There is a viral video of Director Mari Selvaraj speaking about the film Papanasam, the Tamil remake of the Malayalam hit Drishyam. The film is about a girl who accidentally kills her harasser, after being blackmailed with a private video taken without her knowledge and consent. The father goes to extreme lengths to protect his daughter from the police and finally saves her. “Why does the father, at no place, tell her that she has nothing to be ashamed of? It’s the harasser who should be ashamed,” asks Mari. It is an important question, reflective of the cultural patriarchal ethos of our society. Finally, we seem to have an answer in Pandiraj-Suriya’s Etharkum Thunindhavan.
Loosely based on the Pollachi sexual assault case, Etharkum Thunindhavan sees Suriya play a righteous lawyer again, after Jai Bhim, but of a very different kind. Unlike Chandru, Kannabiran does not fight only in courts. He stumbles upon a network of men — headed by the rich, influential politician Inba (Vinay) — who dupe women into relationships and later harass them with intimate videos taken without their knowledge or consent. He takes them to court, but no avail. Will Kannabiran help the women get justice?
To use Tamil cinema parlance, ET is Suriya’s ‘commercial theatre film’ in two years. The film stars Suriya, Priyanka Arul Mohan, and Vinay Rai. After two successful OTT releases, it is clear that this film is specifically for the non-urban audience. This means that the narrative will follow the commercial template. Larger-than-life action, unnecessary duet songs, massy punch dialogues, slow-motion low angle shots, family sentiment, humour tracks, etc — ET has them all. Subtlety is not one of Pandiraj’s stronger traits. It is funny how Kannabiran has time to jump to duet numbers despite the ‘ticking clock’.