Be it the theme or the setting, Prithviraj-starrer Tiyaan is an attempt to explore lesser known terrains. The film, set in a sleepy and parched village in the Hindi heartland, addresses burning issues such as sale of divinity and associated crimes, and tries to go deeper in search of the soul of Indian spirituality.
However, in its attempt to evolve into a grand, socially committed narrative, the film often falls flat with predictable sequences, dragging flashbacks and stock set of stunts. Above all, its attempt to make a loud call for religious amity ends up in an ambiguous political view, which glorifies the Tantric school of thought and even Brahminism. The film is likely to trigger a lot of debates in this direction.
Jiyen Krishnakumar's directorial venture, which aimed to be a pan-Indian film with its theme and the scale of making, has a neatly-crafted first half that offers hopes of a conflict-filled second half, though in vain.
Also read: Tiyaan - audience review
The film begins with a narration by the Time, in the most suitable voice of Mohanlal, on the routes covered by Adi Sankaracharya and his Adwaitha philosophy and how the Sanatana Dharma stood the test of time throughout centuries. Here, the dharma, personified by Pattabhirama Giri (Indrajith), a young Keralite brahmin settled in UP, is in threat once again. And the threat comes from a vicious form of spirituality – a self-proclaimed godman and his empire – that has plagued the great civilization and its ignorant people. Mahashay Bhagvan (Murali Gopy) is the spiritual emperor who has ashrams across the country and top politicians and bureaucrats among his devotees. Mahashay wants to establish his new ashram in Giri's village; means the real estate lobby behind him wants to grab the land.
The rest of the film, as anyone's guess, progresses through Bhagvan and his goons' torturous ways, and Giri's sufferings, which would be finally put to an end by Aslan Mohammed (Prithviraj) who leads a mysterious life atop the hill bordering the village. Revealing anything more about Aslan's identity would be a crime, considering the hoopla and build-up surrounding him in the first half.
The film has the tone of a thriller and a fair share of action sequences, which are often stretched – appealing only to the so-called fans.
The film's second half spends too much time on flashbacks, narrating Aslan's transformation into a man of composure from a bloodied past and how Bhagwan became what he's today.
Murali Gopy, the writer, wanted to translate his lofty thoughts of spirituality and philosophy into the language of mainstream cinema but predictability and an obsession with high drama play the spoilsport as the narrative progresses. The satirist in Murali wields his pen to take a dig at social evils, including the politics over beef ban on some occasions but towards the end, what we have is a film that glorifies the concept of the sublime awakening of the self in Indian spirituality in the misty and mystic Himalayas. The hero eventually ends up a super hero or the mirror image of the supreme being that is called by different names in different faiths.
The character of Aslan has been shaped as a modern day 'deus ex machina' who solves the crisis entangling the protagonist in a non-worldly way, to say the least.
Prithviraj, Indrajith and Murali Gopy offer a matured performance while amateurism comes to the forefront in sequences involving several side characters, especially the goons from various sides.
Satheesh Kurup's wider frames capturing the sprawling terrains of north India and busy streets of Mumbai and the psychedelic colors of Mahashay's ashram add to the mood of the film. Gopi Sunder relishes the opportunity to mix and match Sanskrit shlokas and Islamic chants.
A bit of freshness and a fair amount of trimming would have made Tiyaan more than a one-time watch – that which it ended up being.