I finally caught up with the 2019 Tamil film Thambi (younger brother) starring Karthi and Jyothika. This film is directed by Jeethu Joseph, the director of the Malayalam film Drishyam, and has some similar themes of a family with secrets.
I was excited that Prithviraj’s Onam Malayalam release Oozham [Turn] was coming to Chicago, but I was forewarned that it wasn’t his best film. I didn’t care. I was still excited to see Prithviraj on the big screen for the first time. I have not yet seen writer director Jeethu Joseph‘s previous films Drishyam (Mohanlal) or Memories (Prithviraj). From the reviews I’ve read, and especially this savage 1/2 star take down by Anna Vetticad, the disappointment in Oozham is particularly acute because Jeethu Joseph’s previous films have been so great.
I didn’t hate Oozham like Anna, but I certainly don’t love it either. It’s okay — and with Prithviraj, I also would expect better than okay. The man has made what, 100 films? I’ve only been watching the cream of the crop, and they can’t all be at the level of Mumbai Police.
Spoilers ahead warning –
The set up of this revenge film is fantastic. Oozham means turn — and Prithviraj turns the tables on the man who had his family killed, because he has special skills. Not a particular set of skills like Liam Neeson in Taken.
One special skill — Prithviraj’s job in the US is as an explosives expert engineer (building demolition and such.) And it’s super handy that his adopted brother is a white hat hacker! That is a hook that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, in Hollywood or Indian cinema, having the good guy be an expert in plastic explosives.
The film starts with a van full of bad guys with guns (almost a clown car level amount) who are in search of someone, and there is a small explosion when they try to open an apartment door. Prithviraj is behind that door! The film cuts between this action sequence of Prithviraj on the run, and fighting with groups of these chasers, throughout the happy family scenes, the setup, and most of the film, frankly. Our director is too clever by half, as he uses a visual transition every blinkin’ time – focusing on a shoe in the chase, and then a shoe in the happy family scene, etc. Every. Single. Transition.
Prithviraj is visiting his family for a few weeks for his sister’s engagement. He’s the oldest, and besides his sister is an adopted Muslim brother (who lived next door, and who lost both parents.) Prithviraj’s dad is a health inspector, and very busy with some sort of virus outbreak and always rushing off looking worried. He has a police officer friend who drops by for dinner with his younger sister to set her up with Prithviraj.
The happy family scenes dragged quite a bit, but I really liked the relationship Prithviraj had with his younger sister. Prithviraj was, of course, the best actor in the whole film. I liked how flustered he got being set up with Divya Pillai as Gayathri. And in the physical fights he looked like a guy who wasn’t necessarily an expert fighter, but you can totally believe he is clever enough for all the plans that follow the family tragedy.
Once back in the US after the engagement, he’s Skyping with his sister, when he witnesses her murder and the murder of his parents. The bad guys look right into the computer screen, but don’t know they are on camera as she had minimized the Skype window. Prithviraj makes you feel his horror and helplessness as he is thousands of miles away on the other side of the world.
The cop friend is killed the same day by a “terrorist attack”. Prithviraj, his adopted brother and the sister of the cop think that coincidence very strange, and they get into their father’s email and piece together who had a reason to kill him. The villain is head of a big pharmaceutical company that the father suspected was putting a virus into drinking water (this part was very vague and not explained.)
Watching the revenge plot unfold was the best part of the film. They do try to approach the police, but of course one of the killers is a rogue corrupt cop. There were some very clever sequences, as they pick off the conspirators one by one, using controlled explosions.
The villain (Jayprakash) to be honest wasn’t that scary, and he has two lines in English that Anna Vetticad calls out as inexcusable. He hires his own explosives expert, Captain, to protect him and find out who his adversary is. Captain (Pasupathy, who was the rebel terrorist leader in the Tamil Kannathil Muthamittal – A Peck on the Cheek) has failed to protect someone close to Jayprakash and he says “How Dare!” and the subtitles say How Dare You both times. One time I could excuse that they didn’t have time to reshoot an emotional scene, but twice? The subtitles were pretty bad, but the English sprinkled throughout the film wasn’t good either.
My main issue with the film is the pacing. I can give a slow buildup in the first half. The inter-cutting with the chase/action fight scenes was pretty good. But the film should have moved at a swift pace in the second half as the action heated up, and it lagged. I really did like the ending, except for one thing.
My beef is that the villains are of course killed — but the virus that they spread in the water or what have you? That issue is completely ignored in the conclusion. You had a hacker for cripes sake! He hacks all their emails to track the villains’ movements — how about sending all the incriminating emails to the press or the authorities? In a Hollywood film, I think that would have been a major part of the revenge plot.
So, I wouldn’t necessarily run to a theater to see this film but it would be worth a rental.
Margaret of Don’t Call It Bollywood and I saw it together. She agreed that Oozham was just “okay”.