Director: Yuvaraj Subramani
Cast: Vaibhav Reddy, Pandiarajan, Yogi Babu, Nandita Swetha, Hareesh Peradi
Taana is like an open-world game with a main quest, and several side quests. The objective is to eventually complete the main quest, but before that, you also go through several diversions that typically don’t have a bearing on the main thread. In Taana, the main quest is Shakthi (Vaibhav Reddy) wanting to become a police officer, but he feels he is held back by a medical condition due to which, whenever he is afraid, excited or stressed, his voice becomes shrill, to a point where other characters in the film mock it as a ‘female voice’. On paper, this is an interesting idea — how Shakthi overcomes his condition and achieves his ambition. But, it is diluted by some drama, comedy, romance, horror and even a bit of detective work.
Shakthi’s ambition is not personal, it is intergenerational. His great-grandfather was one of the first police officers before Independence, and Shakthi has to make up for his father Pazhani’s (Pandiarajan) inability to become a cop. He is embarrassed by his voice, and he blames his father for it. Their relationship, though, is not clearly defined and their interactions appear contrived. You can’t really see how a hallowed tradition is weighing on their shoulders.
The pacing of the film is slow in most parts. What has already been established by a dialogue is immediately also shown as a scene, with the visual adding nothing new. We are told of a murder, and then, shown the murder. We are shown how Shakthi analyses a list of potential victims of a crime in excruciating detail, including how he color-codes each row. However, the comic parts of film are fast-paced, and even moderately fun. They involve Shakthi and Dumaa (Yogi Babu) carrying out minor cons to collect dues from loan defaulters. Yogi Babu is funny in places, but most of his one-liners are either inane or offensive to women.
The horror side story is the most bizarre and unexplainable one in the film. Shakthi has to guard a corpse alone in the woods. He is then chased around by a ghost before he takes refuge with a shaman-like figure who, over the course of a song, teaches him that fear is psychological, and that ghosts don’t really exist. He then exorcises a smoke-like being out of Shakthi, and his condition is healed. If that sounds random when you read it, it did feel random while watching it.
Vaibhav’s acting is understated and serviceable. The scenes where his voice becomes shrill are genuinely funny, and his confused, deadpan expression works perfectly for the role. Also, the scenes in which he laments his condition, and then consoles himself, are touching without becoming melodramatic.
Taana is relatively unique in that there is very little confrontation between hero and villain. Shakthi and Thilagan (Hareesh Peradi), a corrupt police officer who is bent upon failing Shakthi in his sub-inspector exams, have just the one interaction where they issue challenges to each other. In the final stretch of the film, when Shakti gets going on his main quest, he investigates Thilagan’s criminal activities. Most of this investigation happens online, with Shakthi searching the Internet for various clues. But, this actually makes it more believable. You wouldn’t expect an amateur sleuth to do anything more complicated. The stretch is engaging, especially the way Shakthi uses the names of various cyclones to move closer to the identity of the criminal, or when Thilagan kills people using a pair of killer twins.
Taana hedges its bets on various genres, but doesn’t do justice to any of them. The side stories that are forcibly tied to the story, either slow down the film or make it a film with fun diversions, depending on how you view it.