The picture-perfect streets, the colonial-style architecture and the sound of the nearby sea can cast a spell on anyone visiting Mattancherry. But what many may not know is that its quaint streets once reverberated with the violent struggles of labourers who worked in Mattancherry port.
Nivin Pauly-starrer 'Thuramukham' is a peek into this violent past and a powerful ode to the heroes of the labour union who fought against the unjust 'chaapa' system.
The struggles of the working class, the stark poverty and the cruelty of the system, which guaranteed work to only those who caught the chappa (copper coins) flung at them, have been captured well in this poignant tale directed by Rajeev Ravi, whose previous works include the critically-acclaimed film 'Kammatipaadam'.
What's interesting is how the makers have weaved a compelling family drama into the narrative, which is based on true-life incidents. Umma, played by Poornima Indrajith, lives in the heart of Mattancherry along with her three children – Moidu (Nivin Pauly), Hamsa (Arjun Ashokan) and Kaachi (Darshana Rajendran). Mymood (Joju George), the patriarch, is forced to leave the area because he raised his voice against the work-site supervisor 'moopan'. The moopans are part of the nexus that ensured the 'Chaapa system' prevailed in the harbour. When he leaves, Umma is forced to bring up the children on her own.
While the elder son Moidu becomes a leader of a gang working for the cruel contractors, Hamsa grows up to become a sensitive man who cares for his family. He soon joins a union fighting against the Chappa system.
The performances are gripping. Poornima, who has been away from the silver screen for some time now, gets to play a meaty role as a mother who struggles to keep the house functioning despite all odds. She plays a woman, first in her 30s and then in her 60s, both of which she has juggled with ease.
Nivin Pauly, who had been struggling without major hits for the past few years, is wonderful as the crude, impulsive, and sometimes insensitive Moidu, who represents a section of people devoid of morals and purpose in life. His love for Umani (Nimisha Sajayan) is mixed with lust and care.
Though Nivin excels in his role, it is Arjun Ashokan who steals the show. He carries off the gentleness and strength of his character like a seasoned actor.
Sudev Nair, known for his negative charecters in 'Bheeshma Parvam' or 'Kothu', shines as Pacheek.
The storyline by Gopan Chidambaram, is solid, laying bare the stark reality of life, without much melodrama. The narration is slow-paced and jerky at times. However, the performances and the different layers that the film explores keep us engaged. The initial black and white frames bode well with the mood of the story. It soon transforms into colour, to signify the passage of time. tell the audience that time has flown by. The spirit of Kochi, the sea and its noise, seep into the music by K Shahabaz Aman. Overall, the narrative, though slow-paced, will charm its way into our hearts.