Tamil Reviews

Thadam Review: A Fairly Engaging Thriller That Needed Better Editing

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Director: Magizh Thirumeni

Cast: Arun Vijay, Tanya Hope, Vidya Pradeep, Meera Krishnan

When Thadam opens, Ezhil (Arun Vijay) asks a woman (Tanya Hope as Deepika) out. He offers to take her out for coffee; she refuses. Rephrase the question, she says. Ezhil mulls over it for a couple of days, decides it’s a feminist thing, tells her as much and wonders – indulgently – if she would like to take him out for coffee. She refuses again. Sometime later, it finally hits him. That her reason is neither lexical, nor feminist.

Magilzh Thirumeni, who, since Thadaiyara Thakka, seems to have an affinity for thrillers (Maeghamann, and now Thadam), tries to set this moment up as some kind of a warped, slightly funny prelude to what’s to come. He almost succeeds at it, too – and the analogy, if it really is one – doesn’t quite register until the credits roll. Except, it isn’t something unseen or unheard of that you would lose your head over. Thirumeni lets Arun Vijay emphasise this right at the beginning, and later, another crucial character does too  – who suspiciously seems to represent the audience.

Thadam’s Ezhil seems to be living a double life initially. A civil engineer (one that, in a very lucid romantic moment, explains the engineering marvel of a specific item of women’s lingerie) by day and a debt-ridden gambler by night. He’s actively sought after by loan sharks too, and the director attempts to position this as a puzzling contradiction. A few frames later, Ezhil is brought in to be interrogated for a homicide based on photographic evidence. The more he denies the crime, the more convinced the top cop becomes of his guilt. Soon, a man identical to Ezhil is brought in for a lesser crime and the cops are sent into a tizzy.

Thadam, which at first lends the impression of being a thriller-mystery exclusive of its romantic track, remedies it as an afterthought. The women are just about there in the screenplay, and rarely on screen, lurking in the dark to aid the proceedings when needed.

The two contrasting characterisations that Thirumeni tries to present via his leads – the rich, suave young man vs his underprivileged brother who has to scrap together a living – and the path that their narratives take in a criminal investigation – are conventional. Granted, there are fairly engaging twists and turns, but nothing earth-shattering, really. To stay true to the film’s thriller core, scenes follow one another in quick succession, the edits attempt to be pacy, but end up being visually disorienting. During a scene pictured at night, Ezhil is on the road, in pounding rain. The frames fade in and out longer than necessary, and far from being pretty, are an ocular strain.

Some false accusations, and the unravelling of other connections later, the tale of Thadam ends where right it begins. And, the cops – especially the woman officer (Vidya Pradeep as Malar) whose role in the investigation is limited to asking leading questions and summoning a frown to boot – seem to have it all wrong. So does the audience. To Thirumeni’s credit though, he does offer a hint in the first few moments: the answer lies where one isn’t looking, he says; it doesn’t require much thought either.

Deepika had just wanted tea.

*****

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