Filmmaker Jiyen Krishnakumar’s debut Tiyaan left me aghast. For starters, I could somehow fathom the film’s pretentious (and meaningless) title. The struggle was to sit for almost 3 hours, out of which about 90 minutes are filled with futile slow motion shots and the rest with 70s style torture and incomprehensible word vomit. Featuring an assortment of people indulging in activities that have no correlation to each other, it is nauseating to find how this heavily mounted project was sold to a financier.
An insight is something that every creative scheme bases itself in. Here, with Tiyaan, you get a high voltage, big budget film that fails to encompass a coherent ‘idea’ that the may have been assembled with. It starts off as a stagey North Indian neighbourhood story where a Hindu Godman (Murali Gopy, shady AF) and his archaic, beef-eating (yes!) followers harass people over illegal eviction threats. The local group is headed by a ‘socially superior’ priest Pattabhirama Giri (Indrajith Sukumaran). With a name as weird as that, we get horrendous explanations on why this man and his family are settled in this dusty village. Point taken that Malayalees are found on all corners of earth but these folks – seemingly settled for generations – speak Hindi with proficiency of Meenamma from Chennai Express.
Also meet Prithviraj Sukumaran as at-times-human, at-times-preachboy clothed in eerie blankets. One with a chiseled bod underneath and a sexy beard to boot, the man speaks some kind of a godawful lingo – an ugly mix of Urdu, Hindi and Sanskrit with a hilarious Malayalam accent all over the place. “Mudhai lack bura chaghey thho kya hothah heyyy… wahi hodha heyy jo mansureyy ghudha hothah heyy…” Dude, seriously?
Later we see the film establish Prithviraj’s spooky Aslan (previously a gangster) as some sort of a saint (!). A Muslim by birth, he is presently an enlightened soul post an encounter with a group of smoked up, potbellied Hindu saints. His transformation is simultaneously ghastly and laugh-out-loud funny, with expressions reminding of best of orgasms we’ve ever had. Calling for the worst kind of déjà vu, even Rajinikanth got a better deal in his 2002 cringe fest Baba.
Adding to the plot is a series of good Godmen/women (huh!) – including one who prays and chants as people die like mosquitos in Good Knight ads. Later he pops out of nowhere and declares, “Aslan, you don’t belong here anymore.” What was he smoking, I want to know? There’s also a clairvoyant (Padmapriya) who is duped and killed by her immediate aide. Because there ain’t no concept of security, CCTV or even sniffer dogs, right? Wait, wasn’t the film supposed to be a dig on Godmen?
There is no thing as editing in Tiyaan. Montages appear from nowhere, for no rhyme or reason. Dead characters reappear to chant random hymns (as if the original score was any less suffocating). No point seeking sense in those slo-mo fights and events that are blindingly repetitive. The production design team seems to have Googled terms like Mumbai, North Indian village and Brahmin house and the likes. Even a mock museum would have better sense for terrain and surroundings – especially if the DOP had planned aerial shots. Easily the worst kind of art direction you would see in any film of this scale. Background score is a grating mix of Sanskrit and Sufi chants that alternate because, boy this is secular cinema. Worse is when the Sufi strains sound oddly familiar to some good old qawwalis from the subcontinent. Classic Gopi Sunder!
A film that is 80% in Hindi and, hence, wrongly labelled a Malayalam film, Tiyaan’s faux secularism is laughable. Additional humour comes when Pattabhiraman suddenly spouts Malayalam in the middle of an all-Hindi speaking crowd because Hindi is not the National language and I will speak only in Malayalam. This dude’s dumbness levels will beat even those Sangh trolls on Twitter!
With its subtle address on concepts like gharwapsi and casual approval of India’s gruesome caste system, the film is dangerous in its very intent. In one of the film’s starkly problematic moments, the villain and goons ask a Dalit’s son to pelt stones at our Brahmin protagonist. The kid approaches, and as if cued by an external force he drops the stone and prostrates before the man. I can’t even…
What shocked me is to see a credible actor like Prithviraj bankrolling a horrifying feature film as this, in this day and age. With such shoddy execution and abysmal writing, not even the right wing would take this film seriously. Amen to that!