Jigarthanda Movie Review

Review Overview

Technical Aspects & BGM


Jigarthanda is intensely realistic, boldly irreverent, and exhilarating through and through. No finer film has ever been made in the Madurai backdrop that is both enjoyable and gratifying at the same time. Jigarthanda is a sumptuous mix of art-house and mainstream cinema. Not to be missed!

Cast : Siddharth, Lakshmi Menon, Bobby Simha, Karnakaran, Guru Somasundaram, Prathap Pothen, Ramachandran, Soundar Raja, Vinodhini & Others. 

Cinematography : Gavemic U Ary

Editing : Vivek Harshan

Music : Santhosh Narayanan

Stunts : ‘Billa’ Jagan

PRO : Nikkil Murugan

Written & Directed by : Karthik Subbaraj

Producer : Kathiresan

Banner : Group Company

Release Date : 01-08-2014

Run Time : 02:50:00 

When Karthik Subburaj’s Jigarthanda was juxtaposed with Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet in Forbes Magazine’s ‘Five Indian Films to See in 2014’ last year, the country noticed this talented film-maker from the hinterlands of Madurai, who made a critically and commercially successful Pizza which did lucrative business across the board for the producer. All eyes were cast upon Karthik ever since.

It’s a rare phenomenon nowadays to see directors coming up with an assuring second film after a promising first film. Karthik has broken that jinx, in all aspects. Period.

A gangster film basically works under two broadly sorted-out templates – the graph of the rise and fall of a gangster or a ruthless mobster, who after falling in love with someone or after listening to an eye-opening climax speech, seeking redemption. Jigarthanda, a gangster musical (fittingly titled), is neither of these, though it could be scarcely classified into the second template.

WHEN was the last time you watched a Tamil film (or any language film) where the protagonist, the antagonist and even the heroine emerge victorious in the end? WHAT was the last gangster film you watched in Tamil that didn’t make you frown about the redemption part? Even the recently released Sathuranga Vettai succumbed to moralistic conclusion in the third-act leaving some of us a little disappointed. There is of course, redemption in Jigarthanda too, but Karthik’s subtle writing with delicate detailing busts it beautifully. His vision for parallel cinema is truly heartening and he is here to stay!

Jigarthanda is so unlike any Madurai-based films. It is intensely realistic, boldly irreverent, and exhilarating through and through. No finer film has ever been in the Madurai backdrop that is both enjoyable and gratifying at the same time.

Jigarthanda is about the story of an ambitious young director Karthik Subramani (Siddharth) who embarks on a journey to make a film about the life of a gangster. After a relentless hunt for mobsters, he stumbles upon Sethu (Simha), a ruthless and cold-hearted punk who is based in Madurai. In his quest to come up with an authentic film, Karthik sets off to Madurai and begins researching the day-to-day life of Sethu aided by his friend Oorni (Karunakaran – who leaves you in splits with his hilarious expressions and utterly-timed dialogues at regular intervals).

The first half is an out and out SIMHA show. His expressions, gestures and idiosyncrasies make him the most loved villain in recent times in Tamil cinema. What is so original about Jigarthanda is the attention the narration gives to the antagonist, which in itself is so anomalous when you have a pan-Indian, charismatic actor like Siddharth – on the other hand – who has the potential to steal the show if given a chance. That’s the triumph of Karthik’s writing. He takes the most traversed path in the first half. He looks more interested in action than personality, like all gangster films and, finely sets the tone with this over-arching idea. In the film’s best scene – a lengthy take – Simha escapes an ambush when he was about to piss. His sidekicks soon arrive at the scene, the plotter looks perplexed and just when we all expect Simha to whack him to death, he surprises with the most nonchalant walk towards the restroom. Camera focusses on his side-kicks now and cuts to the next shot with an all-black screen. That is Karthik Subburaj at his instinctive best. Be it the Tarantino-inspired interval card, the digs at reality shows judges who sensationalize decisions, the producer who craves for commercial cinema, Karthik is gradually imprinting his style onto our mind.

At nearly three hours, the film does appear a tad too long, but when you try to understand and relish the subtexts and nuances in the writing, you are bound to forget the overrunning latter part. Vivek Harshan has done a commendable job on editing with well-thought out cuts, especially in the first half which is replete with night shots.

It’s really tempting to write about the satirical duality in few scenes, which is actually the real state of (Tamil) cinema now. But, exploring those subtexts would only come at the cost of revealing spoilers, so we are staying away from that part. Except for a slightly unconvincing sequence in the second half, the film looks almost rich.

Santhosh Narayanan’s body of work in Jigarthanda will be talked about in future. His background score will be dissected, explored and analysed in blogs and micro-blogs. Undoubtedly, Jigarthanda is his best film till date and the music is on par with Yuvan Shankar Raja’s epic Pudhupettai – considered as by many as his best – without the Bangkok orchestra. The entire film is brimming with innovative sounds and fantastic orchestration. The placement of the instrumental track ‘Hoo Haa’ is just brilliant in the second half. Santhosh has composed different leitmotifs in his score for the scenes featuring Lakshmi Menon and Siddharth instead of the conventional idea of using a central theme score for all romantic scenes. Overall, a superlative work from the budding composer.

Honestly, Jigarthanda is nothing without the resplendent beauty of Gavemic U Ary’s majestic camerawork. His frames are the cornerstone for showcasing a never-seen-before Madurai in this film. Watch out for his lengthy take we discussed above when Simha unwinds himself for a piss and the beautifully staged pre-interval scene. An impressive debut, indeed. Arguably, it is the most lushly photographed film in a long time.

Simha as the mobster Sethu has delivered an once-in-a-lifetime performance. Siddharth has chipped in with a good performance too; his character arc gets explored only towards the fag end of the film and by the time we realize it, the film ends. This is the most underplayed performance ever by Siddharth and he is certain to gather accolades for supporting this film. Lakshmi Menon, as the calm and composed Kayal looks apt for the role. And, the way she understands Siddharth’s situation (towards the end) with equanimity shows the maturity in Karthik’s writing once again, but one feels her scope in the film is quite minimal. Somasundaram of Aaranya Kaandam fame brings the roof down with his role as an acting-trainer. There are other few interesting cameos and surprises at regular intervals. Do watch out.

Jigarthanda is a sumptuous mix of art-house and mainstream cinema. Not to be missed!

Written by Surendhar MK

Jigarthanda Movie Review Rating : 3.5/5