‘Jagame Thandhiram’ follows Suruli, a dynamic gangster from South India who finds himself caught in a high-stakes gang war between a Tamil arms trader and a local British don in London. The conflict soon expands to encompass larger political and humanitarian issues, leaving the hero questioning his decisions and trying to play both sides. The gang war-driven plot of the movie is rooted in contemporary global issues. Can there be some truth to Suruli’s incredible journey? Let’s find out whether ‘Jagame Thandhiram’ is based on a true story or not.
Is Jagame Thandhiram Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Jagame Thandhiram’ is not based on a true story. The film’s focus on immigrant issues and reigning conservative policies in the UK and the world at large give it a feeling of being based in reality. However, these aspects were added to complete and detail the story that initially started as a gangster movie script. Not just any gangster movie, though. The film’s multicultural approach to organized crime was always meant to be its focus and is a result of an idea the film’s writer and director Karthik Subbaraj had many years ago.
Subbaraj, who is a fan of gangster movies, came upon the idea of blending the Western gangster world with South Indian Madurai gangsters whilst walking the streets of New York. The film, which was also meant to be produced in the US before being moved to the UK, takes inspiration from New York gangsters who would run neighborhoods and the wildly different and flamboyant South Indian gangsters. The end result of Suruli hailing from Madurai and taking on a London crime boss on his home turf makes for an as yet less explored dynamic in crime cinema.
However, it is the film’s surprising focus on immigration— that one of the bosses in the movie is a champion of and the other opposes, that gives it its depth. Subbaraj, in the process of writing the script which he started in 2016, was inspired by the reigning immigrant issues. Struck by the horrific prospect of finding oneself without a country to call home, he incorporated them into his script. Apart from showing the political aspects of the immigration debate, the film also explores the concept of what “home” means to a person. We also see the film’s protagonist effectively change his home from Madurai to London, where he makes his fortune and finds love.
Corrupt ministers, racist politicians, and anti-immigration bills being introduced in parliament are all aspects that the film finds inspiration in the real world from. The Sri Lankan civil war, which Suruli’s love interest Attila survives and subsequently becomes a refugee, is also mentioned briefly in the film. The simmering racism seen in ‘Jagame Thandhiram’ is also a reflection of the experiences faced by minorities in western countries. There are also scenes of police racially profiling citizens and arresting them, which has been a long-standing issue.
The film’s grim and realistic focus on immigration plays host to a whimsical gangster story that is also oftentimes comedic. It also blends the gangster movie aesthetics of two different cultures, to create a film that crosses geographic boundaries. The fact that it uses a multicultural lens to look at the issue of immigration through the eyes of a South Indian gangster makes the film entertaining whilst still giving it an air of realism.
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