Directors: George Kora, Sam Xavier
Thirike is the story of two brothers Thomas (George Kora) and Ismu, played by TikTok star Gopi Krishnan who has Down's syndrome. Gopi Krishnan is the film's rockstar. His performance is so endearing, real and without self-pity that he's a natural film star. You, too, want to give him a big hug that Thomas wants to give him in the film.
George Kora co-wrote Njandukalude Naattil Oridavela and also wrote and directed the short film Last Day Of Summer. There was a definite voice in the two films. One of them was about a mother with cancer and the other was about the distance between a father and a son, both physical and emotional. Both the films treated the issues with a lightness, though. Instead of weeping you are smiling through a mist of tears. This is George Kora's voice where he takes extraordinary situations and looks at them in refreshingly ordinary ways.
The extraordinary situation in Thirike is that Thomas and Ismu are orphaned at a very young age; they are later separated in an orphanage. Ismu is adopted by a loving couple, Fatima (Shanthi Krishna) and Rafiq (Gopan Mangat). Thomas is left to grow up all alone in the orphanage. This is another other extraordinary situation in the film: in another film, Ismu would be the dependent, but Ismu is well-adjusted in his new world and it's Thomas who needs Ismu. Without the sense of his brother, he has no one to call family.
George Kora's voice, clear from earlier films, is there throughout Thirike: a heavy subject is treated with as much lightness as is possible. But at times, it doesn't work as well as it did in his earlier films. I wish I had an understanding of the bond between the brothers other than just the fact that they're brothers. I wish I knew why Fatima had such a dislike towards Thomas. Of course, there's a psychological battle between them over Ismu, but it isn't elaborated realistically.
And you don't feel all that much for Thomas who is a cute charmer; you never take him seriously. You don't feel the psychological darkness in him. We never really feel his crisis of conscience when he does something unconscionable with a woman; we can never really feel that the character lacks responsibility. So, the central character is too fluffy and light for us to take all the psychological underpinning seriously.
When everything is treated lightly, it can come in the way of what the film tries to achieve: to give a sense of the bond between the brothers. But mainly, the film is about what Thomas's issues are all about. There's a big central act that happens when Thomas and Ismu take off together. We never see Thomas's sense of desperation as he does this. We only get a sense that the brothers are going on an Enid Blyton adventure. The film is well-directed by Sam Xavier and George Kora and it has some good writing. And it's hard to hate Thirike — even if you have issues with it — because of how heart-warming it is.