Theevandi (2018) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


Fellini’s take on a man wanting to take a final puff and chuck away a long-standing addiction is akin to the first smoke ever; drawing in a bit too much of a cloudy breath and holding it all in for a moment before the anticipated onset of the dreaded cough, throwing out a whole lot than one had bargained for, in spurts and spasms. And when peace is finally regained, the smoke or what is left of it, slowly dissipates into the air around.


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The smoker in ‘Theevandi’ has a strenuous way out into the world, lies still and is taken for dead by all, the day he is born. An uncle (Sudheesh), left alone with the baby presumed to be dead, grows all curious and for some weird reason, blows smoke rings on its face. Jump starting to life, the baby gurgles, and Fellini’s film ‘Theevandi’ gets off to a smoky start along with its protagonist.

The question remains hence, if smokers are born or made. The philosophical haziness aside, ‘Theevandi’ would probably go down in history as the film which flaunts a statutory warning on screen for almost its entire length, be it that of the obligatory counsel against smoking or the ones instigating you to wear helmets and of course those that loyally remind you to buckle those seat belts tight.

Warnings apart, the baby is named Bineesh, grows up fast into a handsome young man (Tovino Thomas), and discovers while in school that the cigarette is a miracle stub that holds much more promise than has been realized by the world. He starts puffing away to glory and in no time earns for himself the nickname ‘Theevandi’, all the while remaining jobless and dreaming of making a solid entry into politics and thereby make a living.

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Unfortunately for Bineesh, his fiancée Devi (Samyuktha Menon) is no Cherie, the pretty girl smoker in ‘Love in a Puff’ (Pang Ho-cheung, 2010). On the contrary, she harbours a staunch disgust for the chronic habit that he has fallen for, and insists that those kisses can wait until his lips have shed the tobacco stink. Bineesh jauntily considers giving up kissing instead.

Fellini’s ‘Theevandi’ has an appealing premise that concerns itself with the life of a chronic smoker, but runs out of steam and smoke, when its focus gradually shifts across to political satire; a bunch of underwritten characters around him who view the disabling habit more as a means to achieve an end, thereby tremendously diluting the gravity of the actual issue. At the end of it all, despite all your efforts, you end up thinking of K in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘No Smoking’ (2007), and decide not to draw comparisons.

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The instances of personal loss that are associated to an addiction are however etched in much more efficiently, like when Bineesh himself realizes that he has taken it a bit too far. In a brilliant scene that follows a wedding engagement having terribly gone wrong, he haplessly sits in the dark, drawing vengefully on cigarette stumps, and screaming his lungs out in absolute aggravation.

These occasions are however few and Bineesh ends up on an islet sans cigars, where two musicians keep him company. A super-aggressive Bineesh smashes their guitars and drums, the writing gets increasingly arid despite all the water around, and the several songs that stream in serve as further speed breakers to the steam engine that had already showed signs of slowing down.

The best part of ‘Theevandi’ is the tender romance that effervescently breezes across, and the few ups and several downs that it goes through. Coughing up in exasperation as the swirls of smoke around get thicker, this love tale slickly flows on, sneaking up every now and then amidst stretches of non-happenings to splatter a few moments of delight around, and then almost mutely giving way to much lesser events.

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Performances are nothing short of excellent, be it that of Tovino who slips into the smoker avatar with ease or that of Samyuktha who endears herself to us with her commanding screen presence. Kailash Menon scores a whopper with the ‘Jeevamshamaay..’ track, and Gautham Sankar captures it all in diligent frames.

Fellini’s take on a man wanting to take a final puff and chuck away a long-standing addiction is akin to the first smoke ever; drawing in a bit too much of a cloudy breath and holding it all in for a moment before the anticipated onset of the dreaded cough, throwing out a whole lot than one had bargained for, in spurts and spasms. And when peace is finally regained, the smoke or what is left of it, slowly dissipates into the air around.


Verdict: Average


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