The material with which Rohin Venkatesan builds his world in Theera Kaadhal is quite disturbing, an effect that’s sometimes intentional and sometimes not. Rohin imbues the energy of his 2017 romance thriller Adhe Kangal into another romance thriller, but this time, his attempts fail and you are never given a chance to take the film seriously.
Life has run its own course for Gautham (a sharp-looking Jai) and Aaranya (Aishwarya Rajesh, as impressive as ever) since their break-up in college. When they chance upon each other during their respective work trips to Mangalore, Gautham is married to Vandhana (the ever-radiant Sshivada), and the couple has a sweet little daughter named Aarthi (Vriddhi Vishal), and Aaranya is married to a wife-beating sadist named Prakash (Amzath Khan). From the start, Rohin paints the lives of Gautham and Aaranya in drastic contrast to justify their actions that are to follow. In Mangalore, romance gets rekindled between the two but before they take a step from where there is no return, they decide to never meet again and go back to their lives. Past tends to stick around you regardless of whether you choose to look at it and we realise that the title, ‘Theera Kaadhal’, doesn’t just mean ‘undying love’; here it also seems to denote an affection, or rather an obsession, that is boundless and insatiable.
Theera Kaadhal (Tamil)
From the word go, there’s an emotional distance you feel with the proceedings that only keeps growing. Firstly, it’s due to how artificial the staging of scenes and writing of dialogues are. Like how Aaranya’s abusive marriage life is told to Gautham through an overt dialogue exposition. Or how, just as they lose themselves in a moment’s intimacy, they are interrupted by the calls from their respective partners — wouldn’t something else, say, Gautam’s consciousness of hurting Vandhana, add more depth to what he’s battling with than this cliche? The tiniest of moments, like when two like-minded individuals say the same thing at the same time, don’t translate all that well on screen and only point out how little effort is put into the writing of the drama. You never truly understand these lead characters and Rohin cares to add depth to the characteristics only when it supports his ambitions with the treatment and narrations.
To ensure that his primary characters are just the three leads and to add more defences to how Aaranya behaves later, he renders Prakash as a unidimensional megalomaniac narcissist who — in a disturbingly graphic display — kicks and bashes his wife up. Firstly, you wonder why Aaranya never chooses to go to the authorities. Most women endure domestic abuse and don’t go to the authorities due to an umpteen number of reasons ranging from fear, and social stigma, to something as common as chasing the image of the partner he once was. In Aaranya’s case, the only reason we are left to fetch is that she’s all alone in this world and leaving her husband might take away any security she has. Secondly, is it necessary to use domestic abuse to get such an effect? Removing Prakash is not just another sign of convenience, but a cop-out action in screenwriting.
The extremely convenient set-up settles you for a conventional romance drama involving three people but the film takes an unexpected turn as a romance thriller and it all goes downhill from there. Rohin truly struggles in writing human greyness and you see this in how he writes a pivotal character and stages the scenes around them.
To add to the woes, the film doesn’t even care to cross the t’s to complete its emotional arcs, like Vandhana’s relationship with Gautham and the future of a pivotal character, partially because Rohin adds so much heft to cheap thriller tricks and suspense-building that the pulse on which everything gets built is lost. This is also why each of the characters comes across as bits and pieces, sometimes as borderline stupid and psychopathic, sometimes as robotic as people can be; in any case, we never see them as anything beyond or care enough to understand the pivotal emotional decisions they often take. If not for the three capable actors and the music by Siddhu Kumar, watching Theera Kaadhal could have become a more patience-testing experience than it already is.
Theera Kaadhal is currently running in theatres