It has been quite a while since I had watched and reviewed a Malayalam film. But there are a host of them coming up and so you will be seeing me reviewing more of films from the Malayalam Film Industry. And with that I finished watching the new Malayalam film Theerppu streaming on Hotstar. It was another film which I knew nothing about(except from the fact that this is a revenge drama) and so I decided to go into the film blind(in a way). I must admit that I was a little skeptical about the revenge angle considering that it has now been done to death. But then it is a Malayalam film and I was almost certain that there will be a twist to it. Now that I have finished watching the Malayalam film Theerppu, here are my two cents on it.
Story & Screenplay
Theerppu is essentially a revenge drama wherein four friends who share a troubled past, meet at a hotel now owned by one of the four friends. And thus mayhem begins. The story has strong political undercurrents veiled as a revenge drama. And this is a clear case of sharp and observant writing wherein the political angle is played out in the second layer. The screenplay standing at about 150 minutes may seem daunting to begin with but it is mostly smooth sailing throughout although a little rocky towards the end.
The first thing that I did notice about the drama was its incredible setup which was mysterious and intriguing. After a quick round of introduction of all the characters, all of them are stacked up at this hotel comprising of relics which give the setup a fresh dimension to it. A quick initial flashback does give you a sense that something is amyss and you can almost sense danger.
Things start to get interesting when the layers begin to peel off as one of the friends begins to vandalize the place. The writing is very observant of the political situation in the past as well as in the current day(which is cleverly shown by the backdrop of Covid wherein the crowds continue to stack up in a political rally despite the protocols in place). There is so much to be discussed here that I will have to let out a few spoilers and the parallels which are drawn in the narrative. Please note that THIS IS STRICTLY FROM AN ANALYTICAL POINT OF VIEW AND IT MAY NOT REPRESENT MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS. THIS DISCLAIMER IS IN CAPS ON PURPOSE SO THAT PEOPLE DO NOT JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS REGARDING THE POLITICS OF THE FILM AND IF I HAVE ANY AGENDAS WHICH I CLEARLY DO NOT! SO SPOILERS AHEAD IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!
The politics expressed through this film is sharp and observant. The religion based politics is very evident in the narrative of the film. The entire flashback in the year 1993 involves a demolition of a property owned by a Muslim man who is duped by his friends from a different faith(being cautious while wording this to not incite anyone). This entire incident can be linked to the 1993 Ayodhya incident(again I am concealing the actual incident to avoid any controversy and you can definitely guess which incident this is) which in itself is a strong political statement. Elsewhere, the glasses of Mahatma Gandhi(used as a relic) are shot at by a character named “Ram”, a reference to NathuRam Godse in what was a clever political pun in the larger scheme of things. In a separate incident, a police official reasons with his junior on how they have lost the power long back(on being asked on how a political rally can be carried out during Covid times) and that they could easily be labelled as “Anti-National”. All these have references from the modern day news which you will be able to equate to if you are well versed with the current day situation. And this may rub people the wrong way as well(a statement owing to its low rating).
No spoilers from this point! The drama also provides a commentary on the divide between the upper class represented by the character of Ram, the middle class represented by the character of Potty and the lower class represented by the character of Abdullah. There are layers and layers to the drama which may seem like a simple revenge drama from the face of it. The proceedings are interesting and engaging. There is also a twist in the tale which I did not see it coming. However, I do wish that this twist was introduced slightly earlier in the film so that the third act could have been spaced out better.
The third act is in the thrill mode wherein you kind of do not know what would transpire and how this film would end. At some point you do know the outcome given that this is a revenge drama but I was still curious on the route that it would take. And that ending was a very gutsy one although it felt a tad underwhelming and it didn’t quite sit well. I have fully understood the ending of how the lives of a few character would be a never ending hell so to speak but the execution could have been a little more layered.
Either they could have opted for an out and out fragmented ending like in Dear Friend or provided a definite conclusion. I felt the writer was caught in the conundrum thereby leading to a neither here nor there kind of an ending. But it was a bold move nevertheless and I appreciate the risk taking ability of the Malayalam Film Industry. But overall, the screenplay is sharp and clever with solid political undertones.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are powerful and very well addressed in an effective manner. The music is good and it goes well with the mood of the drama. The BGM is really good and it enhances the impact of many scenes. The cinematography and art design deserve a round of applause for a job very well done. The editing is crisp as well. Director Rathish Ambat does a splendid job here apart from the very end where he stumbles a bit. There are so many mysterious and interesting moments that command your attention in a nicely crafted thriller.
The performances are outstanding here. Suzanne Bernert as Miss Aubert has her moments to shine. Isha Talwar as Mythili looks pretty and does a fine job here. Hannah Reji Koshy as Prabha is first rate and makes her presence felt. Saiju Kurup as Potty is brilliant here as well. All 3 of them represent a crowd who may turn a blind eye for their personal gains. Siddique as Basheer is sincere in a job done well. Indrajith Sukumaran is a highly underrated actor who quietly goes about doing his job. He is wonderfully understated in a slightly underwritten character here. Prithviraj Sukumaran as Abdullah is excellent. He gives me an impression that he is a very secured actor and his screen time doesn’t matter to him much. Yet the amount of impact which he provides in that screen time is a lesson to all the other budding actors. He is terrific here. Vijay Babu as Ram is quite contrary to his name and he delivers a stupendous performance. He showcases different shades to his character which does not make him likable which means it is a victory for the actor.
Theerppu is an experimental revenge drama with solid political undertones making it a pretty good watch. Available on Hotstar.