Sharan Koppisetty’s Thimmarusu, the Telugu cinema iteration of the Kannada hit Birbal Trilogy Case 1: Finding Vajramuni, is a consistently amusing thriller that has the ability to surprise you even when you think you have figured it out. But that does not mean it relies only on its twists (there are many) to keep it moving. It tries interesting things within the investigative format to give us cool new ways to look at generic situations, which would otherwise have just felt like plain exposition. Instead of simply giving us dialogues to show different pieces of the puzzle coming together, we get to see Ram’s (a very likeable Satyadev) mind at work as he pieces together logic and intuition. For this, we get cleverly cut montages that transition between timelines and perspectives. We also get the feeling that we’re participating in this puzzle ourselves because we have vital information the protagonists don’t and this also works the other way around.
The puzzle itself is based on a crime that was committed on the night India won the cricket World Cup 10 years ago. An innocent was accused wrongly and sent to jail and newbie lawyer Ram gets involved only when the victim has already served half his sentence. Although gimmicky at first, we’re constantly fed with information that slowly builds up the crime scene into a complex web of stories using a series of reliable and unreliable narrators. Which means that the film leaves us with questions to hold on to for an hour or more before we finally get the answers (who is the victim, for instance). What this bit of trickery does is keep us invested even when we’re sitting through patches of blandness.
These generic bits include a chase scene set in a ghetto and an overlong stretch that involves the MacGuffin and multiple characters sporting a burka. In other instances, we get a fight scene set inside an elevator that not only serves its purpose (of having a fight scene) but is also mindless fun. All of this adds to the film’s flab but it also adds relief to what’s essentially just a series of new characters appearing and disappearing, only to further the plot.
This bit of monotony also sets in because we sense this pattern forming pretty early on. So when we realise that something random is going to lead Ram to one more clue, the difference is just where this new premonition is going to take place — a fancy cafe or a local tea shop. But at least we’re saved from a generic meet-cute featuring a heroine who gets nothing to do. So when we meet her first, she is already Ram’s girlfriend and we’re thankfully saved from even more flab.
The making is solid (it is shot by Appu Prabhakar, who also shot Satyadev’s Uma Maheshwara Ugra Roopasya) and even weaker ideas get realised interestingly on screen. But with a tight script that could have worked in most settings, here’s an example of a film that manages to translate well even in a new setting. With a few behavioural traits and quirks of his own, even Ram can be developed into a cool super lawyer who can hold his own movie series. Between the many gimmicks (like the names of the central characters) and the fool-proof writing, we get a film that tries valiantly, even when it has little to offer.