Cast: Vikram Prabhu, Hansika Motwani
Director: Dinesh Selvaraj
Sometimes, after watching a movie, I have to go back to my review of the director’s earlier film to remind myself that my expectations (for the new film) weren’t entirely off-base. That’s what I did after Dinesh Selvaraj’s thoroughly underwhelming Thuppakki Munai (Gunpoint). About his first film, Naalu Peruku Nalladhuna Edhuvum Thappilla, I’d written, solid writing… fascinating character… clever reveals… sometimes aggressively showy filmmaking… moralising is kept to a minimum… This film seems as if the director set about trying to prove me wrong on every count. Even the craft is missing. The overall crudeness (wait till you get to the ugly “touch” involving a candle) made me wish for… aggressively showy filmmaking. At least, you can get off on the frames.
The premise isn’t bad. Vikram Prabhu plays a trigger-happy encounter cop named Birla Bose. The name turns out to be the most interesting thing about him. What prompts a parent to pick such a name? The desire to sow, very early on, the seeds of entrepreneurship in the child, in which case are there siblings named Tata Bose and Ambani Bose? How, then, did Birla end up a cop? He keeps shooting people in the forehead, with zero respect for due process. I thought he’d be someone with serious issues — a rogue cop whose morality is suspect. As it turns out, it’s just a thing, one of those “cool” character traits that’s the screenwriting equivalent of a snazzy watch or an “I saw 2.0 FDFS” status message.
Birla is never established as a menace to society, so his transformation doesn’t feel warranted. (Why would you want to hang a movie around a non-issue?) Thuppakki Munai wants to be about something larger, something existential. It wants to say that a bereaved father from Rameswaram (MS Baskar, in a rare OTT performance) and a migrant from the Bihar-Jharkhand border have their place in the scheme of things, and that they will end up changing Birla. But things go wrong with practically every department. Consider this scene. When Birla walks into a posh hotel to meet his girlfriend’s (Hansika Motwani) father, the latter turns to her and says, “Good choice.” Based on what? The gun in his pocket? As for Hansika, she can’t even seem to mouth “Aey!” convincingly. Mercifully, there’s not much of a romantic track. I was also thankful she was named Mythili. These films have a tendency to endow their heroines with very Tamil-sounding names. Imagine the prospect of Hansika Motwani as… Marikozhundhu.
The staging, the rhythms are totally off. (Just watch Naalu Peruku… and you’ll see the difference.) The background score gave me a headache. And just why is the migrant named Azad? Is there some “meaning” there, some kind of parallel with our hero, whose last name belongs to a freedom fighter as well? I’m sorry if I sound crabby, but Thuppakki Munai is the kind of movie that trivialises everything from the rape of a minor to the ramifications of social media to the legalisation of sex work. All of this is bundled into a big, fat speech at the end, which sounds like an Important Issues for Dummies podcast. And you know what really gets to me? That overhead shot with a CG eagle flying past the screen, with an audio-library screech. It’s in every movie these days. We look for talent. We get talons.