Review: ‘Rathnam’ (2024), starring Vishal and Priya Bhavani Shankar

May 5, 2024

by Carla Hay

Vishal and Priya Bhavani Shankar in “Rathnam” (Photo courtesy of Ayngaran International)

“Rathnam” (2024)

Directed by Hari

Tamil with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Vellore, India, the action film “Rathnam” features an Asian cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: An enforcer for a Member of the Legislative Assembly gets caught up in a violent feud with corrupt businessmen who want to steal land ownership from a group of villagers. 

Culture Audience: “Rathnam” will appeal primarily who are fans of the movie’s headliners and don’t mind watching idiotic action movies that are too long.

Murali Sharma in “Rathnam” (Photo courtesy of Ayngaran International)

“Rathnam” is just another long-winded, repetitive and idiotic action flick with no surprises and no soul. The movie has an unappealing subplot about the shallow “hero” falling in love with a woman who looks exactly like his dead mother. Other than that bizarre part of the story, “Rathnam” has the typical barrage of unrealistic fight scenes and murderous revenge schemes. It’s all becomes so dull and tiresome after a while. And it’s made worse by the movie’s too-long runtime of 155 minutes.

Written and directed by Hari, “Rathnam” (which takes place in Vellore, India) is the fourth movie collaboration for Hari and star Vishal. They previously worked together on 2007’s “Thaamirabharani,” 2014’s “Poojai” and 2022’s “Yaanai.” Vishal portrays the title character in “Rathnam,” which means “gem” in Tamil. This movie is far from being a gem-like treasure. It’s trash.

“Rathnam” begins with a flashback to 1994, by showing how a group of three bandits commit robberies on the road. The three thieves throw eggs at the windshields of passing vehicles on isolated roads, to get the drivers to lose control of the vehicles and crash. The thieves then swoop in and rob the people in the crashed vehicles, regardless if the people are dead or alive.

The thieves use this heinous robbery tactic on a bus, which crashes and kills a total of 26 people. The thieves rob the dead and dying people before escaping. Later, when police try to catch the robbers on a cliff road, eggs are thrown on the police car’s windshield, and the police car falls over the cliff.

The movie then fast-forwards to 2024. Vellore is plagued by corruption from several politicians and business owners. Rathnam works as an enforcer for a Member the Legislative Assembly named Panneer Selvam (played by Samuthirakani), who sends Rathnam to do a lot of Panneer’s dirty work.

One of these criminal politcians is a council member named Babu Reddy (played by Pondy Ravi), who is seen trying to sexually assault a kidnapped teenage schoolgirl while he’s driving her in his Jeep. She jumps out of the vehicle to escape and ends up in a hospital, where police have been called to interview her. Babu Reddy denies anything to do with the crimes he committed against this victim.

The next thing you know, Rathnam and three of his cronies hunt down Babu. Rathnam then kills Babu with a chainsaw. Rathnam’s weapons of choice tend to be anything with blades, because he likes to behead many of his victims. Expect to see many scenes of Rathnam slashing his way through fights by using large knives and machetes.

Fairly early on in the story, Rathnam talks about his past to explain why he turned out to be the person he is. When he was 5 years old, Rathnam and his mother Loganayagi (played by Priya Bhavani Shankar) were kidnapped. The kidnappers forced Rathnam’s mother to become a sex slave. She became an outcast in their community and committed suicide (by hanging herself) out of shame. “Rathnam” has some other flashbacks to his family’s past, with the flashbacks showing relatives such as Rathnam’s father (played by Ganesh Venkatraman) and Rathnam’s grandfather (played by Y. Gee. Mahendra).

Meanwhile, in the present day, three ruthless brothers have been bullying the villagers to sign over land to them. This dastardly trio of brothers are Beema Rayudu (played by Murali Sharma), Subba Rayudu (played by Hareesh Peradi) and Raghava Rayudu (played by Vettai Muthukumar), who have a connection to Rathnam’s past that won’t be revealed in this review. The villagers who don’t comply are at risk of being murdered by the Rayudu brothers, who have a large group of thugs working for them.

Rathnam’s love interest is a medical student named Malliga (also played by Shankar), whose father Vedha Nayagam (played by Jayaprakash) and unnamed grandfather (played by Vijayakumar) are among the outspoken villagers who are resisting the threats and attacks from the Rayudu brothers. Rathnam is immediately smitten with Malliga the first time that he sees her because she looks identical to his dead mother. When Malliga finds out about this uncanny resemblance, she doesn’t think it’s creepy at all that Rathnam is attracted to her in part because she looks like his mother.

Rathnam and Malliga have a volatile relationship where they break up and get back together multiple times. Rathnam is very jealous and possessive and can fly into a rage if he thinks Malliga is having “impure” thoughts about another man. The movie tries to make this relationship look romantic when it’s actually an emotionally abusive and dysfunctional relationship.

“Rathnam” is filled with ridiculous fight scenes where Rathnam has unexplained superhuman strength and abilities. When he is outnumbered by opponents, the opponents just stand around and watch while Rathnam takes on one man at a time. It’s all such idiotic and lazy filmmaking. There’s nothing about “Rathnam” that can be described as “great” or “very good.” It’s all just a parade of mediocre-to-bad everything that is not worth the time of anyone who wants to see an entertaining action movie.

Ayngaran International released “Rathnam” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on April 26, 2024.

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