Thira (Malayalam 2013) – Review

This was a note to myself. Though the movie is very close to my heart for multiple reasons, I have tried to maintain absolute honesty and objectivity in my thoughts about it here.



Thira is a Malayalam movie made for the Indian audience with world cinema standards of film-making.

Plot –

The plot revolves around Dr. Rohini (a social worker who runs Arpana – a home for girl children) and Naveen (a youngster whose sister studies in one of the education hubs in Karnataka).  A pan-India human trafficking nexus involving some corporate and some key judiciary and police personnel kidnap the girls from Arpana and also Naveen’s sister. The story is about their attempt to rescue them before they are subjected to the pain and torture that are undergone by trafficked girls and children. Although there have been movies in the past on similar one-lines this is a completely original and fresh treatment provided to it by the team.

Screenplay –

The idea of a social thriller is not familiar with the Indian audience as much as we are very familiar with these two genres independently. The well-researched, social ones are often called documentaries or art films, and there are thrillers with unrealistic action sequences and editing gimmicks, also called pure commercial films. Thira falls nicely in a genre that perfectly unites these two types of movies. The biggest credit in pulling that off goes to the screenwriters Rakesh Mantodi and Vineeth Sreenivasan for the amount of effort put in to ensure realism in terms of representing the social theme, locales, lingo and most importantly balancing the pace – of the dialogues and the overall story.

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Direction –

After one film on friendship and romance each (two never-fail youth themes), Thira is definitely a challenging attempt by the filmmaker in Vineeth Sreenivasan or in his own terms, his first ‘substantial movie’. He has gone a step ahead by expressing his unwillingness to be shackled by boundaries of shooting locations (Belgaum, Goa, Hyderabad and Chennai) or the characters cast or the languages employed to maintain the realistic flow of story (You will hear English, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada in addition to Malayalam spoken by characters throughout the movie!) In a way, this would be a first of its kind attempt by a ‘new-generation’ Malayalam filmmaker who has placed undivided confidence in the famous linguistic dexterity of a globalised Malayalee community and its  willingness to accept and promote non-masala, non-item number, non-superstar, non-glitzy, classmovies like those made by Adoor, Aravindan, Padmarajan, Bharathan and their likes several years ago. Hopefully, the new-generation audience will not disappoint his brave attempt to deviate from fixed formula films.

Acting –

It is roughly two decades since her timeless portrayal of Nagavalli in Manichitrathaazhu but Shobana still manages to hold the same screen charisma (if not more!). The character of Dr. Rohini Pranab fits so naturally on to her; perhaps that is why she also chose to dub her dialogues in Malayalam herself for the first time. Dhyan Sreenivasan, as Naveen, performs way better than an average debutant and responds well to the demands of the script – be it in the variety of emotions, dialogues in various languages, fast-paced stunt sequences etc.  The characterisation of a 25 year old, agitated brother is apt for him and he has pulled it off with his natural acting ability. However it take at least a few more challenging roles before he can prove himself beyond doubt as a fine, versatile actor, and successfully break off the web of nepotistic criticism weaved around any second generation artist. That said, he has already won many a hearts with his boy-next-door looks and off-screen candidness; and is definitely on the road to popularity.  A brilliant effort by casting director (and ad  maker) Dinesh Nair means that each and every character has been picked aptly for their roles, most importantly those of Basu and Angel. His achievement in bringing together characters from all parts of India and even outside it is highly commendable. Deepak Parambol of Thattathin Marayathu fame has done a fine job in his negative role and has once again proven his innate ability to pull off serious characters with ease.

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Cinematography –

The success team of Vineeth Sreenivasan and Jomon T John has once again enthralled audience with their visual magic – this time on film! The intensity that has been brought out on the film is more beautiful than what was claimed by the team at the beginning of filming. The transition from the slow and intense romance theme in Thattathin Marayathu to the faster-paced thriller mode in Thira has been seamless, without compromising on the stunning beauty of picturization, especially with the chase and stunt sequences.

Music –

Shaan Rahman’s name comprises of two extremely popular Indian musicians’ – Shaan and Rahman, and time again he has lived up to the expectations from such a powerful name. The musical ecstasy presented by the compositions of Shaan (both songs and the background score) provide life to the whole experience of Thira. The songs are blended well into the narrative of the story, making them all the more significant parts of the movie. Click here for listening to the tracks.

Editing –

Editing by Ranjan Abraham has done 110% justice to the demands of the genre of Thira. The versatile master of the art has successfully managed to strike the right cord of balance between the pace of a thriller and the depth demanded by the social message conveyed.

