Thankamani Is An Absurdly Old School Revenge Drama In The Disguise Of A Serial Killer Thriller

The writing is all over the place and the making doesn’t help either to plant this Dileep-starrer in some form of reality
Thankamani Movie Review
Thankamani Movie Review

Writer and Director: Ratheesh Reghunandan

Cast: Dileep, Pranitha Subhash, Neeta Pillai, Manoj K Jayan

Runtime: 156 Minutes

Available in: Theatres

It’s surprising how little time it takes to understand that we’re going nowhere with Thankamani. It opens with an overtly stylised action sequence that ends with a cabinet minister getting murdered. The slo-mo shots feel long, we get no sense of a mood and there’s a feeling of déjà vu that makes it look like we’ve seen this exact sequence in multiple movies before this. The murderer’s identity is hidden so you hold on to this bit of extravagant cinema thinking a big reveal is on the cards. But just 15 minutes later, we get to see this exact sequence playing out again in the same excruciating pace. The big reveal is here already and the murderer is Dileep with lush grey hair, dressed in the most choicest of cardigans. In any other movie, it would appear that he’s on his way home after a game of croquet at the country club. But in Thankamani, this jolly good fellow appears to be a serial killer, on a spree to take down top politicians, officers and businessmen.

He goes by Abel Joshua Mathen, a name you will have to hear a hundred times through Thankamani’s 156-minute runtime. The film is based on a real-life incident of police brutality that took place when villagers set a bus on fire. But if that plot reminded you of a film like Karnan, you needn’t stress because there’s hardly a scene with the same impact. Rather than use the real event as a base to tell a moving story, in Thankamani, the writer has instead chosen to tell a highly melodramatic tale about one man and his family with the event being almost incidental.

A still from the film
A still from the film

It’s an approach that doesn’t really require the makers to take a stand on a real incident, but this approach removes an element of authenticity you usually get easily in films based on real-life. So when there’s tensions brewing between townsfolk and the police, you see how Abel is non-committal, choosing to look elsewhere to avoid conflict. In a more complex movie, you’d think the hero’s indifference is a comment on how the apolitical will eventually get affected no matter how aloof they remain. But in this movie, you just think of Abel as someone who doesn’t care, so why should we?

The strangest of these sequences take place when the film cuts back to Abel. It follows a non-linear pattern with different characters narrating memories from the 80’s about what actually happened in the village of Thankamani. In one of these flashbacks, we cut back to present day right after Abel witnesses a murder. But when we return to the same period in another flashback later, there is no shock or stress for Abel for having witnessed such a gruesome event (this is the very next day). He seems just as happy flirting with his wife with no signs of trauma.

A still from the film
A still from the film

The writing is really all over the place and the making doesn’t help either to plant this in some form of reality. Take, for instance, the manner in which the many murders have been shot. They mostly appear in nighttime and the film makes no effort to make it look like the realistic film it was until then. They feel like gimmicky show reels for action choreographers to seek out big mass movie and the director mistakes nauseating drone shots that travel through buses for real filmmaking.

But even these action sequences start becoming cringe when they introduce the strangest weapons. Depending upon Abel’s mood, his weapons vary from long nail-shaped jewellery to battery-powered welding equipment to kill his victims. His resourcefulness is such that he is more a Swiss Army Knife rather than a vigilante exacting revenge, yet nothing gets us to look past his beautiful woollen cardigans. Perhaps the idea was to give a film set in the 80’s, the feeling of watching a movie from the 80’s. But with zero grasp of filmmaking and the most basic idea to recreate a real-life incident, Thankamani is one of those events that worked much better as a Wikipedia page.  

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