Verdict: A fresh look at an addiction is backed by Tovino’s stellar performance.

The moment someone brings up the topic of smoking, the dialogue “shwasakosham sponge pole aakunnu” invariably pops into mind. That’s where Tovino Thomas’s Theevandi stands to score. Touted as a political satire, debut director Fellini T.P. makes a sincere attempt to understand the habit and those consumed by it. Written by Vini Vishwa Lal, the film has newcomer Samyuktha Menon, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Sudheesh, Surabhi Lakshmi, Manu S. Pillai, and Saiju Kurup in the lead. The music has been done by Kailas Menon and Appu Bhattathiri has edited the film.

What’s Theevandi About:

Bineesh Damodaran (Tovino Thomas) is Pullinadu village’s average Joe, who is educated yet unemployed and spends his time dabbling in local politics. His compulsive smoking since his days in school earns him the moniker Theevandi. His love for Devi (Samyuktha Menon) is met with opposition by her father (Suraj Venjaramoodu), a local politician. A challenge between Suraj and Bineesh’s brother-in-law (Saiju Kurup) puts Bineesh in a spot and forces him to kick the butt for 21 days. How a chain smoker finds his feet make up the movie.

What Works:

Right from the first scene, the movie is washed in wit and political color. It brings to fore everything from corruption to power-hungry party workers. With sarcastic remarks and wry humor, Bineesh Damodaran is a character who will not be forgotten soon. Tovino, as the seasoned addict, ticks all the right boxes. His body language, especially in the scenes when he is forced to keep away from cigarettes, is noteworthy. There is no attempt to belittle the average smoker but no attempt to glorify them as well. Most dialogues are honest reproductions of things we may have heard many times. That being said, preachy dialogues on how smoking causes cancer find a place in the reel too.

The movie takes a dig at everything from the Blue Whale challenge to the “timely” death of politicians. The music is pleasant and is peppered with soulful numbers, especially Jeevamshamaayi and Maanathe Kanalaake. Samyukta gives a confident performance as the strong, level-headed woman, who does not shy from slapping the hero or climbing his balcony to profess her love. But the one who comes as a complete surprise is Sudheesh as the uncle, who is a chain smoker himself. It is good to see him in a meaty role after long. Suraj Venjaramoodu gives a restrained and seasoned performance as the scheming politician and a concerned father. Saiju Kurup, Surabhi Lakshmi, Manu S. Pillai, Shammi Thilakan and others have done justice to their roles.

What Could Have Been Better:

While a slow first half seems necessary to build up the storyline and etch the habit of smoking into the movie’s spine, a tad much is crammed into the second half and in this bargain, some crucial emotions are just barely touched upon.

Why You Should Watch:

Theevandi is definitely a high point in Tovino’s career. The music, comic timing, picturesque locales and the honesty of the characters is something the movie has to boast about.