Tamil Reviews

Sathru Review: Engaging But Needlessly Gruesome Thriller

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Director: Naveen Nanjundan

Cast: Kathir, Srushti Dange

It’s somewhat puzzling that Sathru begins with a dedication to the police force. Puzzling because the prominent vein that runs through debutant director Naveen Nanjundan’s script is one that reiterates the ineptitude of the cops, to an extent that you don’t quite know who the sathru [enemy] is. Does it refer to those cold-blooded villains, or the police who seem rather clueless for people who have been in the business of sniffing out and solving crime for a long time? Perhaps that’s the point, and the dedication might as well be a mock salute, come to think of it, a dose of thinly-veiled sarcasm – just the kind of delightful irreverence that defines first-time filmmakers. But, it seems too earnest to be one.

Kathir, who after his turn in Pariyerum Perumal as a young man who wakes up to the harsh social realities around him, is a righteous officer in this one. Someone whose brash actions, as the film reiterates, is neither due to his youth or in an effort to embody all things ideal. That’s just the way he is, it says.

And what Kathir as Kathiresan is in fact just this stereotype that Nanjundan tries to steer the audience away from. He rushes in with a disclaimer, a brief character sketch that you later wonder if it perhaps was the infamous one-line plot summary that producers often refer to and base their decisions on. It isn’t a bad one, really. A young cop who is no different from his other hot-headed, virtuous predecessors on screen, but is propped up as one. But, you never get to know how or why, and Nanjundan doesn’t get into the details; he has one of the characters say it loud twice – as an opening and closing remark – and thinks that would suffice. It isn’t hard to channel the director’s thoughts and draw parallels with that of his lead: both have an inherent desire to be different, but one that begins and ends with loud proclamations. It’s a pity really, for Sathru is engaging for a thriller that mostly repackages elements from others right down to the profiles of its villains; there isn’t much for you to marvel at its cleverness, or sit up and take notice, but you do anyway.

A bunch of seemingly petty criminals (all decidedly based in areas around North Madras) plan to kidnap a child for ransom, and the police are divided on their approach towards handling the case. The top cop and the rest of the force decide to wait it out, but Kathir, who solely holds up the other side – and eventually breaks away to work on his own – has different ideas. Soon, the kidnapping turns gruesome with the murder of a child – shown with such recklessness that takes your breath away, and the whole setup turns out to be a ruse for an elaborate chase sequence that ends only when the film does. You don’t quite buy the premise, you don’t want to, but this much hackneyed ploy involving kids secures grudging investment nevertheless. Next time, let there be a parent filter, please.

*****

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