Dhanush Thiruchitrambalam
There’s great chemistry between Dhanush and Nithya Menen, who are best friends in this refreshingly simple film

What Dhanush’s Thiruchitrambalam offers that Laal Singh Chaddha doesn’t

Dhanush-Nithya Menen's film is about human emotions and the director takes you along on the ride, but there are no rude twists or blood and gore; it's just about normal people learning to get in touch with their emotions

Nobody quite knows what will click at the box-office. Right now, Bollywood producers, including Aamir Khan, are mulling over this million dollar question, asking themselves where they are going wrong. 

Besides the OTT and boycott culture bogey, filmmakers bitterly realise audience tastes have changed. Probably because they have become more attuned to the finer aspects of films.

Yet, they must wonder at the baffling success of Pushpa, the tense gangster dramas with caricaturish villains, the gravity-defying mindless spectacle RRR (which filmmaker Anurag Kashyap recently said is incidentally not SS Rajamouli’s best), Telugu movie Karthikeya 2 (a fantasy film where the hero goes looking for Lord Krishna’s tatva, a film that Anupam Kher tells us we must watch since it is about ‘Indian culture’) and now, Vijay Deverekonda’s Liger (a stuttering boxer with a strong Bahubaali mother behind him). These show that nothing much has changed in the sensibilities of Indian audiences.

Maybe, the heroes from the South seem brawnier, their physical strength stretched to ludicrous limits, and the filmmakers more savvy about marketing.

But in the midst of this conundrum over hits and flops, quietly lands Thiruchitrambalam with a thud. This Dhanush starrer had no great pre-publicity like his Hollywood film The Gray Man, and had just a poster showing the actor walking in the rain with his arms stretched towards the sky. 

This unfussy poster, as it turns out, is very much in tune with this simple film on the relationship dynamics between father, son and grandfather on one side, and the special bond between best friends Dhanush (Thiruchitrambalam) and Nithya Menen (Shobhana) on the other.

Also read: How Dulquer Salmaan is rewriting box-office numbers in South

There’s much in this touching, slice-of-life entertainer directed by Mithran Jawahar (Yaaradi Nee Mohini, Uthamaputhiran) which has nothing to do with grandstanding gestures, supernatural fights or women gyrating to the sounds of an ecstasic Oo antava. 

The hero here too has a wound that he has been nurturing like Allu Arjun in Pushpa (who is an illegitimate child and has to put up with his mother being mocked for it). But, the difference is that he turns his hurt inwards and hits out by not talking to his cop father (Prakash Raj) for 10 long years. He turns into a soul who is easily frightened (Dhanush milks that I-am-like-any-other-ordinary person vulnerability to the maximum) and steers clear of fights.

And, if you expect that he will rise up like a hero from the Kolar gold fields to show off his physical strength, that does happen. But the fight scene between Dhanush and the lone bad guy wielding a knife on a dark street is done in a crude real manner. Dhanush gets hammered and ends up in hospital like any regular guy but he also refuses to let go of the bad guy who only wants to hurt his father, who is incapable of fighting back.

The movie scores in a big way in the small moments, which is refreshing. Firstly, his daily jousts with his grandfather (the 80-year old Bharathiraja is in great form and bristles with fun), peppered with their beer drinking sessions, are brimming with warmth. It is his perceptive grandfather, who has seen enough to know how life is going to pan out for his aimless but good-natured grandson working as a food delivery boy. Dhanush’s close friendship with his neighbour Nithya Menen, who he has been friends with since they were very small, is special.

Also read: Content is king, days of star-driven film are gone, says Kareena Kapoor

There’s great chemistry between the two and they behave as middle-class friends do, chatting with each other at night in the local playground outside their apartments. From advising him on how to propose to a girl to getting him to fill up his admission form for a correspondence course, she’s there for him. There’s a lovely, sweet dance sequence in the rain, which reminds you of movies of yore.

That’s what is refreshing about this film – there’s no vulgarity, no violence, no profanity, no menace and thankfully, no The Kashmir Files like agenda. It is a simple film told in a simple way. It doesn’t get boring either even if it is about learning life lessons. You don’t have to go far to learn about letting go of past hurts or about love when there’s a grandfather at home, or a well-meaning, caring neighbour-friend.

Thiruchitrambalam is a hit, say early reports. Does this signal that good, well-made content with a neat script and all other aspects of filmmaking in place, will always work despite OTT or an erratic box-office? Or, is it a flash in the pan, which arrived at the right time (with people fed up with action, revenge large-scale dramas) and supported brilliantly by old-timers like Bharathiraaja and Prakash Raj, as one Tamil film industry veteran put it?

But, this is not a small film either since no Dhanush starrer can be one. He made the film work underplaying his star quality and playing for the zillionth time the endearing boy next door with ease. Nithya Menen is a perfect foil, stalking him, cajoling, teasing and loving him to pieces with her expressive eyes. 

This is a film about human emotions and the director takes you along on the ride but there are no rude twisted turns or blood and gore. For a change, it is just a story about normal people learning to get in touch with their emotions, and told in an engaging manner.

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