KP Thirumaaran, the writer of Raghava Lawrence’s latest offering, Rudhran, must be an ardent Tamil cinema fan. For he is religiously devoted to past films of this genre and pays homage to them in every single scene. For instance, the heroine threatens her murderer with “my husband will find and kill you.” The avancular cop justifies alcoholism with, “he’s not drinking for the high, he’s drinking to forget his pain.” You get the drift?
I’m being generous when I say ‘homage,’ because otherwise such blatant copying of characters, scenes and dialogues makes my skin crawl. There is practically nothing original in the film, not even in the way it’s put together. Despite borrowing everything — including two hit songs — Rudhran fails to create even a single relatable moment in what feels like a million years of run-time.
Rudhran is a revenge saga. The titular hero is a loving son of template good parents. He falls in love with a woman he saw being charitable to poor children while he was waiting at a traffic signal. The villain is a “north-Madras” rowdy involved in property mafia, with a convenient litany of rowdy brothers.
Times change, hero’s father falls into debt, mother falls sick and he’s forced to move abroad to pay loansharks off. In the mean time, his pregnant wife goes missing. In the way he hardly even looks for her, you can tell Rudhran has also watched enough Tamil cinema to know what happens to pregnant women in revenge thrillers. In the end, he smokes something off a pipe to some stomach-curdling mass music and prevails over the bad guys.
To be fair, predictability — sometimes masquerading as relatability — is a prerequisite for this genre. No one goes to watch a mass film with Raghava Lawrence in it for the suspense of whether he will win. But is it too unfair to expect to be surprised, or even entertained, in some little way?
Director Kathiresan stages every scene for maximum melodrama, with loud wails and reaction shots. Stun Shiva choreographs the fights as though every surface is a trampoline and everyone has their heart in their mouth, pumping blood when touched. Editor Anthony cuts the film in a rather disillusioning way, say following a fantastically colourful duet in a flashback with a shot of the hero crying in the present. In theory, the juxtaposition is supposed to melt our hearts, but in the film, it’s painfully grating.
Raghava Lawrence himself is rather confused. He plays the yelling-screaming-Singam-hero in one scene. He does the naive-man-possessed-by-Kanchana’s-ghost routine in another. He invokes no feelings when he’s crying. He dances in the same monotonous way in three different songs. His humour is unbearable. The film does nothing for him and he does nothing for it.
The only time I found myself intrigued was in the song-fight climax, which culminates with Rudhran being stabbed in the back and thrown to near-death. In his injured stupor, he hallucinates his dead mother tapping his body and wakes up with a gasp. Did he just give himself an imaginary CPR?
By then, I couldn’t be bothered with finding the answer. Rudhran is a lost cause — ideologically, politically and cinematically.