Thursday Tamil: Theri, Amy Jackson Has Terrible Hair

Happy Thursday!  I wanted to watch a deep good classic interesting Tamil film, but none of those are streaming (Gautham Menon, what is up with your films?  Why are they all in some kind of strange streaming rights limbo?).  So instead I watched Theri.  Which is……not deep.  But oh so very very fun!!!!

This is maybe my third Vijay film?  And they have all been the same type, big fun action movies with multiple heroines and evil villains and a message of Vijay being basically perfect and winning every fight and so on and so forth.  And I’m not going to complain about that!  I love movies like that.  But I do wonder if Vijay has a wider range than what I have seen so far.  I suspect he does, because it seems like he couldn’t have reached this high stature of stardom without proving his ability in multiple genres.

Image result for theri poster

Although even the big action movie genre has its own particular challenges.  Dancing, for instance.  Vijay does great dance numbers, not just that he can do the movies, but he really sells them.  They feel joyful and happy and magical because of how he attacks them and makes us feel like we are dancing with him.  He’s also good at the non-action bits.  He makes you enjoy his flirtation with the heroine (who inevitably falls for him at first sight or close to it), and he makes you enjoy his kindness to his family, and all the rest of it.  Yes, he is a perfect man who overcomes every challenge just by trying really hard, but he makes the process of waiting for his inevitable triumph enjoyable.  And of course the fight scenes are excellent, this film features a finale fight scene starting with Vijay tied up in a chair and slowly expanding as he frees himself.

What I really appreciated about the three Vijay films I have seen, Thuppaki and Mersal and this, is that they didn’t waste Vijay and his talents, but they also didn’t rely on them entirely.  The heroines were fun and interesting and had personalities.  The plot was complex and well structured.  They were good movies, even without Vijay.  He just added on and made them better.  Too often in hero films, either it goes so far in the direction of leaning on the hero that there is no film left without him (Race 3), or they waste him and too much time is spent on the plot and other parts instead of the Star that the audience has come to see (Spyder).  This film, and the two other Vijay films I have seen, are the perfect balance.  Vijay shines bright, but doesn’t quite throw everything else into shadow.

Speaking of which, heroines!  I am increasingly fond of Amy Jackson.  I know she isn’t doing her own dialogue (Raveena Ravi, same voice over artist who dubbed for her in I and will dub for her in 2.0), but she has a really nice energy onscreen and can hold her own against a hero.  And she throws herself into her roles without embarrassment, if she is supposed to be shocked or in love or whatever else, she really does it.  Most of all, she feels natural.  I don’t have a sense of a model going through a series of poses when she is onscreen, I feel like I am watching a real person reacting like a real person would.

But it still makes sense that Samantha has the author backed role between the two.  She has long speeches and big dramatic moments that Amy doesn’t, and I am fine with that.  Amy is good, but she’s not that good.  Samantha’s heroine manages to be a match for Vijay without turning into an action heroine, or a nagging wife (the two usual options for the heroine in an action movie).  And a lot of that is due to Samantha’s performance, what could come off as immature impulsiveness and stubbornness instead looks like strength and confidence.

Atlee, the director, had only made one previous film and that was a love story, Raja Rani.   There is a stereotype of these action films being lazy and silly and laughable, but making a good action film means making a very intelligent film.  The plot has to fit together perfectly, the pacing has to be structured so the audience never gets bored, and the hero has to be highlighted by contrasts with other strong characters.  Plus the fight scenes and structure have to be original, not to mention the songs.  Better to hire a good director/writer who had made a good film in a different genre, than someone who had made mediocre films in the same genre.

 

 

 

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

 

 

 

 

 

We open in the present.  Vijay is a doting silly lazy pony-tailed father to his daughter Baby Nainika.  He sleeps in and makes her late for school every morning, embarrassing her in front of her favorite teacher Amy Jackson.  They live in an idyllic Kerala town (donate to the Kerala relief fund here) and Vijay runs a bakery with his cook/assistant Rajendran.  Slowly and happily, Vijay and Amy start a romance.  She notices him when he drops off Nainika, Nainika tries to throw them together, and then Amy gives Nainika a ride one day and they get into an accident in her car.  Vijay is furious, yells at Amy, only to learn that she was injured herself protecting Nainika.  He apologizes and they have A Moment, but then he learns that she filed a police report against the goons who drove them off the road.  He immediately takes her to the police station to withdraw the complaint, and the police officers there seem to recognize him and call him by another name, but go along with it when Vijay declares he was born and raised in Kerala (which Amy knows is not true since he does not speak Malayalam).  Amy is suspicious, and the goons he filed the case against are angry.  They show up at his house in a rain storm and attack him, he fights them all off while Amy watches, and then the film goes into flashback.

