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The golden era of Malayalam cinema ran from mid-1980s through early 1990s, during which we were rewarded with some of the greatest films by some of the greatest writers and directors. This heartbreaking drama is one of the best of that era.
Balan (Mammootty) is an educated school teacher who lives with his extended family including his paternal uncle who is believed to be mentally ill. The belief that this illness is hereditary and originated due to sins committed by their ancestors has kind of divided the family, but no one wants to be vocal about it except Gopi (Mukesh), Balan's kid brother. While Balan himself does not believe in these superstitions, he gives in to his family's requests of holding sacred events regularly at their house. Because, there are tons of problems associated with this issue, the biggest among them being his sister who has been denied matrimony a good number of times. However, when the uncle dies, a demand arises for the family's as well as the society's informal consensus as to who will step into the shoes of the symbol of lunacy since the illness is hereditary. Blaming himself for the death of his uncle, Balan is unable to completely mourn his death, causing others to immediately tag him as the successor, throwing his world upside down.
Balan's is a staple character of a Kerala household where he is regarded as the knowledgeable patriarch and who is the only sane person of the lot. And Lohithadas' story is based on uprooting his inherent reputation due to man-made madness. Idolaters are aplenty in this world and when these idols are blamed for perfectly normal happenings, things are going to worsen, as Balan experiences it the hard way. It is disheartening to see the downfall of a sane person only because the belief that something can go wrong due to a curse.
Mammooty is sharp in his approach, staying in his character all through the end. Supported by a well-directed cast, Sibi Malayil carves a fine outline to speak volumes about the madness that are superstitions and how they dictate our lives. The pace at which the final 20 minutes move has the ability to startle you, and you will be wondering for days about the ending and the meaning of life. Someone in here has rightly started their review with Franz Kafka's "The Trial", but I also want to add that there's a little bit of Camus here, too. All in all, the drama is an emotional power-ride of a film that demands appreciation.
BOTTOM LINE: Sibi Malayil's "Thaniyavartanam" is a perfect study of superstitions and their dire effects on perishable humans. Highly recommended!
Can be watched with a typical Indian family? YES
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