Por Thozhil Movie Review (2023)

Vignesh Raja

Vignesh Raja's 'Por Thozhil' (Sarathkumar, Ashok Selvan) is a solid, well-crafted serial-killer thriller with enough pluses to overcome its issues

Por Thozhil Movie Review

Por Thozhil Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Applause Entertainment,E4 Experiments & Eprius Studio
Director : Vignesh Raja

Two cops are driving around at night. One of them is newly married, and complains that he is unable to spend time with his wife. The other cop laughs at his plight and suggests that she may be having an affair. The immediate payoff to this "casual" comedy scene is the shocking discovery of a body: the immediate payoff is the drastic change of tone. But the real payoff comes much later into the movie, when the conversation between the two cops is reflected as actual behaviour. Vignesh Raja's Por Thozhil, which he co-wrote with Alfred Prakash, is filled with nuggets like this. At the macro level, we are in a fairly typical genre film – but let's first talk about the micro-touches in this serial killer thriller, which uses the classic Hollywood trope of bumbling rookie cop and grouchy senior/mentor. These characters are named Prakash and Loganathan, and they are played by Ashok Selvan and Sarathkumar.

I loved the micro-touch (and the payoff) involving Prakash's reflexes.  I liked the micro-touch that both Prakash and Loganathan wear monochrome shirts: the inexperienced cop wears lighter colours, the senior cop is shown in heavier shades. I liked Loganathan's addiction to cigarettes, which is compared to the serial killer's addiction to killing women. I liked how reluctant Loganathan is to give praise. There's a very funny moment – after Prakash solves something – where you can almost feel the torture Loganathan’s mouth is undergoing because it just won't open to deliver the words, "Good job!" Sarathkumar gets a meaty, minimalist role that uses both his performing skills and his big screen presence – and he is excellent. I liked that Loganathan's past is never explained, like the marks on his back. We just know he has been through a lot, and that's enough. 

But why didn't the director use the same restraint with regard to the background score by Jakes Bejoy? There's a silly early scene where Prakash's timid nature is played for comedy, and the scene is made sillier by the cartoony music that perhaps fits this single scene but hurts the film's overall atmosphere. Por Thozhil joins the long list of Indian films that makes you wonder if every emotion/action needs to be underlined by a background score that spoon-feeds the "mood" to the audience. Besides, nothing is gained by making Prakash a scaredy-cat. Because later, he performs a daredevil act  – he enters the killer-suspect's house with a dashing hero's ease. Had he really been timid, his heart (at that moment) would have burst out of his chest. I did not like how the Nikhila Vimal character was shaped, either. Why introduce her as such a high achiever when she has so little to do? 

And we come to the film's problem areas. All we want is that the familiar be made fresh with a few twists here, a few unexpected details there. There's a solid twist in the identity of the killer. It involves a nice bit of deception, and the timing of this revelation is another surprise for this genre. But I would have liked to see more scenes of dogged detective work that result in small bits of information being parcelled out to the audience. Instead, we get a big chunk of exposition from Loganathan, just a half-hour into the movie. Why not make him (and us) work and wait for this conclusion? All evidence comes via dialogue or is found conveniently all at once, in the same location. Another big chunk of exposition comes from the serial killer – and the motive is not terribly new. 
And for such an elegantly made film, there is a very clumsy "message" at the end, which trivialises the complex correlation between one's nature and nurture. But warts and all, derivative scenes and all, Por Thozhil is a very watchable, very stylish film. With cinematographer Kalaiselvan Sivaji, the director unleashes a series of clean, minimalist, yet dramatic compositions. There's no technical showing off, and the quiet, confident staging elevates several scenes. The climax action stretch – a small one –  is especially wonderful. Production designer Indulal Kaveed also deserves a big shout-out. Apart from the tonally odd stabs at comedy, the film gets one important thing totally right – and that's to immerse us in a world of darkness. Very rarely does one get a visionary like Mysskin taking a genre and owning it completely the way he did in Yudham Sei or Pisaasu or Psycho – but well-crafted generic narratives like Por Thozhil do have their place, and they do have their own pleasures.

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Baradwaj Rangan

National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.