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Toby movie review: Raj B Shetty presents a heart-achingly beautiful and tragic tale

Raj B Shetty plays the title character Toby to great effect in the film directed by Basil AL Chalakkal

Toby movie review: Raj B Shetty presents a heart-achingly beautiful and tragic tale
Raj B Shetty in and as Toby
  • Prathibha Joy

Last Updated: 01.42 PM, Aug 26, 2023

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Story: Toby (Raj B Shetty) is Damodara’s (Gopalkrishna Deshpande) assistant in a mortuary. A knock to the head, a slit here and there on a dead body – that is what his work entails. But for the right enticement, in this case, a small house for him and his daughter Jenny (Chaithra J Achar), he is also the man to go to when you need someone to go ‘missing’. This is something that Anand (Raj Deepak Shetty), a once small-time meat merchant, exploits to become the most affluent and powerful man of the neighbourhood. But when this has a terrible effect on those that Toby holds dear, he seeks revenge.


Review: Raj B Shetty was not kidding when he said that none of us would have really understood what Toby the film and his character are like with the trailer . He gave us random glimpses that, put together, presented a story that seemed to make sense, but in actuality, it was a brilliant fill in the blanks puzzle. How Raj filled these blanks is what makes Toby, a riveting watch. The establishment of these plot points, of course, does not happen at break-neck speed; it’s a slow but steady progression, which, may come across as a lag to those who prefer pacy story-telling. But then, it’s not exactly a slow-burner – there’s a steady trickle of engaging moments that builds into a mighty crescendo.

The story, we are told, is set in a small town in Kumta, where a young orphan is rendered voiceless and nameless. He’s supposedly violent and evil, but he’s also got a large heart, brimming with love for the priest who shows him love and gives him a name, the child he rears and the woman he likes. As nonchalant that Toby is about killing and disposing off bodies in a crusher, he’s also quite the naïve simpleton, which becomes the cornerstone of his exploitation. The circumstances that lead him to breaking point is what the narrative of Toby is all about.

A still from Toby
A still from Toby

The film, Toby, no doubt, belongs to Raj B Shetty. This was the beast that took the most out of him as an artiste. Even when all he says is “Eeeh” or lets out the random grunt, you feel his every emotion, which, quite often, makes your heart ache for him and those around him. This is some top-notch acting from him. The casting for each of the supporting roles is stellar, whether it is Samyukta Hornad as Savitri, Chaithra J Achar as Jenny, Gopalkrishna Deshpande’s Damodara or Yogi Bankeshwar’s Fr Iglesias. Chaithra gets the sweetest deal, but it’s Snigdha, as young Jenny, who is the scene-stealer. Raj Deepak Shetty’s Anand feels a tad like Rishab Shetty’s Hari from Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana, in going from humble beginnings to a power trip that includes getting rid of anyone standing in his way, including Toby. But the actor’s commending screen presence and menacing portrayal of the character makes you overlook this.

A still from the film
A still from the film

No film of Raj’s is complete without a mention of his technical crew, especially cinematographer Praveen Shriyan and music composer Midhun Mukundan. Both are brilliant contributors, but between the two of them, my vote goes to Midhun; his riveting background score elevates Toby several notches. I am not entirely sold on the two songs, but then, this was the first time I’d heard them and maybe they will become earworms later on. I maybe mistaken, but the audio seems to be sync sound recording in places and hence is a tad muffled. As for the cinematography, well, the landscape that Praveen had to work with was rather limited, so, he channelled his camera tricks into the action pieces, which are not only well choreographed but made even more effective in editing.

Raj B Shetty in and as Toby
Raj B Shetty in and as Toby

Verdict: In the last few years, one has often heard Kannada audiences singing high praise of movies from the Malayalam industry, for their realistic, rooted stories. Toby, in a sense, feels like an extension of that kind of story-telling. It’s raw and very real and tugs at your heart every now and then. Set expectations aside and watch it with an open heart to well and truly feel the emotions of Toby. I walked out of the theatre immensely happy at having watched a good piece of cinema that worked for me. Toby may not be a film for everyone, but should you give it a chance, you may just like it after all.