Jigarthanda Movie Review: Cold Revenge,Sweet Success

Five Star Films ‘Jigarthanda’ is clearly one of the most awaited Tamil films this year. The movie has been under production for some time and the expectations have grown manifold thanks to the individual successes of a lot of key people working in the movie, over the last year or two. Karthik Subbaraj set the bar high for himself with the very novel Pizza. Karunakaran and Bobby Simha, who like Karthik are products of the ‘Nalaya Iyakkunar’ (short film reality contest) ecosystem have done very well both together in ‘Soodhu Kavvum’ and independently with ‘Yamirukka Bayamey’ and ‘Neram’ respectively. The promos and songs of Jigarthanda too were very unique and promising.

Jigarthanda 2014Jigarthanda is not an easy film to review. I could so easily get over enthusiastic and open one thread too many which might spoil many more twists to come for you. So I will do my duty with utmost care and concentrate more on the technicalities than the plot. Karthik(Siddarth) much like the namesake director of this movie is a top 4 contestant in the very popular ‘Nalaya Iyakkunar’ reality show. He gets encouraged by a producer to try out a gangster subject and this pursuit leads him to Madurai. Here he somehow convinces his college friend Oorni(Karunakaran) to help him learn more about the menacing gangster Assault Sethu(Bobby Simha). What starts as a joy ride gets them entangled into a non-stop turn of events and it would be criminal to reveal anything beyond this.

Screenplay is truly the king of this film and it straddles multiple genres with elan. It is a light hearted entertainer for large parts of the first half and is soaked in black humor and satire in the second. Narration and depth wise it definitely is a crowning jewel amongst the rest of the movies from the new wave pack. Movies such as Pizza, Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi, Soodhu Kavvum, Mundasupatti and Pannayarum Padminiyum all had novel themes to tell and refreshing technical values to back them but many of them were found a tad wanting in their capacity to pack enough meat to fully satisfy their feature film length and format (or atleast this was the only beef I had with some of them). Jigarthanda in that aspect surely presents a high point in evolution. Yes the 170 mt length is a bit high, but the first half is riveting and the 2nd half has some key feeder scenes which are needed to put together the gripping end reels. The film abounds in twists aplenty and they are all the more realistic since all of them result from the human failings of the lead cast.

As I always say characters, scenes and passages are the pillars of any good movie. Jigarthanda’s true triumph is that these are tightly coupled in a lot of cases, especially when it comes to the core character of Assault Sethu.  Right from the buildup for Simha’s Sethu with the hero’s research and the journalist murder in parallel you know you are set for sheer delight. Be it the novel backstory for him and his key henchman, the futile hard work behind getting close to his inner circle, his unfussy flashback narration and the hilarious movie shooting portion the film is littered with hilarious and engaging passages across the two halves.

Jigarthanda Still 1It would be impossible to give out too much on the best scenes of the movie, but lets just say there are countless glimpses of sheer genius. The assassination attempt scenes revel in technical and characterization maturity, the pre-interval block sequences are relentlessly gripping and the murder in Sethu’s house is hilarious black comedy. But the clinchers are the smaller sequences such as the hilarious bullet comedy and the supreme irony when Sethu is shouted at in between a murder to come shoot a scene. There are also tributes and subtle references aplenty which add true icing on the cake for cinema connoisseurs watching the film. Be it the musical ones to the likes of Paasamalar, Ninaithaale Inikkum and Pallavi Anupallavi (aka idea theme) or the non-musical ones to Udhayanaanu Thaaram or Aaranya Kaandam there are small gems tucked quietly in every corner.

Bobby Simha’s Sethu is well and truly the life blood of the film. You cannot imagine this film without him and this character. There is nothing he doesn’t do in this film in terms of emotions and range. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime milestone in his career and a worthy addition to the catalogue of modern day kollywood’s prominent negative characters along with the likes of Antony, Muthupandy and Perumal Pichai. In terms of graph and nuance he stands way above all of them too. Just watch out for the scenes where he narrates his back story or the best scene of the movie where he communicates in a different language in the climax. These are just parukkais in a paanai full of soru (morsels in a pot full of rice). Siddarth does his part very adequately and he is very gracious in underplaying his part to give Simha the full bandwidth he deserves. He does get a few clap worthy frames towards the end and that is surely child’s play for him. Karunakaran has some very natural and unforced comedy scenes and one-liners which he delivers with elan. He is becoming more reliable by the day and in many scenes his eyes are a natural emoting asset for him. Lakshmi Menon has a simple part to do but she is responsible for some key twists and she doesn’t let the film down in those instances. Aaranya Kaandam fame Somasundaram excels in the few minutes he gets as an acting coach.

Jigarthanda StillsThe BGM and songs are so well thought out, well composed and well placed that I wouldn’t mind watching the movie multiple times just to do a comprehensive article on the BGM and the sound track’s role in elevating the film. It is truly world class. Period. Some examples of great BGM are the reality show scene and the whole passage when Karthik digs up what he can on Sethu and his cronies. The songs such as ‘Kannamma’, ‘Baby’ and even the instrumental ‘Thanda’ are deliciously placed, but the gibberishly worded ‘Jigar’ takes the true cake. I was truly flummoxed when I heard it few months ago, but the placement and lighting of the song can’t be more apt. Speaking of which we come to Gavemick U Ary’s amazing world of lighting and cinematography. The whole film is a masterpiece in this department, but the standout sequences are the above mentioned theater sequence for ‘Jigar’ and the spell binding daybreak shot outside Pazhani’s potti kadai.

Jigarthanda is truly a modern era gem and a cult classic in the making. On the surface it is an unpredictable, entertaining film that will delight one and all. But scratch the surface and it has a lot of commentary to make on human selfishness and vanity. I could relate to a lot of simple things happening around me in day to day life. For this and all points mentioned in the review I would give a proud 4 on 5. Tell me you don’t understand some of the ironies in daily tamil life and popular culture and you could possibly dock off .5 from the score. But please do not make the mistake of missing this movie in a good theatre and losing out on another .5 for the lack of ambiance created by the outstanding BGM and camera work. That my dear friends, is at least in your hands.

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