Men kidnapping their brothers in movies is not a new thing. Tom Cruise kidnaps Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man; Rajat Barmecha ran away with his little brother in Udaan. The intentions, however, were different in both cases. In George Kora and Sam Xavier’s Thirike, which premiered on NeeStream, a younger brother, Thoma, ‘kidnaps’ his Down syndrome-affected older brother, Sebu/Ismu, from the latter’s foster parents. It is much closer to Rain Man, but with a small difference. Thoma’s motive has nothing to do with monetary gains, and in place of autism, it’s Down syndrome. The brothers, orphaned at a very early age, were separated when a couple (Gopan Mangat and Shanti Krishna) opted to adopt only Sebu.
These early portions have an 80s’ flavour, with the song accompanying the opening credits evoking the melodramatic films we watched while growing up. It then cuts to Thoma as a grown man, now employed at a bakery. Though he gets to pay occasional visits to his endearing brother, that’s not enough for him. To make Sebu remember their childhood and their late parents, Thoma coaxes him to go on a trip with him. What follows is a string of heartwarming bonding moments and the arrival of a third character played by Sarasa Balussery.
The good thing about Thirike is that it hopes to see everyone treat special kids like they would a normal human being instead of alienating them or making them feel bad about their condition. There is a scene where an insensitive child friend of Sebu’s mentions the name of his condition, adding that his father told him people affected by it wouldn’t be able to do all the activities that others do. In another scene, when Shantikrishna mentions ‘special child’, Thoma asks, “Why do you keep calling him a ‘special child’?”
However, Thirike is not an easy film to warm up to. There is as much saccharine in it as on Sebu’s dosa. I wish the film were more organic in its attempts to move us. For starters, Thoma is an over-the-top character. He is often hasty and prone to overreaction. I don’t know if he was written that way, or it was done deliberately to make this film accessible to kids too. And when you add the childish romance between Thoma and Sneha (Namitha Krishnamoorthy) to the mix, Thirike looks like a 2020 film trapped in the soul of a 90s’ film. Perhaps this, too, was intentional, but it doesn’t help.
However, some impactful moments in the third act help salvage the film to a certain extent. The inclusion of Sarasa Balussery’s character to address the subject of children ignoring their parents was a nice touch. It serves as a thought-provoking flipside to the Thoma-Sebu story. The film gets redeemed by its ending, which brings a much welcome closure to the journey of Thoma.
The resolution is acceptable not just to the characters but to us too. It left a lump in my throat and a smile on my face at the same time. Despite its flaws, Thirike got me thinking a lot about parenthood and the responsibility of looking after any child. In that way, at least, the film succeeds.
Directors: George Kora & Sam Xavier
Cast: George Kora, Gopikrishna, Gopan Mangat, Shanti Krishna, Namitha Krishnamoorthy
Streaming on: NeeStream