RS Durai Senthilkumar’s Pattas makes no pretence about what it wants to be – a “mass” entertainer for the festival season. And not just that, it talks about the revival of an ancient martial art form which originated in Tamil Nadu, fanning some Tamil pride in the process. It’s the perfect formula for a Pongal release. But, this isn’t a lazy director. He doesn’t simply proceed to tick the boxes, but gives the audience enough fresh material to keep us engaged.
The film begins with two thieves, Pattas (Dhanush) and Puncture (KPY Sathish), breaking into a famous martial arts academy and stealing the trophies that the owner’s son has won over the years. It isn’t a promising opening, with the comedy mostly falling flat and with only a few lines landing well. Perhaps the producer couldn’t get Kajal Aggarwal’s dates, Mehreen Pirzada plays the loosu ponnu heroine exactly like her. The caricature romance between Pattas and his “arrogant” neighbour Sadhanashah is meant to be amusing but only ends up being annoying.
However, once the story connects back to the prelude, which shows Kanyakumari (Sneha) and the incidents concerning her, it picks up pace. Senthilkumar’s last film, Kodi, which had Trisha playing the villain, broke several stereotypes about a woman negative character. In this film, he does it with the Amma character who is usually only present in Tamil cinema to feed the hero and shed copious tears.
Sneha is terrific as Kanyakumari, both in the extensive flashback as well as in present times. With her warm smile and expressive eyes, the actor makes her mark all through, especially in the stunt sequences. How refreshing it is to see an Amma character who has a personality and isn’t relegated to three maudlin scenes! Kanyakumari reminded me of Devasena from Baahubali; in fact, though Pattas is quite modest in its ambitions, the tropes are similar – two men in competition with each other, a slighted son and his blood-thirst, betrayal, a young man who does not know his origin story, and a journey towards rightful revenge.
The interval block is likely to bring back memories of Asuran for the audience, the Dhanush blockbuster which released a few months ago. With his lithe body and fast moves, the actor is every bit convincing as Dhiraviyam Perumal, a skilled practitioner of the martial art form of Adi Murai, the second character he plays in the film. His romance with Kanyakumari, too, is believable and makes us root for the family. When playing double roles, the actor must be able to make the audience distinguish between the two not just by name and appearance but also their body language and characterisation. As the trained fighter Dhiraviyam, Dhanush turns his body into a machine, his every move confident and graceful. As Pattas, he looks more fallible, his punches less packed and more hesitant.
I didn’t care much for the generic white guy villains or the random shots of the senior Muay Thai guru who conveniently gives his validation whenever required and disappears, though. The writing in these scenes is hurried and in a bid to establish the superiority of Adi Murai, Senthilkumar at times borders on insulting other martial arts. It’s one of those “Indians knew everything before the rest of the world” parochial lines of thought which just seems petty. There are also one too many happy coincidences, with two pivotal characters running into each other just by destiny.
Naveen Chandra plays the villain, and while the performance isn’t fantastic, I’m just relieved to watch a proper, mainstream film with a fleshed out backstory for the antagonist. The songs are unnecessary but fun to watch. The frames are full of colour and there’s nothing to complain when Dhanush is setting the ground on fire with his energetic dance, especially ‘Chill Bro’. The background score (Vivek-Mervin) is rousing when it needs to be but doesn’t intrude. The editing, however, could have been better. For instance, a character from the flashback suddenly appears in present times and becomes part of the hero’s team. Yet another coincidence.
You know where exactly Pattas is going – that ending is written on the wall from the beginning of the film – but despite the predictability, Senthilkumar manages to retain our interest. Pattas’s triumph is that it’s enjoyable while it lasts, much like a firecracker.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.