Thallumaala Movie Review: Eminently enjoyable when not being self-indulgent
Khalid Rahman delivers his most entertaining film since Anuraga Karikkin Vellam
You can really feel the joy and enthusiasm of the makers of Thallumaala when they conceived some of the most innovative fight sequences ever put to film. We feel it in the way they are staged, shot and edited. Each one is different from the other, even though they are all driven by the same emotions. These fights are caused by the silliest reasons, by men who have matured physically but not psychologically. The story is as thin as it can get. What is thick, however, is the plot, which Thallumaala prioritises over the former.
The simplest and silliest situations are imagined on a larger scale, presented as colourfully as possible, through all the possible non-linear routes combined with an occasional sprinkling of comic book, animation, and video game aesthetics. This is the level of wildly imaginative filmmaking that we mostly see in the films of Edgar Wright, particularly in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. I've not seen anyone in Malayalam cinema pull it off so beautifully as how Khalid Rahman (and his editor Nishad Yusuf) has in Thallumaala. Sometimes an ongoing scene would have an element from the incoming scene merging into it. In one instance, a simple camera pan in the same room introduces the next activity. In a fight sequence, a split-screen panel frames two characters, and the kick from an opponent in one frame creates a distortion in the other. Jimshi Khalid's kinetically charged camera employs every possible angle without any of it seeming like a gimmick. Some instances made me go, "That would've looked great in 3D."
Director: Khalid Rahman
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Shine Tom Chacko, Lukman, Gokulan
I mentioned earlier that it's immaturity that triggers the events in Thallumaala. I don't mean that in a negative way. If the characters didn't exhibit a degree of childishness, we wouldn't get a movie. But here's the problem. I wondered whether the 'conflicts' of these characters deserved a 150-min runtime. Thallumaala is most entertaining when it relies on the amusing camaraderie between friends/foes-turned-friends/friends-turned-foes in addition to, of course, the fight sequences, of which the film has a fair share. However, not all of the friends' banter is interesting enough to keep one invested. Some conversations had me fighting an urge to doze off due to their dullness. I was also not too fond of how the characters randomly break out a song and dance routine, sometimes within a short span of each other. These moments reek of self-indulgence and are jarring speed-breakers. (The fact that I did not find any of the songs to my liking is another matter. Vishnu Vijay's main theme is an exception.)
The film's energy dips whenever it decides to have characters say their lines as a song or when a group of friends take a long time to find the person that hurt their collective egos. And that accounts for about 30 per cent of Thallumaala. Thankfully, the film's pace picks up later, when it finally thinks it's time for us to know the background details behind the opening scene. It gets even more interesting when it culminates in a hilarious twist that, despite leaving things open-ended, is such a blast. Thallumaala is a film focused on doing one thing and one thing only: Fun.
I found Thallumaala's supporting characters more entertaining than the leads. The immensely talented Shine Tom Chacko, Lukman, Binu Pappu, and Gokulan do what they always do best while Adhri Joe and the remaining members of Tovino's gang deliver the necessary laughs. One notable moment of levity works quite effectively because of the meta-humour involving Shine Tom Chacko and his real-life persona.
Tovino and Kalyani's characters reflect their charming off-screen selves. They're not required to be anything else other than look cool. These are not emotionally complex characters. They are... chill. This quality might not make them interesting characters, but then, Thallumaala is not a film that requires one to do any emotional heavy-lifting. There is a scene in Thallumaala that best illustrates its philosophy. When Tovino's Wasim gets invited as a chief guest at an event, an 'intellectual' writer asks what eligibility the former has to be present at a place that usually entertains eminent personalities of great intellect. The crowd replies, "Because he entertains us!" That's Thallumaala in a nutshell. It just wants you to sit back and have a laugh while taking in all the fireworks, glitz, and glam. This is Khalid Rahman and his frequent collaborators proving that they can do big-scale spectacles too. It's Khalid's most entertaining film since Anuraga Karikkin Vellam.