With a riot of colour, comedy and all things cool, the Malayalam movie Thallumaala (Chain of Fights) comes like a breath of fresh air to an industry otherwise known for gritty, slice of life tales.
Directed by Khalid Rahman, the movie stars Tovino Thomas as Manavalan Wazim, whose wedding to social media influencer Beepathu, played by Kalyani Priyadarshan, is disrupted by a fight and the movie follows their quirky story. Described as an “exaggerated reality” the film talks about social media and the influencer culture prevalent in the state and elsewhere.
Conceived by writer Muhsin Parari in 2014, the film has been in the making for over 5 years. Produced by Ashiq Usman, the screenplay has been written by Muhsin Parari and Ashraf Hamza. Shot partly in Dubai, the movie also stars Shine Tom Chacko, Johny Antony and Pappu. It has already created a buzz among moviegoers with its branded clothes, fancy cars and vibrant songs — all of which are rarely seen in the Malayalam film industry, more known for its realistic movies.
Actors Tovino Thomas and Kalyani Priyadarshan visited Khaleej Times ahead of the release on August 12 to speak about the movie, the Malayalam film industry and more.
The Malayalam film industry is knows for its hyper realistic movies. What made both of you sign this movie which looks like a fun-filled entertainer? And how do you think audiences will react to it?
Kalyani: Everyone has been moving toward hyper realism. We wanted it to be the exact opposite. In fact I would say this film is exaggerated reality. Each character, each dialogue and each fight sequence is exaggerated and our costumes are the loudest thing in the movie. It’s a break for the audience as well. It is something exciting and fun enough to bring people back into the theaters.
Tovino: I have done a lot of realistic movies. I enjoy experimenting with genres. That is when it becomes fun for me as an actor. I believe that this is a well made entertainer. You can see a filmmaker’s craft in it. It is the kind of movie that the younger generation will relate to and really enjoy.
How was your experience working in this movie?
Kalyani: The film is very futuristic. Today everyone knows what an influencer is and what they do but in 2014, no one could even imagine what that was. There were no Reels or any of those influencer features on Instagram at that point. To think that there would be someone using social media to get famous and make money was very forward thinking. So yeah, the film was a great experience. A lot of the roles I have done so far have a kind of sweetness and ‘heroinesque’ thing about them. Whereas this is a role which is all about attitude and swag. I struggled to get into that kind of a character. I am not that kind of a person. But once you wear those clothes and get into the character, then you don’t want the film to end because you are just in the zone.
Tovino: For me it was a very different experience. I enjoy pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I am not someone who enjoys dancing. Even at a party, you will find me on a couch enjoying others dancing but in Thallumaala, I trusted Khalid Rahman and danced. Before the shoot, I think I understood 50% of what Khalid Rahman and Muhsin wanted on the screen. The remaining was my trust on them. The reason for this trust was that they trusted me with the character Wazim. I think within two days of starting the shoot, everyone was on the same page. Everything fell into place and we all understood the vision of Muhsin and Khalid. Now, after this movie, I feel like I have explored a part of myself which I have never explored before. Also, Kalyani was brilliant as an actor. She kept messaging Muhsin for the dialogues and she kept practicing it.
Kalyani: There is a specific slang in the film which was new to me, so I wanted to make sure I got it right. Muhsin is from the region so I kept messaging him and irritating him. I don’t think he has got that many messages from his wife even!
In the songs and the trailer of the movie, we are able to see a lot of Dubai. Tell us how the city features in the film.
Kalyani: We always joke that Dubai is like an extension of Kerala and there are a lot of Malayalis for whom going to Dubai is like going for a long drive. In the film we have tried to capture that essence. My character is based in Dubai. The influencer culture is a lot more relevant over here so it made sense to have the character based here. I got to shoot a lovely song here. Those were some of the best shooting days of my life. In the movie, I have an Arab father so I even had some lines in Arabic.
Tovino: My character Wazim also lives in Dubai at two different points in his life. It is not discussed very elaborately but I did have a couple of days of shoot in Dubai and I really enjoyed it.
Kalyani on venturing into Bollywood
“I have no control over how the audience receives a film. The only thing I have control over is my craft. I try to learn and grow with each film. Even in the smallest way, I have pushed myself to improve. People ask me why I prefer to do Malayalam and Tamil movies. The truth is that my command over these languages is much better and that gives me the headspace to focus on refining myself as an actor. It is easier to act in a language that you know because cinema is such a learning experience for me. So right now, I am not sure of venturing into Bollywood or any other language. Maybe when I feel more confident about my craft, I will go for it.”
Tovino on his choice of projects
“I don’t expect all my movies to be a super hits nor do I expect all my movies to be loved by everyone. The viewing culture has changed a lot since the launch of OTT so I try and do a variety of movies that cater to different sensibilities and different audiences.
“Minnal Murali is a movie that earned me a lot of love from kids. Whenever I meet a child, I can sense the excitement in their eyes. It is a very different kind of satisfaction. Parents tell me how they are bribing their children with the movie Minnal Murali. I am really enjoying that pure and unadulterated love that kids can give you.
“However, Dear Friend was a very different project. The ending of that movie was not supposed to be a satisfying experience. It was meant to make the viewers uncomfortable and leave them with a lot of unanswered questions. Such films require audience participation. We wanted people to understand how the lead characters feel. I think to a large extent the movie succeeded in doing that.”
Thallumaala is out in UAE theatres on August 12
The film is set to release in November
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The film releases September 30 in the UAE