Jagame Thandhiram — Less Gangster Film, More Political Propaganda

After months of waiting and the decision taken to finally go for an OTT release rather than a theatrical release, it has finally arrived — director Karthik Subburaj and the mercurial talent that is Dhanush teaming up for gangster film, “Jagame Thandhiram”.

The movie follows the story of “Suruli”, a local gangster in Madurai who also runs a small restaurant famous for its parottas. His exploits find him being recruited by Peter Sprott, a racist white supremacist in London who wants to take down a rival gang who just happen to also be Tamil speakers, so who better to infiltrate their setup and feed him information than our Tamil Nadu based Suruli? The events that follow form the crux of the story.

Let’s start with Dhanush. After a masterpiece like “Karnan”, I was quite surprised to see him in a film of this mould but I thought it would be a breath of fresh air. While it was good to see him in a more light hearted, mischievous persona again the character had no room for development and had no depth to it. Only late into the second half of the film did it try and force any kind of development on him and when it did, it was so clearly forced it fell flat. A really disappointing use of an incredible talent in a poorly written character.

One surprising element I did enjoy was the performance of James Cosmo as Peter Sprott, who was perhaps the only UK character that didn’t feel like he was overacting and forcing British cliches down our throats. His performance was actually very good and succeeded in portraying the bigot who we are all meant to hate. A rare bright spot in this film.

The premise of the story on paper is promising, but it is weak in the execution. With a story like this, Karthik Subburaj could have taken this towards the “Jigarthanda” mould and turned it into an action-comedy as the idea of an Indian small time gangster joining a big London gang is comedy gold in itself. However, instead he strangely decided to make what turned out to be less gangster film, but political propaganda.

He took the concept of a Tamil gangster being used as a mole for a white man to take down another Tamil gang and ran with it — using themes of betrayal and division which could have worked, but he then decided to then further divide the Tamil group into Indian Tamils and Sri Lankan Tamils, which is a whole different kettle of fish.

This is where the film gets side tracked and spins a completely new narrative, rendering the previous 1 hour 25 minute runtime absolutely pointless, and it started to drag. While the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils treatment is a serious issue we should care about and aren’t educated about enough, in this film it just came out of nowhere, felt forced and made it drag. It didn’t add anything to the film and didn’t make me care any more about the characters than I already did (which was very little).

There were other strange things about this film, like the pacing and editing. The move from Madurai to London happened in one sequence and made very little sense, the love track in the film was cringey, happened very quickly and they even had the cheek to try and justify it by having the love interest suddenly be a part of the plot. The editing was shoddy too, with weird jumps between events like a death sequence cutting straight to a kidnapping and interrogation scene. Very abrupt and strange.

In summary, there are elements of this film that were enjoyable — the comedy in parts works, the action is well shot and does the job, and the film touches on a very important issue that isn’t talked about enough, but it just comes in the wrong story at the wrong time. I signed up for a gangster film and instead had political propaganda forced down my throat.

“Jagame Thandhiram” is available to watch now on Netflix.

Rating — 3/10