Rudhran is a solid revenge actioner with some nice stunt sequences and heart-touching hardcore sentiments... which would’ve worked had it come a couple of decades ago. In today’s Tamil cinema, where taking revenge for the death of every possible relative out there has been done and dusted, and at a time when John Wick is slaying down a town’s worth of people avenging the murder of his dog, it’s actually unbelievable that we have a film that does exactly what hundreds of films have done for aeons now. Of course, the reason for the deaths that our hero has to avenge is new, but whether that paltry novelty is worth a film is a different question that the film fights to answer affirmatively and fails.
The number of films Rudhran will remind you of is countless. Taking a page out of Rajinikanth’s two recent duds, Darbar and Annaatthe, one of Rudhran’s first scenes is an action sequence in which our titular hero, played by Raghava Lawrence, decimates a gang of goons who, keeping in tradition with what they’ve always done, are chasing after a woman. Within a microsecond, by the time the henchmen have batted their eyelids once, the main goon is sent flying, and a couple of hundred meters away, a figure appears out of the shadows. “Yaaru da avan?” screams a goon and before you can even imagine the sort of punchline that is going to be the answer, another guy goes “Rudhran da”. This flatness is probably the only consistent part of the film and you know a movie is bad when you start caring about the representation of a bunch of bad guys.
But who is Rudhran? Why is he targeting the men of Bhoomi (Sarathkumar)? Why is he on the run? Why does he almost kill a guy who comes home to just deliver water cans? When we desperately await the answers, the film gives us the ‘Jorthaale’ dance number. The answers do come, well into the second half of the film, by when the film tires you as if you had a duel with Rudhran. Travelling in a non-linear fashion, the first half hits us with equal doses of unnecessary sentiment in the form of flashes of flashback sequences and physics-defying action from the present timeline. We learn that Rudhran is the dotting child of a happy couple (played by Poornima Bhagyaraj and Nassar), and together, they’re the living embodiment of a family straight out of a Vikraman film. Fate and a conveniently written screenplay make Rudhran fall in love with Ananya (Priya Bhavani Shankar) and they eventually get married. Of course, it’s too good to be true and how can a family be happy when it’s not the last shot of a film? A small conflict starts a series of unfortunate events for Rudhran who, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, loses everything.
My biggest grouse with Rudhran is how underwhelmingly the antagonist character is written despite it being played by a seasoned actor like Sarathkumar. The last time he teamed up with Lawrence, we got Muni 2: Kanchana and though it wasn’t critically a revelation of any sort, it was a huge success and respawned the Muni franchise as the Kanchana series. Here though, Sarath is restricted to a one-dimensional character who seems to have walked in directly from the sets from Varisu with his dapper suits and Rolls-Royce car. Throughout the first half, all he does is visit the places turned into crime scenes by Rudhran to react to the carnage our hero has created. In fact, Rudhran is just another Kanchana film barring the ghosts — there’s the bubbly hero, a happy family, a greedy villain, a final showdown at a temple, and a message about those exploited by society.
The silver lining in Rudran has to be Raghava Lawrence; even while the family scenes are a cringefest, he aces it during the emotional sequences. The man, since the days of Parthale Paravasam, has been proving that he can do a phenomenal job with serious scenes and we’ve rarely seen films tapping into that side of him. It’s also a given that his dance moves are impressive as always and the film’s romance portions, though anything but unique, feel better than the rest of the film. But Rudhran bites more than it can chew as it tries to explore a lot of subplots in the very last few minutes of the film.
For some reason, the film relies a lot on CGI, and not only does it show but also distracts the visual experience. The dialogues too are, for the lack of a better word, antique in nature. Further, the action sequences are unintentionally hilarious; at one juncture, Bhoomi stabs Rudhran with a long digging bar... and our hero survives it as if he’s the T-800 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The final face-off between Rudhran and Bhoomi is a not-so-bad sequence featuring the animating ‘Pagai Mudi’ track, but by then, the erratic and loud score would have drained you off any energy to enjoy that or be ecstatic about the lead they give us for a sequel.
To sum it up, Rudhran is an excruciating watch that brings nothing new to the table and tries to capitalise on the tropes that had worked for ages, only to fail because of the same reason. How hard could it be to give the audience an enjoyable commercial entertainer? From the looks of it, it’s very difficult.
Rudhran is currently playing in theatres