SYNOPSIS: A hardnosed cop goes after a gang of ruthless dacoits who have been terrorising residents along the highway for a decade.
REVIEW: Right from the beginning, when we see cop Theeran Thirumaran (a splendid Karthi) looking back on a case that was the biggest challenge of his career (this indifferent framing device is one of the film’s rare missteps), Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru grips us by the scruff of our necks and never lets go.
The film goes back to 1995 when a gang of dacoits ruthlessly rob a house — even murdering the family that lives in it. The action then cuts to 1999 when we see Theeran in training. We also get a romance, between Theeran and his neighbour Priya (Rakul Preet Singh), which, wins us over with humour.
It also helps that Karthi and Rakul, who manages to make what is essentially a loosu ponnu character sweet, convey the intimacy between this couple effortlessly. Vinoth also uses the songs sparingly (save for an item number), using them to move the plot forward. It is in the second half that the scenes involving Priya come threateningly close to being maudlin.
Meanwhile, in 2002, Theeran is transferred to Thiruvallur, where he first comes across the highway dacoity case. He soon becomes obsessed with it, aghast at the casualness with which a number of people in the force are treating this series of murders and robbery. And when the gang strikes again, this time it becomes personal as well, and Theeran will not rest until he has brought them to justice.
It has been a while since we got an action film that is relentless and doesn’t flinch at showing violence and more importantly, the aftermath of this violence, on screen. In one fleeting scene, a woman beseeches Theeran to nab these criminals who have crashed her family’s dreams overnight, and this moment instantly shows us the graveness of the crimes.
Vinoth’s detailing is what sets Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru apart from the other cop films we have seen in Tamil cinema, even if it also makes it a bit overlong.
It is based on the operations of the Tamil Nadu police to nab a criminal gang belonging to the Bawaria tribe a decade ago. SR Jangid, who led this operation, was a consultant on this film.
While Vinoth structures the film more as a heroic mission involving a daring cop, there are moments when it resembles a police procedural, giving us the nitty-gritty involved in police work — from budgetary concerns to battling hostile territory and the higher-ups prioritising closing a case rather solving it, even if it means coming to a compromise with the criminals.
In the second half, when the action shifts to Rajasthan, where the gang hails from, we see Theeran and his team repeatedly making mistakes in an unfamiliar territory with hostile locals, depending on unreliable intel or just being worn out by the harsh weather (we see many of them throwing up in the desert).
He even gives us the historical background of these criminal tribes, in the form of arresting animation, which gives us an idea on why these men (and women) are so merciless.
The director’s previous film, Sathuranka Vettai, never indicated such a command over craft, but here, Vinoth impresses in this aspect as well, with help from an able crew that pitches in with some of their best work to elevate the film from being a stand cop thriller.
While Ghibran’s incessant, throbbing score lends a sense of breathlessness to the action, cinematographer Sathyam Sooryan’s wide frames, which turn the sun-burnt, unforgiving terrain into a parallel antagonist, make it a film that needs to be savoured on the big screen.
And action choreographer Dhilip Subbarayan’s superb staging of the action scenes, which are deftly edited by Shivanandeeswaran, lends the film its ceaseless rush of adrenaline and turns the film into a visceral experience.