Thank God It’s Friday and while a wonderful week has come to a close, the weekend is where we reviewers breath a sigh of relief with new releases pouring in. And this long weekend does have plenty of new content to look forward to. So lets begin! With that, I finished watching the new Malayalam film Thuramukham which is now streaming on SonyLiv. The moment I get a Malayalam film to watch and review on a Friday, I am really happy and upbeat about it. But Thuramukham did raise that bar of hope that much more!
Firstly, I have always adored Rajeev Ravi, the filmmaker for more reasons than one. Not only is he a brilliant DOP, but the moment he does don the hat of a filmmaker, you are in for a unique movie watching experience. If you may have noticed, there is always an undercurrent of politics brewing in his stories wherein he doesn’t shy away from addressing the issue. I had absolutely adored his last work Kuttavum Shikshayum which was in its heart a story of the plight of police officers who carry out their duties despite multiple road blocks in terms of facilities. And when I did get to know about his new film Thuramukham, I was quite excited to watch and witness on what it has to offer! And add to that, a casting coup of sorts and I was absolutely sold at the idea of it! So then does Thuramukham manage to impress, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Based on true events of 1953, Thuramukham follows the story of two brothers who find themselves at the opposite sides of the establishment of the worker unions at a harbour. Will their relationship survive the test of time? The story is intriguing and picked up from one of the forgotten chapters of Indian History. Now, I was reading about the 1953 events of Mattancherry wherein a protest did turn violent, leading to a massacre. And that did give me a lot of context on what the film eventually had to offer. I would urge all my readers to skim through the internet because this subject does require research to truly understand the politics of the area. And needless to say, the story is outstanding. The screenplay standing at a runtime of almost 165 minutes does make for a daunting task and here is where the film does turn into a niche! That said, I did love every minute of it.
The drama is a slow burn and the reason why I do urge of readers to read about this incident first is because in a runtime of nearly 3 hours, it is easy to lose track of the proceedings or get lost in the narrative. Also, sitting through this epic saga needs patience too for the events take time to unravel and set context. The writers do provide an additional 20 odd minutes of a prelude. Shot in monochrome, the viewers are acquainted with the area where the drama is set in where the headmen rule the roosts against poor labourers who are subjected to atrocities. The moment if anyone does raise their voices against the establishment, they are bumped off(seems familiar?). This did set the ball rolling perfectly for the drama to follow given how the prelude did end. It was textured, layered and quite infuriating with the workers being subjected to humiliation even to get work in the first place(with the toss of a copper metal) apart from their meagre wages.
The proceedings are interesting and almost immersive relying on the viewers to dig as deep as they can in the drama. The jump in the timelines does introduce the viewers to many new characters including the two protagonists who are born and brought up in the area reeking of violence and atrocities. The events are stray but each passing event does lay a foundation for the power tussle to follow. The warring lines are slowly laid out through multiple subplots and character motives that does make for an engrossing watch, provided you are patient. It is very important to be familiar with the politics of the drama to fully understand the events in their entirety. And that did require focus, particularly in the second hour when the unions were laid out leading to the dispersion of power which was previously centered around the headmen.
One of the highlights of the drama are the character traits which are quite unassuming and understated. The organic shift of mindsets is so subtle that you might end up feeling it to be sudden. And this is the quality of writing that you generally do associate with a Malayalam film. It is subtle and effective with the politics being played out in its second layer. The events leading up to the eventual massacre is fairly interesting that do involve changing equations. The finale act too is impactful although I did feel that the makers could have opted the drama to be a little in your face for a better impact. But overall, the screenplay here is understated and niche but quite textured and layered.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational but gritty and hard-hitting at several places. The music has a twang of ruggedness and it blends perfectly with the drama. The BGM too represents chaos perfectly with its notes that are off-centered and deliberately done. The cinematography, opting for a monochrome in the first 20 odd minutes before shifting to technicolour post that, does make for a supremely immersive experience. The frames are arranged such that even violence seems poetic here. The editing is quite good too. Director Rajeev Ravi does a fabulous job here. I could see shades of Gangs Of Wasseypur in terms of playing with the timelines here, in his craft. The decision to keep things understated may not appeal to everyone but it worked wonders for me. It was empowering the viewer to indulge in the drama which was textured in so many ways. The direction was excellent here.
The performances are excellent here. Joju George as Maimu is just brilliant here and he does have an iconic presence onscreen. Indrajith Sukumaran as Santo is subtely fiery and does a tremendous job. Darshana Rajendran as Khadeeja is outstanding and she shines despite a limited screentime. Nimisha Sajayan as Ummani is wonderfully understated and she makes for an impactful screen presence. Sudev Nair as Pacheek and Mamikanda Rajan as Umboocha are top notch in their respective roles and they do a wonderful job overall.
Poornima Indrajith as Umma is a prolific performer and she is wonderfully restrained here. She also does showcase her vulnerability pretty well through her eyes and mannerisms. Arjun Ashokan as Hamza has such expressive eyes that reek of innocence and he does a brilliant job as a youth caught in the warp of politics. And shall we give a huge round of applause to Nivin Pauly who is repeatedly picking some interesting characters to portray on screen. As Moidu, he is not a very likable character but there is this sincerity somewhere that does drive his performance, thereby allowing room for redemption. It was an excellent performance by him in yet another fiery role but with a brush of endearing traits.
Thuramukham is an epic saga of epic proportions and stellar performances that comes with my highest recommendation. Available on SonyLiv and Highly Recommended.