Amidst the conversation for reigning king of Tamil commercial cinema, a name that is wrongfully often overlooked is Karthik Subbaraj. Having the weakest entry in your filmography be amongst the top three Rajinikanth releases of the last two decades is proof enough of Subbaraj’s prowess. Debuting with 2012’s horror ‘Pizza,’ Subbaraj has slowly but surely been improving his craft. There has been a steady development of his technical craft, as is now evident with the spiritual prequel to 2014’s ‘Jigarthanda.’ With ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX,’ Subbaraj may have delivered his best film yet.
The film is set in 1975, where a gangster (played by Raghava Lawrence) decides to produce and star in his own film. He collaborates with director Ray Dasan (SJ Suryah) to create a film which will be Academy Award-worthy. As with all of Subbaraj’s films, ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’ is a rollercoaster, a hodgepodge of genre with twists aplenty. Raghava Lawrence delivers a career best performance. SJ Suryah’s Midas touch works its magic once again as Lawrence’s foil. Suryah joins hands with Subbaraj following their excellent union in ‘Iraivi.’ The supporting cast are all fantastic too, with Nimisha Sajayan being a noteworthy highlight.
‘Petta’ notwithstanding, Subbaraj’s films since the first instalment of ‘Jigarthanda’ have been mostly densely layered with themes and motifs, the best of which have been 2016’s ‘Iraivi’ and 2022’s ‘Mahaan.’ ‘DoubleX’ is chock full of themes and ideas, all of which coalesce into one another to create a solidly made meta-narrative. ‘DoubleX’ is Subbaraj’s most ambitious outing, taking multiple creative risks, most of which pay off wonderfully. The film betters its first instalment in every department. Tirru’s cinematography and camerawork is gloriously zany, making bold use of expressionist lighting. The story is multilayered and takes a deeper dive into self-reflexiveness than the first film. The intertextual references are more precise. The action sequences are well choreographed.
As with most films, there are issues. The CGI looks cheap at times, most likely due to the budget and the choice of shooting daytime sequences for these portions. At times, I found myself wondering if the film would have worked better as a miniseries due to the dense story, however one would lose the cinematic experience in the process. However, these issues can be easily forgiven thanks to the stellar and brave filmmaking. Once ‘DoubleX’ has you in its grip, it does not let go.
Santhosh Narayanan’s score and soundtrack are also fantastically experimental. Much like its predecessor, the score takes its cue from the spaghetti-western genre, with unique and thumping theme tracks. The song ‘Maamadura’ is the highlight of the album, which may take the title for kuthu-style song of the year. Other notable soundtrack mentions include the introductory dance track ‘Theekuchi’ and the quirky chicken-noise infused track ‘Kokkarako.’ Narayanan reminds the viewer why he is one of the best music directors working today.
Overall, ‘Jigarthanda DoubleX’ may indeed be Subbaraj’s strongest work. Upon a first viewing, it already contends with ‘Iraivi.’ I am keenly looking forward to what Subbaraj has to offer next.
Krishna's rating: 4.5 stars
Official trailer for film below.