Quite a few films suffer from a mysterious cinematic ailment called ‘Curse of the Second Half’, which practically means that a movie that floats around steadily with some promise in the initial phase rapidly nosedives in the second half – apparently, the director has a story in mind but is at his wit’s end on how to bring it to a grand finale and eventually, it takes the easy way out and embracing a conventional ending.
But there are also a few exceptions here – the ones that carry the rare disease of the ‘Curse of the First Half’ and ‘Tamaar Padaar’ is one such film. (Reminded me of Padmakumar’s ‘Shikaar’ which had a limp 1st half but an engaging latter portion making me wonder whether the two halves of the movie were directed by two separate men, except ofcourse that TP doesn’t qualify as engaging by any stretch of imagination!). Essentially, the First Half Curse movies have just a concept in mind but not the craft or the writing to create a 2 hour long drama with the script – so they move randomly sometimes aimlessly meandering (like in Tamaar Padaar) or like in a few others, playing safe and pandering to audience tastes till eventually the director wakes up and thrusts his vision (or lack of it) in front of our eyes. It must be told though that TP wakes up far too late to sustain any interest in its on-going drama.
In terms of a cinematic structure, the first half is entirely devoted to the shenanigans of two of its protagonists, Jumper Thambi (Baburaj) and Tubelight Mani (Chemban Vinod). Thambi is a solo circus performer attempting dare devil feats; he is a family man but lives a vagabond life and ventures to his family once a while. Mani is another street performer who is smitten with a prostitute, Valmsamma (Srinda Ashab) and tries to win her over into his meaningless existence. For about an hour or so, we are entreated to their story but the audience is left scratching their heads wondering what the fuss is all about. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people walk out after the first half; this was clearly taking the audience for granted.
Is there a story waiting to be told? Are there any twists or turns around the corner? We are well and truly disappointed. There is absolutely nothing in the 1st half (except maybe a joke about celebrities getting away with animal slaughter) that keeps you even remotely engaged or tells you that the director has any tricks up his sleeve. Wasn’t this supposed to be a Prithviraj film or were we conned into paying to watch a guest appearance by the actor who has lately had a much more interesting selection of movies (with the exception of the disastrous ‘London Bridge’)? At the intermission, there is a small sigh of relief in the audience when he makes an appearance and a hope that the proceedings will show some life and thankfully they do (which of course isn’t really saying much considering the low benchmark set by the 1st half).
Post-interval, there is a bit more going in for TP, atleast when compared to the insipid first half. For starters, we know that there is a story waiting to be told and a slightly decent one too. It turns out that Dileesh Nair (the director) probably has in mind a black comedy dealing with bumbling cops, government officials, media, national security, capital punishment and what not instead of a ridiculous boring meandering caper of two street performers. In every sense of the word, Prithviraj is the hero of the movie as he literally rescues it and brings some sense of urgency to the plot or whatever is remaining of it.
Prithviraj is ACP Pouran who as a kid is inspired by the Suresh Gopi-blockbuster Commissioner to become a cop who will rid the city of evil, except ofcourse Bharath Chandran lived in another era where policemen ruled the city mercilessly while cynicism rules the current world. Pouran may be an IPS Officer but he isn’t the smartest of blokes and his attempts to do something substantial only result in failure. He goofs up while trying to nab the infamous Sukumaran Kurup in a nice underplayed scene and paints himself a loser in the hands of the public when he stops a fleeing thief who apparently is accused of stealing 3 idlis!!! The disillusioned man makes blunders, including a major one involving Thambi and Mani, this is the turning point of the movie and he finally gets his redemption by sorting out the mess smartly.
It is fair to say that Pouran’s misadventures are far more entertaining than the lackadaisical events of Thambi and Mani. But it is far too late in the day to really redeem the movie that manages to successfully bury itself deep in a hole in the initial phase. I would have assumed that the movie has nothing to offer after a tepid beginning but the 2nd half progress makes me believe that the film could have worked a little if its structure were tweaked. Pauran’s story should have been the foundation of the plot interspersed with flashbacks of the vagabonds – this would have injected far more cohesion in the movie and connected the dots much better than crafting 2 halves which do not talk to each other. Of course, not to suggest that the movie would have emerged a winner by overhauling its flow but you could then presume that the creators atleast have the thread of a proper storyline which could be treated better in more capable hands.
One of the norms of movies that perceive themselves to be quirky is in the names of its characters and so the first check box is ticked by the script writer. But there isn’t really anything beyond that the script has to offer when it comes to the lives lived by Thambi and Mani. The day-to-day events in their existence do not really have any bearing on either their fate or that of the movie. Their characters do not really need any development that requires more than 60-75 mins of the screen space spent on that but the director is still more than happy to waste valuable time on it. Did the budding romance between Valsamma and Mani (including a song!) or the family life of Thambi mean anything at all to us?
Considering that these folks are hardly even present in the second half, why is there an attempt to create any emotional space for them? Isn’t it strange that the first half mainly deals with two persons and they are practically absent in most of the 2nd half. They may have just been two people whom we don’t even see and it would not have mattered even a bit. I don’t even want to refer to the silly scenes involving men visiting a temple in Kollam dressed as women or Thambi’s drinking binge or Mani’s goon friends. I, for one, am not able to figure out even remotely what was the idea behind the sloppy script and why Prithviraj would ever want to waste his time in such a movie which does not know what to say?
Nevertheless, even when he has a better grip of the storyline, Dileesh doesn’t appear to be sure as how to position the movie – as an absurd look at the system or an understated political satire. Prithviraj still manages to make you smile even when you feel a sense of disjointedness from the proceedings – like a scene where he goes to Thambi’s house after his arrest and it is only the way he handles it that injects some humour in it; something that works on screen but unlikely to have been funny on paper. For the kind of story that it eventually ends up being, I suppose it should have been treated as a wild over-the-top comedy (like Peruchazhi which should have been a satire instead) and it could have done better. There is a real lack of focus in what is to be shown and while there is a sense of relief that a story exists, it doesn’t really mean much – the cat has already bolted the door…
It does appear that the writers were trying to pull a con job on the poor audience (and maybe even Prithviraj) by making this movie and promoting this as a comedy (seriously?). Since Salt N’Pepper, Dileesh seems to moving rapidly downhill and TP underscores this in bold letters…