Natpe Thunai movie review: An underwhelming, dialogue-heavy sports dramahttps://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/movie-review/natpe-thunai-movie-review-rating-5660001/

Natpe Thunai movie review: An underwhelming, dialogue-heavy sports drama

Natpe Thunai movie review: This Aadhi starrer has all the predictable tropes of a sports film but fails to throw up surprises.

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Natpe Thunai review
Natpe Thunai movie review: Natpe Thunai wants to be a Chak De! India or Lagaan, but doesn’t achieve it.

Natpe Thunai movie cast: Hip Hop Aadhi, Karu Palaniappan, Harish Uthaman, Anagha
Natpe Thunai movie director: Parthiban Desingu
Natpe Thunai movie rating: 2 stars

Tamil cinema, undoubtedly, has some fascination for sports dramas—that need not necessarily be biopics. After Aishwarya Rajesh’s Kanaa, here comes another one, Natpe Thunai, based on hockey—packaged with commercial elements like friendship, songs, romance, fights, and so on. Though the film revolves around hockey, it looks like the makers were more keen to discuss the politics surrounding the sport.

This Aadhi starrer has all the predictable tropes of a sports film but fails to throw up surprises. With an ‘issue-based’ tone, it’s structured like an old fashioned film that caters to the mainstream Tamil audience. Director Parthiban Desingu attempts to make a commentary on multiple issues that plague the local sports scene and has weaved a story around them. He tries to infuse the narrative with some humour, but the effort falls flat. Sample these lines, please: “Sunny Leone yaarune theriyala, ivan kozhandha dhaan”, “Yaman Yamaha-la varudhu”, Koil-a sakkarapongal vaangara maari nikkara”, among many.

Aadhi plays Prabhakaran, and we get introduced to him, not as a hockey player, but an aimless guy who wants to settle in France. He falls for Deepa (Anaga), who is equally interested in hockey. But for some reason, she is shown playing the sport only in one scene. Deepa and Prabhakaran meet on the beach. Romance blossoms between them. At least, for Prabhakaran, let me say. From here on, he bumps into Deepa wherever she goes. Since the female lead is shown as a Malayali, there is a mandatory loud Kerala-fusion song with chenda beats.

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There is another track involving Shanmugam (an intense Harish Uthaman), an ex-serviceman-turned-hockey coach, who train the players on the local ground, and sports minister Harishchandra (an impressive Karu Palaniappan). Natpe Thunai doesn’t feel new. The makers could have explored the setting. For instance, say, a specific sport is famous in a locality, they could have shown more about localites, their way of living and such like. That’s what Vetrimaaran did in Vada Chennai. That’s the kind of writing a film really needs. What Natpe Thunai lacks are well-developed characters. And the heroine? She vanishes suddenly and comes back towards the end.

Prabhakaran has a backstory which hasn’t been justified properly. The film could have been better if it had spoken about his personal connection with the sport while he was growing up. I wonder how nobody recognises a former international hockey player. The film follows the familiar underdog template of sport-based films—the underdog team winning against heavily-stacked odds.

Aadhi enjoys a huge fan base in Tamil Nadu post-Jallikattu issue, and it is interesting how he is accepted as a ‘commercial hero’ in his second film by cinema-goers, mostly the youth. An attempt is made to hark back to his popularity, which works to an extent. But the tone of the film remains inconsistent.

I don’t understand why Natpe Thunai required a song, at the beginning, where Aadhi dances, flashing his colourful costumes with beach girls. Again, I don’t understand why there were half a dozen YouTube comedians, including ‘Eruma Saani’ Vijay, ‘Put Chutney’ Raj Mohan, who make fleeting appearances, besides the yesteryear actor Pandiarajan.

Natpe Thunai wants to be a Chak De! India or Lagaan, but doesn’t achieve it. Like all major sports dramas, the climax portions have been beautifully shot and it lets you live the moment. Sports dramas largely work because of emotional connect, and this one somehow lacks it.