Theeni Tamil Movie Review
Writer-director Ani Sasi's 'Theeni' is a fantastical tale about Ashok Selvan's Dev, an obese adult who goes to London to be a chef. Initially, Dev behaves like he has some serious nervous condition and sleep issues. His body parts move suddenly and unpredictably. The movement is so exaggerated that he makes everything fall when walking through the kitchen of his new London restaurant.
Dev tells everyone at the restaurant that his behavior is due to muscle spasms. He is a damn good chef, though. His culinary skills are so good that he instinctively knows what ingredients to add, even though he could not teach those skills to another person. It impresses the head chef of the restaurant played by Nassar, who has not cooked in 15 years but could determine the quality of food just by its smell. Dev's quick ascension into the chef's position in the restaurant makes Ritu Varma's Tara envy him. So, she notes down how Dev goes about his cooking routines.
As the film moves ahead, we realize that there is more to Dev's uncontrollable physical antics than meets the eye. He has a friend since childhood, Nithya Menen's Maya, who never leaves his subconscious mind. Maya is a woman-child played in an over-the-top fashion by Nithya. Maya is a plot device, a narrative tool that is so hard to buy into. I cannot take this character seriously.
Most of the film takes place in a restaurant. Divakar Mani captures the entire film with frames that befit a magical story. But the storytelling itself is a bummer. The writer leaves many clues early in the film that make it easy for us to guess what would happen later in it. Take the jamming door in the cold store section of the restaurant, for instance. There is an early scene where Tara tells Dev that the door and emergency button in the frozen storeroom do not work. After that, we could assume that there is going to be a scene later where the two would get stuck in the pantry. There is another plot point, a more important one, that we could guess quite easily. The movie has a love story angle that seems undercooked, and so many untimely songs that only try to manipulate our emotions.
A lot of the film revolves around food, but it never really becomes a food movie either. There are too many scenes where characters taste food and cry. It is as if the actors are crying on cue. It only takes one or two moments, like the black tea sequence from Ustad Hotel, to drive home the point of how food makes us connect at a personal level. None of those scenes in the film makes us care about food.
Ashok Selvan and Ritu Varma make for a lovely pair. Varma, in particular, makes a compelling enough character without much dialogue. For instance, we come to know that she is envious of Dev's cooking without any dialogue from Tara. I found the actors quite likeable, but they are in a story that is so vanilla.