Vineeth Sreenivasan who started off initially as a singer in Malayalam Cinema has gone to prove that he is really multi-faceted like his illustrious father- Sreenivasan (who is not just an actor but also an accomplished writer, producer and director as well). Buoyed by the response he received as an actor Vineeth has since then gone to become a filmmaker as well. Starting with Malarvadi Arts Club (2010) where he introduced a host of newcomers and focused on a semi-urban tale of youngsters, Vineeth made his intentions of being serious as a filmmaker with his debut attempt itself. And with his next film Thattathin Marayathu (2012) Vineeth went on to create history of sorts. Not only was the film and its music a spectacular success but the film was also credited as heralding the return of true blue romance into Malayalam Cinema after ages.
Hence with 2 youthful films behind him and with the super success of his last film it was a surprise when I came to know that his next directorial venture ‘Thira’ (wave) will be a thriller and supposedly the 1st segment of a trilogy. What made the film even more exciting was that it promised the return of popular actress Shobana in a lead role after ages. Vineeth’s younger brother Dhyan was also all set to signal his entry into films with Thira. With the trailer ensuring that the film creates the right sort of impression I was hooked and eagerly awaited the film. Thira released in theatres against a more formidable opposition- Priyadarshan’s Geethanjali. But while Geethanjali turned out to be a shabby effort from Priyan and making no use of the presence of someone as majestic as Mohanlal, Thira carried good reports and hence the eagerness to watch the film was all the more.
Vineeth Sreenivasan ensures that the film begins with a bang. Dr.Rohini Pranab (Shobana) is a noted cardiac surgeon who also runs a shelter at her place for girls rescued from human trafficking. Her husband Pranab, a journalist and a fellow crusader against human trafficking had been charged with pedophilia and died under mysterious circumstances in police custody, less than 2 weeks ago. But Rohini is a lady of action and rather than mourning the loss of her husband she wants to fight for his lost honor and in the process unearth the truth behind the way he died. Unfortunately one night when she’s away from home a gang of men barge in to her place and take away all the girls with them. As this all happens we are introduced to Naveen (Dhyan Sreenivasan) who is in town to meet his sister and take her back home along with him. Naveen’s sister gets kidnapped right in front of his own eyes and he knows that he has less than 24 hours to get her back from the clutches of the traffickers who’ve taken his sister with them. Fate brings Rohini and Naveen together as they set out for the same goal.
At the very outset the film does remind you of various films which have touched upon the topic earlier. Though one may say that it has similarities with Trade (2007) in particular it is imperative to note that that Thira isn’t exactly a replica of any of these films. Based in Belgaum for major part of the film, the film also tries to take the realistic route with inspirations from stories of social activists popular in their fight against human trafficking like Somaly Mam (Cambodia), Anurdha Koirala (Nepal) and Sunita Krishnan as admitted by Vineeth himself post the release of the film. Thus we see the film talking about a mining company which deals with shady activities in the garb of CSR route and using Goa as the place for all that (doesn’t it remind us of certain recent incidents?). Thira maybe a Malayalam movie technically but considering the locations and the topic addressed, Vineeth and the writer Rakesh Mantodi have treated the film as multilingual and hence there’s a lot of Hindi, Tamil and Kannada used in the narrative.
The film tries to steer clear of most cinematic cliches in its own definitive style. So we have a female protagonist in the centre of action here and someone who’s not just another pretty young heroine. We also have a guy who is perfectly fine playing the second fiddle to the lady and there’s some really good co-ordination between the two characters. Rohini is the senior of the 2 and also someone who knows her way around places and who has handled such situations earlier, so she does take charge here as well. While Naveen is an impulsive young chap who is there to lend the brawn factor to Rohini’s brains and yet Naveen is no hulk of a guy, he has his own limitations as well- for example we know that he is asthmatic and also longing to get back to his parents with whom he had fallen out of favour earlier. There is no romantic angle added to either of the 2 characters and while it would have been normal for Vineeth to insert scenes of Rohini and Pranab sharing some private moments in a flashback, there’s nothing of that sort.
It is also interesting to note that Vineeth is slowly but surely rallying a good team around him in his projects which is why we see many technicians getting repeated. Shaan Rahman’s songs are relegated to the background and his BGM is rightly inspiring for a film like this. Jomon T.John’s camerawork is more than impressive, not just in the dark interior shots but also in the crowded outdoor portions where the use of handheld camera has helped in giving it a realistic feel. Ajay Mangad’s art direction deserves a special mention for the way with which he has painstakingly worked on the interior sets as well as exterior night scenes; I almost thought they were all for real. The film also has some interesting supporting characters, for example the character of Basu, a transvestite (played by Savita) who is the right hand of Rohini and a far cry from the typical stereotype of transvestites shown in films usually. But while talking of characters it’s also important to note that in the quest for maintaining a cosmopolitan look and feel to the film as mentioned earlier, the choice of actors and/or the language used by some of them has not come out good.
Some of the actors sound clearly uncomfortable while speaking in Hindi and it takes away the naturalness that is otherwise part of the film. Similarly the actor, who portrays Rohini’s husband Pranab in the only scene that he features in the film, speaks in Malayalam and it is very obvious that he just doesn’t know Malayalam. These are of course minor issues but I am sure they can be taken care of to enhance the viewing pleasure and hopefully in the remaining 2 films of the trilogy Vineeth and his team would take care of the same as well. The pace of the film is rip-roaring and the 1st half in particular is extremely gripping. With a run time of just under 2 hours (113 minutes) there is not a moment where u feel the pace slacking and the editing by Ranjan Abraham is surely commendable. It is one of the rare films of which you walk out and actually overhear a few people saying there was too much happening so soon :).
But eventually the film does end in a manner that’s a little too simple to comprehend and which makes the realistic angle look a little weak. It’s good to see Shobana looking remarkably confident as Rohini and handle things admirably. But her constant rendering of “trust me, I’ve done it before” and ending the rescue mission without a single act of retaliation from the bad guys is a little too difficult to accept. Maybe that angle would also be covered in the next instalment hopefully. Dhyan Sreenivasan has the looks and the right temperament to start with and has left a reasonably good impact with his performance in his debut film. It’s interesting to see that Vineeth chose to launch his brother in a film that’s slightly unconventional; hopefully Dhyan will continue choosing the right kind of films. Finally let’s come to the leading lady of the film, Shobana. It’s been a long wait for Malayalam audience to see her in a role of substance like this. This is definitely not Shobana’s best; in fact she’s done far better films and played far tougher characters in the past. However she does complete justice to the character, lending it the edge that is required. In fact its tough to envisage the film with someone else in her place, that shows that her presence has really worked.
Ultimately if one ends up feeling that the positives far outweigh the negatives and that it makes you look forward to the next instalment, you know that Vineeth and his team have achieved their objective. Here’s hoping that producer Manoj Menon and Vineeth take the journey forward effectively with the remaining two films in the trilogy.