You probably don’t have a heart if you don’t feel an iota of anything after watching Thandatti, which is helmed by Ram Sangaiah and has an arresting Pasupathy leading the cast. Primarily a mystery drama, the movie keeps oscillating between various genres like a pendulum, which makes the viewing experience quite jarring. It is understandable that Sangaiah was trying to cater to a broad audience, but the main story he had in hand probably didn’t need such erratic treatment. In fact, for most of the second half, Thandatti feels quite exhausting to sit through. However, the final twist makes the experience mostly worthwhile. If only the treatment had been a bit more serious and straightforward without all the unnecessary comedic fluff, the ending would have been way more effective and evocative.
We are greeted with images of sprawling, lush green mountains you often see in rural South India, we hear a woman asking her man to present her with a pair of gold earrings. The Tamil word Thandatti translates to the same, and that is what the story is all about. The title is extremely literal in every possible sense.
Why Does Subramani Take A Case That No One Wants To Deal With?
Trouble always finds Constable Subramani, no matter how much he tries to stay away from it. His superiors and colleagues in the police station try to avoid working cases with the man, who is about to retire from the force in about ten days. When a young, disheveled man named Selvarasu arrives at the police station to report, that his grandmother’s missing, all the officers refuse to attend. Their reason is that Selvarasu hails from the village of Kidaripatti, a place with it’s own wild law and order notion where police don’t go; in fact, one of the officers previously tried to meddle in some matter but ended up getting beaten black and blue by the villagers.
With no one from the station willing to risk their lives, Subramani steps in and takes the case. Outside the station, three women suddenly appear, crying and pleading, and request that Subramani take the case of their missing mother. After some absolutely pointless comedy, it becomes clear to us that Selvarasu’s grandmother and the mother of these three women are actually the same person: Thangaponnu, aka Thangam.
Who Was Thangam, And How Did She Go Missing?
On his way to Kidaripatti, Subramani gets to know all about Thangam from Selvarasu. A life full of misery would be an understatement to describe what the poor woman had had to go through. When she was young, Thangam, a woman from an upper-caste family, eloped with a lower-caste man named Veera. The couple married and settled in the middle of nowhere, where no one could bother them. But Thangam’s family could not stand her happiness and took it upon themselves to ruin it. One night, her brothers broke into their house, mercilessly beat Veera to death, and took Thangam away with them, all in the name of honor. Eventually, Thangam was married off to another man chosen by her family, with whom she had seven children, including Selvarasu’s father.
Thangam’s husband died as soon as she gave birth to their youngest child, leaving the young woman with the responsibility of all their kids. But thanks to her indomitable spirit and infinite love for her children, Thangam ensured that they grew up safe and sound. Sadly, though, when they grew up, all they did was exploit their mother as much as they could. From stealing her cow to making her take a loan in order to start an illicit business in her name, her daughters and sons left no stone unturned to break their mother, both physically and emotionally. Selvarasu’s uncle, Pandi, a known drunkard, made it further worse by accidentally poisoning two villagers and effectively killing them. To compensate, Thangam gave away her only pieces of land to the families of the deceased. Thangam never cared for any of her possessions, apart from the pair of gold earrings she always used to wear. Only Selvarasu knew that the reason his grandmother always held on to those was because they were a gift to her from her beloved late husband, Veera.
Does Subramani Find Thangam?
Subramani and Selvarasu part ways before reaching Kidaripatti, as the policeman asks Selvarasu to look for his grandmother in areas where she could have gone while he keeps looking for the missing woman near the marketplace of a town nearby. As fate would have it, Subramani finds Thangam very soon in a disastrous, helpless state. Life has almost left the woman, who is already very sick. Upon reaching the hospital, Thangam dies. When Subramani informs Selvarasu about his grandmother, the young man pleads with Subramani to accompany him to Kidaripatti and stay until the last rites of Thangam are performed. Subramani hesitates a little, but looking at the helpless man, he can’t say no.
What Happens After Subramani Reaches Kidaripatti?
