is out in theatres before judging it as such.
If the intro to this write-up did not tell you what the plot is all about then let me quickly summarise. On board the Chennai Express from New Delhi to Chennai we have Poochiyappan, a railway catering employee fall in love with Saroja, an assistant to a popular actress travelling by the first AC compartment. Against this backdrop we have a few more characters that we get introduced to and in the rather lengthy (169 minutes) train journey on screen we witness songs, romance, comedy, action and almost every other element that is required in a commercial entertainer. But the resultant end product does not really satisfy, far from it in fact. There are enough and more elements making one wonder why did this train even embark on its journey i.e. why did the film even get made in the first place. There are a lot of things that go wrong with the film, here’s a look at some of those elements.
- Yes Dhanush, Karunakaran, Darbuka Siva and Thambi Ramaiah are all good with comedy. You do find it funny as Chandrakanth is ridiculed by his team members, chiefly Poochiyappan. But once that angle has been established why would you stretch that bit of comedy throughout the first half, making it taxing after a while?
- The heroine Saroja is initially shown as someone who is naïve and innocent but very soon she is projected as someone who is an empty head of sorts making one feel really bad for the character as such.
- Thodari is not the first film to project media and media personnel in bad light, but here the dumbing down is taken to new heights as the news channel journalists are shown to be doing ridiculous stuff in the name of reporting, even shown doing things which can actually be considered as harmful to the security of people on board the train.
- Why would the NSG have someone as a commando in their ranks when he is openly seen to be suffering from anger management issues and is on medication for the same. And to trust him enough to send him to provide security for a minister beats all the logic.
- While it is good to see a lot of Malayalam dialogues in the film why is there an attempt to put down Malayalees knowingly or unknowingly in the form of the NSG commano’s character who is vicious through and through and spews hatred? It doesn’t help that the other major Malayalee character in the film (Saroja) is shown as a dumbo.
- The characters in the railway control room have been conceived off perhaps as an afterthought. Whatever they end up doing mostly comes across as unintentionally hilarious.
- There is a lot of VFX work in the film, sadly it is clearly visible and one can make out that it’s a shoddy work indeed.
- The “Pona Usuru” song (composed by D.Imman, lyrics by Yugabharathi, vocals by Shreya Ghoshal and Haricharan) is quite a lovely romantic number indeed. But to think that Poochiyappan and Saroja can break into a song and dance routine when their lives are at stake makes me wonder what Prabhu Solomon was thinking as he conceived the situation.
- Travelling atop a train is shown in such a casual manner, the film makes one wonder if it is akin to taking a stroll along a lake.
- What happens in the last 30 odd minutes is what the actual story is but alas by the time the film actually turns a little gripping it is way too late and you are already exhausted and waiting for the train to finish its journey.
What could have been a riveting thriller aboard a train ultimately turns out to be a total disappointment. Ultimately Thodari is a film which does not have a single redeeming factor going for it. Go watch a rerun of films like Speed or Unstoppable or even some of the better films of Dhanush or Prabhu Solomon instead of watching this one.