I was initially adamant about watching Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru (will be referred as Theeran, from this point on). But director Shankar’s tweet convinced me otherwise.

I disagree. Theeran is excellent at best, sure, but it is aggressively boring at worst. And by the two hours and 15-minutes mark, I kept thinking to myself, Please end Goddammit! The problem with this H. Vinoth film is that it doesn’t know what it is or wants to be.

Theeran starts off in fine fashion, as a realistic, intriguing thriller. There is no grand entrance for our hero, DSP Theeran, played by Karthi, and there isn’t an introductory song number either. He’s merely sitting at his desk, working on a case. H. Vinoth makes it very clear that this isn’t going to be Suriya’s Singam. This will be more in the vein of Kaakha Kaakha.

The introduction of the villains is a gut punch — a group of highly skilled, ruthless robbers break into a house and ransack all the jewelry, but not before leaving a pile of dead bodies in their wake (we later learn that they’re a part of a gang).

These gangbangers need not kill anyone, but they do because they can. And they do it in a brutal manner, too — one victim is shoved face down into an aquarium and as she’s gasping for air, she’s shot in the head. The water turns red. You see, the thug could have shot her straight in the head, immediately, but he doesn’t. Although his face is covered, you can see it in his eyes, he has a taste for violence. They all do. It’s awesome!

These scenes are some of the best parts of the movie. They’re edited in a way that is perhaps loosely inspired by the likes of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, inter-cutting between live-action and animation. It’s artistic and adds a layer of intrigue.

The investigation is compelling. We see Theeran and his team scurry all over India in search of clues and evidence that might point them in the right direction. Most of their investigating amounts to nothing. Theeran is mocked by his superiors, who do not fund his mission. Theeran and his team do not back down. With or without government funding, they must continue. They sleep on dirty floors and eat roadside food. Some of them get sick.

These sequences are interesting, but not fully explored. H. Vinoth chooses to zoom pass these character moments, using montages and sped up shots. It’s a shame. For a film that is close to three hours long, we hardly learn anything about our supporting characters.

Rather than to give the cops on Theeran’s team personalities of their own and highlight their comradery, they’re reduced to mere props — a bunch of people who run behind our hero as he dishes out all the beatings singlehandedly.

Therein lies the problem. While H. Vinoth sets Theeran up to be a cop-thriller, he couldn’t resist the temptation of turning this into a cop-masala. A random romance song number is less annoying in say, “Mersal” because the movie tells you right off the bat that it is an over the top fun fiesta. Here, it feels completely out of place.

There is a place for romance in a film like this — as seen in both Se7en and Kaakha Kaakha — but it has to amount to something, otherwise, it just screams cigarette break. More importantly, whatever it tries to amount to, has to feel organic and powerful. Here, the romance itself is fine, but what comes of it is poorly executed.

The second half of Theeran forgets about thrilling sequences and becomes your standard action/comedy flick. H. Vinoth puts a lot of emphasis on keeping the identities of the criminals a secret early on in the film. The audience is kept in the dark. But if there is a mask, there should be an unmasking. And if there is an unmasking, it better be one hell of a reveal. The villain, Abhimanyu Singh, does not have the star power of say a Raghuvaran nor is his character a ‘double agent’ of sorts. So, what does keeping his identity hidden accomplish? Jack shit.

The mysterious criminals are revealed to be nothing more than mindless goons, undermining the fantastic arc set up in the first half.  There are moments of levity during the post-intermission investigation sequences, some of which are hilarious, but once again, out of place.

Theeran’s climax sees our hero go one on one with the pipe smoking villain, in a fight scene that solidifies this as a mismatch of realistic and masala. This movie requires a fight scene that is raw, visceral and painful, not an exaggerated one that goes DOOSH DOOSH.

Karthi is a character actor. A bloody good one, at that. He thrives in smaller, quieter roles that require him to show a broad range of emotions. Given the right material, he might even give Suriya of the 90s and early 2000s a run for his money. But ‘masala’ or ‘mass’ are not areas he should tango in, because he isn’t his brother. He can’t dazzle you with his charm and charisma and make a boatload of money by acting in a shitfest *cough* Singam 2&3 *cough*.

Even in the second half, there are some great moments. Like the sequence where all the villagers chase the police officers away. Or another action set piece involving two buses (you’ll know when you see it). Or even some quieter moments where H. Vinoth allows his characters to breathe. But ultimately Theeran falls prey to its own self, constantly struggling to figure out what it wants to be. And hell, it should have been so much shorter.

Varnam Rating
A Rajini veriyan who finds Kaala to be a far superior film to Petta. Also madly in love with Vada Chennai. He covers Hollywood films over at lowyat.net Follow him on twitter @dashtalksmovies