'Thadam' movie review: A smart whodunit drama that falters with its sentiment

Magizh Thirumeni takes extra care to ensure that the audience is kept on tenterhooks and it works, until the end.  

Published: 01st March 2019 03:06 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st March 2019 03:06 PM   |  A+A-

Arun Vijay in Thadam. (YouTube screengrab)

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Thadam is essentially a whodunit drama. There’s a murder. Money gets stolen. With a key piece of evidence, the police narrow down a suspect. Now, what if there is a look alike? Thadam’s plot is structured like a maze, similar to its title design. The suspense beautifully builds up until intermission. Is it Ezhil or is it Kavin? (Arun Vijay plays a dual role) Is the murder about money?  The parts that follow the investigation in Thadam are the strongest. At every breakthrough, there is a development that brings the police back to square one. Magizh Thirumeni takes extra care to ensure that the audience is kept on tenterhooks and it works, until the end.  

However, in order to connect all the dots, Thadam takes some fairly convenient leaps in the second half. Someone just happens to see the murder victim leaving with a girl. Someone unintentionally fudges key evidence. Hospital records get damaged, thanks to floods. A doctor in question dies just before the investigation. An old love interest just turns up. It almost feels like the director first put the red herrings in place and then developed a story around them. For example, let’s say the two lookalikes need to meet each other. Locked up in the same police station, someone just nonchalantly lets one escape, only to catch him later. It's all a bit contrived.

The emotional portions particularly fall flat, thanks to the cliches used in expressing them. Thadam begins on an interesting note. Ezhil sees Deepika, who works in the same complex as he does. He only gets to see in her the lift, before she heads off to her floor. He decides to ask her out for a cup of coffee. The exchange is quite interesting. Deepika tells Ezhil to ask the question right and she’ll agree. Ezhil is confused and so are we. What could be the ‘right question’? Turns out she doesn’t like coffee. One can say the film turned out the same way as well -- intriguing at the start, but slowly slides into safe zones. 

The film also needed more convincing performances. Barring the lead man Arun Vijay, the rest of the actors were somewhat lacking. But he quite shines with a restrained performance. With dual roles, the tendency is generally to differentiate between the two characters using obvious physical markers. But Thadam is different. The conceit requires them to look like each other. Yet, Arun Vijay does a good job of making each marginally different from the other. Vidya Pradeep gets the best lot of the three women as Malar, the naive but intelligent cop. While she sells the naivete well, she never truly transforms into the authoritative figure she is said to be. Sonia Agarwal plays an extended cameo and gives an exaggerated performance. The same over-enthusiasm plagues the cinematography and the music score as well, which results in an uneven visual and sound palette.

There’s no denying the smartness at the core of Thadam. It does in fact quite break a few stereotypes like having Meera Krishnan in the role of a con-artist. Having only seen her in traditional roles, it was quite nice to see her smoke and happily cheat for money. Or take Tanya Hope, who plays a film reviewer. She later quits her job saying, “Try watching six movies a week and writing about them.” I couldn’t help smiling at that. But all this cleverness and subversion is superficial, much like the sentiment in the film, and that had me wishing the film had just stuck to being a cold investigative thriller, rather than an attempt to layer it with a family drama. 

Film: Thadam

Director: Magizh Thirumeni
Cast: Arun Vijay, Tanya Hope, Vidya Pradeep

Rating: 3 stars


(This review originally appeared on cinemaexpress.com)

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