Jaggesh reunites with his Neer Dose director Vijaya Prasad for the two-part comedy-drama: also starring Aditi Prabhudeva, Suman Ranganathan, Veena Sundar, Dattanna, and Hema Datt
Thothapuri is a haphazardly woven tale of friendship between four individuals: Tailor Eeregowda, his associate Nanjamma, bank employee Shakeela Banu, and Biryani cook 'Donne' Rangamma. Without any significant plot, the film chronicles their individual backstories, the trials and tribulations, and the interesting ways in which they encounter one another. Filled with double entendres and high-note sentiments, Chapter 1 of Vijaya Prasad's latest offering is the story of love, faith, and unlikely companionship.
Call it a rut or whatever, but filmmaker Vijayaprasad seems to be stuck in one. Famous and notorious for his double-meaning jokes, Vijayaprasad has delivered interesting films like Sidlingu and Neer Dose in the past and each of his films has dealt with the concept of outcasts in society and how, through hook or crook, they end up forging unusual relationships with the other loners of the world. While Sidlingu saw this trope play out as a coming-of-age tale, the 2016 film Neer Dose became a buddy comedy, of sorts, featuring three characters of different ages and backgrounds.
Cut to 2022 and nothing's really changed in the Vijayaprasad world barring a few casting choices. Earlier this year, we saw the similar 'Neer Dose' tone being adapted in the multistarrer Petromax wherein four orphans struggle to build a home together but end up finding love and compassion in the unlikeliest of sources. While the film certainly had a few poignant moments about the orphan life and how society often overlooks those who do not belong to a lineage, Petromax still remained an overripe, dialogue-heavy film that failed to impress.
And now, a few months down the line, the filmmaker is back with yet another of his 'quintessential' works in the form of Thothapuri (part 1) but much to our dismay, this film too comes across as overly verbose, sentimental, and even crass. Now, one would know quite well as to what can be expected of a Vijayaprasad film and there isn't much sense in fussing over the barrage of sexual innuendos they get subjected to. The writer-director refers to them as 'cheshte maathu' (literally meaning naughty-talk) and the audience calls them double-meaning jokes but the setup is simple: Vijayaprasad picks an inanimate object as the main metaphor of his film (Neer Dose being the coastal food delicacy, Petromax is the backup luminary option in Indian households, and Thothapuri as the type of mangoes whose stems stick out and require snapping) and runs with it until he juices out all the social messaging and double-entendre puns. The characters, their names, and the world around them might seem different but, unfortunately, the approach is exactly the same as before.
But that isn't to say that it's all in vain. Thothapuri has an array of exciting characters that are unabashed and loyal except that the writing never allows any of them to rise beyond the confines. Eeregowda (played by Jaggesh), Donne Rangamma, Nanjamma, Shakeela Banu, and an entire plethora of characters are presented to us in a relentless fashion and as much as the film tries to empathize with them, the lack of nuance in the filmmaking simply doesn't allow us to connect with them. Each line, quite literally, is rendered as a joke or a pun and further underlined with an unnecessary reaction shot and a dash of the over-the-top background score. To top this, we see the performances too pitched a little too loud and in the face, thus never letting subtext feature in any form. Vijayaprasad's grip on the language is admirable but it can certainly not suffice the lack of coherence and meaning in the narrative.
Thothapuri is conceived as a two-part film with Chapter 2 already shot and slated to release in the coming weeks. While Chapter 1 sees how the various relationships are formed and how they evolve against the backdrop of religion and harmony, Chapter 2 is likely to close some of the open ends and also introduce a few fresh sub-narratives and characters. The concluding moments of Thothapuri Chapter 1 are a trailer, of sorts, about what to expect in the upcoming instalment and fans would be excited to know that Daali Dhananjaya will join the cast to play a key role.
Thothapuri Chapter 1 is an endearing film at first glance but the persisting play on words, especially as double-entendres, is a major letdown as far as the overall experience is concerned. Sure, some of the jokes do land well and there's also an emotional core in the midst but Vijayaprasad's tried-and-tested filmmaking approach has perhaps gone stale now. As much as Chapter 2 of the film means to the storyline, fans are not likely to look forward to the film with excitement but one hopes that the inclusion of Daali Dhananjaya makes some difference.