Director: Dinesh Selvaraj
Cast: Vikram Prabhu, Hansika, MS Bhaskar
Rating: 3 stars
Thuppaki Munai runs for 128 minutes. The taut runtime is probably the film’s biggest advantage. Debutant director Dinesh Selvaraj makes a wise choice by choosing to keep it no-frills. The story is about the travails of an encounter specialist: his emotional struggles and the battle of conviction he wages. And it largely remains so, at a director Hari-esque pace. By and large, Thuppaki Munai doesn’t get stuck in the usual commercial trappings of our films.
Not that the film is devoid of these, but Dinesh holds the reins firmly and makes sure they don’t ruin the bigger picture. More refreshingly, Thuppaki Munai doesn’t have a romance angle that is stretched out of proportion. Mythili (Hansika) accidentally meets an encounter specialist Birla Bose (Vikram Prabhu), and their ‘meet-cute’ goes viral online.
And within minutes, there is a proposal for marriage from Bose. Letting out a sigh of exasperation, I settled down, fearing the worst. Thankfully, the entire episode gets done within a few minutes. Again, there is one song, but before it drags the film down too much, the plot kicks back in. With each scene, the story moves forward and that leaves little room for us to look elsewhere.
However, holding someone’s attention and getting them invested are two different things, and somewhere in between these lies Thuppakki Munai. There are several themes that could have possibly been explored further. Dinesh pits a pacifist mother, a doctor who argues against capital punishment against a son who is convinced of the system’s efficiency.
He also sandwiches some clever moments in the midst of a lot of exposition. When Bose argues that it is criminals who die at his hand, not Kamarajars and Gandhis, his mother hits back asking ‘How long are we going to keep quoting leaders from the past? It is the system’s fault for not creating more like them.’ You get a sense of dichotomy throughout the film. Dinesh tries to give us the other side of the stereotype that is generally presented to us — there is an immigrant with a past with Maoists who proves to be more honest than some policemen, who are supposed to be in power. But he doesn’t dig deep. We hear of the tribulations of Bose, but we don’t see them.
While the swift pace suits the narrative, the same can’t be said for Thuppaki Munai’s background score that is on constant overdrive. There isn’t a moment of silence in the film’s score as LV Muthu Ganesh crowds the sonic-sphere with ear-bashing sounds. I was left yearning for a moment of silence, some breathing space before the next round of thumping.
Thuppaki Munai takes several steps forward such as giving MS Bhaskar a meaty role. Even the smaller supporting characters get an arc, a story that, at least superficially, encapsulates their emotional arc, instead of treating them as cardboard cutouts. But all said, Thuppaki Munai ends up being like that middle-bencher in school who has the potential to ace the test but stays in the middle, only moving a few paces forward or backward.