‘Thankam’ review: A peep into Keralas shimmering gold trade

‘Thankam’ review: A peep into Kerala's shimmering gold trade

That Thrissur in Kerala is the ‘gold capital’ of India is a well-known fact. In fact, you would be surprised to find over a hundred small jewellery shops within the one-mile radius of the Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours, alias Puthenpalli, in the heart of the city. That number would swell to thousands if you were to take the 10-kilometre-long High Road stretch across Thrissur. The Shyam Pushkaran-scripted Thankam lets you in on one of the many ‘trade secrets’ that keeps the business thriving even after the multiple setbacks to the industry in the aftermath of globalisation.

Beyond the title and the premise, however, the film is hardly rooted in Thrissur. Not that Thankam demanded it, but one wonders if it’s a part of the attempt to make it appeal to a wider audience in the OTT age. There’s, of course, Thrissur’s own Biju Menon playing the lead as a goldsmith-turned-businessman, but even that seems incidental as his character required a certain languidness, which Menon personifies to the hilt. Vineeth Sreenivasan plays his accomplice in the business, the ‘carrier’ who goes to Maharashtra with gold ornaments to trade with thankam (pure gold).

22 carat vs 24 carat

The business, risky as it is, hinges on the difference between regular gold (22 carat) and pure gold (24 carat), which isn’t fully explained to the viewer. That’s not really the issue although you probably expect a bit more detailing to the lead characters, some of which comes through at the investigation stage later. The film keeps you hooked to the seats and there’s palpable tension throughout, despite Menon’s easygoing disposition lending some calmness to the proceedings.

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The film is directed by a relative newcomer, Saheed Arafath, a long-term associate of writer Pushkaran and Dileesh Pothan. Bankrolled by Bhavana Studios, Thankam was originally announced in 2018 before the coronavirus struck, and shelved, owing to its logistics. Gautham Shankar’s cinematography and Bijibal’s music meld in nicely, although one wonders how Pushkaran’s technique of improvisation of his scripts on the sets might have played out in such a thriller film.

A twist in the tale

Aparna Balamurali is paired with Vineeth Sreenivasan with nothing much to do. The real star of the film turns out to be Girish Kulkarni, the investigator from Mumbai. The second half is fully dedicated to the ‘cracking’ of the case, mostly on the road, where the slick pace is maintained throughout. There’s a bit of a twist in the climax, but it may not work for everyone.

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Sreenivasan gets into the skin of his character of the ‘gold rider’ and seems finally set to fulfill the potential that was on show in Chappa Kurishu (2011) after making an impact with his previous release, Mukundan Unni Associates. Biju Menon is as understated as always, and gets to let out the ‘Trissurkaran’ in him, complete with the accent. There’s also Vineeth Thattil playing a full-length character with Menon. At 150 minutes, the film keeps you glued, although it could have been shorter. All in all, a paisa vasool watch.

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