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Negatives –

It is difficult to spot any significant negatives in the film, unless you really want to. There are a couple of places you find the movie a bit dragging but that’s just for a few minutes until some new twist puts you back on the edge of the seat. The use of many languages is a double edged sword in terms of reception among audience who find it difficult to understand them, and hence find it difficult to travel with the storyline (There are sub-titles though).

Bottomline –

The movie has been created thus and hence must be viewed with the objectivity of a story – that of Dr. Rohini and Naveen, and not as a social crusade against human trafficking or any form of solution to it. It is more of an eye-opener about the vulnerability of our modern society towards the venom of female objectification and how every passing day of safety is a ‘gift of luck’ to the girls and women in such a civilization (or lack of it!). The movie also appeals to its audience to open their eyes and minds to things that do not concern them directly today, as the unchecked penetration of such social evils could catch up with us any other day. Thira is already announced to be a trilogy, another bold attempt by the filmmaker and a show of his commitment to making socially relevant, entertaining films.



(Made for all segments of audience, Thira is not just another regional movie)


Spirit (2012- Malayalam) – Review

In one of those truly rare occurrences, I went fMohanlal Madhu Thilakan Ranjith Spirit 2012 or the first day show of a movie. A malayalam movie I have been waiting to watch in awe of four mesmerising talents: Actors Thilakan, Madhu and Mohanlal, and Writer-Director Ranjith, and more importantly their team – SPIRIT.

I must say that I felt the movie lived up to its name in more than one sense. It was a spirited experience as it played last night but when I woke up this morning I had this familiar feeling of ‘What the hell was it last night!’ I am not saying the movie was not good. I stick to my stand that it was VERY GOOD (for an average team) but for what you expect out of this talent- combination, I am afraid it could have fallen a bit short of the mark.

Like always, the good things first. Excellent choice of subject by Renjith. Alcoholism is indeed staring at the Kerala society with a threat of drowning the entire state sooner or later. Brilliant, near-perfect performance by ALL actors. Special mention for the lead cast Mohanlal, Thilakan, Madhu, Kanniha, Shanker Ramakrishnan, Nandu, Kalpana and others. Quite captivating tempo and sequence of scenes and melodious music.

Now moving on to where I felt there were some gaps. When a senior director like Renjith who has an impeccable record of delivering successes takes up a very pertinent issue like alcoholism in Spirit, we expect him to cover the issue very comprehensively and in-depth, striking the menace on its head. However the representation of alcoholism in Spirit is majorly restricted to the lives of two individuals and their friends/families- the affluent Raghunandan and the impoverished plumber Manian. The issue of alcoholism unfortunately is much much beyond such cases, especially with the late teenagers and young working adults. It is unlikely that younger people will abandon drinking like the protagonist but it would have certainly driven home a more powerful message to the ‘upcoming’ community of alcoholics if Renjith had used this movie as the platform to do so. After all who wouldn’t mind giving up such habits and weaknesses at 50 or 60? 😉

Also, the touch-and-go coverage of sports drug usage and other forms of intoxication at high-school and colleges seemed quite like the haste of an amateur film maker to widen the breadth of social issues compromising on their depth.

Thilakan is a supremely powerful character actor and his return to mainstream cinema was one of the most anticipated events in recent past. However I strongly feel that the role of Maestri in Spirit does not meet the thirst of a master actor that he is. Sadly, in spite of a brilliant performance by Thilakan the character still seemed like an addendum in the end.


On the whole, Spirit (like what it stands for) is an enjoyable experience and definitely worth tasting at least once. So go for it with an appetite for a good show of spirit and of course our own Lalettan’s amazing performance! 🙂



Other reviews for the same movie (with the plot):







Adaminte Makan Abu : A movie beyond recognitions

Ustad symbolises the hope (or perhaps God) for an entire village, through whom they perceive the past, present and future. Hyder is the tea shop owner who is obsequious to the Ustad so much so that the good man continues to advise him even through his post-mortal spirit until Hyder himself turns into the next Ustad. The ancient theory of meditation which says if you are engaged in spiritual union with someone or something, you shall gradually end up to be them in this birth or the next. Read the story of the King Bharata and the deer.

Hajj is the dream or goal for Abu and Aisumma, the old couple deserted by their son for a rich modern life. In congruence with the famous lines in Bhagavatgita that advice you to toil without thoughts of the result (” Karmanyevadi Karaste Maphaleshu Kadhachana Ma Karma Phalahe Durbo Matesangatsvali Karmani” 2- 48), the Ustad asks Abu to keep the efforts going and let Him take decisions. A Muslim fakir advising explicitly on the lines of a Hindu scripture.

