Friday, April 4, 2014

Thoovanathumbikal (1987)

Director: Padmarajan
Writer:    Padmarajan
Cast:       Mohanlal, Sumalatha, Parvathy, Ashokan
Language: Malayalam

Jayakrishnan (Mohanlal) is a landlord bachelor from a rural village. He displays two set of personal images in his life: a miserly farmer in-front of his family and villagers and a spendthrift guy living a high life with his friends when in town. The film tells the story of his relationship with two women, Radha (Parvathy) to whom he first proposed and Clara (Sumalatha) an escort with whom he lost his virginity. 

There have been many films in Malayalam recently where the main or only feature point of the film would be a local slang. They are passed on as comedy and Mammootty has been guilty of several such monstrosities like Rajamanikyam, Pranchiyettan and several other films. The first thing that jumps out of Thoovanathumbikal would be Mohanlal's distinct Thrissur/Palaghat accent. But it is just a small detail in a film that has several other things going for it. It is a character study on Jayakrishnan whom initially seems to be very self-aware and very comfortable in his own skin even though he is kind of living a dual life. The thing is we cannot really say he is actually doing it on purpose. In the film he is a very sincere and honest person with everyone he interacts with and is not actively trying to hide what he is doing when he goes out of his village. It is just that he doesn't have any avenue in his village to pursue those dalliances. By the end of the film we find that he is a very vulnerable person with some preconcieved ideas and ideals but ultimately remains to be a mystery. He explains that he had freedom only after his father died and that is why he didn't have any relationships with women when he was young, but from the film it is clear that he lived a free life when he was in college. The exact timing of his father's death is not revealed and we don't really know whether he was kind of a normal rebel during his college days or he had the same personality that he exhibits now.

Ashokan is excellent as his side-kick Rishi and the characters like Babu and Ravunni (Jagathy) serves as plot devices to get us into the character of Jayakrishnan. But in the hands of Padmarajan these characters are truly memorable. The character Jayakrishnan and his friends are loosely based on Padmarajan's friend Karakath Unni Menon and his friend circle from his AIR Thrissur days. Lead characters with moral ambiguity and emotional complexity are not very common in Indian cinema which deals mostly in binary characters. Jayakrishnan is certainly one of the most interesting lead character that Indian cinema has ever seen.

Rating: 5/5