‘Rathnam’ movie review: Hari attempts to reinvent himself but the Vishal-starrer remains outdated

Priya Bhavani Shankar and Vishal in an image from ‘Rathnam’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tamil cinema has progressed significantly, making it curious to see a traditional Hari-directed film like Rathnam in this day and age. Hari, a director known for his consistent filmmaking approach, stands firm despite the changing landscape, and while this loyalty to his style is admirable, it sometimes overshadows the rationale behind his storytelling methods. Having directed for over two decades, Hari has always managed to engage his audience—sometimes with the sheer oddity of his plots, such as the outlandish Saamy Square.

Despite his best intentions with Rathnam, the film struggles to captivate as it is overshadowed by the fascination with how Hari modernizes his classic elements. While he does inject contemporary sensibilities into some aspects, the film’s concept feels distinctly early 2000s.

The story backdrop itself feels dated. Set along the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border, we follow Panneerselvam (Samuthirakani), a local strongman who takes under his wing a boy named Rathnam after he saves his life. Fast forward to the present, Panneer is now an MLA and Rathnam—Vishal, epitomizing Hari’s typical protagonist—becomes his right-hand man. The plot thickens when Rathnam rescues Mallika (Priya Bhavani Shankar), a medical student, from a gang, leading to conflicts involving Mallika’s father, Vedha Nayagam (Jayaprakash), and a sinister trio of land-grabbing brothers.

Rathnam (Tamil)

Director: Hari

Cast: Vishal, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Murali Sharma, Yogi Babu, Jayaprakash, and more

Runtime: 156 minutes

Storyline: When a young woman faces danger from notorious thugs, a local tough guy steps forward to shield her. But what drives him to protect her? And why are the attackers targeting her?

The question arises as to why Rathnam goes to such lengths for a stranger. While moviegoers may long have left the era of recycled doppelganger twists behind, Hari reintroduces the concept, which, despite its implausibility, unfolds in a manner that almost convinces the viewer of its merit.

Though Hari fine-tunes some of his customary elements, many remain unchanged. The hero receives a subdued first appearance before leaping into a typical show of strength with a dramatic fight scene. Multiple action set-pieces punctuate the film alongside an opening bar number. The female lead’s contribution to the storyline is significant, yet she often becomes an extension of the male protagonist.

Hari enjoys sending vehicles airborne, and we’re treated to an ambitious single-shot car chase, which, while not fully effective, is an unexpected tactic from the director. Echoing dramatic revelations from past films, a significant moment unfolds with perplexing consequences, only to be marred by an exasperating climax.

A scene from 'Rathnam'

A scene from ‘Rathnam’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In the end, as one watches the overwrought and hastily assembled film unfold, there’s a longing for the simplicity of Hari’s earlier work. Notably, his classic treatment of complex relationships between a guardian figure and the hero is missing, reducing the film to an often-visited trope of familial affection.

Heavy melodrama, lackluster dialogue, overpowering music, and scenes seemingly lifted from a soap opera all point to a need for renewal—even when aiming for revival, the outcome remains steeped in bygone filmmaking technique. From powerful punchlines of the past to updated renditions in ‘Rathnam’, the journey has been significant, but perhaps it’s time for Hari to consider a new direction.

‘Rathnam’ is now showing in theaters.

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