How far will you go when you’re in love and the going gets tough? Throwing yourself off a cliff is easy – you’re dead. It’s more difficult to stay alive and persevere, even if it means a drastic realignment of your life. Jai’s character, in Anees’s Thirumanam Enum Nikkah, chooses the tougher option – and I’d rather not tell you the name of this character. This is a film where people aren’t who they say they are, and their names play a big part in these charades. Let’s just call him X.
On the surface, this is just another story where man and woman (Y, played by Nazriya Nazim) fall in love and have to clear a number of obstacles before they breast the tape that says “happily ever after.” But because religion plays such a big part in the proceedings, this isn’t just another story. And this isn’t just another “religion angle,” with the lovers belonging to different religions but not really caring about it (though their parents certainly do) because their real religion is love. Here – and this is the film’s USP – there is an attempt to immerse oneself in the other’s religion, something that’s part empathetic act, and part subversive thrill, like being a PETA member and slipping on a leather jacket. Hence the title. And the attendant question: What if the jacket was really made of Rexine?
This is serious stuff. It involves theology. It involves psychology. It involves role-playing. But the director is clueless about how to tie up these threads. What does X feel about his own religion? Does it matter to him at all that he will leave it behind if he converts? Is there guilt, owing to what his family will undergo after his conversion? There are no answers – and it appears, after a while, that the whole religion angle is just flavouring to spice up a bland meal. If you just want to make a feel-good film, why wade into such deep waters?
Thirumanam Enum Nikkah is infuriatingly bad. We shrug off routinely bad films because there’s nothing in them that’s good. But these films, which take on something new and interesting and then botch it all up, stick in the craw, like a bad taste you can’t wash off. For a romance, there are few scenes of love. I half-liked the couple of scenes where X and Y are forced to make use of their newfound religious learning – but we never feel the grand passion between X and Y that’s making them do the things they do. All we get, by way of explanation, is the old love-at-first-sight scenario – they meet on a train, he helps her, he sings a song, it rains, and splat, they are in love. Later, we get another such scenario – X meets Z (Heebah Patel) at the home of the man who will instruct him in the ways of Y’s religion, Z serves him tea, and splat, she’s in love. This is the extent of the detailing. There is no depth in the interactions and conversations – worse, many lines end abruptly, and the next line swoops in too soon. It’s like listening to a series of interruptions. It’s as if Arnab Goswami wrote the dialogues.
Jai and Nazriya Nazim never convince us that X and Y belong together. He does his usual lightweight lifting – that sandpaper voice smoothens out all emotional ranges into a monotonic blur. As for her, she does what she did not do in Neram and Bangalore Days, and what she did in Naiyaandi – all those gesticulations and wide-eyed antics so beloved of Tamil-film heroines, the performing world’s equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. The bad acting is rampant. Both X and Y come from large families populated with not a single good performer. My favourite character was this chap named Sunil. He’s a creep at first. Then we lose him till interval point, when he reappears with his creepiness intact. And then he becomes tired of being a creep (or something) and turns good. I began to wonder “why” and then thought “why not.” It’s not as if everything else in the film makes sense.
The staging is so tonally off, so rhythmless, that we’re unable to buy into anything. The Tam-Brahm milieu, the Muslim milieu, the IT office milieu – none of it is convincing. These aren’t characters; they’re doodles. Ghibran’s songs are wasted on them. And there is contrivance after cinematic contrivance. All X needed to do to learn about Y’s religion is approach a learned man and express his interest. But no, he has to pretend to be someone else, he has to lie… I found it all very offensive. There’s something majorly wrong in a film when the villain and his henchmen are chasing the hero and your sympathies lie with the villain. I can’t recall the last movie that made me go: “This hero deserves to be walloped.”
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