Director – Mohan Raghavan
Producers – Paul Vadakumchery, Paul Valikodath
Cast – Alexander, Tina Rose, Biju Menon, Shwetha Menon, Shruti Menon, Jagadish, Suresh Krishna, Valsala Menon, etc
Music & Background Score – Sreevalsan J Menon
Cinematography – Arun Varma
Editing – Vinod Sukumaran
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues – Mohan Raghavan
Now Available On – Moser Baer DVDs & VCDs.
Malayalis constantly complain that there is no quality cinema being made here and when quality films come up, they turn their backs towards them and go watch the mundane formula films instead, turning them into huge hits. One victim of this sheer hypocrisy of Malayalis is TD Dasan Std VI B. A small gem of a film, which didn’t get the success or attention it deserved. Such films need to be seen and promoted so that more and more such films are made, rather than spending money for the banal formula flicks. I was away from Kerala during the week when this movie released, and when I came back and wanted to watch it, I was surprised to see the hopeless Vijay movie Suraa playing at almost all theaters in Erankulam while this movie was long gone. And I had to wait for the DVD to watch it finally.
TD Dasan (Alexander), a 6th standard student at a small village school in Palakkad, finds his estranged father’s address in his mother’s (Shwetha Menon) trunk. He secretly sends a letter to the address because he wants to silence his class bully who constantly calls him a bastard. The letter reaches Ammu (Tina Rose) who lives with her father Nandan (Biju Menon), an ad-film maker at the address where Dasan’s father Divakaran lived earlier. Ammu feels a certain affection for Dasan through his letters and responds to him as his father and in the meanwhile the ad filmmaker Nandan finds Dasan’s situation as a great material for a film script. What happens next forms the story of TD Dasan Std VI B.
The movie takes us back to the era of good Malayalam films which were simple, sweet, short, had a Malayali nativity and a wonderful story to tell. TD Dasan is just 1.5 hours long and yet it tells so many things in that short span of time which many long films cannot. Newcomer Mohan Raghavan has taken a concept which has almost become extinct in this age of social networking – pen pals. While Ammu considers Dasan something like her pen pal and understands his world through his letters, Dasan discovers about his father whom he has never seen through the letters that Ammu sends him. At the same time, Nandan considers Dasan’s story as a potential story for a film, unaware of what Ammu is doing. This leads him to several interesting discussions with his writer friends on what could have happened to Dasan’s father Divakaran.
Alexander, the young lad who plays the protagonist TD Dasan is very good and has brought out all the emotions that the character goes through very well. Tina Rose who plays Ammu also does her part effectively. Biju Menon gives an impressive performance after a long time in a role that suits him perfectly. Jagadish was a little over-the-top, but that is not even 1/100th of the overacting he has been doing in his recent films. He was pretty decent in this one compared to those films. Suresh Krishna plays his part subtly and that works very well. Shwetha Menon is evolving into a fine actress and you can actually see the difference in each film. The award winning actress has done a great job in this film too. Shruti Menon is decent in her short role. Valsala Menon is excellent as usual. The kid who played the bully Thomas Kutty was very good as well.
The director takes on several topics – the boy’s loneliness and the insult that he goes through each time when he is called a bastard by his classmate; the mother’s struggle to run the family and the tag of a slut that she has to face; and Ammu, who is separated from her mother and not getting enough attention from her busy father (even though she is portrayed as a happy child), finds joy in building a relationship with Dasan; Nandan who feels Dasan’s story would be able to connect to a wide audience. And while all this happens, there is a struggle against a multi-national Cola company going on in the background as well. There are no unnecessary songs, except for a lovely song which syncs well with the film when Dasan is overjoyed getting a response from his father. There are no sub-plots which convolute the main plot and the ones which are present in the movie contribute towards it in some way or the other. It was very nice to see the creative process (popularly known as discussions) in formulating a screenplay, being depicted in a film, that too with visual detail. Those scenes are proof that the director Mohan Raghavan is a very talented writer-director.
Music and background score by the talented Sreevalsan J Menon is very effective. The one delightful song takes us through the sweet little world of Dasan. Cinematographer Arun Varma has done a neat job. Editor Vinod Sukumaran has made the film crisp and to the point without even a single sequence that can be termed boring.
On the whole, TD Dasan is one of the finest films to have come out in Malayalam in a long time. It deserved a better fate. There were even reports in newspapers saying that the theatre owners themselves dissuaded people from watching this movie saying its no good. The makers are also to be blamed partially since there was absolutely no publicity and marketing for this film and many people were not even aware that such a film had released. And by the time people realised that such a film was out, it was gone from theaters. And it looks like that the talented writer-director Mohan Raghavan will have a bright future ahead, provided his work gets more visibility. Get hold of this movie at least on DVDs and watch it soon.
Rating – 4/5