Despite the obvious surplus of regional movies that tout themselves as super-hit action dhamakas, an entity called ‘a logical, racy action thriller that truly entertains’ is kind of a rarity. I would even go the distance to compare it to the unicorn as it is only rumored to exist, making it literally ‘next to impossible’ to actually find any in our commercial cinema space. The reasons are many. Our mainstream industry still operates in the understanding that Indians can never really move on from the ‘lunch thali‘ mindset in their movies. The main dish (genre) may be anything under the sun, but irrespective of that, the belief hitherto was that all other 23 essentials must be served to the audience for a ‘paisaa vasool’ experience.
However, the obvious truth is that this doesn’t augur well with the task of making a nail-bitingly tense action movie. The apparent ‘commercial must-haves” play total spoil sport with the narrative mood, preventing the gradual and pulsating escalation of menacing stakes, that is all important for a movie of this genre. The protagonist has to instantly forget all his dramatic conflicts to shake a leg in the dance floor, or pine for the pretty damsel in distress before realizing that his presence in the film is for some other loftier purpose. And then there is the indispensable ‘comedy’ routine, that masks the efforts put in building all the nervous energy. With all these taking precedence, you know what takes a back seat or sometimes literally gets chopped off!? Detailed character sketches. Atmosphere building. Intelligent references. Logic and reasoning, Continuity. And most importantly freshness and the ‘engagement’ factor. In fact, the biggest turn-off for any action film is the audience losing interest in the proceedings on-screen, because of the predictable and ‘beaten to death’ nature of the screenplay. Obviously in such situations, no wonder, makers rely more on the screen presence of the lead actor to save the day than their own script. So more often than not, what should have probably been a tight investigative/ cop thriller comes across as a ‘cowardly’ movie trying to tick off every possible segment of the audience.
But wait, change is here, as a bunch of young filmmakers beg to differ. First of all things, they know their audience and trust them. They don’t compromise ‘much’ in the name of trade. They make their films exactly the way they want to make, and end up doing it the way we want to see, which is not by any means a mean feat. Magizh Thirumeni who was critically acclaimed for his earlier film ‘Thadayara Thaaka’ uses every opportunity he gets in his latest film ‘Meaghamann’ (captain of the ship) to establish himself as one among that bunch to reckon. Magizh in fact makes no bones about the fact that he is not doing a path breaking film or something that sends the critics into raptures. He wants to do a ‘commerical’ film with a certain amount of conviction and grace. He sets out to engage, thrill and entertain his audience for a little more than two hours and succeeds in style.
Taking a premise that has maximum potential for abuse, Magizh impresses with his technique of overriding logical glitches in the script with irresistible engagement in story telling so much so that you tend to overlook these seemingly implausible things which can’t/wont probably happen in real life for the kind of entertainment it provides. At times, he interests us with a brilliant and well executed action segment – raw, gritty and all that stuff. At other times,just the taut and sensible way he presents the otherwise routine stuff makes the proceedings racy and thrilling. This trick actually works very well in concealing the ‘been there. seen that’ feel, and keeps us sucked into the drama without giving a moment to question or contemplate. As a matter of fact, even the most brilliant thriller movies have noticeable plot holes, and the only way to divert attention from these, and exercise cinematic liberty are to keep the narrative as racy as possible. Magizh maintains this electrifying pace through out till the end, with the rare exception of a few scenes involving the female lead.
How does he manage to do that? Is a racy narrative all that is needed for an engaging action thriller? The answer as quite obvious it is, is a ‘NO’. Magizh seems to know the secret of the genre, that makes it both sensible and entertaining. First of all, he writes a believable yet intimidating antagonist character who is mostly wiser and stronger than the protagonist. And only then, he measures him up with an equally daring, strong-willed and persuasive protagonist character. Next, he sets up a strong and relevant motive for the protagonist to put his heart and soul into, with all guns blazing, knowing very well that any amount of stylishly choreographed action blocks cannot save a film with shallow or uncompelling ‘conflict’.
Again, Magizh seems to be a film-maker who prefers ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’ in action – he stages few action sequences that truly milk the adrenaline from our suprarenals as opposed to filling the entire movie with mindless action. Most importantly, he writes defined character sketches and traits not only lead actors, but also for supporting characters. A middle-aged cop’s emotional trauma is showcased by a shot of a framed photograph. Another cop gets shot in the doorway before opening the door to a surprise birthday party. This man neither lets ‘action’ come in the way of his story-telling, nor unwarranted distractions like song sequences or silly comedy come in the way of his ‘action’ . He chooses to go with only two songs, and only one of those is a pace dampener. He has obviously compromised by having a female lead, who in no way belongs to the script except for contributing to a key twist. Though some of the interludes involving the lead couple provide some tasteful light-hearted moments, we cant help but fantasize over the amount of good that the film could have done itself by totally scraping her character. Some more bravery next time, Magizh?
Arya in the exact opposite of the roles he is often typecast in, is a total revelation, even though the characterization doesn’t require him to emote much. He perfectly balances his star screen presence with his subtle under-play in crucial moments. Hansika, for a change, doesn’t prance around wearing miserly costumes in fancy locales, and sincerely tries to lighten the proceedings a bit. A few moments involving her does work, while others don’t. Ashutosh Rana as the invisible ‘ghost’ is in top form, with able support from Harish Uthaman, Ashish Vidyarthi and Anupama Kumar give the film a realistic feel. Technically, the film is outstanding, with cinematographer S. R. Sathish Kumar rising the tempo with his stylish frames and hand-held shots. The movie doesn’t offer much scope for Thaman in songs, but he proves his mettle in the background score which superbly compliments the action. Editing is the most underrated job as it is often impossible to discern whether the scene was conceptualized and shot this way or was just fine tuned later on by the editor. Nevertheless, editors Praveen-Srikanth do a good job, leaving no room for any sagging moments.
Packed with fervor and lots of intelligent action, this neatly done action thriller is more a director’s film than an actor’s, as Magizh shows us how a commercial action thriller is made without belittling the audience’s tastes. That’s more than a cool reason not to miss it.