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Jagame Thandhiram review: Karthik Subbaraj's gangster drama about immigrant politics fails to keep one invested

Release Date: 18 Jun 2021 / 02hr 37min

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Haricharan Pudipeddi

The casting is one of the reasons why the film doesn’t quite work and most of the foreign actors seem totally lost and clueless.

Karthik Subbaraj’s Jagame Thandhiram (2021) promised to be an ambitious film about immigrant politics. Unfortunately, what it ends up being is a gangster drama about a hoodlum from Madurai, Suruli — played effortlessly by Dhanush, who travels all the way to London to earn his place. Underneath the story about gangs, guns and bombs is a relevant, moving tale about fighting for one’s identity in a place to which you don't belong. 

The story opens in London where a key member of the local gang, headed by Peter, is killed by another gang that is headed by Sivadoss, an immigrant from Sri Lanka who is gradually gaining a stranglehold over the city. Peter employs Suruli, who gets a gallery-pleasing introduction scene in Madurai, to help him take care of Sivadoss and what follows is a story of betrayal and bloody struggle for power. 

At nearly three hours long, it’s a chore to sit through the film, which never takes itself seriously but at the same times wants to highlight pressing problems like the state of immigrants. The intent to shed light on immigrants, particularly Sri Lankan Tamils who’re fighting to be accepted in Britain, deserves some praise and this subplot mostly makes sense. But what’s the point of having a great idea when a film can’t keep you invested for most of its running time. Despite Dhanush’s earnest efforts to play his character to the best of his ability, there isn’t much about Suruli you can root for. He appears largely self-centred, and it takes one sob story about the Tamils in Sri Lanka to transform him. Karthik tried to pull a Kabali with Dhanush but he ends up disappointing big time. 

The casting is also one of the reasons why the film doesn’t quite work. Most of the foreign actors feel totally lost and clueless. James Cosmo gets a few decent scenes, and he does a neat job apart from Dhanush, who is at his usual best. Joju George is a major miscast and hardly makes any impact. The film’s editing plays spoilsport and it’s chopped and stitched in a way that renders some scenes absolutely nonsensical.

Jagame Thandhiram is being streamed on Netflix.


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