India is home to one of the biggest film industries in the world. The magic of Bollywood cannot be underestimated. Millions and millions go each year to Indian cinemas to watch these fantastic epics, where superheroes, legends, magic and fantastic musical numbers have found their place in people’s minds.
Film productions in India have managed to reach the quality of movies from many other big industries in the western hemisphere. There is really nothing they need to prove, they are big, loud, and bombastic, and they also deliver quality entertainment to millions of people inside India and the surrounding countries. The biggest challenge for India as a filmmaker’s home has been to breach to western audiences.
There are many fans of Hollywood productions in the West. There are also millions of immigrants from India spread around the world. Especially in the United States, so that’s where the Indian films have managed to find the most attention in the West, some productions have even reached the Box Office Top Ten at least during their opening week. That in it of itself is a great achievement, that it should be celebrated.
However, mainstream audiences haven’t really found a production to grab on. South Korea has had better success when it comes to throw their productions around in the west and get embraced by audiences. India has yet to do it, and this new Netflix film, Thar, might not be the one either to do it.
Thar is written and directed by Raj Singh Chaudhary, this being his second feature, and stars Anil Kapoor, his son in real life, Harshvardhan Kapoor, and Fatima Sana Shaikh. The film tells the story of a mysterious wanderer that finds his way to the town of Rajasthani. The town has been recently stricken by violent killings, and the police are still looking for the criminals. When the mysterious wanderer appears in the town, he immediately rises suspicious from the order forces, and they confront him as a suspect.
The tale of a mysterious wanderer coming into town with even more mysterious intentions is a staple trope of the Western genre. From Clint’s Eastwood, Man With No Name, to Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, and even Leone’s Harmonica, the tough guy with a mysterious past has been used to tell some fantastic stories. Thar tries to do the same thing, but this time exchanging the Old West desert for the Indian one, to tell a tale of vengeance and violence.
However, from the very moment the film starts, it is clear that Raj Singh Chaudhary might not be the right director for this type of movie. The scenery is fantastic. The desert looks gorgeous and ready to be the setting for some epic tale. And yet, as the movie progresses, it becomes more and more stale thanks to some questionable framing choices and an atmosphere that seems to think that the violent element of the story can carry it out until the end.
Violence is like making love, the preamble to the climax is what makes the climax worth something. Thar seems to think that the climax can be prolonged through showing violence, blood, and gore constantly. What can have a shocking effect at the beginning will quickly become routine, and then that becomes boring. A tale of vengeance is only satisfying if the vengeance comes swiftly, at the moment it becomes cruel, then the audience gets lost and supporting the “hero” becomes harder and harder.
It would be great if the movie made these decisions while trying to go into different directions regarding vengeance storytelling, but it doesn’t. Thar thinks that it is telling a normal vengeance tale, but doesn’t really know how to execute that idea in the proper way.
In terms of performances both Kapoor do a nice job, the rest of the cast is just there to support the father and son duo, and they feel very underutilized. Kepoor Jr. feels at times like overacting and the tough persona he is trying to deliver, actually comes off as the personality of a spoiled child. Saddirth, the character Kapoor Jr. plays, will have a hard time finding supporters the further the movie progresses.
Kapoor senior is a different tale, the man has tons of experience as an actor and his performance is very subdued, especially when the film begins. Sadly, the writing betrays Kapoor senior and delivers him a very uninteresting character to perform. Not even the veteran experience of the actor can elevate a very weak material. The plotting and dialogue should have been polished quite a bit more.
The score by Ajay Jayanthi fares better, it really elevates the boring action sequences and makes them watchable. His work on the movie is really one of the highlights, and it should be noted. The cinematography also has a hard time finding its own identity, and the setting feels very much wasted on the movie. There should be more use of the setting to create atmosphere, it should be another character in the film. What a wasted opportunity.
Thar tries to follow a formula that has been proven time and time again, but fails to create the characters and execute a story in a way that will stay in people’s minds. Instead, it tries to go for the shock value element, that while, yes, shocking, it dissipates just as quickly.