Director: Prabhu Solomon;
Cast: Dhanush, Keerthi Suresh, Ganesh Venkatram, Harish Uthaman, Radharavi,Thambi Ramaiah
He is a maker who seems to have a penchant for journeys. While in the delightful Myna (2010), the hero is taken on a trip through the woods and hilly terrain, in Kumki (2012) it was a mahout and his elephant’s journey to a village, and in his last release Kayal (2014), the hero and his friend are crisscrossing across India on a vacation.
In Thodari, it’s a train journey from Delhi to Chennai, which seems to take longer than the actual number of days it takes to complete the trip, if one takes into account the few times the train had halted due to various reasons.
As the film opens at the Delhi Railway station we are introduced to its hero Poochy, a pantry worker. With Karunakaran and Ashwin playing his co-workers and Ramaiah as their often bullied and naive supervisor, one can visualise how the ambiance of the pantry would be. And as the narration progresses, we are introduced to more and more characters.
Like Saroja — the simple touch-up girl to a Malayalam actress who was travelling with her mother, a disgruntled minister Rangaraj with his two security officers (one of them is the aggressive Nandakumar), and Sultan the cop who handles the crisis at ground level at a much later stage. It’s love at first sight for Poochi as he sets eyes on Saroja. This is promptly followed by a dream song on top of the moving train — nothing like the visually vibrant Chayya Chayya from Dil Se (1998).
The director tries to cramp the screenplay with too many elements. It includes a romance brewing in the train, robbers looting it, a lead player being mistaken for a terrorist, the Poochi- Nandakumar physical confrontations, an engine driver on his last day at work, his inebriated assistant with his own personal problem and finally, the train speeding out of control and at some point, there’s even on fire.
The characters and events could have been coordinated and linked in a better way. And through all this, it is the resilience of our hero and his girl which pulls the Thodari and its passengers out of certain catastrophe.
The first part focuses mainly on the antics of the pantry workers and Poochi’s attraction towards Saroja. Amusing is Poochi’s cheeky remarks targeted at Ramaiah, the sarcasm escaping the latter. It is to Dhanush’s credit that he lends a consistency to his performance even when the character is made to go through situations that are ridiculous and lack conviction.
Touching is Keerthi’s take on her role as the innocent Saroja, though it does make her seem a tad too naive and gullible for comfort! An aspiring singer who doesn’t realise that she has a very bad voice, Saroja falls for Poochi’s claim of knowing lyricist Vairamuthu and draws closer to him. Karunakaran’s Vairamuthu-act is splendid.
Radharavi brings the right touch to his character of the disgruntled minister, cynical and amused at the turn of events which had brought him center-stage. Harish Uthaman cuts a handsome figure as Nandakumar, though the latter’s antics seemed contrived and mindless. Ganesh Venkatram’s cop seems an extension of his role in Unnaipol Oruvan (2009).
The sets and graphics, and the real shots of the train do not work…it’s patchy at best. It barely gives you the feeling of following a train journey.
In a commercial entertainer, you can, to a large extent, come to terms with the glaring loopholes in the script — like when a TV channel constantly reports wrong news, not one among the supposedly 700-odd passengers (now that number was a surprise) seemed concerned enough to correct the number through social media. And then there’s a scene with the commandos, where the chopper is firing away at the miscreants in the train — it’s laughable really! The scene towards the climax is unintentionally hilarious.
With its rather meandering unwieldy screenplay and convoluted treatment, it’s probably the weakest of Solomon’s scripts. And at a whole 168 minutes of running time, it’s a tedious journey that seemed unending.