That there was something endearing about the visuals of Theevandi was evident right from the time the first song streamed it’s way into the hearts of Malayalis across the globe. If you were away from Kerala, the song made you want to hop on the next ride home. It presented before us a place that we wanted to go back to, away from the maddening swipes left, right, up and down our lives are. A place you were not quite sure if it existed for real anymore but desperately wanted to believe it did. Of late more than one film maker has used this as a tool to rope in the audience in the southern most tip of the country who feeds on anything nostalgic with fervor. It started with Maheshinte Prathikaram if I’m not wrong. Felt its tugs again when the song of Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum debuted and then to some extent in Godha. In Theevandi director Fellini TP and writer Vini Viswa Lal have done their best to ensure that this element of nostalgia flows unhindered throughout the movie.
Theevandi chronicles the lives in a rustic smalltown and the characters are a cross section of the people we would find in a place like that in any part of Kerala. The film focuses on the problems faced by a chain smoking slacker whose habits ultimately end up having even political ramifications in the sleepy laidback countryside where the stroy unfolds. Opening to an incident which lays a sort of mystical foundation for the significance of smoking in the life of the character played by Tovino, the movie is part family drama,part love story and part political satire of sorts. There’s no magical realism here, in fact Mario Vargas Llosa whose book is seen to be held by a character in a passing scene was never exactly an exponent of the literary style though it could be an indicator to the inclinatons of the individuals at the helm. The film takes it’s sweet time to tell the story and there are more than a few laughs once the film gets going. Every actor has delivered in perfectly cast roles. Tovino, Suraaj and Surabhi prove their mettle again. Samyukhta Menon has made a decent breakthrough though it remains to be seen if she is going to stick around or move to the more lucrative industries next door. Most notably Sudheesh has finally shed the tag of the eternal boy next door of Malayalam Cinema that he held close for almost three decades here and makes a mark too.
When it comes to humor in Malayalam Cinema, the bar was set more than a bit high by the likes of Sreenivasan, Sathyan Anthikad, Siddique-Lal and Priyadharshan. In fact these stalwarts themselves have never come close to the standards they set from the mid 80’s to the late 90’s in their more recent works. So it’s hardly surprising if the new crop of filmmakers and actors have fallen short often in their attempts to make Malayalis laugh their hearts out. Sequels to the most loved classics were attempted by desperate wannabes and the results are unforgiveable, at least in my book. Theevandi may not be perfect but it is indeed a functional homage to the golden era of humor. Tovino, who has won hearts with compelling and diverse performances is on a roll with movies like Mayanadhi, Maradona and now Theevandi striking a chord with the audience.