Tughlaq Durbar: A confused mix of call-backs and references

Updated: Mar 16

Spoilers ahead...

Politics is a topic that has always intrigued our filmmakers right from an early age. Starting from the classic Parasakthi (1952), this topic has been a great muse for a lot of directors to comment on the ways of the world or as a platform to explore different facets of the human psyche. Tughlaq Durbar is another film in the gamut of films that we have in the section of political satire. Starring Vijay Sethupathi, Radhakrishnan Parthiban, Rashi Khanna, Manjima Mohan, Karunakaran and Bagavathi Perumal, is passable as a spoof as much as it attempts to be rooted and satirical.

As is the case with many of the films that have been releasing of late, Tughlaq Durbar also suffers from hurried writing and underdevelopment of the concepts. It is the story of Singaravelan a.k.a Singam's rise through the ranks in the murky world of politics. He is an emotionally shallow and reckless man who doesn't mind using people to get what he needs, which is, becoming the party leader that Rayappan leads. Of course, to have a film completely travel on the shoulder of a protagonist and an antagonist won't be enough, right? So, to perform the perfunctory duties of sister, girlfriend and a friend we have the characters of Manimegalai (Manjima Mohan who just cries or tries to stop doing so throughout the film), Kamakshika (Raashi Khanna in another role of a cute-girl-for-a-duet role) and Vasu (Karunakaran who is the only other character other than Vijay Sethupathi who holds the film together. Of course, he is the conscience-keeper of the protagonist).

Coming back, as Singam is busy rising the ranks by throwing sand in the eyes of the loyal Mangalam (Bagavathy Perumal in an underwritten role, still gives an impressive performance) after an accident there is a mysterious event that happens (it's a beautiful shot) which would change the course Singam's journey and hence, the course of the film. This would remind people of Liar Liar and Seethakathi, the latter of which Vijay Sethupathi himself starred in the year 2014. Despite this theme being explored earlier, the milieu in which this film gives it a great scope to perform. Vijay Sethupathi continues to prove why he is a great artist by choosing to perform characters like this. There is a scene where a character asks Singam to mete justice to his sister Manimegalai who has a pervert boss. But Singam dismisses the whole issue citing his busy schedule as a party worker and saying that women are bound to come across such people at work and they should just ignore them to survive. This is a shade for a protagonist that not many lead actors of today would agree to play. Needless to say, the majority of the film travels on the very able shoulders of this man who is earnest and puts his soul into every scene.

There is an interesting mirror scene towards the end of the first half. I was expecting an Anniyan climax of sorts and was all hooked. But all we get is mockery and nothing more. This one scene is just an example of how the rest of the film is. The character of Rayappan has only one shade. The thinking only seems to be in giving him lines that have cheap rhyme and sly references. For the uninitiated, I suggest Otha Seruppu Size 7. In the literal one-man show, you would Parthiban unleash in full glory his prowess of witty one-liners and intellectual puns. Other than a few scenes, neither his acting mettle nor his one-of-its-kind dialogue delivery is utilized. The same goes for the character of Sathyaraj. Other than the "look at the camera in a meaningful way" and a few rehashes of his earlier films, there was no meat in his role.

The second half of the film is all over the place with a short trip in the film that is about the search for some money mirroring the way the film is meandering about, finding a way to end. Other than some clever dialogues and Vijay Sethupathi's acting, the film is just a potpourri of poorly executed call-backs and references.

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