Having been born and brought up in a place which lies midway or so on the span of the erstwhile NH 47 that stretches between Cherthala and Alappuzha, a question that I’ve had almost all my life and have never quite figured out yet is if I hailed from a village or a town or a hamlet, though technically its classified a village in the records of the State’s local self governance system.Hey, don’t blame me,the place never looked like the village from the social studies textbooks at school, it never had a winding mud road nor did it have a well around which people flocked to fetch water and i most certainly did not come across a bullock cart, ever.It did not look anything like the villages i got to see in the DD shows or in any of the movies I’d watched either, until “Thondimuthalum Drihsakshiyum” came along that is.
The locales in the film were familiar and mostly were places that i have visited or passed by countless times but apart from that what caught my eye is the authenticity with which the households and neighborhoods have been depicted.”Pullipulikalum Attinkuttiyum” and “Venicile Vyapari” did a decent job in that department but they were again set against the tried and tested filmy Alappuzha backdrop of backwaters and houseboats.”Thondimuthal” has to be the first malayalam movie to feature a “thara”, the traditional coir loom which is a regular fixture next to most homes in the coir belt of the district, especially Cherthala where the story is set.I guess this is what residents of Idukki experienced when they watched Dileesh Pothan’s debut movie too.Its safe to assume that this is where Shyam Pushkaran contributed the most in his creative director avatar,which obviously is an indicator of the inevitable next step for the writer, I think.
It’s not just the rustic appeal of the region that the makers have successfully translated on to the screen here, you realize when the story unfolds in layers before you for the next two hours.This has to be the first movie to address and acknowledge the stigma that caste is even to this day in a society that’s otherwise been a harbinger of social progress and change in many fields compared to other parts of the country.The movie makes subtle but pertinent statements about the comfort zones in which people of different castes tolerate each other and what happens when its breached.
The story soon shifts to the barren midlands of Kasargode and the stark change in the landscape which reflects in the countenance of the protagonists is a metaphor to their predicament too, I felt.Its against this backdrop that Fahadh Faasil gets his most dramatic introduction scene ever where he proves that when you’re as talented an actor as he is you don’t need acrobatics and ballistics to make an impact,all he uses here are his eyes.Credit here goes to the “brilliant” director who I assume conceived the sequence and to that master cinematographer for the execution beyond comparison.
This film can be read at so many levels but one thing that struck me most is the maturity it demands from the audience.If you’re looking for explanations and cues from every other character for the events on the screen, this film is not for you.In fact if anything turns out to be this film’s undoing it could be this subtlety, when it tries to convey the most significant of moments and themes in the quietest of ways on screen.People just might not get it.
Of late we have seen a surge in films where ensemble nondescript cast have made an impact but Thondimuthal turns out to be the mother of all those films with the entire police station cast stealing the show.The film would belong to them entirely if it weren’t for the stellar performances from Suraaj, Nimisha and of course the man himself. Fahadh has relegated himself in this film both in terms of the character he portrayed and screen time he had,but has delivered one of his most memorable performances and that’s something few of his contemporaries would be comfortable with or capable of, I think.To take a cue from a line in Maheshinte Prathikaram, after Mammooty of the yore he seems to be the only lead actor who’d take roles purely upon its merits rather than appearances and stature.