Thalavan Movie Review: Biju Menon and Asif Ali excel in a sufficiently competent whodunit

Jis Joy
"Thalavan" begins its early portions with an intense confrontation that would fit comfortably in a film written/directed by the late Sachy
Thalavan Movie Review

Thalavan Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Arun Narayan Productions,London Studios
Director : Jis Joy

The advantage of casting actors like Biju Menon and Asif Ali is you expect the film to go in any direction, considering their experience playing characters on all sides of the spectrum. They bring a sense of unpredictability and don't come with preconceived notions, except for the one that speaks to their acting skills. Unless the film informs you on whose side it is, at some point, you have no way of knowing who the proverbial bad guy is. Jis Joy's "Thalavan" employs these two actors in splendid ways, and their presence prevents the film from becoming just another run-of-the-mill fare. I'll keep this review free of spoilers. Yes, it's the kind of movie with a potential spoiler leak risk.


How far can a filmmaker, who made a name for himself making saccharine feel-good films, take himself when it comes to exploring the darkest corners of the human soul? "Thalavan" sees Jis Joy stepping into a hitherto unfamiliar territory. He had another thriller, "Innale Vare," two years ago, but I'd prefer not to remember its existence. But "Thalavan" is something else. One can tell so much thought went into it. It may have also benefitted from the creative inputs of some of its collaborators, on the acting side, who have directed some acclaimed Malayalam films in the past. 

For a story that deals with the kind of principal conflicts that it does, you have to proceed with extreme caution. Maybe, too cautious in some areas. There is a momentary lapse in logic or two and a couple of confusing instances where you question the sudden appearance of a bandage on someone's head or the methods with which a cunning suspect executes a wicked plan. But for a major part of it, though, "Thalavan" manages to hold our attention until the closing credits. 

Given that it has so many things going on simultaneously -- the events triggered by two separate incidents -- we tend not to get too preoccupied with certain narrative loopholes. It's not a big deal because even some of the world's most renowned classics in the mystery genre have that quality -- you don't remember how it all began or how it got so complicated. "Thalavan" has several complex knots that give its two main characters, Jayashankar (Biju Menon) and Karthik (Asif Ali), enough sleepless nights. As to who the senior/junior is, it's self-evident. When one of them gets embroiled in a murder, the other is assigned the task of finding out if he is indeed the real suspect or if there are multiple suspects involved.


"Thalavan" begins its early portions with an intense confrontation that would fit comfortably in a film written/directed by the late Sachy. It's a perfect set-up for planting the seeds of doubts in viewers' minds. We consider multiple possibilities given the degree of vitriol spewed amongst various parties. Biju Menon and Asif Ali are aptly cast. You can tell that pitting these two actors against each other worked to the film's advantage, even when their lines are not heavy enough to do them justice. But, as two officers tormented by internal and external demons, they rise to the challenge and keep us constantly guessing. 


This is a fairly violent film, and it must've been quite difficult for Jis Joy to imagine these scenarios. Of course, most of the bloody violence happens off-screen, but it's nice to see a filmmaker step out of his comfort zone. "Thalavan" leans more towards the violence inflicted on one's psyche than on the body. There is, however, a sequence involving the latter, in a police station, that is quite haunting, particularly due to the relationship between the two characters involved. I liked how the themes established in the film's beginning and ending are closely tied. There is a common trigger factor, which leads to the most devastating outcomes in the case of one party and a temporary inconvenience in the case of the other.


The film lets us know quite soon what it thinks of one 'suspect' but, even then, we cannot tell for sure if we are being played. "Thalavan" has the same qualities you would find in a Jeethu Joseph film. (Damn. I didn't expect to say this about a Jis Joy film, but there it is.) Several plot twists, dead bodies, and clever misdirections later, you get an answer, and just when you think it's all over, it ends with a question, one whose answer should be easy to find for thriller enthusiasts. This approach might frustrate some, but I liked that the film ended in such a near-definite manner. Why give all the answers? Isn't it better to leave something for the audience to work on? 

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