Review: THAANDAVAM Is Boring, Forgettable Garbage
Let's just get that out there.
I try to approach each new film I see with an open mind, ready to enjoy it on its own merits. The idea that I'd intentionally subject myself to a film that I'm expecting to hate is completely foreign to me. I'm really good at surrendering myself to a film's internal logic and allowing me to be swept up in whatever nonsense it wants to throw my way as long as it is entertaining, that's really my only hard and fast criteria for enjoying something. It can be a masterpiece, or a piece of garbage, but if it entertains me, I'm sold. Conversely, there is no greater sin for a film than to be boring, and Vijay's latest film, Thaandavam, is soul-crushingly boring.
Expectations were low for Thaandavam based upon the trailer and its complete lack of style. However, I had some hope that lead actor, Vikram, would be able to lead the film to the promised land with his jawline chiseled from granite and affinity for off the wall characters. You see, over the last decade or so, Vikram has made a name for himself portraying over the top characters in some of Tamil cinema's most popular films. There was the title character in Anniyan, a film by Enthiran (Robot) director Shankar, in which Vikram's character is a normally timid attorney with multiple personality disorder who happens to be a kung fu master/angel of death in a film that is a bizarre musical comedy iteration of David Fincher's Se7en. Then there was Kanthaswamy, by director Susi Ganesan, in which Vikram plays an income tax agent with the CBI who moonlights as a chicken-suited superhero fighting against the evils of corruption in rural Tamil Nadu. Most recently, though, was Deiva Thirumagal, a Tamil film version of I Am Sam, in which Vikram plays a developmentally challenged adult fighting for the right to see his daughter, which featured one of the most absurd trailers I've ever seen.
Deiva Thirumagal was directed by A.L. Vijay, who seemed to have a decent grasp on how to make an interesting looking film, in spite of the ridiculous nature of the film itself. However, with Thaandavam he seems to have lost all notion of style, and the film is probably the most amateurish and bland big budget Indian films I've seen in a long time. Between the Birdemic level CG explosions, the remarkably flat cinematography, and the poorly choreographed and edited songs, Thaandavam comes across like a first feature, not the work of a pro. If you then add excruciatingly long flashback sequences, terrible line readings from every Caucasian in this London-set film, and the usual problem of inconsistent tone without any kind of excitement to balance it all out, the film becomes an utter disaster.
What is most frustrating about the failure of Thaandavam is all of the wasted resources at everyone's disposal. The film was produced by UTV Motion Pictures, the biggest studio in India. Beyond the casting of Vikram, which should have been enough to bring something of value, the supporting cast is also remarkably strong. Vikram is joined by Jagapathi Babu, who turns in the best performance in the film as Vikram's cop buddy; Naseer, in a rare appearance as a good guy following his nasty performance in Rowdy Rathore; and Tamil comedian extraordinaire Santhanam, who got more reaction from the audience with his babbling one-liners than any of the action in the film.
The bottom line is that in spite of being given numerous advantages right off the bat, Thaandavam squanders all goodwill by delivering a half-assed, ponderous, and downright stupid film with no discernible redeeming values. There was a point around the 150 minute mark where I forgot that I loved movies, and I started to hate myself for sitting through this pile of shit. Avoid at all costs, I get the feeling that once the word gets out, everyone else will do the same.