In flashback, he was a hero cop doing hero cop things with his loyal sergeant Rajendran at his side.  But he can’t seem to make a marriage work, his mother keeps introducing him to girls and they keep turning him down.  He sees some goons at a traffic light forcing children to beg and beats them up.  He goes to the hospital to follow up and meets Samantha, a doctor, who scolds him for hurting the criminals until he reveals how they were hurting children and she has a change of heart.  She immediately arranges a date with him that night and proposes.  It moves very fast and very easily because they are both eager to be married.  But during their courtship, Vijay is brought in on a missing persons case that ends with the discovery of a young woman who was brutally raped and injured and finally dies, after identifying the son of a powerful politician (J. Mahendran) as her attacker.  Vijay, in response to the young woman calling him “brother” before her death and the pleas for vengeance of her father, and knowing that the son will never be brought to prosecution, tortures and kills him.  Mahendran realizes it was him and attacks during Vijay’s first meeting with Samantha’s family.  Samantha’s father objects to the match on the grounds of it being too dangerous, Samantha refuses to give him up, and the threat of her father’s objections is overcome, they are married with much pomp and circumstance.  And soon after have a baby.  All is happy in the household, until suddenly in the middle of a conversation, Samantha is shot!  Mahendran and his men storm in, he kills Vijay’s mother and leaves the baby to drown in a bathtub, then shoots and beats Vijay.  Samantha manages to wake up and drag herself upstairs despite her injuries, saves the baby, and then brings it to Vijay and demands that he honor her dying wish and turn over a new leaf, be a father first and not a cop.

Back in the present day, the fights with the local goons have gotten Vijay noticed and he has been tracked down by Mahendran again.  Mahendran sets off an attack on Nainika’s school bus, Vijay saves her but other children are injured.  He decides he can’t continue hiding and goes back to the city and begins performing acts of vigilante justice.  Mahendran finds him again and kidnaps him and Nainika and Amy Jackson and Rejendran.  But Vijay is not afraid, he effortlessly defeats all the bad guys and finally tells Mahendran that this was all about fathers.  He is a good father to Nainika and will not let any harm come to her.  But Mahendran was a bad father who raised a rapist and a murderer, and deserves to be punished.  And then he kills him.  The tag scene finds a much older looking Nainika riding a bike with Vijay in the mountains.  He gets a courier just as they arrive at their coffee house and are greeted by Amy and Rajendran.  The implication is, he lives his happy life with his family, and sometimes goes on missions of vengeance when the police need someone.

 

It’s a clever little plot, a solid familiar framework from Baashe to Dilwali to Jaanwar.  A seemingly boring average man with his own little troubles, suddenly revealing an exciting backstory and previous life which was given up for the sake of a child.  But what makes this version work so well is the details.  For instance, in the present day Vijay confronts Amy at a hospital over causing harm to his child, only to be embarrassed when he learns she had acted with good intentions and in fact saved his child.  In the past, Vijay first meets Samantha when she confronts him in a hospital corridor over causing harm, only to be embarrassed when she learns he had acted with good intentions and in fact saved a child.  A less intelligent film would have cut between the two scenes, or obviously framed them in similar ways.  But instead, this film leaves it to the audience to notice the connection on an almost subconscious level.  And frames them in reverse chronological order, the power of the moment with Amy only becomes clear to the audience later when we see the scene with Samantha and realize that it must have been in Vijay’s mind.  In a similar way, we open with Vijay making Nainika late for school because he slept in.  It’s a running gag, mentioned again and again how he is late in the mornings.  And then, many scenes later, we see Samantha as she dies requesting that he be the kind of father who sleeps late in the morning and smiles all day.  Again, there is no flashback, nothing obvious, it is left to the audience to tie together the threads.

