Thankamani Movie Review: A gloriously self-indulgent mess reliant on painfully caricaturish performances

Thankamani has the sensibilities of an awful serial, stretched to two-and-a-half hours. It's one of those movies that makes you want to have a bath right after.
Thankamani Movie Review

Thankamani Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Super Good Films
Director : RATHEESH

Thankamani is a cinematic, partly fictionalised take on a dark chapter in Kerala's political and cultural history. Some of the character, establishment and incident names have been altered, but the name of the place where the harrowing central event occurred remains the same and happens to be the film's title. Generally, the expectation with any true story-based movie is that the filmmakers do justice to the event while keeping in mind that this is, after all, a work of entertainment. Thankamani fails on both fronts.

Now, before I get into the review, I must mention that Ratheesh Regunandhan made quite a decent directorial debut with Udal, which, despite its B-movie sensibilities, managed to evoke the necessary emotions and deliver the requisite catharsis one usually expects from a revenge story. It also had the advantage of solidly sketched character and behaviour detailing despite lacking in much depth.
Thankamani, on the other hand, works too hard to hammer home its emotions. Everything is fed to us forcefully. The over-reliance on a mismatched and tiresomely repetitive background score and heavy melodrama to make us feel something are tell-tale signs of a bad movie.
It doesn't help that Dileep, Neeta Pillai, Malavika Menon and everyone else are playing wafer-thin, template characters we have seen many times before, like the virtuous, good-hearted and protective husband and brother and the distressed, doomed wife and sister. Also, Dileep's decision to paint himself a mass hero in a painful actual event is in poor taste. In one sequence where he bashes a bunch of policemen not involved in the original incident, you begin to wonder whether the actor, who is an accused in the 2017 actress abduction and assault case, is trying to gain some cathartic relief from it. Thankamani is the latest entry in the series of Dileep movies where he plays someone wrongfully accused of a crime.

And speaking of crimes, I have to mention trigger warnings for sexual assault even though most of the gruesome violence in the movie is subjected to the male characters, both good and bad. I must say that this choice offers a modicum of relief in an otherwise gloriously self-indulgent movie. This quality not only applies to the bloody paybacks -- which lack impact considering how most of them occur before we get to the dark flashbacks -- and the ridiculously gimmicky camera work that, at times, opts for some pointless acrobatics. And what's with the predominantly violet tint that sticks out like a sore thumb? It's as though the makers dipped the entire movie in Ujala.

The worst culprits are the caricaturish police characters, beginning with Pranitha Subhash's character, a police commissioner put in the unfortunate position of engaging in the most awkward dialogue deliveries, some in English, with Dileep and Major Ravi, with the most awkward facial expressions to accompany them. Perhaps someone told Pranitha to prepare for an 80s mythological serial but was informed at the last minute that she has to star in a movie releasing in 2024. But then, she is not the only terribly miscast name in the movie. What about her subordinates, who behave like robots programmed to act just like her? None of them has any notable personality whatsoever. And what's with that one female team member who shows up in one scene with a laptop but has no lines, and is nowhere to be seen later? Man, it's a long list.

We often say 'serial-level making' to describe movies like this, but that would be offensive to all the good serials out there. Thankamani has the sensibilities of an awful serial, stretched to two-and-a-half hours. It's one of those movies that makes you want to have a bath right after.

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