Ashraf Hamza’s ‘Thamasha’ will remain one of my favourite films this year, thanks to its very unique shimmer and shine. Uproarious, tender, thoughtful and touching, it’s a warm hearted affair with a disarming genuineness that should not by any chance, be missed in the theatres.
The opening sequence of debutante film maker Ashraf Hamza’s ‘Thamasha’ has you captivated in no time. The title appears scribbled across on a black board, with the chalk dust falling off in tiny swirls and smokes. A caricature of its protagonist appears in nimbly sketched strokes on a notebook, and the camera moves away from the bored hands that had taken to its creation as a pastime and the white page where the portrait had actually found shape, on to the real man who had inspired the picture, delivering a lecture on Malayalam literature, standing tall before an indifferent class that couldn’t care any less.
Sreenivasan (Vinay Fort) insists that he lets the few strands left on his balding pate grow awkwardly long with the sole intent of establishing the one thing he believes might be lacking in his thirty year old self – maturity. Eager to find a life partner, the young teacher tries his hand at conventional alliances, where he gets disgruntled by the repeated rejections on account of his long receded hairline.
A spring appears in sight when Sreenivasan lays his eyes on Babitha (Divya Prabha), a charming colleague who confessed that she thinks of him as a ‘gentleman’. The adorned carriage for the ride to the horizon is all set and Sreenivasan decides to take the plunge, when an unanticipated suitor appears all on a sudden, in the race. Not letting the world know that he is disheartened beyond repair, the man retreats into a conch and decides once and for all that he is born for a much superior, ascetic life.
The sage in the making however finds the going tough when he runs into Safiya (Grace Antony) who conveys over messages exchanged on Whatsapp that she has something very special to tell him. Growing buoyant by the moment, Sreenivasan makes the reluctant revelation to his mother (Uma), that her daughter-in-law might after all have to be a Muslim. Mom agrees, but more disappointments for the man, lie in store.
The latter half of ‘Thamasha’ starts off on a different tangent altogether, with the arrival of Chinnu (Chinnu Chandni Nair) – a cheerful spirit, who seems to have taken to her slightly plump persona with a sportive smile. It’s an awkward moment when Sreenivasan and Chinnu meet, and sitting towards the outer edges of a park bench they discomfitedly mutter pleasantries. The man apologises for having addressed her as fat, and she good-humouredly brushes it off without a second thought.
I am yet to watch ‘Ondu Motteya Kathe’ (Raj B Shetty; 2017), the Kannada film on which ‘Thamasha’ is based, but Hamza is a wizard when it comes to writing and adapting and easily establishes that splendid screenwriting need never appear laboured. This has to be one of the simplest screenplays in recent times and yet one of the most appealing ones, where not a moment in the two hours of running time seems amiss, and not an instance misplaced.
‘Thamasha’ also has some authentic laughter, generated courtesy its quirkiness, where the laughs last much longer than they are meant to be, leading on to crucial thought streams which then float around in the air. None of it appears premeditated, and the cleverness of the film lies in its abandonment; its ingenuity lies shrouded under the layers of breeziness that lend to its appeal.
‘Thamasha’ is an unabashed celebration of individuality – as diverse, flawed and unconventional as it might appear to be – and plays its narrative tropes skilfully to achieve what it sets out to accomplish. Never once losing out on its focus, it settles into a tranquil groove on its own terms, and lets its animated characters do the rest.
The very pointed darts that ‘Thamasha’ sends flying towards the board, hit the targets big time. In a world that considers encroachment into a private personal space as a way of life, a few questions are asked. No one waits for the answers though; Chinnu and Sreenivasan move on, since there is a life to be lived and choices to be made, and time is too scarce to be wasted on sheer irrelevance.
There is a daring when it comes to the casting choices that Hamza opts for, and his courageous moves pay off, and how! This is the best of Vinay Fort that we have seen till now, and it only proves yet again that with some excellent backing from the script, there is no stopping enterprising actors as him! There is Navas Vallikkunnu who strikes all the right chords with his pleasing act as Rahim, while Arun Kurian plays the protagonist’s full haired younger brother with aplomb.
‘Thamasha’ would however be remembered for its surprise charmer – Chinnu Chandni Nair – who ties up her laces in her opening scene, squeezes in her ankle into a pair of shoes that seems reluctant to budge, and makes a gala entry into Malayalam films. What a stunner of a performer this young lady turns out to be, and Chinnu with a highly agreeable feat makes sure that the latter half of ‘Thamasha’ is a total joyride. There are also noteworthy performances from other women actors as Divya Prabha and Grace Antony who play Sreenivasan’s potential love interests, as well as Uma who makes a delightfully amiable screen mom. The musical score by Shahabaz Aman and Rex Vijayan is immensely hummable and the frames by Sameer Thahir exquisite.
Hamza’s ‘Thamasha’ will remain one of my favourite films this year, thanks to its very unique shimmer and shine. Uproarious, tender, thoughtful and touching, it’s a warm hearted affair with a disarming genuineness that should not by any chance, be missed in the theatres.
Verdict: Very Good