As expected ‘Thankam’, directed by Saheed Arafath, is a 24-carat murder mystery that burns like incense - slowly and steadily engulfing you in its smoke. I am a bit confused about calling ‘Thankam’ a murder mystery and you would only understand the reason for my dilemma when you catch the movie in the theatres.
The finesse with which Syam Pushkaran, who has produced the movie along with Fahadh Faasil and Dileesh Pothan, has handled Saheed’s story underlines the fact that he is one of the finest scriptwriters of this generation. ‘Thankam’ opens deceivingly calm, introducing us to the life and work of Muthu (Biju Menon) and Kannan (Vineeth Sreenivasan) giving us no hint about what's in store.
Muthu is a gold agent from Thrissur and Kannan is his 'rider', who distributes the ornaments to jewellery partners across India. With gold in business, one can’t blame if someone expects the story to take the hitherto known path of foul play between the partners. Here also one partner (Kannan) breaks the trust of the other (Muthu), but on a personal level. Syam’s script draws the world of Muthu and Kannan for us without missing even the minutest details making one doubt if he tore those pages from someone’s diary. And those pages were evidently safe in the hands of Saheed and Prinish Prabhakaran(co-director), who made their Mollywood entry together with the 2017 movie ‘Theeram’.
All the actors, from the top cast to the supporting ones, have done a brilliant job in front of the camera handled by Gautham Sankar, who also cranked the camera for ‘Theeram’. With its life-like frames and tones, ‘Thankam’ is one of Gautham’s best works so far.
The editing by Kiran Das at times felt out of sync with the narration - could be a conscious call to create a false perception about the pace. But one place it felt extremely jarring was when he cut to a high-angle wide while Biju was consoling Aparna Balamurali who comes to know about the death of her husband Vineeth through an unexpected phone call that the former picks up on the car's handsfree. With the camera inside the car, it was a moment owned by the artists in Biju and Aparna.
Biju and Aparna exchange looks and, then taking his time, Biju touches Aparna’s hands that are holding onto his car doors like she is taking all the strength to stay standing after hearing the news. He withdraws first and with a bit of hesitation and brotherly affection, he grips her hands tight. But without allowing the camera to linger there, to let viewers soak in a bit more of that intense moment, we are cut off and given an exterior shot which shows the Vineeth-Aparna couple’s baby girl running towards her mom.
Once we enter the real story, the investigation, all these technical elements take a backseat and it's simply the narration that leads the way. Like a crafty goldsmith, Bijibal has blended his music into the narration so well that it guides its way through the nooks and corners of the story only making its presence felt when needed. The same goes for Kochu Preman as Vineeth’s father. He is like a minimal art that speaks volumes; volumes about what the Malayalam film industry lost with his demise last December. Special mention to Vineeth Thattil David, he was a treat to watch as Muthu's friend.
With a stellar performance by the cast, spellbinding script and mature direction, ‘Thankam’ is a sure theatre-watch.