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Thuramukham review: A powerful Nivin Pauly film

Thuramukham review: Nivin Pauly delivers a terrific performance as a man who is a slave to his primal instincts.

3.5/5rating

Last Updated: 04.48 PM, Mar 10, 2023

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Story: Thuramukham is about the protests against the Chappa system that culminated in a police firing in Mattancherry. 

Review: Thuramukham is Malayalam for the harbour . Director Rajeev Ravi and his writer Gopan Chidambaran has based the movie on real-life incidents that unfolded in Mattancherry, a port city during the 1940s. It was called the Chappa system. It was a feudal method that was employed to allocate the work for the day at the harbour. The feudal masters flaked by their whip-wielding herdsman would throw a bunch of copper coins in the air and whoever manages to grab a coin is guaranteed the day's work at the port. The labourers would fight among themselves to get hold of a coin, while the feudal master stood on an elevated platform and watched the struggle for survival with a sense of amusement. It was like gladiator fights which were fought at the break of dawn every day for the entertainment of the masters. 

We can instantly see the inhumanity of the system. Some people in the crowd like Mymood (Joju George) do understand the degrading nature of this practice. But, it's a matter of survival. It was not about one's pride or yearning for self-respect. The question is about feeding his children and if he fails to grab a coin, his family will go to sleep with empty stomachs. And that motivates Mymood to get into the crowd and fight for the coin. Mymood is gifted with a large physique and it lets him tackle the crowd in pursuit of copper coins. But, he also has a strong mind and the ability to think independently. He's like an elephant in the room. The masters are aware that he would soon become a pressing problem that they will be forced to address it. 

A still from Thuramukham
A still from Thuramukham

Mymood snaps and puts the beat down on Pacheek (Sudev Nair) and his men. The revolt will not go unpunished. If not right at the moment, then later that night. Mymood disappears overnight as if he never existed. The responsibility to feed his three hungry kids falls on the shoulders of Mymood's wife, played by an in-form Poornima Indrajith. 

Mymood's firstborn Moidu (Nivin Pauly) has inherited the strong physique and short fuse of his father. But, he doesn't share his father's moral DNA. Moidu grows up to be selfish and prefers his vices to the welfare of his family. He cares for no one but himself. He's the personification of everything that his idealistic father fought against. Moidu's brother Hamza (Arjun Ashokan) is a gullible young man who has no clue about his place in the family or society. He goes to work at the harbour because that's what everybody in his neighbourhood does. And he takes part in the protest against the Chappa system at first purely due to peer pressure. Nimisha Sajayan's Umani doesn't even notice his presence the first few times. That's how meek his personality is. 

In the battle for survival and in desperation to break free from poverty, Moidu becomes Pacheek's attack dog. He becomes friends with his father's enemies. He becomes the man his father would have hated. But, it's not the story about making one's father proud. It's about crushing poverty, empty stomachs and the will to survive even in the darkest of times. The moral scape is so horrid that there is no space for delicate emotions. You either survive or die. And Moidu is the product of that kind of thinking. 

Nivin delivers a terrific performance as a man who is a slave to his primal instincts. Poornima's transformation from a young woman to an old lady is so convincing. Especially, the makeup and costume artists and the production designers have done such a wonderful job. Rajeev Ravi's frames add richness to the narration and transport us to a period of darkness when oil lamps were the only source of light in improvised ghettos. 

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Thuramukham is not just about the inhuman Chappa system but it's also about its evolution in independent and modern India. With time, the masters took on different forms to retain control over the labour force. With growing objections against the feudal system, clever businessmen adopted the union system. And the cops replaced the henchmen to control the crowd and put out any fire of revolution. 

All the betrayal, self-discovery, coming-of-age and learning the hard truth about the realism of life and the ugliness of human nature leads an to electrifying end. The high-voltage face-off between the protestors and the cops is goosebumps-inducing. Especially, the actor who leads the protest gives a highly spirited performance. 

Verdict: The powerful performances and the electrifying ending make it an engrossing watch. 

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