Before Rudra Thandavam, Mohan G’s last film Draupathi targeted the oppressed castes by portraying them as villains who fight against the dominant castes. Rudra Thandavam is as direct an attack, but consider the following points from the film: First, the claim that Ambedkar belongs to all of India, and not to just one community; second, facts about Dalit-Christian conversions discussed in the film; third, a man from an oppressed community is shown as a lawyer (which is a good thing) but he is also shown to deify Muthuramalinga Thevar; finally, and most pointedly, there’s a statue of Buddha in the villain’s office; he’s is a politician who, at least outwardly, runs a party for uplifting the oppressed. All of this could be seen as a counter-reaction to the films made by Dalit filmmakers, and I think lot of editorial pieces are going to be written about Mohan G and his cinema.
Rudra Thandavam is about Rudran (Richard Rishi), a cop whom we see in a prison at the start of the film. Slowly, through a series of flashbacks, we understand that he’s in prison because he has a conscience: Rudran thinks he may have, however involuntarily, committed a crime. The most important thing is that he voluntarily surrenders as he cannot live with the guilt.
That seems fairly innocent on the surface, but consider the fact that Rudran is from a dominant community in Dharmapuri (again, like in Draupathi). It makes me wonder if there’s a point being made here; is a community being glorified, or even deified? Is the film trying to show that these people as so angelic that they can’t live with guilt when a crime is committed?
Gautham Menon’s role as the antagonist is one-dimensional, but it’s fun to see him cast in a role like this. The main issue of the film is the increasing use of drugs among youth in North Chennai — and he’s the man behind it. Though the film talks about all of Tamil Nadu, we’re shown only North Chennai people using drugs. Do youngsters in South Chennai not do drugs? Why show only people from North Chennai? Such things might seem innocent at times (you could justify it by saying the film is set in North Chennai), but they almost seem like clues to a particular mindset.
There’s one thing I must appreciate the director for: whatever his politics or agenda, he sticks seriously to the issue at hand and to what he wants to talk about it. He doesn’t just make the issue just a backdrop for an entertaining hero vehicle, like what we saw in Sivakumarin Sabadham.
But again, despite his politics or agenda — if you can watch it as just a film — I wish Rudra Thandavam was better, cinematically. It’s a very long film, but that’s not because of issues with the screenplay as most of the scenes are justified. But the filmmaking and the staging are basic; there’s no snap, and it feels lethargic. The basic dialogues convey directly what they want — it’s almost like propaganda. But in the theatre, a lot of people were whistling loudly. So, perhaps, some people don’t want cinema — they’re just having some fun with the provocation on screen.