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With its tight storyline and taut screenplay, Thandatti comes as a breath of fresh air. Director Ram Sangaiah has proved that good and gripping content can evoke the feel of a big budget film.  One hopes that he will sustain the tempo in his next films.

It is generally said that no novel is required; even a rich short story will do to make a film.  The film should be so crisp that no sequence is wasted just as a good short needs to be so tightly woven that no word is redundant. Is Thandatti such a film?

Love buried deep down
The story of Thandatti goes as follows: Subramani is an honest and fearless cop. With just 10 days left for his retirement, he appears before a probe panel in connection with the charge that he has used his gun in a bid to arrest a thief.  Anyhow he is reinstated, let off with a warning.  One day, a teenager approaches him with a complaint that his grandmother is missing.  Kidaripatti where the boy resides is out of bounds for the police by a village decree.  There were instances of policemen being driven out when they tried to sneak in. Subramani is warned against breaking into the village.  But ignoring his colleagues’ warning, the honest policeman goes with the boy to the village.

On the way, the policeman happens to hear a lot about the old lady from her grandson. Her name is Thangaponnu. Her son and daughters have often taken her for a ride and brought her trouble. When they asked the elderly woman for her ‘Thandatti’ she was wearing, she refused to oblige them because it was a gift presented to her in her youth as a keepsake by her lover who had fallen prey to honour killing.

One of the film world’s dictums that magic cannot co-exist with logic. This holds good for the film Thantatti.  It is this magic sans logic which has pulled the film down from the pedestal of art film to the commercial film genre

The policeman finally traces the boy’s grandma who, however, dies of days of starvation.  He helps to conduct her funeral rites.  A day after the rites are over, the old woman’s Thandatti goes missing. The story unravels the mystery behind the missing ornament, the theft of which exposes how the villagersn are a bundle of contradictions.

Thangaponnu is the Tamil version of Titanic Rose, the similarity being the act of hiding love deep down. Thandatti is the substitute for necklace in Titanic.

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Extension of old Kadhal film?
Thandatti also called ‘pompadam’ is an ornament worn by women of the silver generation in order to deepen the holes in their earlobes. It held place of pride during the Jain era.  Shrikumar Arjunan wrote a detailed article on the Thandatti in not along ago.

Though not chronicled elaborately in the film, Thandatti is loaded with heavy symbolism — social, romantic, tragic and psychological; social in the sense that it serves as a constant reminder of the death of social justice; romantic in that it is a symbol of the elderly woman’s love in the prime of her youth; tragic because it is a kind of memorial for her lover no more, and psychological for it connects with her innermost core.

The story has a twist that shows Thangaponnu helping a pair of lovers get married in the face of opposition from casteists.  The twist stresses the power of love to survive honour killings.

Thandatti has tinges of the two decade-old film Kadhal which too was based on honour killing. The heroine named Ishwarya in the film Kadhal seems to have grown old and renamed herself as Thangaponnu in the film Thandatti.  So, Thandatti can be billed as an unofficial Kadhal 2.0.  But unlike in Kadhal, the film Thandatti delineates how social justice and equality get a new lease of life.

Old woman Thangaponnu looks like a Tamil version of Titanic Rose, the similarity being the act of hiding love deep down. Thandatti is the substitute for the necklace in Titanic

Unique characterizations
Like metallic ingredients such as gold, copper, silver, zinc etc. that go into the making of Thandatti, various characters make up the narrative such as Kolaru Kizhavi, thief Thalavayan, panchayat chief, Sambandhi who always carries tales, old women criticizing all around through dirges sung at funeral rites, men who lose lives to liquor and so on. Thangaponnu’s daughters, son and daughter-in-law, too, are diverse and distinct characters.

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Pasupathi as policeman Subramanian, Rohini as Thangaponnu help the film reach out to the last man in the audience.  All actors including the funeral song singers act out their parts well.  Cinematography by Mahesh Muthusamy and art by Veeramani Ganesan help  immensely reconstruct a typical village.  Editing by Siva Nandeeswaran is a major plus point of the film.

The song ‘khaki paya kalanga’ set to K.S. Sundaramurthy’s music is a lyrical critique of the police department. The background score by Sam C.S. is in tune with the film’s tone and texture.

One of the film world’s dictums is that magic cannot co-exist with logic. This holds good for the film Thandatti. It is this magic sans logic which has pulled the film down from the pedestal of art film to commercial film.

Yet the message conveyed by the film is too strong to be missed: Caste may kill lovers, but love keeps on going like an eternal river.

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