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Rathnam Movie Review

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It’s the peak of summer, and the cinemas are experiencing their own dry spell. Amidst this, Rathnam was released. As a film directed by Hari, it should have ideally attracted a significant audience. However, that wasn’t the case. Even the re-screening of Ghilli had more reservations, while seats for Rathnam remained vacant and it quickly moved to OTT platforms. Despite all the signs pointing towards a flop, I decided to watch it, given it’s a Hari film (a point I’ll be repeating throughout this blog). But I’m left in a dilemma, unsure whether to label it as one of the worst films, Hari’s worst film, or not a Hari film at all.

Whether you liked it or not, Hari had a distinctive style; he had his own blueprint; he had his own formula. It was pure, untouched, and distinct from the rest. However, this film shattered all of that. Apart from the title card near the temple declaring it as a Hari film, there was nothing else to suggest it was one. Even the chosen shot and temple could have been improved. The geography of the film, unlike his other works, wasn’t well-defined, merely hinting at being somewhere around the borders of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. There were some initial shots showing contrasting symmetry along the border - lush greenery on one side and weeds on the other. ‘Thenmerku Paruvakatru’ explores similar themes. But it had no relevance to the film.

Numerous correlations are established and linked much later in the film. A gang resembling ‘hawaria’ orchestrates a brutal accident for their heist; human body parts are scattered and stored in various locations, reminiscent of Director Bala’s style. A schoolgirl is subjected to molestation. A woman, estranged and with a child, navigates her way through a market area. At this point, we have no other option but to patiently observe how these elements intertwine.

Recall Vijayakumar’s ministerial role in the Singam universe. In this context, Samuthirakani is an MLA in Tamil Nadu. There’s also an MLA role in Andhra Pradesh, but it was filled by producer Karthik Subburaj’s father, leading to Director Hari’s father-in-law, Vijayakumar, being relegated to a minor role. The casting of the young version of Rathanm gave me the impression that Avan Ivan Vishal would appear, but after seeing a few of his fight scenes in arid landscapes, I felt like I was in Muthaiah’s cinematic universe, Maruthu. GVM appears in a Hari movie for the first time. It’s only a single scene, but it’s enjoyable to watch. Priya Bhavani Shankar is charming as always, but the audience is left wondering if she is the lead actress or if someone else will appear, as there are no duet songs or scenes. This is quite atypical for a Hari movie. Usually, there’s a hero introduction song, or a heroine introduction song (as in Ayya), followed by a one-sided love song, and then a full-fledged song near the climax.

Recently, I learned that Lokesh Kanagaraj is a source of inspiration for Hari, which might explain the current trend. However, this shift may not be beneficial. If there’s one lesson Hollywood could take from Indian cinema, it’s the art of integrating songs into films. More insights on this will follow later.

In an era where new GenZ relationship terminologies are being coined daily, Hari introduces a novel relationship dynamic in this film. This leads to ambiguity about whether Priya Bhavani Shankar is the lead actress or not. Questions arise about her relationship with Vishal - is she his estranged sister, biologically related to him in some other way, or merely a doppelganger of Vishal’s mother? Despite PBS showing interest in Vishal, he consistently places her in the sister or mother zone. This situation is reminiscent of Karan’s “Karuppusamy Kuththagaithaarar”, where Karan zones himself as a mother and battles others to ensure her admission to medical school.

The film includes segments that involve discussions about and with Brahmins. It’s unclear whether these are intended as subtle satire or serious commentary, but they appear to target this particular group. Depending on your perspective, you may find these parts offensive or extremely amusing. If you’re a fan of Pa Ranjith’s films, SVK podcasts, or Plip Plip, you should definitely watch this movie, at least for these segments.

Hari and his films have always been well-received by Kollywood, both in terms of box office success and critical response. Hari has also been sportsmanlike in accepting these criticisms. The internet has generally been kind to him. However, this particular experiment of his has been a colossal failure. Overall, it’s a good movie to enjoy while having a drink or a roast session with friends.