Unsurprisingly, the villagers don’t take Subramani’s arrival well, and a lot of them ask him to leave. However, Subramani stands his ground and lets everyone know that he intends to stay, as Selvarasu has asked him to do so. He finds Thangam’s family in a chaotic state, with her four daughters, Pandi and Selvarasu’s mother, Gangama, fighting for scraps of Thangam’s wealth and, most importantly, the prized possession, which is none other than the pair of gold earrings. Subramani tries his best to contain the situation by trying to calm everyone down. The night passes by, and in the morning, one elderly woman discovers that the pair of gold earrings are missing.
Who Stole Thangam’s Gold Earrings?
From the point the gold earrings went missing, it was clear that the movie’s central mystery was about finding out who stole them and retrieving them. However, the path this story takes to reach that point is surprisingly strange. For a movie that deals with subjects like casteism and honor killing, Thandatti has an unexpected amount of comedy, most of which seems forced and out of place. Thangam’s drunkard son, Pandi, keeps welding a sickle while threatening Subramani that he can’t leave unless he finds those earrings. A strange character named Frog Mouth is suddenly introduced and becomes the prime suspect.
Apparently, nobody dares to stand up against this guy because if he ever gets angry, he curses, and whatever he says actually comes true, as ludicrous as that might sound. With the sudden incorporation of a mythical angle like this one, you would expect the story to take a drastic turn. But then the character is reduced to a mere comic relief who ends up asking Subramani to find a person who is fishing for him through a fake Facebook ID of actress Tamannaah Bhatia. Just when you think things couldn’t get more random, Pandi cuts out Frog Mouth’s tongue with his sickle. But Subramani and the other villagers keep reacting like nothing has happened, which makes you question both your sanity and the point of this movie.
Despite the plot of the movie going haywire, you keep watching it for the character of Subramani and his persisting attempts at simultaneously finding the truth and handling the whole situation. Pasupathy hits it out of the park here by embracing Subramani’s character and playing him with a mix of confusion, empathy, and restlessness.
While Thangam’s daughters, Pandi, and Gangama, keep fighting amongst themselves like vultures, luck suddenly smiles on them with the arrival of an insurance agent. It is revealed that upon Thangam’s death, there was a huge sum of Rs. 15 lakhs to be distributed among her children, thanks to an insurance policy she took out. That time has come now, and with such a hefty fortune awaiting them, the next-of-kin of Thangam don’t seem to be bothered about the gold earrings anymore. Thangam’s last rites are performed in the presence of all the villagers as well as Subramani. When everything is done and dusted, we find Subramani alone by the side of the burning fire. As the camera focuses on the palm of his right hand, we see a pair of gold earrings, unmistakably the ones that Thangam used to wear, glittering brightly in the darkness.
I did see the twist coming but was not fully sure, thanks to the movie’s constant changing of tone. But ultimately, it did go that way after all. It is revealed that Subramani is none other than Thangam’s first Veera, who survived and eventually managed to join the police force. When he tried to find the love of his life again, Veera, aka Subramani, found out that Thangam had remarried, and he chose to stay in the shadows in order to not make her life further complicated. He kept loving her and never remarried, as you would expect. The star-crossed lovers did meet after all when Subramani found Thangam years later near the marketplace. Thangam, still wearing the earrings that Subramani presented her a lifetime ago, recognized him, and the two had a brief reunion. But that was cut short by a sick, extremely weary Thangam falling prey to death. Subramani would have gone to Kidaripatti anyway, even if Selvarasu hadn’t asked him. He couldn’t leave Thangam after all. And he had to fulfill her last wish, which was to throw the Thandatti at the fire that would turn her into ashes. It is unclear at what point Subramani realized what was going on, but we can take an educated guess that he figured it out the moment he heard the name Thangaponnu at the Police Station. Of course, a man like Subramani would have taken the case anyway, even if it was not personal.
Despite beginning as a quirky mystery drama, Thandatti ends as a story of love. A kind of love that is unconditional and not bound by any constraints. The kind that we all probably long for. With Thangam, the gold earrings turn into dust, as they were always destined to. But Subramani’s eternal love for Thangam will always remain constant.