Movies

Thondan: Duty and the beast

A still from movie Thondan.

A still from movie Thondan.  

Thondan establishes a relationship in the first few scenes itself – one between an ambulance driver (Mahavishnu, played by Samuthirakani) and his vehicle.

En amma sir,” he tells someone, pointing to the vehicle in which he’s saved – as we learn later – 1, 362 lives. He’s really earnest when he says that; you can see it in his eyes.

This plays out moments after his introduction, a lengthy scene that unfurls at break-neck speed: Vishnu ferrying a patient to the hospital is stopped by some gangsters who just wouldn’t let him do his duty. He takes an alternative route and manages to save the patient on time.

As an ambulance driver, that’s his only goal: to save a life. And he does that without worrying if the victim is good or bad. Vishnu is diligence personified.

He is, as the film’s title goes, a ‘thondan.’ (volunteer) But anyone who wishes to do good to society will have to face a set of challenges… and for Vishnu, it is a money-minded rowdy (Namo Narayanan) who is using his father’s minister status to amass wealth. It’s a promising face-off that is set up in the first half, which concludes on a riveting note.

But Thondan wants to do other things. It wants to deliver messages… many of them. And so, we learn about the various breeds of native cattle that we have lost in the years gone by. About how the politicians in the country have let go of everything Indian and taken to money-laundering activities. About the pressing need for women’s safety. About the state of farmers. And oh yes, jallikattu. Somewhere along the line, Thondan stops being a film and comes across looking like a television news debate with a very vociferous anchor.

As an actor, Samuthirakani is top-notch, having proved it many times in the recent past and here too, but as a director, he’s very much like a teacher… creating scenes that talk to the audience, rather than just showcasing a chain of events. In Thondan, he does that several times – at a girls college, during a conversation with a politican and even when he’s chatting with friends.

In between all these moral science lessons, he manages to weave in some decent comedy (the sequences involving ‘seerum singakuttigal sangal’, a group to solve petty crimes in the area, were hilarious), a surprisingly-mature love angle (with Sunaina) that could have been explored a little more and a neat friendship track (with Vikranth playing Vicky). But all those, unfortunately, don’t form the core of Thondan.

Director: Samuthirakani

Cast: Samuthirakani, Sunaina, Vikranth, Soori, Ganja Karuppu, Namo Narayanan

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 3:11:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/thondan-duty-and-the-beast/article18585189.ece

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