Cast: Vijay Antony, Nivetha Pethuraj, Sai Dheena
Composer: Vijay Antony
In the beginning, Ganeshaa’s Thimiru Pudichavan surprises us. It starts with Murugavel (Vijay Antony), an honest constable, showering all his love and care on his school-going younger brother, who would have none of it. He trains him in the morning, with an alarm not used to wake up but to complete laps around their neighbourhood with the brother running ahead and Murugavel following him. He forces him to run on Deepavali too, a lonesome figure running the streets as firecrackers go off on either side. We begin with the brother complaining, which is all he does.
The surprise isn’t as satisfying as I make it sound because, soon, the surprise turns into shock and Thimiru Pudichavan transforms into some kind of mockumentary that has its politics misplaced. It doesn’t help that Ganeshaa is a terrible filmmaker. At one instance, we see the hero, Murugavel, going one-up on the villain, Padma (Sai Dheena), and one of the juveniles under Padma gets goose bumps on his arms. Suddenly the arm transforms into a gross graphic hairy mess that is more cartoon than cinema. Scratch that, I don’t want to insult cartoons.
In another scene, spirits enter Murugavel (you read that right). One might have heard of nostrils flaring but have you seen eyelids flare? They happen to Murugavel. He also suffers from insomnia, so he wears ground-breaking wearable tech, a watch that glows red or green depending on his blood pressure. It is called insomnia watch, Murugavel informs us. I googled for it and got only fake links to watch Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia online. But we at least get to know when Murugavel has low BP or high BP. That is all Ganeshaa is capable of. Give him a camera, ask him to shoot.
Juveniles are Padma’s modus operandi. He hires them, trains them, makes them commit grave crimes convinced that they won’t face long jail terms. And then kills them. The film wants us to believe that this is a watertight plan. But Thimiru Pudichavan is guilty of graver sins. The film wants to tell us that the police are our friends, our saviors, and are there for us. It repeatedly wants to reinforce that they can only be perfect, and this is the only philosophy that Ganeshaa works with. Murugavel has a mission statement, to convince youngsters that – in his words – ‘police na gethu, rowdy na vethu‘. Coincidence or not, that seems like a bad idea in Tamil Nadu in the present climate. There is a scene, out of context, where a random protest is seen on CCTV camera (in high definition with better framing and angles than Ganeshaa could dream) with some men throwing stones at the police. Ganeshaa then cuts to a scene in the park where Murugavel’s subordinates ask him, are these the people you want to serve. He then proceeds to show how to dodge these stones. This is still fine. In an early scene, an activist is mocked as someone who is all talk and would never get his hands dirty. But the police, apparently, will.
In another scene, Murugavel’s senior quips that even in cinema today, if you say something that’s good for the country, you are mocked. This is followed by – Rajini eh ippo gangster ah dhan nadikkararam [Even Rajini plays only gangster roles these days]. Wait. There is more. We are first introduced to Padma as a cut-out, right above the police booth. He is clad in black and black, almost in exact clothes that Kaala, played by Rajinikanth in Pa Ranjith’s eponymous film, wore. We continue to see Padma, the evil figure who destroys the lives of youngsters, dressed only in black and blue. Make of that what you will.
The film goes on a Tamil Nadu police self-congratulatory spree. In Murugavel’s team is a trans woman, helpfully reminding you that Tamil Nadu police was at the forefront. But then, when Murugavel offers an ultimatum to Padma, the latter says he will wear a saree if he doesn’t accomplish what he wants. They did not this think this through. The same trans woman character is used in the most predictable and troubling way possible to threaten Murugavel. Padma also preaches atheism to his followers though, admittedly, he wants to play God to them.
Murugavel is an open theist. It’s a Murugan temple festival where spirits enter his body to fight off Padma’s goons. This is an excuse because he is observing a ritual where he cannot fight or hit anyone. But it is now the lord Muruga himself inside him. How convenient! He is in love with the sub-inspector Madonna (the love story is another offensive chore), a miscast Nivetha Pethuraj, who is Catholic. As he is observing the ritual, Madonna and her sister too refrain from eating meat. Now this film is going to preach vegetarianism too. There is also a mention of “Madras Eye” as an analogy because it spreads through eye contact. Oh, now pseudoscience. As if insomnia watch wasn’t enough.
The intentions and politics of this film seem disturbing at best and nefarious at worst. Padma wants to use the latest “trending” issue to his benefit and asks what’s new? One of the men replies that a big deal is made of the molestation of an actress in Kerala (“adhu oru prechhanai maari“). And then, Padma uses a mock #MeToo protest on the streets to smuggle drugs. Thimiru Pudichavan isn’t even so bad it’s good. It is more in the realm of so bad this must be called out and avoided at all costs. It’s a wonder this film’s tagline doesn’t read “Friends of TN Police”, while being the antagonist to every other living being.
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