It seems like Malayalam cinema is going through ‘holding-up-the-mirror-to-the-society’ phase. Recently, we were served a spate of films on male toxicity and now we have another, which takes on a peculiar habit that we Malayalees are fond of—trolling anyone who looks odd/does not conform to the stereotype or, someone who speaks her mind without bothering about the consequences. The film in question here is Thamaasha—a joke or something said in jest, not something that is staged or performed for the entertainment of an audience as most North Indians think it out to be (I have spelled this out because Thamaasha will be reaching a wider audience in the next few weeks with subtitles).
This is the story of a man standing on the cusp of his thirties with a quickly receding hairline but who is not yet sexily bald; his hair won’t stay in place whatever he does to it. Above all, his mother is in a hurry to get him “settled” because his horoscope says that he is destined to be a sanyasi or bachelor forever if he does not marry before he completes thirty-one years.
Sreenivasan (Vinay Forrt) is a Malayalam lecturer in a college. His waning confidence is evident as he refuses to reveal that there’s a fly in the orange juice served to him at ‘meet-the-girl’ ritual. It turns into a complete fiasco when the girl mistakes Sreenivasan’s dashing younger brother as her prospective groom.
Ashraf Hamza, the writer-director of this film, keeps the humour subtle and non-offensive by not allowing the situations to drag on for too long. The story moves forward in an organic manner, the protagonist, like any person going through an image-crisis, keeps falling into circumstances not of his making (but at the back of his mind he’s despondent because he is aware he is messing things up).
Vinay Forrt’s role here is contrary to what he has donned during the last decade as a trained actor. Here he seems to chew on the character of Sreeni as if to satiate his hunger for a role as a meek and timid person and even display his sense of humour.
After the fiasco of ‘meet-the-girl’ ritual, he is advised to look for the love of his life by his friend Raheem (Navas Vallikkunu), a peon in the college and, his go to man in the matters of heart. Raheem eggs him on to court one girl after another. And, as the cycle of courting begins, numbers are exchanged, text messages volleyed back and forth. Then they graduate to voice messaging and a couple of meetings are botched up without anything materializing out of it. The relationships seemed to stumble and tumble as the audience identifies with Sreenivasan.
The second half of the film is message-heavy as Sreeni gets lessons on how to be comfortable in one’s own skin and not to be worked up by how the world perceives him from an unexpected source—Chinnu (Chinnu Chandni). The writer/director references real life situations with deftness putting across the message with subtle humour.
On the heavier side, Chinnu is unconcerned about her weight in an obsessively beauty-conscious world. Their first meeting culminates in a catastrophe of sorts for Sreeni too has no hassles in downright body-shaming her. But, the whim of fate throws them together for a while which opens up a whole new world for him.
Even though the climax threatens to suck Sreeni back into his shell, all is well that ends well and we leave the theatre with a pleasant feeling.