I have a fascination for guns. But, so far, I have only shot balloons at beaches and fairs. So, whenever there’s any tiny piece of information appearing in papers, or websites, regarding the use of guns, I put my eyes on it.
8 Thottakkal, at its face value, seems like a usual action film. You can’t have a title like 8 Thottakkal and present a romantic comedy, can you? So, when I walked into the theatre to catch a show of this latest movie, I started putting together an imagination from the bits I caught in the trailer.
It surprises me to no end that stories revolving around police guns are being made in Tamil cinema. The first movie that came to my mind while watching 8 Thottakkal was Sethupathi.
Sethupathi ran in similar terrains although it was set in a parallel police world. Arun Kumar’s crime drama relied on Vijay Sethupathi’s inventiveness and smart screenplay, whereas newbie Sri Ganesh’s 8 Thottakkal floats on crimes and misdemeanors. Yes, I’m borrowing a film title to give this slow-moving cop drama a jig.
It’s quite a hard task to sit down for a thriller that’s nearly two-and-a-half hours without the promise of adrenaline rush. And when the setup is unequal, then the redeeming factors would keep coming down with every unnecessary line and unwanted song. This story of a missing gun has all of that and more. It is full of characters that have shades of grey. No character other than the protagonist is given a coat of white paint. Vettri, in his debut role, wears the uniform of a man who’s silent and, to an extent, indifferent to the goings-on around him. He’s the only guy with a saintly soul. So, if he comes to know that there’s trouble in his paradise, he’ll, immediately, jump into action (like buying an old man a typewriter as his livelihood depends on it).
For the most part, Vijay Sethupathi was wondering how he shot at a young boy in Sethupathi. In this movie, a police officer is on a wild hunt to nab the person who stole his gun. The unrelenting maze Sathya (Vettri) is caught in, in the proceedings, proves to be a heck of a chase-job. In just a couple of scenes, we see how a stolen gun moves up the ladder of crime. A juvenile tries to sell the gun he stole to various people without much success. Finally, when he does, the film takes a deviation as it begins to focus on another thread which happens to be the lifeline of this crime-caper. From this point on, the movie slows down a bit (perhaps from 90 km/h to 65 km/h). By the time we reach the climax, it is 25 km/h. This is largely due to the shift from the police officers’ version to the criminals’ version.
M S. Bhaskar walks away with the mighty pie with a role that requires him to be stern and tearful at different points. In one scene, he’s shedding a tear. And in another, he’s shooting a man with absolutely no amount of remorse. From what his character was (a robber and killer on the loose) to what it turns out (an old man who’s hanging on to the last stage of his life with zero sureness), it’s an emotional ride.
The sermons that are placed in Moorthy’s (Bhaskar) journey are needlessly long. Had the dialogue-heavy sequences been cut down, there would have been ample scope for thrills. The director doesn’t go for them. He, instead, chooses to make way for something else – guilt-free crimes.
When Moorthy shoots a little girl at the bank he robs, he feels sorry because it’s an accident. He hadn’t meant to hurt her at all. Later, he kills his accomplices for his safety. If he doesn’t want the police to sniff him out, he knows, he has to gun down his own men. So, he does that swiftly.
His killing spree continues till the last scene. He fires seven out of the eight bullets from Sathya’s gun. And his face shows sadness only for the first murder. If there’s no feeling of guilt for the crimes committed, is there punishment in the court of karma? I wonder if this layer of treatment is borrowed from Woody Allen’s iconic picture, Crimes and Misdemeanors. Then again, something antithetical happens in the climax.
8 Thottakkal is morose and achingly packed with situations revolving around the necessities of middle-class. The crimes happen, here, for a reason – survival.
Written by - Karthik Keramalu
Watch Fully Filmy's 2 minute review of 8 Thottakkal here: