Thanga Magan opens with Tamizh (Dhanush) moving to a small and dingy home, wife and widowed mother in tow. Snatching the broom from his pregnant wife, Dhanush sweeps the floors himself. He has lost his job. The very next day, he sets out to find a job. He can’t find one, but he does spot a biriyani shop which needs a helper. The very next shot, we see him digging up biriyani from the depths of a big vessel, and serving it. That’s the constant motif in Thangamagan. Tamizh is the ideal husband, son, friend, cousin, neighbour, guy who was just passing by; you name it. Tamizh is ‘golden’ at just existing.
The story, in a nutshell, is about this ‘golden’ man’s journey through his teenage years. Alongside are his ‘golden’ women and family, and the problems they face, thanks to the ‘not so golden’ people around them. This film is thematically similar to director Velraj’s previous film Velai Illa Pattadhari, but with some differences. There’s the typical middle-class setting, the middle-class parents, and the ‘sumaar moonji’ guy who is in love with the affluent and beautiful girl, Amy Jackson. What’s different is the plot, and some key characters. Tamizh isn’t as much fun as VIP’s Raghuvaran. No sarcasm, no drinking and smoking. And it takes just thirty seconds of convincing (or rather, ‘cousin-comparisons’ talk) from his mother before he agrees to work at his father’s government office, a job he finds boring. He is the nalla paiyyan. He readily agrees to an arranged marriage. Although, in all fairness, who would say no to the beautiful Samantha, kitted out in a saree, malli poo, and braided hair?
However, that’s precisely why Thanga Magan is lacklustre: it lacks fun. One can excuse the second half, which has to work through a grim storyline. But nothing excuses the overly melodramatic scenes which are routinely punctuated into the plot. The writing oscillates rapidly between different emotions, leaving the audience consistently distracted. Also present are the all-too-familiar cat-and-mouse chase sequences we’ve learned to expect from every Dhanush film. Namely, the villain thinks he has won, and tries to verbally humiliate Dhanush. Dhanush smirks and tells him to look back. And voila, we realise that the villain is behind bars.
Having shaved his facial hair, Dhanush looks convincing as a school boy. Credit to the make-up department for sustaining the magic. Dhanush comes across as an endearing teenager. Often annoying, yet likeable. His transformation into a mature adult is indicated by a more restrained figure who has fewer smiles. Samantha, as the ultra-traditional marumagal of the family, delivers a performance that stands head and shoulders above her work in previous films. Film critic Baradwaj Rangan once called her an emoticon for one of her earlier performances. No such allegation can be made here, as the director dispenses with the unnecessary giggling. Amy Jackson has an interesting role in the film. And despite being a non-native speaker, her lip sync is perfect.
KS Ravikumar’s on screen appearances have so far been limited to cameos. In Thanga Magan, the audience gets to see the range of his acting skills. Ravikumar delivers a terrific performance as a doting father who suffers from memory loss. His subtle mannerisms, especially in the second half, realistically reflect the mindset of someone with a troubled mind. Radhika Sarathkumar is probably Kollywood’s 2nd favourite on-screen mother, after Saranya Ponvannan, whose performance in VIP was a delight for fans. In Thanga Magan, Radhika Sarathkumar asks Dhanush to visit the temple on her behalf. When he refuses, she says ‘all right’, but her face is all too typical of middle-class guilt-tripping mothers: sad and pitiable. Dhanush is forced to say he’ll go this time, but
“this technique won’t work every time”. There are many such exchanges between Dhanush and the other characters, which a middle-class audience can easily relate to.
There were many reactions to Dhanush’s acting. The hardcore Dhanush fan sitting next to me visibly teared up every time time Dhanush belted out a sentimental dialogue. When Dhanush walked in slow-motion (thankfully, not too often), many in the audience cheered and howled. The best scene, in my opinion, was the one between a husband (the antagonist) and wife. The husband accuses her of being disloyal, and slaps her. Without a moment’s hesitation, she hits him back and says, “First find out whether you are man, then lets decide whether I’m your wife”.
One viewer tweeted, “Thangamagan is like Orbit chewing gum, it tastes good for a while. Then you realise you have to spit it out soon.” Even Dhanush had admitted that the film was nothing new. He also said that the film had something for everyone – children, the youth, his fans, older people. Unfortunately, while there is a little of everything, the film ends up with a wafer thin storyline.