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Dhoomam review: Fahadh Faasil just about manages to keep the ember alive in this sluggish thriller about smoking

Dhoomam review: Fahadh Faasil just about manages to keep the ember alive in this drama-thriller about smoking industry

Dhoomam review: Fahadh Faasil just about manages to keep the ember alive in this sluggish thriller about smoking
Fahadh Faasil in a still from Dhoomam

Last Updated: 02.42 PM, Jun 23, 2023


Story: Hours after resigning as the marketing head from a leading tobacco company, Avinash and wife Dia are kidnapped and find themselves in the middle of nowhere, with a ticking bomb inside one of them. They have to follow their kidnapper’s instructions before their time runs out, all the while also tracing what led them to this predicament. Avinash’s job could be the clue to getting them out.

Review: Director Jason Reitman’s black comedy Thank You For Smoking had a scene where its protagonist, a tobacco lobbyist, was kidnapped by a clandestine group and covered with nicotine patches. Instead of succumbing to the dangerous substance he vouches for, he survives because of his tolerance to the chemical from his habit of chain-smoking. While exposing the machinations of the tobacco giants, it also ensured that the audience that didn’t care too much about the inner-workings and power games of the industry, had a good time watching it for its quirky characters and smart, witty dialogues.

Fahadh Faasil in Dhoomam
Fahadh Faasil in Dhoomam

This is where Lucia and U-Turn director Pawan Kumar’s Malayalam debut Dhoomam falls short. The movie, starring Fahadh Faasil, Aparna Balamurali and Roshan Mathew, tries to delve too deep into the manipulations and marketing of cigarettes that it forgets its core purpose to engage the audience. Wrapped as a thriller, the movie starts with a couple – Avinash, a former marketing head of a tobacco company, and wife Dia – being kidnapped and left with limited time to survive the ordeal. As they try to meet the kidnapper’s demand and find a resolution to their crisis, Avinash revisits the work he has done in his past company, thereby giving the viewer a blow-by-blow account of how the tobacco industry functions, ensures that its products find consumers and the trade grows despite all regulations and people being aware that it will eventually kill them.

Roshan Mathew and Fahadh in a still from the film
Roshan Mathew and Fahadh in a still from the film

The format would have worked had it kept both timelines interesting. In Dhoomam, when the present gets interesting, the flashbacks veers into a territory that doesn’t offer startling revelations, and when Avinash’s past gets gripping with the protagonist growing a conscience, their current situation decelerates to a point where it doesn’t quite get the desired effect. The emotional scenes between its characters also fall flat and this puts out any fire that Dhoomam had going for it.

The film, however, does have its high points and these usually come during the flashback portions – during the discussions between Avinash and his enterprising boss Sid (Roshan Mathew), who puts money ahead of everything else. While the film doesn’t bluntly ask its viewers to stop smoking or fall into the addictive trap of tobacco companies, it does serve as a warning for people across age groups as well as those who are not able to exercise their right of choice.

Aparna Balamurali and Fahadh Faasil
Aparna Balamurali and Fahadh Faasil

Fahadh and Roshan get the best scenes in the film, but even they cannot quite light the screen on fire as they are strapped by the lacklustre screenplay and bland dialogues. Aparna Balamurali, Vineeth, Anu Mohan and Achyuth Kumar do their small parts well, but don’t really have a stand-out sequence.

Even though the film’s content addresses the issues plaguing tobacco consumers across all strata of the society, it feels more targeted to the urban crowd. This again could be a barrier that stops the message from permeating. 

Verdict: Though Dhoomam addresses a relevant issue, the flat storytelling and sluggish pace bog down the film, which could have been edited further to make for a taut thriller.


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