Malayalam Reviews

Theevandi Review: A Hollow Comedy-Drama That Takes A Beaten Track

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Director: Fellini TP

Cast: Tovino Thomas, Samyuktha Menon, Surabhi Lakshmi, Rajesh Sharma, Suraaj Venjarammoodu and Shammi Thilakan

Composer: Kailas Menon

Debut director Fellini TP’s Theevandi is a note of solidarity to all the chain-smokers of the world, albeit with a compulsory moral message at the tail-end. Set in a coastal village where the idea of ‘everyone knows everyone’ seems possible, the film is centered around Bineesh (Tovino Thomas), a young man who is determined to while away his youth in idleness. His addiction to cigarette smoking has lend him a nickname – Theevandi, loosely translated as ‘steam engine’.

For the most part of the film, he is engrossed in smoking away with serious devotion, as though his addiction is a carefully designed programme than a predicament. And the camera captures him in pretty angles that suggest how perfect this young man looks with a halo of smoke around his head. Well past the half-way point, the film shifts gear and a game of ‘will he or won’t he quit smoking” begins, and finishes on a very familiar point.

The plot is a predictable so-and-so, laced with some mirth.

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Bineesh’s middle-class family seems to have come to terms with his status as an irresponsible man-child, so has his long-time girlfriend, Devi (Samyukta Menon). She works in a government office during the day, and at night, she casually rebels against the conventional system by climbing up to her lover’s window using a ladder. Like in films set in similar milieu (Premam, Oru Vadakkan Selfie and Godha), Bineesh has close-friends to fool around with.

The film’s humour follows a style that has come to be very over-used in Malayalam cinema. Every sombre moment is watered down with a joke. The cue to laughter begins in the opening sequence that features the rainy night when Bineesh was born. A midwife informs everyone that the child might be dead, and then enters Bineesh’s uncle (Sudheesh in top form) who ‘saves’ the nephew’s life by blowing cigarette smoke on his face. The addiction was destined, the scene says. There is a longer-than-warranted scene on how Bineesh and his buddies smoked their first cigarette, staged like a comic skit with the actors in their late twenties hamming it up as school-goers.

Many of these comic scenes resemble mini-skits stitched together unevenly, not particularly in consequence to the larger plot of the film. The excessiveness of such scenes reveals the hollowness of the film. It doesn’t have anything to say.

And there is barely any sub-plot. Barring, may be, the scenes set inside the office of a political party which has a name that resembles a public sector company. The film makes it seem like an entire village and even the politics of the land is invested in the life of this young protagonist. In a whimsical turn of events, the political party which has a ruling MLA, decides to attach its destiny to Bineesh’s nicotine addiction. You could call it madcap in a different scenario, but in Theevandi‘s case, it comes across only as an unabashedly lazy plot-twist.

Composer Kailas Menon composes a melodious track, Jeevamshamaayi, to set background to the very lackluster love story of Bineesh and Devi, and lifts up the narrative track several levels higher than where it would have ended up otherwise.

Theevandi unfolds in an exclusively male-terrritory where even the subject of addiction is a part of male privilege. The film mystifies the smoker for the most part, and treats him with a lot of sympathy when things don’t work as he had expected to. Constantly, the film panders to its young male audience, telling them their social irresponsibility only makes them more interesting.

While there are numerous films made across the world that used the subject of addiction to discuss larger subjects, Theevandi scratches the surface and leaves. Once the initial curiosity that the young chain-smoker generates dies down, and the film enters its core, it becomes a drab. It spends the rest of the running time by playing to cheap seats through scenes that cash in on the newfound superstar-status of its lead actor, Tovino Thomas.

***

The Theevandi review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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