Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thottal Thodarum - Sparking Off a Flying Start

Thottal Thodarum - a film that made its way quietly to the theatres, relying on no fanfare or hullabaloo but just the confidence of the makers.

Just like its title does, the film builds up a good air of mystery around it right from the start. The story line is so tightly packed that putting together a synopsis becomes difficult without giving away at least some of the suspense. So, the central idea of the film is how a small incident can take you to the most unexpected and dangerous corners in life. A thriller weaved into a sweet love story is Thottal Thodarum for you.

To my surprise and to the I am sure to many others as well, the story revolves around the female lead. And this is such a welcome relief amidst all the misogynistic 'hero' glorification happening in our films today. What happens in Thottal Thodaurm is kind of a heartwarming 'team work' between the male lead and the female lead, played by Thaman Kumar and Arundhathi. 

The film is a debut directorial venture of Sankarnarayan, known by his friends and fans as Cable Sankar. 

That he is a lover of quality cinema comes across clearly in the way Cable Sankar has envisioned, written and executed the film. He seems to have put in everything that he had ever wished for in a film. Oodles of sugary-sweet romance, some good music, extra-ordinary events that can take the love story forward and some good comic moments. It normally happens that when you are dreaming of something for a long time, there is a baggage that gives away the start date of the dream. However, nothing of that shows and the film has a young, breezy air about it. There is the internet, there are the apps, there are the gadgets..things that youngsters can easily relate to.

Running to just about 2 hours, the film comes with a taut screenplay with interesting twists and turns. The love story does, at a point make you impatient. Perhaps it was deliberately done to make you root for the new lovers. One is almost goading them to meet and kick start their love story at a point. And this is exactly the point when the story takes a sudden twist.

There are a lot of small touches that the director has put in to show the depth of his involvement. Like the ring tone of the hero's phone that in a way establishes an endearing feeling towards him (who can forget the sweet but naughty music from Geethanjali/Idhayathai Thirudaathey?), the heroine, someone from a middle-class background repeating her normal-looking, realistic costumes in more than one scene, the hero actually clicking open his car lock each and every time he has to open the door (I've only seen people directly getting into their cars, no matter where they are parked). I particularly liked the way the heroine looks up to the hero for moral support at a moment of crisis. This is the first natural thing likely to happen in a relationship built on trust. There are many more such small things. These are touches that speak about the director's efforts. 
Coming to the casting, Thaman Kumar and Arundhathi have given their all to portray their roles to the maximum perfection. Thaman Kumar is sure to get noticed for his confidence, looks and voice. Unusually for Tamil films, be it the way he carries himself or his comfort with both Tamil and English, he looks every inch a city slicker. Tamil films have a distance to cover where girls still need to be shown with a bindi, saree, half-saree. The heroine in fact doesn't have as many lines in English as the hero has. I wonder why? Just because he is from a better financial/educational background? But with due credit to the director, though albeit coy in appearance, the protagonist Madhu is no way demure or weak.

The hero and heroine are not under any pressure to showcase their dancing prowess or rib-crunching action shots. They come across as just normal people who face just one abnormal incident that they deal with cleverness.

Balaji plays the role of the ubiquitous side-kick with a funny streak. He has done his best and has given some really funny lines. But I really wish these side-kicks (everyone starting from Santhanam) stop making know-it-all sweeping statements about women and matters of the heart. The "dei ponnungaley ippidithaan" theories can get your goat after a point. 
Thankfully this film has no place for the ever so common TASMAC (and its aftermath purgatory) scenes. There are in fact no scenes depicting either smoking or drinking. 

Talking about dialogues, they have general been written very well - crisp, contemporary and clear.

The music by P C Sivan is quite catchy. The background score is worth paying attention to. Two songs are particularly nice - Penney-penney and Poo pola-poo pola. The latter in fact, even when I heard it before watching the film, imagined it to be a road-song and I am not disappointed. The way Penney-penney has been filmed is very pleasant, just like the song itself. The famous Bossu Bossu serves as a montage for the very interesting opening credits. Again a first in a long time, there are no 'kuthu songs' in the film. In fact, the director has broken away from the heavily choreographed-100 dancers-exotic locales-weird costumes routine completely. 

The cinematography is noteworthy especially the aerial highway shots. 

The writer of the film has cleverly given his debut film an auspicious title of sorts (Thottal Thodarum, loosely translated to "just get it started and it goes on forever") because the film has certainly paved a way for not just the director but also for Thaman Kumar, Arundhathi, P C Sivan and the entire young crew that is raring to go.

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