‘Thankam’ movie review: A layered character study and engaging procedural rolled in one

Director Saheed Arafath and scriptwriter Syam Pushkaran masterfully handle the journey of the narrative, led by fine performances from Vineeth Sreenivasan, Biju Menon and others in the cast

January 27, 2023 01:03 pm | Updated 02:41 pm IST

A still from ‘Thankam’

A still from ‘Thankam’

One can portray a group involved in a particular trade or even a community from an outsider’s perspective, or look at them as someone from within would do. In Thankam, steeped in the world of the small-time agents, workshop men and deliverers in the gold industry of Thrissur, director Saheed Arafath and scrip writer Syam Pushkaran, choose to do the latter. The song sequence during the opening credits — a montage of every activity in this industry much of which operates just under the radar — sets the tone for what is in store.

It is a beautifully-crafted sequence which depicts the precise work, the risks involved, the expanse of the business and the camaraderie between the principal players. When Kannan (Vineeth Sreenivasan), who delivers the finished gold to jewellers in various states, carefully ties a whole roll of paper filled with gold bangles around his waist — as a precautionary measure before his delivery run — one gets an inkling of the perilous paths that he has to tread. It is this path filled with possibilities of deceit and backstabbing that Thankam is concerned with.

Muthu (Biju Menon)‘s gold business is dependent on Kannan’s easy charm, with which he has built up a wide network of contacts. The script is built around two incidents that happen during his gold run. The second incident, of Kannan going missing in Mumbai with a considerable quantity of gold, drives the film. But we keep coming back to the seemingly minor first event, of Kannan, Muthu and their friend (Vineeth Thattil) landing in the police net during a trip to Coimbatore. Aspects of their character, hitherto unknown, gets revealed as we go along, but a key aspect of one of the characters is kept for the last.

Director: Saheed Arafath
Cast: Vineeth Sreenivasan, Biju Menon, Girish Kulkarni, Aparna Balamurali

But even with the little that we know of them, we remain invested in their lives, almost as much as they are in the gold, thanks to how they are written. The women (especially Kannan’s wife played by Aparna Balamurali) though get under-written roles, with only gold dealer Ambika (Indira Prasad) getting a strong part. Actor Kochupreman, who passed away recently, gets one of the most memorable lines in the movie.

The film takes off as a police procedural with the arrival of a Mumbai police team led by an able officer (Girish Kulkarni in a brilliantly-essayed role). The investigation, while focusing on the whodunnit, is also about letting us into the intricacies of the trade and new facets of the characters. Humour keeps popping up even amid the grimness of questioning and tailing the suspects, with the narrative hardly ever losing its hold on us.

This almost-stranglehold and the expectations built up through an investigation across geographies can have its negatives, as the big reveal in the end can be less satisfying, depending on which way you look at it. Looking at it purely as an investigative thriller, what we get in the end can be a downer, but as a character study of someone who shows only the best parts of his life to those close to him, it is a winner. But the journey till that point is handled masterfully, whichever way you look at it.

Thankam is currently running in theatres

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