Saturday, June 22, 2024

Crime, conflict, and character: Watching ‘Thalavan’

In the promotional interviews for the film, Director Jis Joy talks about how the Malayalam audience has changed over the years. He mentions that he has understood how vital it is to avoid taking too much time to set the scene. Directed by Jis Joy and Produced by Arun Narayan and Sijo Sebastian, ‘Thalavan’ is a quintessential whodunit crime-thriller. 

The movie starts with DYSP Udhayabanu, played by Dileesh Pothan, narrating the story of a crime that happened years ago for a TV show. Set in Cheppanamthotta in Kannur, ‘Thalavan’ is the story of two police officers, CI Jayashankar and SI Karthik, their ego clashes, and their journey towards solving a crime that they’re entangled in due to unfortunate incidents. Thalavan, without boring you, sets the story beautifully, giving you ample time to get acquainted with the police station, its officers, and the complex dynamics that steer the rest of the story.

Many investigation thrillers have the nature of placing their police officers into clearly defined boxes of good or bad, ‘Thalavan’ stands out by humanising the officers with well-rounded characterisation. This is reflected in their petty arguments and ego battles and the authenticity of these scenes. The characters played by Biju Menon and Asif Ali are authentic in how they speak and fight alike; their dynamics have a certain sense of familiarity. Unlike the similar relationship conflicts in the 2020 movie, ‘Ayyappanum Koshiyum’, the ego battles in ‘Thalavan’ aren’t too explosive. Even the elements of cliché and scenes of police brutality are written with great nuance. The filmmakers ensured these scenes weren’t glorified or glamorised and were more of a necessity.

Although there are some discrepancies with the abundance of information and characters thrown on the audience and one too many red herrings, the script written by debutants Anand Thevarkatt and Sarath Perumbavoor lays a great foundation for the movie. While the dialogue written by Jis Joy works really well in most instances, it has its weak points. The movie’s pacing, well-balanced in the first and second half, falters in the third with an ending that seems too rushed. The countless red herrings turn into misleading deterrents rather than clues leading to the culprit, which takes away some of the excitement from the audience. The shortcomings of the movie are compensated with its technical aspects, especially the cinematography by Sharan Velayudhan. The colour grading and visuals are apt for a procedural drama like ‘Thalavan’.

The performance of every actor, including the ones handling the minor roles, is perhaps the strongest pillar of the movie. Biju Menon and Asif Ali, in the lead roles sharing most of the screen time, perform the subtleties the characters require beautifully. Their chemistry is strong. Watching Asif Ali receive a well-deserved abundance of love and applause on the big screen was truly a delight. Despite their brief screen time, Kottayam Nazeer, Bilas Chandrahasan and Dineesh Alpy leave a memorable impression.

The music by Deepak Dev is the perfect supporting element to the movie. It only adds to the suspense and thrill of the plot by pushing you further to the edge of your seat instead of pulling your focus away from what’s happening on the screen. Although the banger title track that doesn’t play until the closing credits was a poor decision. 

With ‘Thalavan’, we see the filmmaker in Jis Joy break out of his comfort zone more effectively than he did with his previous attempt with his 2022 film, ‘Innale Vare’. His perfect world-building and the engaging thread of the story shine through despite thrillers not being his forte. He crafts a movie with much potential that might lose its lustre in some spots. It seems that after the underwhelming response from ‘Innale Vare’, Jis Joy has cemented his place in the genre with ‘Thalavan’ and proved that this feel-good director can also delve into darker narratives. While the film may not be flawless, it remains an engaging and compelling crime thriller.

Hiba is a poet and a student of Journalism and Creative Writing

Hiba Zeinab Ashraf
Hiba Zeinab Ashraf
Hiba is a poet and a student of Journalism and Creative Writing
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