Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Pathu Thala review: Silambarasan saves the timeworn gangster film

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Two weeks ago, Jayam Ravi was seen in a gangster film called Agilan, about a hitman who would do anything for money. However, it is revealed finally that he was a good guy fighting for a worthy cause. Now, replace the hitman with a powerful gangster, who controls the politics of the entire state, and you get Pathu Thala. It is about sand mafia kingpin AGR (Silmabarasan), who is suspected of killing the chief minister of the state. A covert operation is set up to gather evidence against the menacing AGR. A cop Shakti (Gautham Karthik) goes undercover as a low-level gangster named Guna and gradually earns the trust of AGR and infiltrates his kingdom. But as Shakti gets close to AGR, he realises the gangster is wearing this ‘bad guy’ exterior for the greater good.

Pathu Thala, the Tamil remake of Shivarajkumar’s hit Kannada film Mufti, despite lacking in novelty and being predictable is watchable. There are a few surprises like another spy in AGR’s fort, but otherwise the film pans out exactly the way you imagine it would. The supposedly emotional segment between AGR and his sister, who are not on talking terms with each other, is melodramatic and dated. Even the segments which depicts the love people have for AGR feels cheesy in an otherwise cold and violent film. Yet, these are not the biggest problems of Pathu Thala.

The core problem with Pathu Thala is its silly logic and politics. AGR justifies violence and sand mining by saying that if he doesn’t do it then someone else would. It is high time this Robinhood vigilantism comes to an end in Tamil cinema. The idea of a vigilante hero, who solves the issues of the entire state and nation, is a superficial idea that has been overused by Tamil cinema for decades (especially by director Shankar). Such shallow politics is only a justification for exalting the hero and all the violence the film boasts of. On top of that, a new trend in Tamil cinema is to project the hero as a representative of a lower class or caste. In a scene in Pathu Thala, AGR warns his enemy Naanjilaar Gunasekaran (Gautham Vasudev Menon), a minister, to stop coming after him but Naanjilaar says he won’t stop because he is from the ruling class. AGR goes, “I am the clan which dethroned the ruling class.” Ever since the success of Pa Ranjith’s cinema and his politics, mainstream films have started to exploit the ideas, but it’s just on the surface. Such schematic usage of caste and class politics waters down the real issues.

Despite all its shortcomings, Silambarasan and Gautham Karthik make the film bearable. In the first half of the film, director N Krishna only teases us with glimpses of AGR, and he finally makes his entry onscreen in the interval (something we saw in Vikram). All this while, Gautham Karthik manages to hold your attention as Guna. Also, the investigation into the case of the missing CM makes things interesting. In the second half, Simbu’s presence raises the tone of the film. There’s an X-factor that the actor brings along. It is undefinable, just like how you can’t rationalise the craze for Rajinikanth. Sadly, director Krishna and the film don’t do much for Simbu. The actor, however, saves the film.

Pathu Thala Movie Cast: Silambarasan, Gautham Karthik, Gautham Menon, Priya Bhavani Shankar

Pathu Thala Movie Director: Obeli N Krishna

Pathu Thala Movie Rating: 2 stars

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