Remakes are safe, but adaptations are challenging to make. I can make it easy with an example – Santhosh Subramaniam is a remake of Bommarilu, but Thillu Mullu is an adaptation of Gol Maal. There was a time when Rajinikanth remade Amitabh Bachchan’s movies with minor changes to it. Most of these films were produced by Balaji (an actor who later turned into successful producer). He used to buy rights to movies even before they got released. Remakes have a better chance of success at the box office. Adaptations are tricky because you are trying to alter the storyline or characters. Usually, the directors claim that these are to suit the sentiments of the local audience. If you consider the successful adaptations like Thillu Mullu, the soul of the movie stays preserved. Even in the adaptations done by Kamal from certain Hollywood movies, you find the soul is intact. For instance, Mrs.Doubtfire is about the love between the father and the children is preserved in Avvai Shanmughi. The biggest problem I had with Thaanaa Serndha Kootam is that the soul of Special 26 was plundered by Vignesh Sivn and Team.
Special 26 was unique because it was based on a real-life smart motley crew that was never caught. The soul of Special 26 is the methodology of the heist, and Neeraj Pandey doesn’t dwell on back stories of individuals. They are not Robin Hoods, nor they do have any higher purpose. What Vignesh Shivn has done is, take the soul of the movie, tear it up into pieces and rebuild it with some other kind of life to create a Frankenstein monster that looks ugly, boring and unlovable.
In every frame of the movie, Vignesh Shivn is trying to beat the original and not emulate. It’s a kind of one-upmanship attitude that Vignesh employs, and it has cost the movie dear. Take, for instance, the forced setting of Gold Spot and Campa Colas in few frames. It’s like saying I want to show these brands from the 80s and hence I will do it. It doesn’t flow into the movie nor it matters. Every character has a back-story, Suriya is a Robin Hood and he is a big star, so let’s have two villains instead of one. When you think Suresh Menon is unwanted, you get an inconsequential Karthik’s role (I expected a Mankatha like twist). In fact, there are no villains in the original movie. Manoj Bajpai’s role is an honest police officer who genuinely wants to nab the crew. (GVM’s voice for Suresh Menon? What were you smoking, Vignesh).
And in the climax, when his Robin Hood acts pay dividends is even more laughable. I do agree with Vignesh in that matter when you are killing something; you need to make sure you murder it entirely including the beautiful climax of the original. Nandha and Vinodhini’s characters from the original are the trump cards of the movie. The characters fizzle out (Vinodhini doesn’t even get the screen space during the climax) in Thaanaa Serndha Kootam because Suriya wants to fight, dole out a long monologue and show the world why we need Robin Hoods. And the point is, Suriya doesn’t stop and the political references just to get applause leave a bad taste.
There are two things that I loved about the movie – Ramya Krishnan and Senthil. You wish that they get more screen space than others. In the original, Anupam Kher receives an equal footing along with Akshay Kumar. It can’t happen in Tamil because you know why. The movie revolves around one man called Suriya and that’s what makes the movie cringeworthy.
The most prominent criticism that might arise from this review is that I have to see Thaanaa Serndha Kootam as an independent movie and not as an adaptation of Special 26. Most of the audience wouldn’t have seen the original. Agreed. But even as a stand-alone movie, it’s yet another Robin Hood movie that we have seen since the Malaikallan days. There is nothing new in the film to celebrate. People have started accepting politically incorrect protagonists even when it’s portrayed by big stars (Mankatha for instance). Thaanaa Serndha Kootam was conceived because Special 26 was available and Special 26 is special because of the smartness in the con. Thaanaa Serndha Kootam is a blatant daylight murder of the original, and it shouldn’t have happened.
But what to do, it has happened. I go with 1/5 for Thaanaa Serndha Kootam for Ramya Krishnan and Senthil. Indha Thaanaa Serndha Kootam seramaye irundhirukkalam (This gang could have just stayed without coming together). If you are making an adaptation, please respect the original. There is a reason why it’s loved by people and if you can’t, just remake it. You will not be blamed for a frame-by-frame remake.
I request people to watch Special 26. Netflix has the movie with subtitles.
P.S., Probably, Vignesh Shivn has taken a Robin Hoodish revenge on Akshay Kumar for murdering Joker (Toilet Ek Prem Katha) and Airlift.