The old couple’s son Sattar who left them for a prospective life in the Gulf with a rich wife recasts the typical Kaliyug character described in Srimad Bhagavatham 12.3.24-42 (“Men will no longer protect their elderly parents, their children or their respectable wives.”)

The tree that the couple planted, nurtured and retained only to fell at times of crisis (which came as financial need for the Hajj trip) is a case of being untrue to yourself and your work i.e. like rearing a being with the intention of killing it. It represents Karma, the true result of your actions. Since Abu’s karma was not clean, the tree reciprocated it similarly by growing unworthy of any money for the couple. In other words, something akin to your bad karma returning bad results.

Thus, the spectacular movie Adaminte Makan Abu (Adam’s son Abu) conveys a much bigger picture of religious harmony and unity. It strongly drives home a point that religions propose fundamentally the same ideals in different forms, and hence any division on religious lines purely artificial and ill-motivated.

The movie is full of beautifully crafted symbolisms, whose meanings go beyond what appears obvious. It undoubtedly deserves much more than the national awards it received this year, and the official entry to this year’s Academy awards. Although it failed to clear for the next shortlisting in Academy awards, do go and watch it if you get a chance!

Unarviyam- A Rising Star on the Stage

>“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

-Oscar Wilde

In today’s world where technical developments aggravate audience’s demand for perfection, dramatics is indeed a very risky challenge. Without re-takes, editing from multiple shots, digital effects or mesmerising visual lavishness, it is quite unthinkable of delivering something that appeal to today’s viewers. Not to forget, the enormous amount of time and effort consumed from the time of conceiving the idea to scripting the scenes to making the props to rehearsing to perfection and finally performing on various stages. In spite of all these, there are still ardent fans of the theatre who have pledged to revive this traditional art form, and what’s more important is to make it equally appealing and connecting with the audience as films and music.

It was my pleasure to have attended the first stage performance of one such amateur theatre group calledUnarviyam’ last week. An immensely talented bunch of youngsters who performed an indigenous story of an intelligent thief in their mime play called ‘The Looters Looty’.

For a maiden performance, the actors’ confidence and connect with the audience was definitely commendable. The script was very much Chennai-ish with acts referring to day-to-day life in the city. This along with the fluent ease and casualness with which the main characters in the drama (the part of the play that had dialogues) Vatsan Natarajan who plays Fallu the thief (also the director and script writer of the play) and Prashanth Ramaswamy who plays Tiger the cop (also the head of the production unit of the play) handle their respective roles cleared all airs of reservation one might have for a debutant team. To complement them to near perfection, the mummers who played the respective roles Karthik GJ and Lokeshwaran exhibit a grace of movement and acting unparalleled by even professional artists. Their ability to communicate with the audience without a single word uttered definitely invited a great deal of applause.

The music by Muthukumar Anil was apt, with a distinctive ability to keep the audience excited and at the edge of their seats. The story was about an ‘intelligent’ thief who stole for passion. Though a few of the acts were inspired from popular cop-thief films, most of them were originally thought and adapted to suit the story. The character of Fallu the thief in both the drama and the mime were impeccably executed, always unleashing a flood of laughter in the hall. The script went on to tell us how there were almost ten ways of stealing happening in the society, and why Fallu felt that theft was integral at all strata of the society from politicians to tea-stalls. The policeman Tiger (who reminded me of Asrani from Sholay) also shone well among the audience with his repertoire, although the crowd was keener on pulling his legs with meowing sounds than supporting the character’s rationale.

Although thrilling to the deepest extent, there were some places that stood out amateurish in the execution of the play like the stage not being set before curtains went up and in between scenes, the script falling a bit shallow at times and dragging at a few places here and there. Though theatres have been responsible for creating revolutions in the past, I believe that political anecdotes in an apolitical context do not always add flair to the theme. Dragging the DMK and AIADMK, Anna Hazare, price rise etc. in this play I felt went a bit out of context and didn’t serve any purpose whatsoever in creating an impact or impression.

These minor things apart, I must admit it was a rejuvenating experience. In less than ten minutes since its beginning, the play and its cast were successful in making me shed the idea that I was watching a group’s first on stage performance. Unarviyam, the theatre group is undoubtedly here to stay and if they are able to adapt and improvise with every performance you can definitely look forward to a rising star in the otherwise plain night sky, under the light of whose success I’m sure other aspirants will also be motivated to enter the field and thus elevate theatre arts at par with the established art forms in today’s society.

Good luck Unarviyam!

Why did SRK make RaOne? (The story you didn’t know)

 “Why did he have to do this?! Why, I say!”