Even within the same time periods, there are similar little touches.  In the flashback when the rape victim is dying, she calls Vijay her “brother” and Vijay responds deeply to that, it is a large part of the reason he avenges her.  Later, when meeting with Samantha’s family, he tells her little sister that he would love to be her brother, he has always wanted a sister.  Nainika in the present mentions a boy who teases her at school, later that little boy is one of the victims of the bus attack.  And so on and so on.  This is not a thoughtlessly crafted movie, this is a very thoughtful film.

Even if there isn’t much to it in terms of characters.  Amy is the caring protective school teacher, Samantha is the confident young med student, Vijay is the perfect hero cop, mothers are mothers, humorous side kicks are humorous side kicks, and so on and so forth.  It has the standard character types you would expect in an action film.  And the standard plot, hero cop turned father in hiding turned vigilante.  But it’s the details that make it work, that make it special.

Which brings me to Amy Jackson’s hair!!!!  It is just so perfect.  Short, because she is a modern working woman.  But terribly unflattering because she isn’t glamorous, she is the nice school teacher who cares about her children.  And Vijay’s love story with her isn’t about a physical attraction, but about a nice woman with a nice smile who cares about his daughter.  It would be so easy to have messed that up, made her too pretty to be the dowdy school teacher, or too old-fashioned to be believable as the woman living alone and defending her school children.  But instead they found the perfect wig and the perfect look and made her into someone that, in only a few scenes, felt like a worthy successor to Samantha.

Image result for amy jackson theri

Everything in this film is like that, carefully just right.  It may not be the brilliant sensitive Tamil film I was looking for last night, but it was a wonderful example of what it was.

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28 thoughts on “Thursday Tamil: Theri, Amy Jackson Has Terrible Hair

  1. I’m glad you liked this because I really enjoy this film. Vijay did a lot of romantic films early on in his career that established his stardom and occasionally dabbled in a few other types. He does get criticized for not experimenting enough in his roles but, IMO, he’s really good at what he does. I’ve always appreciated that even when Vijay is in a movie that I didn’t like, he’s always giving it his all.

    Atlee mentioned in an interview that he cast Amy in this role and chose this look for her specifically because of how he wanted her to be seen by Nainika’s character. He wanted someone that a 5 year old girl, who’s never really known her mother, could look at and see an angel. So he specifically wanted her to be pretty but not conventionally beautiful in terms of the male gaze and with a comforting, almost maternal appeal.

    Mahendran is a really good director and the guy who made my favorite Rajini movie, Mullum Malarum. If I can throw in a recommendation, I think you’d really like it. Its young Rajini right at the cusp of his switching over from villain to anti-hero to hero. Its more of that brilliant sensitive Tamil film you were looking for and its also on Amazon Prime. Random factoid – slightly older Nainika is played by Vijay’s daughter.

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    • I’m glad you liked it too! I agree, Vijay is very good at what he does. And works hard at it.

      Thanks for the info on the director, I’m very proud of myself that I saw what he was trying to do with Amy’s look 🙂

      On Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 9:31 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I didn’t really like Samantha’s character. She’s a doctor, and then what? She’s Vijay’s wife, her career is not even mentioned in passing, then she’s a mother and bam, dead. I did like that she was given a few arcs, like she craved for a mother and she was scared that Vijay would die but beyond that, she really doesn’t have a personality. She’s just reduced to a simpering mess.
    I don’t really like the director Atlee’s work. Raja Rani was a rehash of Mouna Raagam and a really bad one at that. Theri was fine but not great. And Mersal was a disaster imo.
    Anyway I hope you get to watch a Gautham Menon film soon! Kaaka Kaaka(the original of force) or Neethane En Ponvasantham(watch it to know what Samantha is really capable of if given an author backed role)

    Liked by 1 person

    • +1 to everything u said abt Atlee. Such an overrated director. And yes, yes, yes to Kakka Kakka(think it’s on Hotstar). Suriya & GVM filmography is never complete without this film. NEP is also nice. Another shade of VTV but Jeeva is drool worthy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what I wanted to watch! And I find it hilarious that this review just turned into a discussion of NEP, even without me mentioning it by name. It’s like it was Fate for that to be the film we talked about this week.

      Anyway, it is IMPOSSIBLE to find anywhere. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Einthusan, YuppTV, I checked them all.

