Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam Movie Review: Senna Hegde's film is a treasure trove of laughs
Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam is a classic testament to the idea that one doesn't have to rely on popular stars to make something work
If you, like me, have been waiting for a long time to see a Malayalam comedy that doesn’t suffer from TV serial-itis, I imagine you would be mighty pleased by this little indie gem, Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam (TN). Written and directed by Senna Hegde and co-written/shot by Sreeraj Raveendran, the film boasts the same organic fibre as the other delectable family dramas that preceded it, such as Kumbalangi Nights, Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, or Maheshinte Prathikaram. And like them, TN shows that it’s possible to milk laughs (not the cheap kind) out of a simple premise. And it’s got plenty of it. I had begun laughing by the three-minute mark. I can’t think of the last film that did that to me. Maybe something from the 80s, but nothing recent. Yes, TN is a film that carries the goodness of the comedies that Malayalam cinema used to churn out aplenty in the 80s.
Director: Senna Hegde
Cast: Anagha Narayanan, Aishwarya Suresh, Ajisha Prabhakaran, Anuroop P, Manoj K U
Streaming on: SonyLIV
The film trains its lens on a Kanhagad-based family whose members are not too different from your own or your neighbours. And if you, like me, hail from the Malabar region, it’s a bonus. I was instantly transported to places in my memory that I thought I had buried long ago. It’s not the sort of film from which you can pick a random person and call them the “main character”. Every single character’s involvement matters. And for something chronicling the preparations of an engagement ceremony, it wouldn’t look right any other way.
I guess I can say from which character it all begins. It’s Suja, daughter of a man, Vijayan (Manoj KU), who doesn’t want her to repeat what her elder sister did: eloping with a “good for nothing” guy. A Gulf-based Malayali suitor soon shows up and makes things extremely awkward, and now she is thinking about doing something... harsh.
Don’t worry, though. It’s not a film designed to depress you. TN goes into serious mode multiple times, but it always finds an unexpectedly comical situation to diffuse all the tension. So if you find yourself suddenly getting frightened by Vijayan’s sudden outbursts after acting so sweet to his family members a couple of minutes back, you can expect the film to douse that fire with a lighthearted moment a few minutes later. Here’s a small example: There is a situation where Vijayan’s son gets into an intense quarrel and, one of his friends, while looking for a way to stop it, finds out that another one is happening nearby, and he begins to wonder if everything is a dream. “Could you pinch me?” he asks a bystander. TN makes even the Bengali worker and food supplier a participant. Their screentime may be short, but they manage to conjure up some memorable laughs regardless. Picture this: A goods driver refuses to unload the heavy supplies because he has “blood pressure and sugar issues” but is raring to flee when he hears someone say “payasam”.
Vijayan’s regressive mentality comes to bite him in a place where the sun doesn’t shine in ingenious ways. He is the guy who believes that Kerala should follow the example of the Gulf —bring it under the rule of a monarch. He can’t stand democracy. Why would he? He doesn’t allow it inside his own home. One could see the central family in the film as a microcosm of the entire country.
Among the film’s recurring gags are a local party committee member asking Vijayan’s son-in-law (the one married to Suja’s elder sister) if he has received permission to enter his father-in-law’s house yet, the brilliantly-staged climax where old secrets bubble up to the surface and all hell breaks loose, and a ‘comedy of errors’ involving Suja and two men. It also impresses by finding humour in some of the tiniest, most mundane bits elsewhere, such as the opening scene that perfectly sets up the tone for the rest of the film. And it helps that all these characters interact in the local dialect, except for the Thrissur dialect of Sajin Cherukayil’s character.
A major share of the film’s credit also goes to its remarkably perceptive cinematographer Sreeraj Raveendran, who adopts a handheld, fly-on-the-wall approach to capture the proceedings. He treats the whole place like it’s real. At times his camera observes things from a distance, as though it’s afraid to get involved in whatever is happening on the other side. The film shows that sometimes humour can come out of certain framing choices. In this case, ditching the medium or close shots in favour of wide ones. The opening scene is the best example of this. You don’t see the characters’ faces; only their movements and dialogues, and the comical effect it registers is unreal. The camera is rarely stationary, even when it’s looking in one particular direction. This approach works to the film’s advantage. Oh, and make sure you don’t miss the hilarious post-credits scene.
Senna and Sreeraj have made the commendable choice of not going with big names for their cast. This unfamiliarity contributes to the unpredictable nature of the film. Now, unpredictability is a quality one usually associates with a suspense or horror film, not a comedy. If they had used well-known faces, people would be watching them with preconceived notions. I was surprised to learn that one of the film’s best performers—playing a woman responsible for much chaos—is doing this for the first time. The film is a classic testament to the idea that one doesn’t have to rely on popular stars to make something work. All that is needed is a finely tuned script with attention-grabbing characters, and you got 80% of the job done. It’s admirable how the film gets a lot of character development done in a short time.
I hope this state award-winner (it’s not an ‘award’ film, though) reaches so many eyeballs and gets discussed everywhere on social media. It deserves all the love it can get.