The beginning of Dominic Arun’s “Tharangam” (bankrolled by Dhanush’s Wunderbar films) reminds you of a cult- classic from the 80s – “Pappan Priyapetta Pappan” – set in paradise, a conversation ensues between God (the funniest on-screen version of him at least, played by Dileesh Pothan) and Kallan Pavithran (who was beaten to death and now observes his offspring suffer too, as the karmic outcome of all his criminal deeds), half the stretch shown in a comic-book styled animation with voice-overs, and the other half featuring the actors themselves. We already get a feeling that this movie is by all means, NOT going to look like the typical comedy- thriller that we’re used to seeing in Malayalam cinema.
The story soon shifts to two cops who are on suspension – Pappan (the sensational Tovino Thomas) and Joy (Balu Varghese, who’s just too good at playing the side-kick), due to a botched operation that resulted in the untimely (and completely funny) demise of one of their superiors (Manoj K Jayan, in a cameo). Pappan has to repay Ittymani (Alencier Ley) a lumpsum he’d taken from him as a bribe for covering up a hit-n-run incident. This takes our protagonists on a roller-coaster ride from one funny subplot to the other, with a truckload of characters (each with their own wacky sense of humor) trying to tickle the viewer’s funny bone during the most uncanny of occasions (like a stabbing gone wrong, a suicide, an apparently cheating wife, a girlfriend who happens to be a kleptomaniac, a case of the wrong person getting kidnapped).
It’s good to see Dominic Arun and his co-writer Anil Narayanan acknowledge the fact (during the opening credits) that they’re heavily inspired by the works of Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Edgar Wright (who are true masters of dark humor!) – the vibe is exactly that of a ‘Snatch’ or a ‘Pulp Fiction’ or a ‘Hot Fuzz’, with a tinge of ‘Priyadarshanisms’ and ‘Siddique-Lalisms’ thrown in to indianize the proceedings. The universe that the director places these characters in, is harshly hysterical in itself. Everyone possesses shades of grey, is selfish, and makes fun of each other at first-given opportunity. The ensemble try their best to make things work and have to say they succeed to a great extent.
The first half certainly scores higher in terms of the laughter generated and in the unraveling of twists – the second tries too hard to match up but doesn’t quite hit the expected peak – culminating in an every-character-at-the-same-spot finale reminiscent of late 80s/early 90s comedy capers. The editing (by Sreenath S) could have been smoother – we have a whole bunch of characters moving in and out of the story in quick succession and it’s hard to keep track of which subplot they’re referring to sometimes – to sum it up, there’s an idol being smuggled and a necklace that carries the ashes of a dreaded gangster’s father – somewhere down the line, the blokes (and lasses) who are after both these objects cross paths and the aftermath is what forms the core of ‘Tharangam’.
Kudos to the near-perfect casting choices (including all supporting characters) – the women (newbies Neha Iyer as powerful business- woman Omana and Shanthi Balachandran as Meera, the city-bred live-in girlfriend of Pappan) fare well in the roles handed to them; the men (uff, it’s a long list!) are equally good – especially when it comes to making the audience giggle. It is indeed wonderful to see a film where the romantic clichés (and song sequences) are kept minimal, and there’s barely any time to even breathe for the couple once the ball is set in motion. The one song (composed by Ashwin Renju) that features in the movie is a soothing melody that’s gracefully captured by cinematographer Deepak D Menon – which brings to attention, the fact that a good part of Tharangam’s crew are debutantes (and they’re all here to stay!).
The climax adds yet another upcoming star to the already-studded ensemble but his presence doesn’t fetch the BANG! that it was supposed to, mostly due to weak characterization. This is sortof the case with the comedy too – we laugh at the cleverly-planted instances of situational humor in the screenplay, but we’re bound to forget almost everything as soon as the credits roll, simply because there was ‘too much going on’. P.S – Bonus marks to Saiju Kurup for making me chortle the most.
Verdict: This experiment will assuredly entertain you, but only time will tell whether it can attain the cult-classic status of its inspirational sources!
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