Oru Thekkan Thallu Case review: Great performances, but storytelling could be better

Biju Menon, Padmapriya, Nimisha Sajayan and Roshan Mathew are wonderful in the film, which loses some appeal due to its storytelling.
Poster of Oru Thekkan Thallu Case
Poster of Oru Thekkan Thallu Case
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From the top of a 250-metre high lighthouse on the beach, all of a little town in South Kerala could be seen, says the narrator of Oru Thekkan Thallu Case. Inside the tower then, on cue, appears the cartoon figure of Biju Menon. A nice little animation introduces the characters of the town in the titles before the film opens. The situation is made clear in a few scenes — Biju Menon is Amminipilla, a sort of hero figure in the town whom no one wants to mess with. A gang of five young men are pitted against him for many reasons. The film, based on a short story by GR Indugopan, revolves around this rivalry, set against a beautiful rustic background, but lacking in storytelling quality. It is director Sreejith N’s first film.

The story unfolds around Kollam district, in the mid 1980s. No one says the year out aloud but it is made clear from the carefully arranged set. The roads, the shops, the clothing of men and women are all comfortably in tune with the time. Characters outside of the main thread make their presence felt everytime there is a scene in the town. A man selling medicinal concoctions (Prasanth Murali), a sex worker who is in love with Amminipilla, and others. They love to watch the exchanges between Amminipilla and the gang of young men, led by Podiyan (Roshan Mathew).

Roshan Mathew, like he did in Thottappan, easily transforms into a rough and unruly man who carries a grudge. His friends and he sit in dark corners and plot against Amminipilla, the man who has inadvertently humiliated them in different ways. Amminipilla lives in a cute house with his wife Rukmini (Padmapriya looking pretty in saris and mundu). Next door to them is Vasanthi (Nimisha Sajayan), who has sworn that she'd only marry Podiyan. It is a strange foursome — Amminipilla and Rukmini living a happy life, Rukmini and young Vasanthi sharing a friendship, Vasanthi and Podiyan very much in love, but Podiyan and Ammini at each other's throats. 

Watch: Trailer of Oru Thekkan Thallu Case

While the women's friendship is warm and soothing, the dubbing for Padmapriya — in an attempt to make the character speak south Kerala slang — makes her otherwise wonderful performance stick out. You have to wonder why she is less often seen in Malayalam cinema. Nimisha does a commendable job of speaking 'thekkan' (south) Malayalam. Their characters are not reduced to women just worrying over men, but about each other too. The men do not get to ignore them, their strength very much dependent on their relationships with the women. 

Biju Menon, who has been on an upward trajectory for a few years, is admirable as Amminipilla. Even the minute expressions coming out so very clearly between the fights are great. He has an amused expression on his face when he sees one of the young gang of men appear fearfully before him. The camera (by Madhu Neelakandan) puts him in some captivating frames, lighting a beedi from a stove, jumping to the ground on a knee ready to face a crowd of men. And every time Amminipilla makes a comeback, there is peppy music in the background, cheering him on.

The young actors — Aswath Lal, Arun, Reju and Akhil — all do adorably well, raging and whining and making peace. Only, the writing does not often convey the emotions it intends to — most of the humour falling flat, the retaliations unconvincing. The film also romanticises gang fighting, the woman sending her humiliated man to 'go drink three bottles of toddy and beat up everyone who talks ill of him in a way they'll remember forever'. It is the same idea that extends the ending — which seemed novel when the credits had rolled — to a scene with the hero afterward. Would have been better without it. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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