Cast: Johny Antony, Dharmajan Bolgatty, Bibin George
Director: Rajiv Shetty
For a film that shifts its base to Nepal soon after a conflict is set up, you imagine Sangeeth Sivan’s Yoddha to be the film triggering feelings of déjà vu in Thirimali. But except for one isolated reference related to Jagathy’s character, there are hardly any moments that remind you of the 1992 comedy. Instead, it’s scenes from 1998’s Punjabi House that kept popping into my head while sitting through Thirimali, a lost comedy that begins well. For one, the main issue is that of money. Lottery seller Baby (Bibin George) is dead broke when he realises that one of his lottery tickets has won the bumper prize. But having lost a court case and with dozens of loansharks breathing down his neck, he has to now deal with the news that his only employee, a Nepali named Veer Sherpa, has fled with his ticket and a certain amount of money. Right from the way a makeshift search party is set up to bring back the ticket to recreate the fish-out-of-water effect like Rafi Mecartin’s film did, the rest of Thirimali follows predictable beats culminating in an emotional ending that leaves us with zero impact.
It’s another one of those movies that struggle to maintain the energy of its earlier portions the moment it steps out of India (Mohanlal’s Peruchazhi and Sreenivasan’s Arabikatha come to mind). It expects wide shots of the landscape to keep the film engaging even when there’s nothing much happening on screen. One understands that there are only so many ways of writing and then shooting a long search for one missing person but Thirimali feels clueless with shot and shot designed to show us the local tourist attractions. It looks even more clueless when an item number is squeezed into this search using a sorry excuse of a plot point.
Even the jokes here do not have the written quality of the earlier parts. Instead of a scene written around a joke, here the wisecracks feel inorganic like afterthoughts added during the dubbing sessions. The chemistry between Bibin George, Johnny Anthony and Dharmajan Bolgatty too seems to disappear, especially when there’s nothing much for them to do. And when the film shifts genre into an emotional space, we realise that none of these characters mattered enough for us to feel anything for their plight, especially that of Veer Sherpa’s. Except for an interesting premise and a progressive take on how we let our misconceptions about migrant labourers take us for a ride, there are hardly any redeeming qualities in Thirimali.