‘Thundu’ movie review: Biju Menon’s drama runs out of ideas to stay engrossing

Cinema is an intricate tapestry of storytelling, where every cut, transition, and musical cue can transport an audience through a kaleidoscope of emotions. However, when a host of elements go astray, the end result is a confounding experience that neither resonates nor entertains. Such is the case with Riyas Shereef’s Malayalam film, “Thundu.” It wrestles with jarring scene shifts that defy reason, including an especially bewildering moment where a somber, introspective tune involving a disheartened policeman takes an inexplicable leap into a raucous party anthem, with no pretext or progression.

Transitions aren’t the only jolting aspect; the film’s editing abruptly truncates scenes, and even the background score halts abruptly, leaving the audience disoriented as they lurch from one sequence to the next. The necessity of musical cues to telegraph the intended emotion of a scene is tried and tested, yet “Thundu” leans heavily on these crutches, often to guide viewers towards humor that may not be immediately apparent. The struggle to elicit laughs from the audience was palpable—so much so that the insertion of canned laughter, akin to certain television shows, may have been a worthy addition to prompt the desired response.

At its core, “Thundu” rests on a fragile storyline centered around Constable Baby (played by Biju Menon), a seasoned policeman striving for a promotion he believes will liberate him from the disrespect of his superiors. His approach takes an unorthodox turn as he adopts a cheating strategy inspired by his son during a pivotal exam. What unfolds is a string of incidents, including vehicular mishaps and the alleged pregnancy of a police dog, all framed as comic fodder that somehow fails to hit the mark.

The power of cinema to weave engaging tales from the simplest of narratives is well-known, yet “Thundu” does not manage to join the ranks of such successful endeavors. The film stumbles along, attempting to amalgamate various underdeveloped comedic ideas, most of which fall flat. Character arcs are almost non-existent, with seasoned actors like Shine Tom Chacko and Unnimaya Prasad relegated to repetitive roles that offer little depth or variation. A belated attempt to lend backstory to Constable Baby’s persona lacks substance and falls short of providing any real character enlightenment. With most of the cast seemingly in autopilot mode, the script offers little in the way of challenge or nuance.

The film’s inability to stir genuine interest or excitement means its approximately 120-minute runtime feels inflated. Outside of a few novel tactics for cheating on examinations—which seem more like a desperate reach for originality than a thematic pillar—the movie is devoid of innovation. One might whimsically wish for a shortcut to crafting an immersive cinematic experience much like the shortcuts for cheating depicted within the film.

In essence, “Thundu” comes off as a disjointed collection of unrealized ideas, struggling to leave a memorable imprint on the Malayalam cinema landscape. As the film continues its run in theaters, viewers might find themselves contemplating the paradox of its title, which translates to ‘towel’—a fitting metaphor for a movie that had the potential to make waves but instead remains dampened by its multitude of missteps.

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