Gangs of Madras movie cast: Priyanka Ruth, Daniel Balaji, Velu Prabhakaran, Ashok Kumar
Gangs of Madras movie director: CV Kumar
Gangs of Madras movie rating: Three stars
The axe forgets but the tree remembers—Gangs of Madras opens with this line. Revenge has been a recurring theme driving generations of successful commercial Tamil filmmakers, and CV Kumar takes the same route with his second directorial venture, after Maayavan. Gangs of Madras brims with fascinating characters. Wronged and aggrieved protagonists rarely ‘inspire’, but you don’t mind the mayhem that ensues in this film.
Gangs of Madras is the story of Jaya aka Razia Sultana (a fantastic Priyanka Ruth), seeking revenge as she can’t come to terms with the loss of her unborn child and husband Ibrahim (Ashok). We get a glimpse into Jaya’s childhood days, in which she thrashes a boy, who hurt her, after three months. She doesn’t forgive others and their past crimes. “Yaaru adichaalum thirupiyum adikkanum,” is Jaya’s motto in life. Then, we are shown her transformation from a simple girl to a gangster.
Razia learns Mohammed Rowther (Velu Prabhakaran) is responsible for her husband’s death and plots to kill him, with the help of Boxy (Daniel Balaji), who trains her. Mostly, gangster dramas are structured within the confines of an unfeasible ‘action hero’ universe. But this one works because of a convincing female protagonist.
Kumar establishes the traumatic void in great detail – how a sudden death of a loved one can derail someone. Razia says, “Namakkana nyayatha namba thaan thedikkanum”— and Kumar gradually makes us understand how true that is. In fact, he gives us a lot of time to take in the randomness of the characters.
For example, Razia murders someone on the road, walks casually into the small eatery she was at, and continues to eat biryani. And after killing a bunch of men, she watches a dance sequence on the television as if nothing happened. None of the characters behave in ways we expect, and that’s where Gangs of Madras scores. The more you think about Razia, the more you root for her determination. The film also shows the ugly side of cops as they generously turn a blind eye to the wounded Razia. As you grapple with the choices that Razia makes, Kumar gives us enough to dip into the societal pool where the crime germinates. Priyanka Ruth is an absolute delight to watch and emerges as a surprise packet. Daniel Balaji, as usual, manages to pull off his role effortlessly.
It is not that all questions are answered in Gangs of Madras—though Kumar intends to explain ‘organised crime’ and what drug mafia has done to the labour class. Hari Dafusia contributes heavily with his background score that helps us take the small leaps of faith in this dark space. There are loopholes, several cliched moments and obvious flaws, yet Kumar manages to tell a gripping story. Gangs of Madras doesn’t have well-rounded characters like Vada Chennai or Pudhupettai, but hey, let me not compare.