      On Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 10:12 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • For some bizarre reason, the producers haven’t released it online yet. Nani, who played the lead in Telugu version Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu was asked about it in an interview and he replied that it is up to the producers and he himself has been waiting for it

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      • I re-watched Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu recently (2 months ago) on a link from The Cine Bay hosted on dailymotion. When I return to home, will check if that link still active. Telecasted 2-3 times on Maa (Telugu) channels recently, which is part of Star network. So, hopefully should come up on HotStar.

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        • Hotstar is surprisingly weak on Telugu content, and I don’t know why. Maybe something about the way rights contracts work in that industry? It seems like they should have just as many movies available as they do in Hindi and Malayalam, since they have have to fill the same number of hours on the channels in other languages.

          On Fri, Aug 24, 2018 at 8:40 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Yes, the rights is one of the reasons – TV broadcasting (satellite) rights is still the major chunk and plays an important role. Small budget movies can recover their investment with just satellite rights.
            Second reason in my view is – in case of online content – most of the Telugu guys (leaving few urban folks who binge watch English serials like GoT/Friends) mostly watch comedy shows like Jabardasth or short films or trailers/songs related to their favorite stars; women watch serials (even on HotStar/SunNxt); Watch on streaming/torrents for new movies – so, only few buy subscriptions and pay to watch on Prime/Google TV/HotStar/etc.

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  3. +1 for NEP! My favorite modern romantic movie. I just loved that the issues were all so internal – ego and all that, nothing external or dramatic, which is what usually happens in real life. And Samantha was fantastic!
    I honestly didn’t like Amy in this movie. My only prereq from an actor is that the lip sync should be decent. Amy’s was decent in I, but in this it wasn’t very good. She was also not at all convincing as a Malayali.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly why I loved nep. I’m not proud of it, but I was a version of Nithya some time ago, and hence can relate a lot with the character. Which may also be why it’s my favorite Gautham Menon film. Interestingly, he Co wrote this with a female script writer called Reshma Ghatala, which might have helped him flesh out a slightly better female character with flaws, rather than his perfect women characters like Maya in Kaaka Kaaka or Meghna in Vaaranam Aayiram.

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      • I’ve now checked Tentkotta too, no luck. Any other ideas where I could look?

        On Fri, Aug 24, 2018 at 2:16 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Yeah, Nithya was so human! She had her flaws, and such relatable ones. You always hear of ego being a part of why relationships don’t work out in today’s age, but movies have never been good at showing that. This one did!

        Liked by 1 person

    • But, WHERE CAN I WATCH IT????? It’s like it’s been wiped from the face of the earth, but Tamil and Telugu versions. They just plain don’t exist.

      On Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 11:27 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. I know everyone is recommending Neethane En Ponvasantham but I personally would recommend the Telugu version, Yeto Vellipoyindi Manasu. They’re basically the same movie but the Telugu version is Nani and Samantha as opposed to Jeeva and Samantha.

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    • +1 – I watched both, but I think Nani pulled the different age roles better than Jeeva. And, the onscreen chemistry of Nani-Sam pair was brilliant.
      Disclaimer: I am a Telugu guy.

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    • I just think Jeeva is cuter 😀 I have seen the Telugu version as well, but u think I’m biased towards the Tamil version because I saw it first and also since Samantha has dubbed for herself in Tamil, she was able to emote better. She emoted really well in the terrace break up scene.

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  5. I liked Theri; the story isn’t anything new but it was fun enough when I saw it. I think this is my second favorite Vijay movie after Thuppakki but I’ve only seen like 5 or 6 of his movies. I honestly don’t remember Amy Jackson’s role being so significant though.

    Have you seen Raja Rani? I really liked it just for Nazriya Nazim and Arya’s love story.

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    • Amy Jackson’s role really wasn’t that big, she doesn’t even get a song. Which is why I was so impressed by how well her character was crafted, she could have easily been ignored and nothing special done for her. But instead they gave her a specific look and a personality, just in her tiny parts.

      On Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 11:55 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. I dont like it..Very boring film for me…it has the same old story of all vijay films. And i hated vijays look in first half with that terrible wig.
    agree with others abt atlee… Very overrated director…raja rani was somewhat watchable but other 2 films were really boring..

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