Mollywood
Dhanush's first Malayalam production is not laugh out loud funny but it keeps you hooked till the end.

Debut director Dominic Arun's Tharangam is a smart black comedy with a racy screenplay and intricate plot.

It begins with Dileesh Pothan asking a pair of birds of paradise to shut up.

The pot-bellied character we see on screen is God and just like the rest of us, he hates being woken up before he's ready. All's not well in paradise, though. A disgruntled kallan Pavithran is at God's throat, asking him to rid his family of a curse that runs across generations.

And then, the action moves to earth. There's a slew of characters that the film throws at us and we find ourselves grappling to connect the threads. But towards the end, it all makes sense and you see the pattern emerge at last (God works in mysterious ways, people!)

Though the storytelling is modern, I caught myself thinking about the 1989 classic Ramji Rao Speaking where a bunch of bumbling fellows get into one skirmish after another. The incompetent CIDs from Akkare Akkare Akkare who go in search of a crown also come to mind. Tharangam is not laugh out loud funny like these films but it has its moments.

Here, it's suspended cops Pappan (Tovino Thomas) and Joy (Balu Varghese) who are in urgent need of money and decide to do some underhand work that will get them the cash. But like God, greed works in mysterious ways - one thing leads to another and before they know it, they're neck-deep in trouble.

What's impressive about Tharangam is how naturally these connections are forged. Except the link between Omana (Neha Iyer) and Siju (Saiju Kurup) which seemed a bit theatrical (literally - she harbours a grouse against him for a school play they were in together), the others appear organically.

There's no scene that's there just for the heck of it. A man casually mumbling that his grandfather's watch has gone missing finds relevance as the film progresses. As an aside, the silent non-speaking Apoopan seems to be replacing the cranky old man character who was a permanent fixture in Malayalam cinema. Nivin Pauly's Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela, too, had one such Apoopan whose job it is to witness and barely speak.

In Tharangam, even what's playing on TV has some significance - when a man writes a cheque to pay off his friend's debt, we hear Devaraj (Mammootty) hailing his loyal friend Surya (Rajinikanth) in Thalapathi. Producer Dhanush appears in a brief 'cameo' through this technique too, we catch a glimpse of him when Maari plays on TV.

There's nothing 'extra' in the film that needn't have been there. The narrative style with animation, split screens, and sequences that go back and forth (parts of it remind one of Neram), keep you thinking and the jigsaw plot works with precision. Full marks to the editor, Sreenath S.

The situational comedy depends on the performances and the galaxy of actors in the cast - Alencier, Vijaya Raghavan, Shammy Thilakan, Santhy and others - are quick on their feet. The grand finale to the mess that the characters have conjured up is over the top but doesn't get boring.

Tharangam won't have you giggling and spilling popcorn all around you. But it may make you forget to eat your popcorn, and how often does that happen when you watch a comedy?