Sindhubaadh movie review: Some opening warmth gets waylaid in this half-hearted thriller
This Arun Kumar directorial could've been much better if the rest of the film was as satisfying as the small, warm moments
Sindhubaadh is, in a sense, our version of Sinbad, the middle-eastern sailor who went on adventurous voyages where he encountered magical creatures and mystifying experiences. A hero who tackles terrifying evil and often returns with a fortune? It’s a familiar template for our cinema—this idea of a mass hero taking on super-villains, emerging triumphant against the odds. Director Arunkumar replaces the mythical monsters of Sinbad with those of the human variety. The boss villain is a psychopath who gets off on murder. He’s hard to destroy, and is resurgent. A chief topic being discussed in this film is cosmetic plastic surgery: The skin of humans being replaced with skin forcefully acquired from others, seems like the sort of supernatural fiendish stuff Sinbad, the sailor, often encountered. The magical feats are replaced with those our mass heroes have been comfortably performing for decades now: like Vijay Sethupathi’s Thiru making an impossible leap between two buildings. You are not supposed to raise questions, as he’s a version of a fantasy hero in a sense, remember? The problem, rather ironically, is how good Arunkumar is with the everyday aspects of life. When you are as good with the localising, it’s hard to suddenly get your audience atop the mass bandwagon (unless it’s a Sethupathi, in which the villain and the conflicts are localised too).
Director: SU Arunkumar
Cast: Vijay Sethupathi, Anjali, Surya Vijay Sethupathi
Sinbad had a restlessness for the strange, but here, the new experiences Thiru has are more of the terrifying sort. While Sinbad’s stories were typically meant to fuel the adventurer in you, this film is almost a warning against leaving the comforts of your home (despite a motivational dialogue or two at the end). This is a world in which humans are being trafficked, women are being enslaved, bodies are being ravaged, people are forced into labour… Arun doesn’t think much of humans, it seems—not even in comparison with snakes and leeches. A character at the beginning says, “Manusha modhalaingala vida atta, paambu laam mel.” There are more lessons to be learned. Poverty, he says, exists because of the avaricious. These are all well-intentioned, but in a film that Arun himself keeps dragging into the whimsical territory, these messages only come across as preachy and incomplete.
Thiru takes a while before he sets out on his journey into strange lands—almost an entire half in fact. This half contains perhaps the film’s most enjoyable portions and show Arun at his rooted, lighthearted best. I quite enjoyed the humour built around how loud-mouthed Venbaa is (also a good time to register that I’m becoming quite an admirer of Anjali’s nonchalant excellence as a performer). The relationship between Thiru and his boy companion, Super (played by Vijay Sethupathi’s son, Surya), is full of warmth as well. Their relationship contains depth that’s never verbalised, and I’m glad we are never let on to how their bond came to be so strong—no story would have been good enough. It’s a bond that comes through beautifully in small moments devoid of dialogue. Thiru is about to fly off to rescue someone from grave danger, and all it takes is a forlorn look from Super to have him book an additional ticket. In another scene, Venbaa looks worried that an annoyed Thiru may have left the restaurant, his food half-eaten, but Super knows he will return.
You could say that this unspoken understanding is at the heart of the relationship between Venbaa and Thiru too. It’s what seals their relationship. Rather interestingly, Venbaa first seemingly shows verbal interest in him, causing Thiru to be after her and later discover that she’s actually disinterested. He problematically continues to pursue her until perhaps, upon realising the dangerous territory he’s stepped into, the director has him convey that he shant chase her any further. It is then that Venbaa’s eyes betray her interest in him, and in a sense, this film raises the point that non-verbal cues be important too in calculating romantic interest. But as Thiru does, ask verbally, just in case. This is why even when Thiru ties a thaali and catches her by surprise, it doesn’t shock you as much it would in another film.
The film also causes a bit of discomfort with its romanticisation of the thieving ways of Thiru and Super, going as far as to refer to them as Rockstar Robbers in the opening song. It’s a song that also introduces to us their ‘goodness’ with lines like, “Ezhai vaithil kaiya vekka maatom” and “Thanni pottu ragala panna maatom”. But as with a few other films of ours, love causes Thiru to see the error of his ways. These angles aren’t particularly well-explored, with the film being in a hurry to make its ill-advised transition into thriller mode.
Arun’s most comfortable with the small, warm moments (as in his previous two films). When the dons and the killers and the trafficking angles come into the picture, this film loses its charm. It stretches and drags, and as the dull fight scenes mount in number, the occasional warmth in the first half feels like a distant memory from a different film. These characters, I dare say, would have been better left in their home, tackling problems from within the region. Sindhubaadh, whose characters travel to countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia, is unfortunately all over the place.