I had gone to watch RaOne with a bunch of friends. The show got over and we squeezed ourselves out of the movie hall, and were now recasting ourselves into what we actually looked like and catching some lost breath to regain composure. Some of the kids who had come to watch the movie seemed to go back happy and excited, but many of my friends were asking questions. “Weren’t things going fine for him; why did SRK have to do such a movie?!”

“Why did SRK make RaOne?”

These questions seemed to echo deep within my head, and I felt like some high frequency movement inside my brain. Like small cubes being tossed all around my cerebrum causing a virtual particle wave that translates into a real-time sensation called ‘pain’. This sensation increased steadily to a peak, and I was getting geared up for a black out in case of system collapse, but surprisingly there seemed to be a localised blackout inside my brain and it appeared as if I was staring at a pitch black screen, so grand in size that I could see no other thing. There was a single source of light that looked like one from a movie projector. The story unrolled and I could see it.

Only I could see it.

The year is 2006. The place looked like a very modern robotics research lab. Something intuitively told me that it was located in India. Perhaps it was the whole arrangement of the place or the big ‘Om’ symbol on the wall, but there was not single explicit evidence about its location. The lab and the project that was running there were owned by Mr.K. No one knew the real person behind this masked man wearing robotic overalls and appearing to be around 6-7 inches taller from five feet.He seemed to have been educated in one of India’s top engineering colleges and cut off from the world completely. His identity was a secret more than the project itself.

Mr.K ‘s project was aimed to destroy the self-proclaimed king (or emperor, the person in question was quite confused!) of a virtual kingdom and thus conquer the kingdom of Bolly-wood all to himself. Coming back to the lab, there was a white board on a stand that said- ‘Project Dhan’. Yes, it was planned to destroy the king by attacking his wealth and to accomplish this feat, the team had just successfully devised a super villain robot that was closest to invincible.

The robot was the most advanced one on the planet. It had Advanced Adaptive Learning, Instinctive Strategizing, Well Evolved Lability Level (‘AAL IS WELL’); skills that made it unique and indestructible machine. But the team had not come up with any name for him. It was decided to call him Duryo-Dhan, in short D-Dhan.

D-Dhan could influence anyone into doing anything, but he was meant to influence only one, and he was already on his mission.

Early 2008, SRK was in his Mumbai apartment taking a break after the success of Om Shanti Om. There was a discussion going on about a cricket league centered around Indian cities. The short, round-faced Bengali person who was trying hard to convince SRK dada took his hands in his and reassuringly tried to persuade him to choose the Kolkata team in the league. In a matter of few minutes, like a Midas touch, the obstinate SRK was magically convinced and he signed the franchise for Kolkata. Kolkata, which had another prince who would not bow down to kings and queens of the real world, a prince who revelled in the arrogance and authority of his leadership, a prince who would charge in spite of successes or failures and most importantly a prince who is loved selflessly by the people of Kolkata.

D-Dhan had begun his work thus and SRK immediately put in US$75Mn into the team and called it KKR with the prince being its ‘senapati’. In time, D-Dhan ensured that SRK lost quite a bit of his money, his team flopped and he fell out of favour with the prince whereby falling out of favour with the people of Kolkata. Before he could recover from the fall, D-Dhan returned to him in the form of a friend with a Bollywood science fiction story.

SRK decided to produce and act in this movie, and D-Dhan took the shape of Ms.Pia from Mr.K’s lab and made herself a part of the whole scheme to be in constant touch with its development. Money was pumped into it as continuously as water flows in a waterfall. D-Dhan could instantly make himself look like any person he wanted to, and took various peoples’ forms in these days to ensure the successful execution of his strategies.

He suggested shooting several scenes of the movie in the UK so that the cost of production wentup. He took up the role of an advisor who helped SRK and his friend with the plot. After a really poor opening scene for SRK, they zeroed on having a Tamil character as lead, where it was completely irrelevant. He also scripted the dialogues and shots in such a way that any south Indian who watched the character in action would want to puke on his face for his unbearable representation of a South Indian family man whom they all knew so well. (He also coaxed SRK to eat noodles with curd in this pretext, and now the Chinese government is planning to lodge a formal complaint against him for insulting their cuisine in public!) To rub salt on injury, D-Dhan recommended the inclusion of Rajinikanth in the movie so that the south audience would all make a trip to the theatres to catch a glimpse of their superstar, thus increasing their movie’s collection. Impressed by the idea, it was decided to cast Rajinikanth as his latest successful science fiction character ‘Chitti’. Now, D-Dhan scripted the action of the other characters sharing the screen to be so much overacting and the music too in a way that to many a viewers they appeared to be ridiculing Rajinikanth in that shot. All these ensured that SRK’s fan base in the south dwindled to abysmal levels.

