Jigarthanda - Visitor Review

Jigarthanda - Visitor Review

By Ashutosh Mohan isn't responsible for the views expressed by the visitor in this column. The visitor claims that this column is his/her own. If the column infringes any copyrights that you hold, please email us at

It’s hard to review Karthik Subbaraj’s Jigarthanda—a film that is fiendishly intelligent and avoids cliché with a vengeance. To describe its plotline or highlight the main events is like trying to describe the Taj Mahal as a marble building with a curvy dome typical of Mughal architecture—or Baasha as a film about an ex-don from Mumbai.


What gives Subbaraj the gumption to concoct Jigarthanda into an addictively flavorful delicacy is his trust in the average filmgoer’s—not sure who that is— intelligence. A fool simplifies; a wit clarifies.  Subbaraj’s treatment is absolutely crystal clear; one is pleasantly surprised how he has managed to teach us something subversive about violence while we were busy following the film’s drama. But, this is no trite message about the superiority of non-violence over violence. It is about our hypocrisy: we enjoy violence and even defend it from a distance; we encourage it implicitly. Given man’s nature, he can enforce non-violence only at gunpoint. You don’t have to agree with the idea, but you definitely have to admire the cunningness with which this idea is gotten across.


But it is not just violence that the film so deftly deals with. The list of things that it comments on with swift nuance is: reality TV, politicization of Eelam, Power Star phenomenon, films about underworld, and several more.


Simha turns in a solid performance as Asalt Sethu, a don in Madurai who hates the one thing more than anything else in the world: being laughed at. He seeks from others respect in the form of fear. His driving force in life is to avoid being made a fool of. Subbaraj does a splendid job restraining Sethu from devolving into pathos at the end of the film. Simha is probably the real protagonist of the film; you empathize with him more than you do with Siddharth’s eponymous Karthik.


Characterization is one of the film’s strongpoints. Each one of Sethu’s henchmen is clearly defined in terms of their motivations and proclivities. One of them, Senthil, has a penchant for watching adult films in the middle of the day. Scenes in which Karthik tries to win his favor by supplying him with a steady stream of adult films from around the world are a riot. Another fabulous character is a failed filmmaker, now running a petty shop in Madurai. Almost every character in the film that provided mirth at some point provides its antipodal poignancy at some other point.


You walk out of the theatre trying to process the film, you try and workout what it is all about. After a while, you give up. The film eventually is about the primary reason we go to the movies: great drama.


Ashutosh Mohan

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