Thank You Movie Review: An oversimplified yet heartfelt drama
The Vikram K Kumar film runs on familiar beats but the innate bittersweetness of the story keeps us invested in the protagonist’s journey
Runtime can be a tricky factor while assessing a film. We, as film reviewers, have a proclivity to antagonise a long film. ‘Painfully long’ and ‘Overstays its welcome’ are phrases we often squander and most of the time, rightly so. Today, I find myself at crossroads with Thank You, a film that charts the journey of Abhiram—through his highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies, from the time he barely has any facial hair to the time it starts turning grey—in a meager 129 minutes. This is an ideal runtime for our times, where sitting through the first half of a film without checking the mobile serves as a metric to gauge one’s tremendous patience, sadly. Thank You, on this front, is a breezy watch. It is tender, light and warm, despite the harshness of the story. But as a film that demands you to take a walk down the memory lane with a character, introspecting his mistakes, ignorance, insensitivity, and arrogance, all eventually leading to redemption, we need the time to assimilate these heavy emotional beats and overcome them, along with the protagonist. Runtime, you see, here is a double-edged sword.
Directed by: Vikram K Kumar
Cast: Naga Chaitanya, Raashii Khanna, Malavika Nair, Avika Gor, Sai Sushanth Reddy
Thank You, early on, gives the vibe of Maharshi (2019). We see the rise of Abhiram (Naga Chaitanya, in his strongest performance yet), through the eyes of his long-time girlfriend, Priya (Raashii Khanna), and the eventual death of his innocence. Abhiram lands in America, thanks to the help of Rao Uncle (Prakash Raj) and finds success as an entrepreneur. Of course, he gradually grows self-centric, moving away from Priya and the people who have been crucial to his success. Priya misses the Abhiram she first met, the one filled with curiosity and innocence as success corrupts his mind. While Maharshi looked at his hero like… well, a saint who has conjured the world with his will, here Abhiram’s self-centeredness is called out loud by Priya right at the beginning and the film’s gaze makes it pretty clear that its sympathies don’t lie with Abhiram. When a tragedy strikes and Abhiram feels guilty, his conscience—which was buried until then under the weight of victory—finds its way out of his body, quite literally, and starts having a dialogue with him. Truth bombs are dropped, perspectives are questioned, and mistakes are called out. And Abhiram then sets out on a journey to register his long-pending gratitude to some important people in his life. This pretty much encapsulates the story and soul of Thank You.
Vikram K Kumar, who directs BVS Ravi’s story, finds refreshing ways to accentuate this familiar plot. His screenplay allows us to see different versions of Abhiram; not just in different age groups but from different perspectives. For instance, he is downright callous from Priya’s vantage point; later when we see him as a ruffian in his college, there is a swag here and the narrative posits a justification for this heroism because he is recalling his own story and in his mind, he is the hero. Vikram treats these different phases—his ascension to glory, his first love in his late teens, and the rather massy college phase—pretty much like musicals. S Thaman’s lovely score and drama are interwoven seamlessly by Naveen Nooli's editing, making these sequences a compelling viewing experience. You can sense that these moments are not separately created through writing but are infused naturally into the narrative, through the amalgamation of music and editing. Abhiram's first rendezvous with Parvathi (an effective Malavika Nair), which is blended with a boat race, is beautifully conceived and shot. Likewise, a ‘hero’ moment—literally again—in the second half emerges from a play with the screenplay.
More than anything, on a purely existential level, it is refreshing to see a film without an external villain. The fact that it is Abhiram’s conscience that he is accountable to, makes Thank You all the way more interesting as a study of a human mind and heart.
The weakest parts of the film, however, emanate from its one-dimensional portrayal of Abhiram as an angry college student and his arch nemesis, Sharva (Sai Sushant Reddy). This is where the runtime comes again. At 129 minutes, the film can’t really afford to dig into our man’s evolving psyche. We are given a primitive reason for his endless tiff with Sharva but what ‘really’ instigates him to stir up a war over and over again is something the film doesn’t answer. There’s an attempt to veer away from the mundanity, by eschewing the portrayal of a romantic relationship between Abhiram and Sharva’s sister, Chinnu (Avika Gor) and it does bring to a certain degree of newness to the film.
The short runtime also means that the film really can’t invest in minute details, resulting in the oversimplification of many complex themes. There is no scope for grey here; it is either white or black. Even Abhiram is painted as evil before he breaks down. Moments of great importance are reduced to simple dialogues and you can see the screenplay condensing multiple scenes into one. This also means that the narrative keeps jumping from one point in his life to another in fast-forward mode and what we get at the end, is a collation of highlights from a man’s life and not his journey exactly. Perhaps this is why PC Sreeram excessively relies on tight close-ups of actors in almost every scene because every moment exudes importance here, considering that the narrators—be it Priya, Abhiram, or Abhiram’s conscience—only reminisce the most defining moments of the protagonist’s life. It also helps that we have a Prakash Raj in a short but vital role and the actor sells it like it is nobody’s business, compensating for the depth in the film’s writing with his performance.
I can imagine Thank You as a Malayalam film, which would have been three hours long and five times deeper than the version we have seen; It is a story that could have thrived in a meditative treatment instead of hustling from one high point to another. End of the day, Thank You still has its soul intact and ensures that it puts a smile on your face.