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
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.”
Tovino Thomas and Neha Iyer in