Thippara Meesam movie review: A moving mother-son story at heart that could've worked had it focused on its core strength
Thippara Meesam could have been so much more than what it is, if only it knew that its core strength lies in the simmering tension between a mother and her son.
In Krishna Vijay’s Thippara Meesam, Sree Vishnu plays the role of Mani Shankar, a DJ, who hates his mother so much he refuses to even acknowledge her presence in his life. The reason behind his hatred, we are told, is she abandoned him when he needed her the most during his adolescence. And so, his life falls apart, and in turn, he continues to punish his mother every time he lands in trouble.
This conflict between a mother and her estranged son is the heart of Thippara Meesam. However, director Krishna Vijay shrouds it with another tale, which focuses on the protagonist’s trials and tribulations as he struggles to find peace and stability in his life. The problem is the narrative of the film is modelled like a stop switch, where every time it switches the mother-son conflict, the story comes alive. And when it does not, the film leaves you restless and almost gasping for fresh air.
There are plenty of metaphors in the story, starting from the moustache and the act of twirling it to closed rooms, which open a window into the lives of the characters. As long as Mani Shankar sports a thick beard and moustache, he is full of arrogance and false pride. However, by the time it is all gone, Mani realises what he has missed in his life.
He loves darkness because that is what he relates to the most in his life, but he fails to recognise that it is his mother who has been trying desperately to bring him to light. His life undergoes a sea change when he is forced to live all alone in an enclosed room. It changes him so much he refuses to come out of it. By the time he grows up, Mani has not only shut the doors of his mind but also sought refuge in his memories, which are often tormented and conflicted.
Thippara Meesam is a beautiful character study about how one man slips into the shadows of his life, and what it takes for him to see light once again.
Despite all the beautiful and heartfelt emotions it encompasses, Thippara Meesam is also a frustrating film to watch for most part. Whenever the narrative focuses on Mani’s life as a DJ, and his never-ending attempts to make money, be it through gambling and risky games, the film gives an impression it is trying too hard to be different.
Yes, the sequences which are set in a forest or underwater make a strong impact visually, but that is really not what the story is about. Even his budding romance with Mounika, an aspiring cop, does not quite make an impact. And on top of that, Mani Shankar’s tryst with bookies and crooks does not make for an engaging subplot either. All this comes across as more of a distraction in the larger scheme of things, because as soon as the narrative shifts to Mani and his resentment towards his mother, you feel the pain both the characters go through.
One of the reasons why the film works to an extent is because of Rohini Molleti’s remarkable performance, who puts her heart and soul into her character as Vishnu’s mother. Every scene featuring Rohini is treated with a lot of care, and she brings a great deal of authenticity to make us root for her character. Right from the scene where we see her standing in the rain as her son refuses to talk to her to another sequences where she is moved by the change that her son has undergone, Rohini fills the movie with a lot of empathy.
One of the best scenes in the film has her defending her son in a court, despite knowing he has committed a fraud. There is so much at play in the scene, ranging from her fear that her son’s life might be ruined yet again to her frustration she does not quite understand her son. It is a moment that stays with you till the end. Without underlining the emotional subtext, director Krishna Vijay forces us to see what the mother wants her son to see — everything she has ever done was for his own good, and if he still believes that she has not been a good mother, then she is willing to pay the price for it until he sees the truth behind her actions.
For Vishnu, Thippara Meesam is yet another bold choice which is in sync with his recent choices. However, unlike Brochevarevurura and Mental Madhilo, Thippara Meesam remains in a grey zone. Its dark theme is not the problem, but what sticks out like a sore thumb is the tone which does not let you follow the story or the characters in an engaging manner. The actor, however, does a fine job in imbibing the complexity of the role, and his efforts, both physical and emotional, are quite evident on screen. He is at ease with himself and the character throughout the film, but it is the scenes where he interacts with his family, and confronts with his mother, where Vishnu shines the most.
The film feels a tad too long, and that is mostly because it keeps flip-flopping between its good and tedious parts, making us tough to root for the emotional conflict of the story, and resisting the remaining portions of the story in equal measure.
Thippara Meesam could have been so much more than what it is, if only it knew that its core strength lies in the simmering tension between a mother and her son, and not when the lead protagonist fights the demons in his mind. In the end, it is a lot like eating a chocolate cake whose layers are filled with far too much cream. The cream might spoil the overall taste of the cake, but when you bite into the chocolate-filled layer, it is tantalising.
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