Important, well-made film that questions the system
Express News Service
Police brutality isn’t new to Tamil cinema. The tool that was once used to magnify the image of ‘super cops’ is now restricted to the hands of bad, ruthless ones. What turns the latter heartless? What feeds the animal in them? What makes them believe that brutality is the only way to go? The one common answer must be ‘System’. We have had films like Visaranai, which probes into the psyche of a cop and shows how the system turns the good ones into bad and the ugly. Taanakkaran goes a step further and questions the mindless and cruel practices that recruits undergo during the training, even before they don the khaki.
In the hands of an amateur director and writer Taanakkaran would have been a bland torture porn. But the details Tamizh adds to even the smallest of all characters, the brilliant staging and the tight screenplay elevate the film to being one of the most important films of the year. I particularly liked how the carrot and stick conditioning in the police department changes people over the years and how the life-threatening problems of the vulnerable recruits are seen as more and more trivial by the officers as their ranks ascend.
Though Taanakkaran talks about the miseries of police recruits, it doesn’t limit itself to being an emotional drama. In a way, it is equally a sports film, that encapsulates elements like leadership, strategy and comradery. But the sports part comes with a twist. It is not football or cricket, it is parading! Yes, you heard that right. I was a bit sceptical about the engagement factor in this competition initially. But the fantabulous frames of Madhesh Manickam, immaculate staging of Tamizh and Ghibran’s rousing music together create magic on-screen. The film would have been a treat to watch on the silver screen with a community of audience to cheer along with. But let’s just hope that the trading off of theatrical release is compensated by a wider international audience reach.
Taanakkaran is a rare film, where every actor has given their best throughout. The performances are terrific that any portion cut from the film can function as the acting showreel for the artists featuring in it. MS Bhaskar seems to have a penchant for saving his heroic moments for Vikram Prabhu films. While he got the theatre erupted with a just glimpse of an action episode in Arima Nambi, in Taanakkaran he gets a more elaborate and extended moment to win over the audience. Lal, who faced laththis on-screen the last time in Tamil with Karnan, does a role reversal and assaults people with it here.
Despite being given the most uni-dimensional character in the story, Lal effortlessly carries the role and I won’t be surprised if the amount of hate for his Easwaramurthy surpasses the audience’s love for Karnan’s Yama Raja. It was heartening to see a clean cop in a film that talks about the dirty side of the police department and it was refreshing to see an able actor like Bose Venkat playing the good guy for a change. Despite the limited space, he sells the role brilliantly and acts as a major pillar in making the climax work.
The main man Vikram Prabhu is in fantastic form and delivers a terrific comeback! Although his physically-gruelling scenes deserve huge applause it is his subtle expressions in the emotional scenes that leave a longer-lasting impact. The scene where he runs with a dying man on his shoulder and breaks down realising that he has lost him shows what Vikram is capable of, in the hands of the right director.
I liked how Vikram’s Arivazhagan finds his father in the good men he encounters in the force, I also liked the reason behind his drive to be a giver and performer. But I would have loved to know what he does apart from being the exemplary nallavan and why he chooses to appear for a PC entrance instead of a higher rank despite being over-qualified.
Taanakkaran also touches upon caste politics in the initial scenes and it almost feels like the brutality of Easwaramurthy is triggered by his caste pride. But we are not sure, as the film fails to explore more in that direction, despite having the stage set for it.
I am all for love blossoming in the most random circumstances, so I had no complaints about the PC (Anjali Nair)’s love angle with the smart and driven recruit Arivu. But Tamizh once again stops by just scratching the surface and there is hardly any closure to the love tale. Also, it would have been nice if Anjali’s Easwari, being the sole woman in the story, had got some agency or say in the proceedings, without being just a spectator of the cruelty in the recruitment school.
The life-threatening ED drill sessions in Taanakkaran are a metaphor for the police department or any other place that abuses the righteous ones. It is not about the first one who steps in, it is always about the last man standing, despite all obstacles, bruises and insults. Having a vulnerable, commoner as a protagonist braving against all odds instils hope. If a film succeeds in entertaining, educating and gives hope as a takeaway, what more can we ask for?
Film: Taanakkaran , Director: Tamizh
Cast: Vikram Prabhu, MS Bhaskar, Lal, Anjali Nair, Bose Venkat, Madhusudhan Rao, Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
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