Then came the part of giving the movie a name. D-Dhan made sure that they picked a name that he wanted them to, and managed to pass through the name ‘RaOne’ that sounded very much like ‘Ravan’ the latest Maniratnam movie with Idea mobiles ad star Bachchan Jr. He did this so that this movie did not get a unique identifier and if he could somehow manage to make the movie less impressive than the Maniratnam flick in the long run, SRK’s would NOT go down the annals of history as the original ‘Ra-v-an’ and shall always be referred to as ‘the other ra-one’ or ‘the not-so-good-ravan’. Smart of you, D-Dhan!

Once RaOne was made, and D-Dhan was inching close to the completion of his mission by having made the script weak and easy-to-be-forgotten, sequences mediocre and the whole experience debatable for most audience, he decided to put together his final act in the form of SRK ‘s promotion campaign manager. In this final role he managed to direct SRK to make a big-time predictable fool of himself going around the world like a door-to-door salesman so much so that social media was abuzz with rumours that SRK had turned himself into a domestic help in order to promote ‘the easy-to-handle, user-friendliness and perfect command reception skills’ of his superhero gaming character in the movie. For someone who could lower himself to the level of an annoying salesman (oh c’mon they show up everywhere!) in order to promote his movie, even his staunch fans were now made to wonder if the movie was not good enough to market itself! SRK spent close to US$30Mn on the movie.

While all this was happening, the media had begun to get clues about Duryo Dhan the super villain from the generation after RaOne, and were trying to trace up to his makers. Though no one had established who the primary instigator of the whole mission was, it was believed to be a product of the Khan rivalry. Nothing more could be said now.

Arr—j-j-u—uuu–nn….. Thud! Thud!

(Snapped back to reality) It was my friend who shook me up from … what shall I say, my dream? I was there in the movie theatre, everything was normal. No one knew about D-Dhan or his plots. They were still cursing SRK for making a movie like this, and our friend Deepak for volunteering to reserve tickets for all of us.

Why did I come to know of it? Does Duryo Dhan actually exist? I am confused to say the least.

Then suddenly someone came up to me and started talking. I wasn’t listening, but.

“Arjun, you are dreaming again?”

‘A-R-J-U-N’, it struck me. If there is a Duryo Dhan there must be an Arjun to defeat him in the battle of the next generation. Yes, I am the new superhero who fights the super villain! When the story of RaOne continues, you know where things are leading to and you also know who’s gonna be the super hero in that super movie.

‘Arjun’- Me! Duh!

A play about Death- Review

Has the loss of your loved one ever made you want to come face to face with death so that you can tear it apart? Or have you ever felt that you are just another character in a pre written play called life that ends with your death?

These are the two aspects that stand out in ‘A play about Death’ written by Thomas Manuel and Visvak Reddy that was staged at Alliance Francaise, Chennai over this weekend. The play was directed by Harish Aditya.

The play begins with a monologue by the character Peter. He describes himself as a playwright who wrote a play on death but before he could stage it, the lead character dies in an accident and hence has to abandon the plan. His role is central to understanding the concept of death described in the play.

Death, he says first, is nothing but a random unpredictable incident in everyone’s life. At a later point in the play, he debates with a fellow character Ralph whether death itself is the only proof of a real life?

Ralph is the other main character in the play whose role is central to the concept of life itself as a play. His argument with Peter on the differences in the life of a ‘real person’ and a ‘fictional character’ is both hilarious as well as thought provoking. Together they define the traits that distinguish a character from real person, while conveying the message that after all, we could all be characters in a play pre-written and directed by someone (you can say, God).

Emphasising on the concept that a character knows only that what his creator wants him to know, they also joke on man’s losing battle with information overload (his inability to know even the facts that directly concern him) and the distinction between friends and ‘facebook friends’. End of the play, they conclude, is death for the character.

A beautifully conceptualised and executed play by a bunch of post-teenagers, ‘A play about Death’ is indeed a hope for the bright future of Indian theatrics. The actors were brilliant. In particular, the guy who played Gordon, the common man. His natural yet humorous portrayal of the characters deserves special mention. The actor who played Ralph was emphatic to say the least, while the actions and dialogue rendition of the guy who played Peter were impeccable.

All in all, a well spent hour and a half. Must watch if you are interested in some satirical comedy on an abstract topic like death, that camouflages its philosophical message to be visible only to its seeker.


[I have consciously refrained from naming the actors here because I fear that I might mix up their names and roles. If someone can give me the correct mapping, it’d be great! 🙂 ]