Remember the ‘retired cop returning to action’ trope that Tamil cinema loves? From Vijayakanth’s Chatriyan to Vijay’s Theri and even Ajith’s Yennai Arindhaal, they feature men in khaki who hang up their boots after a major mishap and become single parents doing odd jobs to make a living, only for something from their past to pull them back to what they do best. Now, imagine the same plot with a journalist instead of a cop and you’ve got the story of Raththam.
Credit where credit’s due, Vijay Antony seems to love picking up characters with varied choices of professions — whether as a beggar, an advocate, a doctor or even a CM candidate (in the criminally underrated Kodiyil Oruvan) — and they open up a vista of possibilities. In Raththam, he plays Ranjith Kumar, an investigative journalist who returns to his job when his close friend Chezhiyan gets killed in a hate crime. He figures out that it’s one among many targeted crimes where the killers are also victims as they’re mere pawns in a huge murders-for-hire network.
Though this one-liner sounds intriguing, how Raththam chooses to flesh it out does no justice to it. We’re introduced to Ranjith as a single parent working as a horse keeper in Kolkata and when his mentor (Nizhalgal Ravi) informs him of his son Chezhiyan’s death, Ranjith returns to Chennai. He joins as an apprentice under Madhumitha (Nandita Swetha) in the media house, with the latter not realising that she’s bossing around a once-celebrated journalist. Considering that how Ranjith connects several dots and solves the murders forms the main plot of Raththam, one might expect the above scenes to unfold during the opening credits, or at least, in the opening stretch after it. But it’s not until the intermission that the mastermind behind the coordinated crimes is revealed, and by then, the film has hit a slump that even the relatively better second half can’t pull it up from.
Director: CS Amudhan
Cast: Vijay Antony, Mahima Nambiar, Nandita Swetha, Remya Nambeesan, Jagan, Nizhalgal Ravi
Runtime: 144 minutes
Storyline: An investigative journalist comes out of his self-imposed retirement to solve a series of interconnected hate crimes
Raththam pursues at an obnoxiously slow pace till the intermission and goes on hyperdrive the moment Ranjith takes over the crime story. What follows is a series of exposition that tries to be a crash course on everything from data mining to psychological profiling. We’re also introduced to more characters, one who was sexually abused as a kid and another with a dyslexic child. We also witness how this underground network chooses its candidates, who are mostly young men brainwashed enough to even kill others in the name of caste, religion and… favourite actor.
While it’s debatable whether fanaticism towards an actor can be equated to extremism that’s carried out in the name of religion or caste, director CS Amudhan sheds light on how social media has turned into a platform for youngsters with misplaced values to become weapons in the hands of those he calls ‘influencers’. There are parallels between the story’s protagonist and the antagonist — both being single parents doing what they do for the “kick” it gives — but the film leaves you wishing that it concentrated more on this cat-and-mouse game instead of spending valuable time on other aspects. The filmmaker, in his first thriller outing, after making some of Tamil cinema’s best comedy films, does a lovely job of showcasing life within a newsroom. But the film’s overall treatment feels bland and the incessantly used English lines feel inorganic.
Despite a few characters that could’ve very well been written off, the primary cast members pull off their roles quite well. Vijay Antony is convincing, though there isn’t any heavy lifting his character commands from him. Amudhan, known for his humour, laces the film with bouts of his trademark touches that Jagan carries well. Mahima Nambiar’s Sangeetha is a surprise, but despite an intriguing set-up, her character isn’t allowed to reach its potential. Though the end credit song featuring Arivu is quite a banger, the convenient and contrived ending doesn’t really help the film. After blowing his cover, Ranjith teaches his subordinates how finding patterns makes for a great story. But what deserves equal credit is great storytelling that is as important as a great story and that’s also what Raththam dearly misses.
Raththam is currently running in theatres