Actors: Vijay, Kajal Agarwal, Vidyut Jammwal, Sathyan, Jayaram
Genre: Action Thriller
Rating: 3/5

Written by A. R. Murugadoss, Thuppakki centers around Jihadists, the not-so-well-known sleeper-cell network that is prevalent in India (Mumbai, more so) , and a pumped up captain in the Indian Army who decides to decode it by taking the problem head on. The plot is completely set in Mumbai and centers around the protagonists, Captain Jagadish (Vijay) who’s also an undercover agent and the sleeper-cell network kingpin, Ajmal Latheef (Vidyut Jamwal) – how each acts & reacts to the other’s move, with a predictable end of good prevailing over evil.

Jagadish being a Captain in the Indian Army, firstly, had to look physically strong and fit, and Vijay has a well-maintained physique. This helps add more conviction to many of the action sequences in which Jagadish seems to have a consistent lead over the opponents. Vijay as the romantic, is a completely different character and generally adds humour as well – but this is not the primary function of Vijay’s role.  Vijay’s diction in Hindi is impressive, and he does a good job including expressions in his speech at the same time – be it asking a question or giving a warning, and seemingly native. Vijay does fall short in his dance moves – call it the Choreographer’s fault or Director’s leeway with the quality of choreography – Vijay’s dance efforts are not worth discussing. Kajal Agarwal as the female lead does the same old routine – being an eye candy and prancing around with the male lead. Specifically though, Kajal does much better Tamil lip sync than her counterparts originally hailing from the non-Telugu speaking states and who play female leads in southern films,. The plot does not necessitate anything substantial from Kajal’s character, and its better left said that Kajal’s repertoire of similar past performances helps her remain in good stead.

Vidyut Jammwal is definitely a good find, and even with limited acting experience, holds his own – managing to look and act the part of a Jihadist. If anything, he didn’t get to act out many leadership traits, except barking orders at his subordinates, as one would expect from a Jihadist leader. Although Thuppakki is a masala film, it could have been designed differently but it concedes to fitting a masala film template. Example, Vidyut as Ajmal Latheef, looks more like a conventional Indian hero and has a great body,  but the film does not beautify his character. Vijay’s character, as-is did not have a chance to showcase great physique (Vijay appears fit but not chiseled), therefore the “template” would not let the villain have a chance either. Yes, there were scenes where you could see Vidyut’s ripped biceps but that’s really about it. If the Director could care less about hero-worship and if he could have thought outside of the Ilayathalapathi-fan’s mind, this picture can help stretch your imagination. Vidyut mostly speaks in Hindi, and in the limited screen-time his character gets, he’s able to portray the intensity and darkness of Ajmal’s character via deep-voiced dialogue, body language and commendable eye expressions. While Jagadish does look stylish and trendy, Ajmal is not left behind at all; in fact, Vidyut’s fashion sense probably derived  from his previous life of a model, is worth noticing.  Moving on, Sathvan as Balaji, Jagadish’s friend, a pseudo-dumb cop and Jayaram as Ravi, Jagadish’s senior in the Army, are the comic relief. While Sathvan is also involved in parts in the main storyline, these two characters help create deviations from the otherwise serious plotline, changing the mood of the flow at each of these junctures.

Direction by Murugadoss is a let-down. The focus on heroism, on inclusion of template masala elements is enough to outweigh the potential of an otherwise killer script. Giving more importance to Kajal’s character (make part of the central plot?) or more realistically, the raw expansive power of a terrorist outfit, etc are cues that Murugadoss could have improvised upon. Murugadoss has written an engaging plot, but does not re-inforce it with adequate detail or background. For a semi-realistic film such as Thuppakki, there are quite a few unanswered questions. For instance, how Jagadish, a Captain in the Indian Army is able to single-handedly carry forward an anti-terrorist operation of this scale is not corroborated very well, given the red tape one would have to cut through to escape sticky investigations resulting from untimely death of sleeper-cells (who otherwise live civil lives, apparently); this, when Jagadish’s friend is a cop who, at some level is overseeing this matter but won’t report to authorities regarding Jagadish’s activites. At a macro level these sleeper cells are all shown to be Jihadists; but there is no effort on the Jagadish’s part to investigate vested interests of politicos (who could be Hindu too?)– a controversial issue at this moment, yet Murugadoss chooses to go with the stereotypical Islamic terrorist. The terror plot involves the character of Indian Defense Secretary elect and that he’s involved, but there is no disclosure of any specific reason, leaving the background open to interpretation.

The character of Jagadish has been etched to operate without bounds, sometimes operating without rhyme or reason. For instance, when Jagadish captures a terrorist, he will not investigate details and will rather wait for clues & for the terrorist chief to make the next move – not very convincing from a script standpoint. Also, elimination of the supposed kingpin ends the issue of sleeper-cells does not seem to be an appropriate culmination, as Jagadish does not further his investigation anymore; it’s just assumed that Ajmal is the be-all end-all of this terror network. While on the topic of elimination of the chief terrorist, the point of deflection occurs when a captive Jagadish challenges Ajmal for a fist-fight in the climax. Facepalm moment. To take a step back, why a powerful terror strategist will risk his life and land in Mumbai and will roam around freely to tackle his nemesis, without fear of being under any sort of judicial radar, and why the Defense Secretary elect will be involved in the day-to-day of terrorists’ activities are a couple more indigestible questions. Facepalm again.

The film has been edited well not to set in boredom, thanks to a slick and gripping screenplay, also by Murugadoss. Although there are sub-plots that demand some background/additional explanation, Murugadoss packages the imagery with realism coupled with heroism (Eg. Jagadish’s kidnapping of terrorists, Jagadish executing the diffusion of the 12-bomb operation) to add intrigue to some parts of the storyline. Cinematography by veteran Santosh Sivan seems familiar, with the visuals from Mumbai streets & landmarks (VT station, Dharavi slums, etc) –those typically used in films with terrorism for a background. Every scene that is presented to us, every frame & its content is not by chance. Carefully crafted, the actors’ expressions are there for the viewer to notice, the explosions appear real & the potential damage is made believable.  

Why 3/5:
The film uses a good script, and has great screenplay but Murugadoss seemed to have fumbled with Direction. To satiate the critic, had Murugadoss gone for a unilateral take on the situation, i.e. by not deviating from the main idea and by keeping it real, the movie could have lost some of the mass audience base. But by treading some middle ground, Murugadoss delivers a product that is engaging and which thankfully, is not a potboiler. The central plot is relatively untested and fresh, but the treatment could have been mature, with some of the noticeable gaps aforementioned. In a country where punishing a terrorist caught from the 26/11 attacks could take years to see light of the day, Captain Jagadish successfully plans and executes a large-scale anti-terror operation on his own, is a far-fetched idea by any standard. Despite some of this treatment related issues, the performances and the fast-paced screenplay more than make up for it. Good one time watch. 

2 Responses to “Thuppakki”
  1. ramanan50 says:

    Nice detailed Review,critical in nature.

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  1. […] has gotten pretty good with lip-sync irrespective of the southern language she’s dubbing for; Thuppakki is another example. Brahmi does get some light-hearted moments for footage but chaperoning comedy […]

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