When Indrajit walks in Tiyaan, you can almost hear the director giving him cues: “Now take three steps, and glance sideways. Now, stop, lift up your face to a 20-degree angle, and say your lines.” His most casual movements are carefully measured. There’s a weariness about him. When he tries to look intense, the effort he’s making is even more noticeable.
Indrajith is usually a delight to watch on screen. Here, he doesn’t look at ease at all.
His brother Prithviraj, on the other hand, has a sightly different problem. Happily oblivious to the absurdity of the situation he is caught in, he roams around a parched, dusty, and rocky north Indian village, with a woolen blanket wrapped around his shoulders.
At times, in the middle of the day, under the blazing sun, he sits by the side of a campfire on top of a rocky hillock. He chews his lines, instead of saying them, and hams it up enthusiastically, trying to match the hyperbolic drama that Murali Gopi’s screenplay has cooked up.
And this underwhelming, unintentionally funny acting performance by both actors, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Directed by Jiyen Kishnakumar and written by Murali Gopi (who also plays the film’s antagonist, an evil godman), everything in Tiyaan is in your face.
Even if we ignore the film’s cinematic shortcomings, there’s still the baffling politics it puts forth.
Tiyaan attempts to take on the culture of godmen – a theme that Bollywood films like PK and Oh My God! dealt with. Where PK suggested that rationality was the best defence against India’s rising religious intolerance, Oh My God was trickier. It had Akshay Kumar as Lord Krishna brainwashing an atheist, and empowering him to take on a set of evil godmen. The film mocked organised religion without questioning the existence of a figure like Lord Krishna.
High on entertainment, both films easily won the box-office over.
In Tiyaan, Murali Gopi chooses a darker and blatantly saffron road. He suggests that in order to counter saffron terror, one should return to Sanatana Hinduism and the Vedas. He centres his story around a brahmin, Pattabhiraman (Indrajith) – a revered vedic scholar who lives in an ancient house in this drought-hit north Indian village, guarding an idol and relics that Shankaracharya left here centuries ago.
The sole water spring in the whole region lies in his compound.
In one scene, goons asks a little boy from their community to hurl stones at Pattabhiraman. “His community has been treating us like slaves all these years. Have your revenge now, boy,” they say. The child, to their surprise, throws away the stone and bows in front of the brahmin man.
Ramakanth Mahashay (Murali Gopi) is a powerful godman who has tricked his devotees into believing that he is the reincarnation of Lord Shiva. He works hand-in-glove with real estate mafia and political parties. This conman is also a brutal murderer. Enter a fakir named Aslan Mohammad (Prithiviraj) who, the film says, is the reincarnation of a Hindu warrior and will rein him in.
In sum, it is a clash of two superstitious reincarnation narratives.
Aslan Mohammad, before he became a wise man, was a fearsome criminal. He had regular visions, and could hear whispers in his sleep. A group of Naga Sadhus help Aslan attain enlightenment. “You are not who you were till yesterday,” they tell him after he emerges out of a cave as a wise man. (Yes, just like Jesus Christ).
In fairness, this portion is well-shot, with just the right flavour of mysticism. The man is taken on a tour of sacred spots in the Himalayas, the way a newly inducted employee in a corporation is taken on site visits.
There are also crowd-pleasing lines aplenty. “Islam is a great religion,” a Naga Sadhu tells Aslan, clearing the air on whether he would have to convert to Hinduism.
However, it is not difficult to see through the veil that Murali Gopi puts on, narrowing down the history of mankind on the Indian subcontinent to a monolithic history of Hindu religion.
The dialogues are lengthy and overly expository. Some scenes are blatantly silly, while others are high on clichés and contrived drama, accompanied by Gopi Sunder’s painfully loud background score. For instance, after a policeman brutally thrashes his son on the suspicion that he ate cow meat, we watch some businessmen gorging on beef burgers in an air-conditioned room.
How do we know it is a beef burger that they are eating? They tell us. “Such tasty beef. Where did you get it from?” asks the actor, trying to act casual and pretend that this is everyday conversation, and not something the writer of the film stuffed into his mouth, to thrust contemporary relevance onto the film.
Tiyaan is a movie that aspires big. However, an insipid screenplay, predictable storyline, and bad acting make it difficult to watch. Satheesh Kurup’s camera is, perhaps, the sole solace in this mess. He creates stunning visuals of the region where the story unfolds, trying hard to make the proceedings onscreen slightly convincing.
But there is only so much that a cinematographer can do in a movie as shallow as this.
The Tiyaan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.