Synopsis: A convict out on parole finds employment as the caretaker of a multi-millionaire, who is paralysed from neck down.
Review: A remake of The Intouchables, a 2011 French film that was a box office phenomenon in its home country, Thozha is heart-warming and crowd-pleasing, two qualities that ensure that we don't dwell much on its formulaic plot that involves characters from varied socio-economic backgrounds learning life lessons from each other. Director Vamshi sticks to the structure of the original and this largely helps his film because more than story and plot, this is a film that is about its lead characters.
Here, the two characters are Seenu (Karthi), a small-time criminal out on parole, and Vikramadithya (Nagarjuna), a man with an embarrassing amount of wealth. And Vamshi gets the crucial element of casting right. In Karthi, he has an actor who can be loud, blunt, and wide-eyed, and still remain charming. The character is even slightly lecherous towards Keerthi (Tamannaah, whose brief for this role must have had only two words: dress fashionably), Vikram's secretary, but it is because of Karthi that we look past this aspect. The actor also nicely captures the astonishment and anguish of the character. Seenu might come across as someone enjoying the perks that come in the way of his job, but we are also able to sense that deep down he would rather swap the riches for his family's love. His railway clerk 'mother' (Jayasudha), who is the breadwinner of the family, detests him for having become a criminal, while his sister and brother give a damn about him. The incidents involving this family's problems is something that we have seen often, and yet, as a drama, it works.
But the character of Vikram is one-note. He is written as an implausibly saintly figure even though his disability itself automatically makes the audience empathise with his character. Every other character in the film, even his ex (Anushka, in a cameo), speaks of him in a worshipful manner that there is hardly any edge to Vikram. He doesn't even seem to be angry at his situation, even at his lowest point. Nagarjuna projects the stature of a multi-millionaire effortlessly, but he is somewhat unconvincing when it comes to conveying the helplessness and trauma of a disabled person.
Still, the strong sense of camaraderie between Karthi and Nagarjuna is instrumental in making us root for their characters. And even though it deals with disability, things rarely get treacly in Thozha. It even finds a way to have a Seenathana-like item number. And when things get emotional, there is always a humourous remark a couple of dialogues away. Take for example the scene where Vikram's friend Prasad (Prakash Raj in a tailor-made role) talks to Seenu on Vikram's past. Like Seenu, we turn misty-eyed when we learn what happened, but soon start laughing when Seenu lightens the mood by revealing the truth about a painting that Prasad had bought. In fact, more than the emotions, it is the laughs like this one that make the film tick.