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There’s no guarantee that a film remade from another language will achieve the same success rate as the original. Mufti, the Kannada film might have gone down well with its target audience despite its inherent flaws, owing to its ensemble cast that’s appealing to the fans in the language or state, serving region-specific interests and fulfilling expectations with a fresh narrative and vivid visualisation. But remade as Pathu Thala in Tamil, it does not seem to carry forward its unique successful features.
The Simbu-starrer Pathu Thala (ten-headed), a Tamil remake of the 2017 Kannada film Mufti, doesn’t quite hit the spot.
The undercover detective is an overused template dating back to the days of MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Jaishankar in Kollywood. Kamal’s 1985 film Kaakki Sattai was a classic example of the then exciting theme.
Pathu Thala, which also features Gautham Karthick, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Anu Sithara, Gautham Menon, is yet another attempt at making the most of the hackneyed subject.
The undercover detective is an overused template dating back to the days of MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Jaishankar in Kollywood. Kamal’s 1985 film Kaakki Sattai was a classic example of the then exciting theme
Its storyline goes on a predictable trajectory: (Spoiler Alert!)
An undercover policeman joins a sand mafia gang and gradually gets into the good books of the boss. The cop keenly looks forward to a meeting with the boss because the mafia boss is suspected to have kidnapped a former Chief Minister who was in power then.
As the cop gets to know the boss quite intimately, he comes to realise that contrary to the usual villain, the boss has the tentacles of an octopus that extend to safeguarding common people by keeping the ruling party under check, even as he wins contracts for mining sand and minerals.
How the clandestine police operation ends and how the mafia boss manages to hold his own form the crux of the narrative.
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Simbu plays the don, A G Ravanan, while Gautham Karthik plays the undercover policeman out to vanquish him. Priya Bhavani Sankar appears as a tahsildar questioning AGR’s illegal sand mining activities. Gautham Menon portrays the character of Nanjilar who sets out to murder AGR, and Anu Sithara plays AGR’s sister.
Pathu Thala is a rare Tamil film in that it prominently features the Kanyakumari dialect which has hardly got a chance in Tamil films, unlike the Madurai, Tirunelveli and Coimbatore dialects. Dialogue writer R S Ramakrishnan must be applauded on the count.
Simbu serene and self-composed
After rechristening himself as ‘Atman STR’, Simbu aka Silambarasan has metamorphosed into a surprisingly different screen presence. Though the roles in his blockbusters Maanaadu, Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu were purely commercial, he underplayed them instead of projecting a he-man image.
In the latest flick Pathu Thala, though he is typecast, he doesn’t indulge in histrionics. The lines he speaks are muted, and he comes across as a subdued, yet impressive personality. That feels quite strange and refined.
On the other hand, Gautham Karthik as the undercover policeman seems diffident, as if he doubts whether he will be accepted or not by the audience as a cop. Till the interval his presence is obtrusive but thereafter it tapers off, to be wiped out at the end.
The scenes involving Priya Bhavani Shankar, and Chendrayan and those involving Anu Sithara and little girl Harshitha are appealing.
Gautham Menon emits oodles of villainy. Poet Manushya Puthiran appears as a social activist. Being a well-known face seems enough to justify his presence in the film.
After rechristening himself as ‘Atman STR’, Simbu aka Silambarasan has metamorphosed into a surprisingly different screen presence. Though the roles in his blockbusters Maanaadu, Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu were purely commercial, he underplayed them instead of projecting a he-man image
The predictability of most scenes is offset by Barook J Basha’s cinematography that lends quality to the visuals.
The background music that thunders ‘tantanakka thanakkunakaa’ during Simbu’s appearances goes hand in hand with his image. But the songs, by and large, don’t strike a chord.
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Praveen K L’s editing and Milan’s art are just replicas of the original Kannada film.
The climactic stunt sequences, though packed with violence, are well choreographed by Sakthi Saravanan.
When there’s already something successful to be replicated as it is, it may seem just a cakewalk to lay out an interesting copycat. But the fact is that even this job is highly demanding, and Director Krishna has taken pains to execute it. Whether his efforts pay off is moot.
When the original Kannada film Mufti released six years ago, its controversial treatment of the subject matter of sand mining, local politicians’ scams and developed countries’ alleged bid to spawn diseases through vaccines in the Third World stirred a hornet’s nest in Karnataka. But it was that controversy that camouflaged the film’s drawbacks, such as the predictability of sequences, and made it popular.
The title of the film alludes to the ten-headed mythological king of Lanka, Ravanan, and by inference, refers to the titular hero with the same name. Otherwise, the title does not connect with the narrative in any manner
Also, when Mufti was released, covid-19 was nowhere near setting in and at that time the mining scam rocked Karnataka politics. Moreover, Kannada hero Sivarajkumar’s films had then turned damp squibs back-to-back and the film media outlets had begun constructing a villain image for him. It was against this background that Mufti came as a fresh breath of life in Kannada cinema, making his fans happier than ever before.
But all these things that seemed refreshing in Kannada cinema, have turned clichés in the Tamil remake Pathu Thala.
The ‘kingmaker’ buzzword gained currency and heft after the film Saamy (2003). Such a kingmaker-like personality is projected in Pathu Thala. The line, “It takes a bad face even to be a do-gooder’ tends to reinforce that image. However, it still makes Pathu Thala mere run-of-the-mill stuff.
Above all, the title of the film alludes to the ten-headed mythological king of Lanka, Ravanan, and by inference, refers to the titular hero with the same name. Otherwise, the title does not connect with the narrative in any manner.
Generally gangster thrillers derive their tempo from the deft dovetailing of all montages into a rich aesthetic experience of film-watching for the audience. All commercial masala films have a success formula of a tightly built-up narrative.
Pathu Thala looks like a gangster film, but is only a masala potpourri in terms of content. Whether it is palatable and worth relishing is yet to be decided.
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