Perhaps it is due to the subpar content being dished out by the star vehicles of Tamil cinema in recent times, but Obeli N. Krishna’s ‘Pathu Thala’ was surprisingly palatable. Starting out as an associate director to Gautham Vasudev Menon in the early part of his career, Krishna’s directorial debut, 2006’s ‘Sillunu Oru Kadhal,’ was mostly remembered for its great soundtrack and the buzz behind its real life lead pair. His latest offering strays from the romance genre, instead opting for a tried and tested masala gangster story. The film is a remake of the 2017 Kannada film ‘Mufti.’
The film opens on the mysterious kidnapping of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. All eyes are on Deputy Chief Minister Naanjilaar, played by Gautham Menon. A year after the kidnapping, we follow Guna, played by Gautham Karthik, a gangster who is keen to rise the ranks to the top. The plot is certainly not uncharted territory for the Tamil industry. There are also major issues in the pacing of the film and how it handles some of its subject matter. However, it is in the other departments where the film stands out.
Most of the cast all performed their parts well. Silambarasan, as the dreaded top don AGR, coasts in his role. Gautham Karthik puts in a solid performance as Guna, maintaining a looming intensity throughout. Priya Bhavani Shankar as Thasildar Leela has her moment to shine, especially in an early scene. Even Gautham Menon, who has not been impressive in his recent output, turns in a commendable performance as the conniving Deputy CM. A few standout smaller roles added an unexpected levity to the story, namely Redin Kingsley, Sendrayan and Naanjilaar’s pair of personal assistants. However, the script does fall into the trap of the irritating ‘jungle allegory’ on multiple occasions, which Tamil cinema has become obsessed with in recent times.
The filmmaking is also often admirable. Farook J Basha’s camera captures wide landscapes and extreme closeups with great care, resulting in some stunning shots. The action setpieces are mostly fantastic - the camerawork in the final block were especially noteworthy. The heavy-handed symbolism and parallels to the Ramayanam are an easy way to add a layer to the content. The white wearing antagonists and anti-heroes attired in black is reminiscent of Pa Ranjith’s ‘Kaala,’ which also subverted the Ramayanam. The flow of the film is choppy at points, due to an attempt to cram multiple character and story arcs into its two and a half hour runtime. The climax of the film also felt very abrupt.
AR Rahman’s score is barely absent throughout - which was very evident at the start of the film. Apart from Guna’s theme used in a few of his opening scenes, the score elevated the events of the film. The soundtrack has a few great songs, including ‘Raawadi,’ ‘Osarattum Pathu Thala,’ and ‘Namma Satham.’ The visualisation for the latter track was particularly well pictured.
Overall, despite some glaring issues, ‘Pathu Thala’ is not a bad entry compared to the recent sludge of mainstream Tamil cinema. I wonder, however, if in fifteen years, Krishna’s film will once again be mostly remembered for its soundtrack. Other films I would recommend if you enjoyed ‘Pathu Thala’ are 2018’s ‘Kaala’ and 2010’s ‘Raavanan.’
Krishna's rating: 2.5 stars
Official trailer for the film below.