A dark com­edy as an ode to the greats

Do­minic Arun’s de­but film, Tha­rangam: The Cu­ri­ous Case of Kal­lan Pavithran is as cu­ri­ous as its ti­tle, of­fer­ing a dark com­edy that calls for au­di­ence in­volve­ment, writes Deepa Gauri

Khaleej Times - City Times - - SOUTHSTARS - Chal­lenge of com­edy

AN EN­GI­NEER CHUCK­ING away a cushy job with an IT ma­jor to ven­ture into films is noth­ing new in Malay­alam cinema. But when Do­minic Arun does the same to pur­sue his dream ca­reer in films, there is a dif­fer­ence: He was in­sis­tent not to fol­low the norms or con­form to tra­di­tions.

The re­sult is Tha­rangam: The Cu­ri­ous Case of Kal­lan Pavithran that does not only have cu­rios­ity value in its ti­tle but also in its mak­ing. For one, it is the first film pro­duced by the home-ban­ner of Tamil (nay Bol­ly­wood nay Hol­ly­wood) ac­tor Dhanush. Two, it is a dark com­edy, a genre that is not ev­ery­one’s cup of tea. Three, it is a prod­uct of friend­ship with the di­rec­tor shar­ing close ca­ma­raderie with the lead ac­tor Tovino Thomas.

The cu­rio fac­tors con­tinue with the orig­i­nal ti­tle in­spired from late di­rec­tor Pad­mara­jan’s cult-clas­sic Kal­lan Pavithran (when the rights own­ers re­fused to budge, Arun had to go by Tha­rangam). Every char­ac­ter in the film has a name bor­rowed from past films – so Pap­pan (Tovino’s char­ac­ter) is from Pap­pan Priyapetta Pap­pan, and Joy (played by Balu Vargh­ese) gets his name from Srini­vasan’s char­ac­ter in Friends.

Not sur­pris­ingly then, Arun says his film is a sort of cin­e­matic ode to the le­gends in cinema, who have in­spired him and shaped his cin­e­matic in­flu­ences. And that starts with Priyadar­shan all the way to Quentin Tarantino to Guy Ritchie to Sid­dique Lal. “That way, my film is re­ally a mash-up of all that in­flu­ences,” says Arun.

An adap­tive genre

While Tha­rangam qual­i­fies to be a dark com­edy, Arun likes to call it an adap­tive genre, a blend and grind of all the cin­e­matic in­flu­ences he had been ex­posed to from child­hood. A ca­reer in films had al­ways been his dream, but as is cus­tom­ary for many a young Malay­ali, he played the ‘good son,’ did a course in engi­neer­ing, worked for Wipro, and then went all out to make short films be­fore work­ing as as­sis­tant di­rec­tor in two films (Sec­onds and Money Rat­nam).

The groom­ing in film in­dus­try helped, he says, al­though di­rect­ing was not re­ally his first dream. He wanted to be an ac­tor but the ‘be­hind-thescenes’ was more fas­ci­nat­ing. When he came up with his first project, a script writ­ten over a pe­riod of six months, he and Tovino had but one vi­sion: Not to fol­low ex­ist­ing tem­plates, not to play it safe and not to suc­cumb to for­mula.

Per­haps the flash of in­ge­nu­ity in the script did help: The team at Dhanush’s Wun­der­bar Films were the first to hear the nar­ra­tion, which hap­pened by prov­i­dence, through one con­tact of a friend to an­other.

A cel­e­bra­tion of friend­ship

Tha­rangam is in­deed a cel­e­bra­tion of friend­ship with most of the cast and crew be­ing friends. Arun also had a cast­ing coup of sorts in Dileesh Pothen, who plays Almighty in the film.

Open­ing with an­other day in par­adise where Pothen is has­sled by the char­ac­ter Kal­lan Pavithran to help him get rid of the ‘kal­lan’ (thief) tag from his fam­ily, the film moves to Earth, and into the lives of two bum­bling traf­fic cops, played by Tovino and Balu.

An ad­ven­ture to make a fast buck sees them get into a chain of un­for­tu­nate yet hi­lar­i­ous sit­u­a­tions, and how they wrig­gle out of it makes for the film. If the film’s nar­ra­tive back­drop re­minds you of yes­ter­year films – from Har­i­har Na­gar to Akkare Akkare Akkare and more, it could only be con­strued as nat­u­ral, as Arun tells us, it is an ode to the films we grew up with.

Arun says writ­ing the film was the most te­dious part, more so be­cause it in­volved mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters. The chal­lenge was to give ev­ery­one the right iden­tity and fla­vor. Praise has come in heaps for the script with in­formed re­view­ers high­light­ing its craft.

The film also stars Neha Iyer, Vi­jaya Ragha­van, Manoj K Jayan, Shammy Thi­lakan, and Saiju Ku­rup as well as Unni Mukun­dan in a cameo.

Arun says he was aware of the chal­lenge in­volved in do­ing a dark com­edy but then that is a genre he loves. He is not sur­prised then that re­views of Tha­rangam have veered to two ex­tremes. Some loved it to bits; oth­ers, con­tinue to be baf­fled by its au­dac­ity not to sub­scribe to their pre­con­ceived no­tions of for­mu­laic cinema. “I was hop­ing it would be loved by all, but then it turned out as it was sup­posed to be,” says Arun.

That is why he has a word for au­di­ences in the UAE/Gulf, who get to watch the film this week at theatres: “Tha­rangam is an ex­per­i­men­tal film; it is not the kind that you get to see of­ten. Watch it with an open mind, with­out ex­pec­ta­tions, and am sure you will en­joy its dif­fer­ent type of hu­mour.”He also has an­other re­quest: “To watch the 2 hour 30 minute film closely” and not to give scenes a miss be­cause “I wanted to make a film that in­volves the au­di­ence, giv­ing space for them to think and be with the film.”

Tha­rangam

Tovino Thomas and Neha Iyer in

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