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thandatti movie poster

Thandatti:  A riveting village movie in the backdrop of a death

Rarely do movies succeed in presenting brilliantly scripted stories through simplistic acting that feels profoundly natural. Thandatti does precisely that. Drawing the name from a pair of missing earrings (Thandatti are heavy gold earrings worn by women in parts of India), the Tamil movie directed by Ram Sagaiah takes the audience through a village where police are not welcome and brings them safely back to life.

The story is simple. There is a police constable, Subramani, who is on the verge of retirement and is loathed by his higher-ups. He is sincere—and has a certain unorthodox way of dealing with criminals. This is part of the reason for all the loathing.

One fine day, which would soon turn out not so OK for him, Selvaraj, a teenager, barges into the police station with the complaint that his 60 odd years old granny, Thangaponnu, has gone missing—and that she hasn’t eaten in the last four days. While none of the police takes note of the complaint soon after hearing that he belongs to Kidaripatti (a village notorious for getting rid of cops), Subramani decides to take it up.

Soon after encountering the boy, four odd women run crying to him, stating that their mother has gone missing. In the whole drama which is being played out, it turns out that they are all from the same family and are searching for the same person. Therefore, Subramani decides to search for the woman with the young boy.

thandatti movie poster
Thandatti Movie Poster | Credits: Prime Video

Despite finding the missing person along the way, the woman dies due to starvation, without much context, at least initially. The story then carries a tale of Thangaponnu, who has given everything for her daughters and son, despite their neglect of her.

The whole story now takes a new turn, with all her children, four women and a drunkard son (heartbroken! because he has had a love interest towards the wife of the police), are now scheming to get hold of her gold earrings. What follows is a two-hour-long tell-a-tale, riveting, slow-burner, comedy, and often-times thriller movie.

The story is set in the village—and the mourning: the manner of crying, sitting together, and relatives drinking and fighting feels authentic. Adding to this is a constant tension of whether the police constable, Subramani, could escape the place without getting killed. There is dark humour, lots of it. And there are lots of twists and turns.

Unlike most supercop movies, which seemingly create oft-fake heroic experiences, this movie turns the cop stories upside down. As one scene in the movie portrays, a cop is beaten up and chased by villagers. There is a particular human-like touch to the every day of a low-key police constable trying to make it out alive.   

There is also a deep-seated reality to the story. The movie shows how parents are left to fend for themselves in their old age. Add to this, and there is also a theme of how children are scheming to loot their parents. The property. The cattle. The jewellery, if they have any.

Thandatti is also about caste. It takes a deep dive into how caste plays a role in who gets to marry whom. And how lower-caste people are subjected to violence in the face of false prestige and family honour.

Despite the novel thematic characterizations, the storytelling, and the casting, feels oddly off. For example, the climax in the movie seems relatively puzzling, with the linkages drawn between the constable and the missing person. More importantly, the ages don’t quite add up.

The age between Subramani and Thangaponnu doesn’t seem quite convincing, as do the age differences between mother and daughters. There are also sudden shifts in emotions, which don’t help either—at one time, you feel sad, and at another, you are energized, without much gap in between.

The story sometimes seems to tell quite a lot but leaves several threads open and unanswered.

Thandatti Movie Trailer

Besides certain quibbles in the storyline, the performances in the film are stellar. The movie draws a lot of the cultures of rural livelihood. The in-between singing rebukes as the women cry aloud provides a really good feel about the village societies.

There are multiple stellar performances throughout the movie. But two make for a special mention: one, the role played by the police constable, and the other, the part of the drunk, irresponsible son. Despite the shortcomings of the film, Thandatti is worth watching. It is compelling in its storytelling.

Thandatti is available to watch on Prime Video.

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