'Thalapavu' tells a fable of a valiant mutiny in the face of vicious tyranny. Juggling with the abstract and the surreal, this powerful debut film from actor Madhupal, makes a demanding and yet gratifying watch.
You shouldn't be taken aback if you find an odd familiarity with the tale being told; that of a Naxalite leader Joseph (Prithviraj) in the 70's, who was shot dead in police custody after being subjected to several hours of inhuman torture that yielded no results. Several years later, Ravindran Pillai (Lal), the police constable who had pulled the fateful trigger under threat to his own life, files a counter-affidavit in court that sheds light on the unsavory truth that had lain hidden for long. As the grotesque details behind the murder are disclosed, humanity receives a severe battering unlike never before.
A hoard of cinematic virtues is put on display in 'Thalapavu'. There aren't any comfortable answers that the film offers; there are several of those pertinent implications though, as to why things have gone out of hand. There's a bit of justification too, for all the blood that had flown down the rivers of Wayanad.
There is a lot of freedom that Madhupal has taken with regard to the random assignment of sequences in this finely-crafted narrative. There aren't any fixed time frames, and the film shifts from the past to the present and to the further past without any restraints. It's a random array, and a bit complex perhaps, but nevertheless brings in an ingenious mode of film making that's out-and-out notable.
The occasional juxtaposition of incidents - a beaming Joseph lending a hand as the glimmer of water sparkles on his face, merges into the reverberating ring of a gunshot that firmly blows out the last glint - generates a striking appeal to the account. This is the creative intelligence that gives this harrowing tale the right punch.
Most of the film is shot in a gleaming shade of bleak yellow, that brings about a gripping gravity to the affairs being captured. Azhakappan is as brilliant as ever; and perhaps the film's greatest asset is its visual splendor that's at times, nothing short of captivating.
When the film sticks to reality, it's as moving as it can possibly be. But the fictionalized bits build up in a synthetic manner, often hampering the smooth surge of events. This is probably one of the reasons why the film on more than an occasion, loses out on its full-throttled pace and goes down a much-stomped path of pointless dramatics.
'Thalapavu' is truly a coming-of-age film for Prithviraj the actor. There's a spartan dignity that he brings into his portrayal of Joseph that's commanding. Lal comes up with a whopper of a performance as the repentant man who watches his life wither away helplessly. Dhanya Mary is natural and charmingly convincing as Saramma, and manages to recount an agonizing tale through her sorrowful eyes.
Madhupal's film is blistering on account of its savagery, and is rich in sense and suggestions. Beneath the gore, beyond the gun shots, the film reaffirms an undying and exhilarating faith in the eminence of the human spirit.