Thandatti Movie Review: A superb Pasupathy anchors this middling mix of satire and melodrama
Though the execution could seem all over the place, it certainly has the heart in the right place
Gifts always hold a special place in our hearts. They allow us to revisit some of our cherished memories, and it is one such gift that forms the crux and drives the narrative in Thandatti (a heavy gold earring worn by elderly women on their extended earlobes).
Director: Ram Sangaiah
Cast: Pasupathy, Rohini, Vivek Prasanna, Ammu Abhirami, Deepa Shankar
Set in the rural lands of Southern Tamil Nadu, we first meet Pasupathy's Veerasubramanian, a cop who has just ten days left for retirement. A loose cannon, he is known for flouting his superior's orders and going ahead with his instincts, which pushes him into some tricky corners. With retirement closing in on him, he finds himself in yet another tricky situation...one last time.
Selvaraj, a teenager, barges into the police station screaming..."Enga Appathava Kaanom (My grandmother is missing)." He wants to file a complaint about his missing grandmother, Thangaponnu (Rohini). The cops try to get rid of this issue as it is from Kidaripatti, considered a problematic village with a notorious past with the police. However, Veerasubramanian decides to help him. Although she is found dead and brought back home for the last rites, crucial events unfold when her Thandatti goes missing, leaving the family in chaos. And now, Subramanian has no choice but to resolve the situation and manage a peaceful cremation of the deceased.
Thangaponnu has three sly daughters, a drunkard son Showpandi (Vivek Prasanna), and a compassionless daughter-in-law (mother of Selvaraj) whose husband passed away. The situations that define their characteristics and their interpersonal relationships are witty. The sisters ganging up against each other, jumping and smashing, pulling each other's hair to acquire the Thandatti, and Subramanian trying hard to settle the matter offer chuckle-worthy moments. Convincing actors like Deepa Shankar and Vivek Prasanna back such humourous scenes with their natural performances. That apart, the elderly women's sing-song dialect, attire and mannerisms, the dramatic conversational junctures, the mourning house, and the sounds of Oppari, exude the petrichor of the rural lands. However, these antics become a little tedious when they overstay their welcome and become repetitive. Besides, the film's frequent tonal shift — witty to melodrama — is erratic. The series of events that ushers in finding the culprit goes around in circles until it reaches a poignant climax, which salvages the film that fails to realise its potential.
The highlight of Thandatti is definitely the crucial flashback, which features a promising Ammu Abhirami as the younger version of Thangaponnu. The flashback cements an emotional story behind why Thandatti is her precious gift and her last wish associated with it. While an effective Rohini plays a neat foil even with limited screen time, it is Pasupathy who anchors the entire show effortlessly.
Speaking of finesse, Thandatti, with a promising premise in place, could have achieved its intention of being an efficient satire with the right amount of emotions if only there was inventiveness in the making. The platitudinous style of music sometimes overshadows performances. While we see many films set up in the countryside, the efforts to highlight the uniqueness of its landscapes and settings could offer an unexplored experience, breaking out of template visual language.
Thandatti tries to weave many aspects like the tale of forbidden love, a frenzied family's fight over their mother's treasured belonging and two eventful days in the cop's life. Though the execution could seem all over the place, it certainly has the heart in the right place. Above all, the soul-stirring finale, will, for once, remind us of the most precious gift that we behold; a gift from the one that got away... that will last a lifetime and beyond.