Malayalam Reviews

Thobama Review: A Few Sparks Here And There, But This Tale Of Friendship Is Mostly Insipid

There are some links that connect Mohsin Kassim’s Thobama and Premam, the 2015 blockbuster that took south India by storm. Alphonse Putheren, the director of the latter, is the co-producer of Thobama, and the protagonists of the film were among the supporting cast of Premam. Both the films are set in Aluva, the small town on the banks of Periyar. Kassim’s film occasionally shows the spark to be a better film than Premam.


Clearly, some good amount of effort has gone into conceptualizing the lead characters and their milieu. The plot is centered on male friendship, but it isn’t a one-note cheerful one. As early adults, the three friends in the film have to battle their own egos, deal with their class differences and varied priorities in life, to keep the friendship afloat.  The actors aren’t playing themselves, but have taken the pain to be the characters who lead a different, complex life.

But ‘better’ isn’t always ‘smarter’. While Premam rehashed a hackneyed tale of finding and losing love, and turned it into a chic entertainer that oozed freshness, Thobama narrates a sombre tale of three friends from different social classes, on a palette similar to that of Premam, but sans all those impressive elements that made the former tick. Here, the story-telling is exhaustingly long-winded, and hence, insipid. The de-saturated look of the film doesn’t help in retaining the audience’s attention.

Thommi (Sharafuddeen), Balu (Siju) and Manaf (Krishna Shankar) grew up together, and have stayed with each other through thick and thin. Balu’s is from a quintessential Malayali middle-class household. His father is a public sector bank manager who invests in the children’s education and is particular about inculcating in them a sense of discipline. His house is in a residential colony where well-to-do families live. Thommi and his widowed mother live in a modest house near the railway tracks. His mother works as a salesperson at a textile showroom, and he is in between jobs, dreaming about starting a business and reaping in money. Manaf, battling a low self-esteem for his over-weight physique, is trying in futile to be an actor. When the heat and peer pressure of adulthood starts to kick in, Thommi ventures out to make some quick money and pull his household out of poverty, and his friends join him because that’s what they have always done. Enter sand mafia, and a powerful gang dealing with black money and lottery business. Conflict of interest and arguments emerge in their friendship, and they begin to transform into different kind of people, strangers to each other.

However, this split in the friendship isn’t properly etched out. Half way through the film, the weight of the plot shifts from the friends to the mafia dealings, and it leaves a lot of loose ends. The swindlers and their murky black money business isn’t interesting enough to keep the audience engaged. Balu distances himself from his friends, and finds a new object of interest, a new girl in his class. While their exchanges are impressive, the film cuts this part abruptly, and veers back to the bland mafia track. The audition sessions that Manaf goofs up are shot objectively, sans a perspective. What could have been effective comic moments get reduced to impersonal scenes that pass without making any impression.


In between, there are a few interesting moments that work as stand-alone pieces. Like the faint vision of a dead woman that strikes Thommi in the night of a burglary attempt. Among the three, it’s Thommi whose life undergoes the most radical changes. Yet, you don’t really see how it affects him as an individual. At the same time, Manaf’s part of the story is believable, and on some levels, poignant. Balu, the average middle-class guy, gets to lead the most hassle-free life. He doesn’t go wayward like Thommi, for he has everything he needs in life, thanks to his privilege, or nurture unreasonable ambitions like Manaf. The contrived climatic part of the film might suggest that the film’s sympathies lie with the apolitical and law-abiding middle-class. But it’s hard to say. It comes across as a random patchy ending, rather than a well thought out climax that underlines a social commentary.

There are numerous elements under-utilized, like Shabareesh Varma who plays Vijay, a disgruntled young man who becomes a pawn in the hands of a group of ruthless gangsters, and Punya Elizebeth, who, in a just a couple of scenes, delivers an impressive performance as an average Malayali girl who can’t bring herself to open up to the guy she has feelings for, thanks to her orthodox upbringing. The film teases you with talents as these, but never puts them to use.

It is hard to shake off the feeling that Thobama could have been a far better film, on a different canvas. Now, it’s an average flick made up of half-cooked elements that are neither entertaining nor particularly arty.


The Thobama review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.