Dhoomam is a film where the audience is left confused as to where the anti-smoking public service advertisement which precedes every movie ends, and where the actual movie begins. Because, the film itself is a long public service advertisement on the ill effects of smoking. Dhoomam struggles to live up to its lofty intent.
Early on in the movie, Avinash (Fahadh Faasil), the marketing head of a major tobacco firm, pitches the idea for flashy anti-smoking awareness advertisements with popular stars. The idea behind it is to produce the opposite effect of the stated intent - that is to induce more people into smoking. The idea becomes a success as the company’s sales shoot up. But Dhoomam, the movie, on the other hand, would actually make people quit smoking as no one would ever want to sit through something as dull as this again.
Director Pawan Kumar, who debuted with the inventive Kannada film Lucia a decade back, enters the Malayalam industry with Hombale Films, the producers of the KGF franchise and Kantara. While he used a supernatural story to deliver a public service message in U Turn, he attempts a thriller with Dhoomam.
It begins intriguingly enough, with Avinash and his wife Diya (Aparna Balamurali) ending up as hostages on a secluded hilly terrain. They get strange demands through phone calls. With hardly any time to lose, they have to complete certain tasks to save their lives.
The non-linear narrative keeps switching between their attempts to escape from the situation, and to the past, where Avinash climbs up the ladder in the tobacco company run by Sid (Roshan Mathew). These are some of the few interesting phases in Dhoomam, reminiscent of the 2005 movie Thank You for Smoking. They showcase the methods used by companies to convince new users as well as to lobby favourable policies with the government. All is not well within the company too, with Sid’s uncle Praveen (Vineeth) upset over losing control of the company.
Dhoomam suffers mainly due to the scripting, especially with the dialogues. An able performer like Aparna is made to mouth shrieking questions repetitively. Many of the lines seem auto-generated than written with thought and emotion, which make the supposedly moving moments fall flat. Despite this, the thriller aspect of the film could have saved the day, but even that loses steam by the halfway point.
The film’s critique of profits at any cost is as powerful as the protagonist’s pricked conscience late in the day when he sees kids buying cigarettes; as if the cut-throat marketing head of a tobacco firm was unaware of this fact till that point. Dhoomam lives up to its title in the impact it has on the audience – a whiff of smoke, and hardly anything substantial.
Dhoomam is currently running in theatres