Vishal in Rathnam
Vishal in RathnamYouTube screengrab

Rathnam review: There is little to like in this noisy, gory Vishal film

Neither stellar performances from Priya Bhavani Shankar and Samuthirakani nor the plot twists towards the end would save the audience from the headache and potential ear damage that Rathnam might cause.
Rathnam (Tamil)(2 / 5)

Fifteen minutes into Hari’s Rathnam, the audience is shown a gruesome murder that calls for the cooperation of both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu police. This scene offers a peek into the unnecessary gore and violence in the film, added perhaps in the hope that it would make up for the poor writing. Unfortunately (for the audience), that does not happen. 

Set in Vellore, Rathnam follows the story of Rathnam (Vishal), one of the closest henchmen to Panneerselvam (Samuthirakani). He even affectionately calls him ‘mama’ (uncle). Rathnam is your average Tamil cinema henchman who is his boss’s favourite — a tragic backstory that led him to a life of crime, a group of minions ready to surrender for his felonies, and the ability to get away with the most gruesome murders. Rathnam and Panneerselvam also believe that they are vigilantes and their violence is justified as the latter claims that they are doing the work for the police by ‘punishing’ the ‘bad guys’. 

Rathnam’s life takes a turn (for the better or the worse, it is unclear) when he sets eyes on Mallika (Priya Bhavani Shankar), a nursing graduate who comes to Vellore with the aim of clearing the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) exam. After the film makes a few misplaced lectures on NEET that neither argue for or against it, Mallika’s life is in danger as she is targeted by unknown henchmen. However, she is saved by Rathnam. The rest of the film delves into why Mallika’s life is in danger, how Rathnam is entangled in this mess, and whether he is able to safeguard her or not.

Hari, who is well-known for his Singham series, Aaru, Saamy, and Thamirabharani, to name a few box office hits, falters with Rathnam. The film is not only burdened with cliches and borrowed tropes from his earlier films, but is also unable to present convincing characters whom the audience would want to root for. Rathnam is riddled with fights, chases, and gory murders, but all of them seem familiar. 

Even the main villain, one of the Rayudu brothers (Murli Sharma), does not invoke any feelings except the occasional laughter when his ‘quirk’ of applying copious amounts of talcum powder is passed off as terrifying. However, Hari delivers beyond expectation in one aspect he is quite infamous for — making the film extremely loud and complementing it with grating sound effects and background scores.

The women characters in the film are yet another disappointment. Mallika sometimes offers spirited dialogues that add value to the plot, but there is nothing more to her character. Similarly, Mallika’s mother, who is not memorable enough to remember by name, is perennially sobbing as her daughter’s life is in danger. Rathnam’s mother Loganayaki is present in a few scenes initially, but meets her tragic end soon. Her death is explained in a flashback towards the end. 

In terms of romance, there is none in the film. Or maybe there is, but it gets confusing. Tamil cinema is not new to the protagonist's love interests being compared to his mother. However, Rathnam takes it one step further, resulting in a cringe-worthy sequence of events that transpire between Mallika and Rathnam. Any more details on the romance (or the lack thereof) between the lead actors might result in spoilers, so I choose to remain silent on the subject. 

The humour in the film does not go beyond body shaming, rhyming punchlines, and other time-tested methods that action filmmakers usually resort to. Even with the presence of Yogi Babu, Motta Rajendran, and VTV Ganesh, the jokes are bland and hardly induce any laughter. 

The unpredictability of the plot, especially towards the end, offers some respite from the messiness of the film. Priya Bhavani Shankar does a stellar job of playing Mallika and the range of emotions required of her character. Samuthirakani also settles comfortably into a character he has played numerous times — the older man in a position of power urging the young hot-headed hero to make wise choices. 

However, even their performances and the plot twists towards the end cannot seem to save the audience from a headache and potential ear damage that watching Rathnam might cause.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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