SU Arun Kumar’s Sindhubaadh is confusing. Now before you start furiously typing away in the comment section, hear me out. I understand the story perfectly well — that isn’t what’s confusing. The director’s objective is confusing. Throughout the first half especially, I kept wondering what exactly the storyteller is trying to achieve with the information that he’s feeding me. The screenplay is disjointed and confusing making it very difficult to be engaged in the goings on, be actively connected to the characters and prevent my mind from drifting into the dark clouds of the night sky.
When Sindhubaadh finally gets to the point, I realised that this is nothing more than a Taken-esque action movie in which a close family member gets captured by a human trafficking ring and our hero has to travel around the world, singlehandedly beat the living crap out of about 300 people and save the day. If it sounds like I’m dissing Taken, believe me, I’m not. The movie is both enjoyable and infinitely rewatchable.
The problem with the SU Arun Kumar movie is that it’s all over the place. Thiru (Vijay Sethupathi) and Super (Vijay Sethupathi’s real-life son Surya) are introduced as master thieves, who can steal anything from anyone quicker than Danny Ocean in his prime. They even get an opening dance number centred around this profession of theirs. This, you would believe is vital information number one. We’re constantly reminded of Thiru’s hearing disability — he can’t hear unless you talk to him really, really loudly.
We also have Thiru’s eventual wife Venba (Anjali), a chatterbox who can never keep her voice down. It’s a match made in heaven. But they don’t fall in love immediately. First, there’s a subplot about Venba’s short-tempered, slightly abusive father who hates that her extroverted, so-called “unladylike” personality is scaring away potential grooms. The only thing he hates more than that is that her daughter is in love with a thief. And before I forget, there’s a comedic subplot where Thiru’s uncle constantly tries to convince him to sell the house to no avail.
Basic writing principles will tell you that these moderately interesting ideas that are introduced early on will eventually lead to something. So, you wait for an elaborate heist set piece where Thiru’s thieving skill would be put to great use. But it isn’t. It’s like watching Now You See Me, only for the protagonists’ skill in magic and trickery not be applied in any way shape or form when it comes to robbing the vault. Perhaps we will get a cool climactic action block in which the villains who know of Thiru’s hearing disability turn off all the lights and attack him stealthily. This too is absent.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to wonder if Venba’s father would apologise and give Thiru a big hug in the end, with tears flowing from his eyes. Nope. Or maybe we would get a gut buster of a punchline to the Thiru-uncle-house joke. I’m afraid that’s a sound negative. This means the entirety of the first half is nothing but meaningless fluff. You see, in Taken, director Pierre Morel takes about 25 minutes to establish our protagonist and his relationship with his daughter and wife before we jump to an hour of Liam Neeson brutalising pimps. It’s tight, it’s quick, it’s fun!
Here, we get needless and unmemorable romantic songs, laugh tracks that aren’t born naturally out of situations characters find themselves in and also hamfisted sequences where one character explains to our hero a fictional societal issue called “skin trafficking,” in which women are kidnapped and skinned alive before said skin is shipped around the globe to meet the demands of the cosmetic surgery market. There’s a line reminding us that if we choose to enlarge our breasts, we’re doing it over the dead bodies of thousands of women. Or something.
Admittedly there is something charming about seeing a nonchalant everyman like Vijay Sethupathi kicking ass — he lacks the regal presence of Rajinikanth or Ajith nor the electricity of Dhanush, but that’s what makes him such an interesting actor — but a movie of this nature would’ve greatly benefited from more fiery dialogue or cheer-worthy banter between the hero and the villain. Here, the villains are forgettable.
Sindhubaadh‘s final action block that takes place in a dark and cluttered warehouse is wonderfully choreographed and shot, evoking a claustrophobic feel. And I also love the small touches SU Arun Kumar introduces in this set piece, like the scene where Thiru takes on a couple of bad guys while the kidnapped girls kill another. If only everything that came before it is nearly as good.