In 2014, Karthik Subbaraj gifted cinema enthusiasts with the groundbreaking “Jigarthanda,” a meta-gangster film that seamlessly blended filmmaking and rowdyism. Now, after nine years, Subbaraj returns with “Jigarthanda Double X,” a film that not only lives up to its predecessor but surpasses it in ambition and depth. Starring Raghava Lawrence and SJ Suryah, this ‘Pandyaa Western’ is a political masala western, a vivid love letter to cinema, and an explosive narrative that transcends genres.
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Jigarthanda Double X Movie Review:The Genesis of Double X:
The film’s narrative roots itself in a remarkable incident from the ’60s during the shooting of an American film, “Caesar,” in Melakuyilkudi near Madurai. Clint Eastwood, in a digital incarnation, gifts a handheld Canon 8mm camera to a tribal boy named Alli, later named Allius Caesar. With a deep-seated fascination for Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns, Allius believes the camera is a weapon. As the camera transitions into the hands of Ray Das (SJ Suryah), the film transforms into a ‘weapon,’ becoming a unique love letter to cinema and elephants.
Set in 1973, the film unfolds a complex narrative involving K Rathnakumar (Naveen Chandra), a police officer on a mission to capture the forest brigand Shettani. The story weaves through the vibrant streets of Madurai and the lush forests of Kombai Sambala, connecting two vastly different worlds. The plot thickens when Rathnakumar’s brother, Jeyakodi (Shine Tom Chacko), faces a high-stakes challenge, leading Rathna to deploy four criminals on undercover missions. The innocent Kirubai (Raghava Lawrence), imprisoned, is tasked with killing the notorious gangster Caesar by masquerading as a filmmaker.
The Cinematic Odyssey:
Running at a hefty 172 minutes, “Jigarthanda Double X” introduces its characters in a run-of-the-mill fashion, testing the audience’s patience in the initial moments. However, Subbaraj compensates for this with additional layers and cleverly infused humor that beckons a second viewing. The film pays homage to Tamil cinema with hat-tips, including the character Bava Chelladurai as a veena-playing filmmaker, a tribute to the late S Balachandar. While some references lack subtlety, others, like the use of ‘Malarndhum Malaradha,’ contribute to the film’s charm.
Duality and Redemption:
A central theme in “Jigarthanda Double X” is duality, evident in the contrasting worlds of Madurai and Kombai Sambala. Subbaraj masterfully intertwines reality and fiction, with real-life incidents alluding to the narrative’s depth. Symmetrical frames separating a gun from a camera and a gun from a spear add visual richness. The protagonists, Kirubai and Caesar, embark on journeys of self-discovery, one overcoming fear, and the other reclaiming oneself from pain.
Suryah and Lawrence’s Stellar Performances:
SJ Suryah and Raghava Lawrence deliver stellar performances that elevate the film. Suryah convincingly portrays his character’s moral dilemma, having witnessed two sides of the same man. Lawrence, in the role of the ruthless gangster Caesar, showcases versatility by making the audience empathize with the character’s true self. Their chemistry adds depth to the film’s emotional landscape.
Tralier Jigarthanda Double X
Unexpected Political Narration:
Similar to the tonal shift in its predecessor, “Jigarthanda Double X” surprises with an unexpected political narration. Handled with conviction and heart, this shift adds an unseen layer to Subbaraj’s filmmaking. The protagonists’ cluelessness mirrors the audience’s, creating a seamless transition. Despite minor hiccups, such as an abrupt wedding and melodrama, Santhosh Narayanan’s outstanding score rescues these moments, enhancing the overall cinematic experience.
“Jigarthanda Double X” stands as Karthik Subbaraj’s most heartfelt film to date. While it shares the soul of its predecessor, it boldly stands alone, avoiding any comparisons. The film’s ambitions are not just bigger but exponentially so, truly earning its title as the ‘Double X’ of “Jigarthanda.” With a rich narrative, impeccable performances, and a visual treat for cinephiles, Subbaraj’s magnum opus reaffirms his status as a visionary filmmaker, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and genre fusion. “Jigarthanda Double X” is not just a movie; it’s an experience that resonates long after the credits roll.