Taanakkaran Movie Review: A powerful film about a lesser-known problem
An important, well-made film that questions the system
Police brutality isn't new to Tamil cinema and has been both used to elevate hero cops, and lately, to establish the darkness in authority figures. What makes them turn to vicious violence? The answer suggested by films like Visaranai has been 'system'. Now, Taanakkaran goes a step further and speaks of the inhuman practices recruits undergo during the police training.
Cast: Vikram Prabhu, MS Bhaskar, Lal, Anjali Nair, Bose Venkat, Madhusudhanan Rao
In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, Taanakkaran could have easily become torture porn. But director Tamizh fills up even the smallest of characters with great detail, and utilises the tight screenplay to deliver what's one of the most important films of the year. I was particularly moved by the depiction of how the carrot and stick conditioning in the police department changes people over the years and how the life-threatening problems of the vulnerable recruits are seen as being trivial by senior officers.
Though Taanakkaran talks about the misery of police recruits, it doesn't limit itself to this. In a way, it is a sports film too, one that encapsulates qualities like leadership, strategy and camaraderie. However, the sports part comes with a twist. For once, a film isn't about football or cricket. We get parading! The frames of Madhesh Manickam, the immaculate staging of Tamizh and the rousing music by Ghibran combine to create magic on-screen. The film might have made for a great theatre experience, in fact.
It is a film that benefits from heartfelt performances that might turn out to be show-reels for the actors involved. MS Bhaskar seems to reserve his heroic best for Vikram Prabhu films. While the theatre erupted for a glimpse of an action episode in Arima Nambi, here, he gets an extended moment to win us over. Lal, who faced lathis in Karnan gets a role reversal and is the oppressor here. Despite being given the most uni-dimensional character in the story, the actor effortlessly carries the role and leaves arguably more impact than in his previous outing. Also getting a role reversal is actor Bose Venkat, who plays the good guy for a change. Despite the limited space, he sells the role brilliantly and is key to making the climax work.
The hero, Vikram Prabhu, is in fantastic form and delivers a terrific comeback. Although his physically gruelling scenes deserve appreciation, I enjoyed his subtle performance in the emotional scenes that leave a longer-lasting impact. The scene where he runs with a dying man on his shoulder and breaks down later, shows what Vikram is capable of in the hands of the right director.
I enjoyed how the protagonist, Arivazhagan, finds his father in the good men he encounters in the force, and the reason the film gives for his drive to be a giver and performer. Perhaps it might have been useful to learn what he does apart from being a faultless nallavan and why he chooses to appear for a PC entrance instead of for a higher rank, despite being over-qualified.
The film also touches upon caste politics, and there's the hint that the brutality of Easwaramurthy might be influenced by his caste pride. But it is hard to be sure, as the film doesn't quite dig into this angle.
Love can blossom in the most random circumstances, so I had no complaints about the PC (Anjali) love angle with the smart and driven recruit Arivu. But Tamizh once again just scratches the surface and doesn't allow for any closure to the love tale. Also, it might have been nice had Anjali's Easwari, the sole woman in the story, got some agency or say in the proceedings, without being just a spectator of all the cruelty.
The life-threatening ED drill sessions can be seen as a metaphor for abuse of all types, especially by authority. In such a trying situation, having a vulnerable commoner as a protagonist braving against all odds, instils hope. When a film like Taanakkaaran entertains, educates, and feeds hope, what more can we ask for?