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Dhoomam review: This Fahadh Faasil starrer gets completely lost in translation

Tobacco causes painful death! True. Equally true is the fact that watching a directionless film can also be a painful experience, although it may not result in someone’s death. However, what is even more disheartening is witnessing incredibly talented people waste their artistic abilities on a lacklustre endeavour.

Let’s consider the following scenario: a film directed by Pawan Kumar, known for his exceptional films such as Lucia (2013) and U Turn (2016), featuring a talented cast including Fahadh Faasil, Roshan Mathew, Aparna Balamurali, Vineeth, and Achyuth Kumar, and backed by the successful production house Hombale Films, known for their remarkable achievements with KGF and Kantara. Doesn’t this combination ignite excitement for the film’s release?

Sadly, their latest offering Dhoomam (Smoke) tragically falls short of expectations, despite its thought-provoking and relevant theme.

Also read | Dhoomam director Pawan Kumar showers praise on Fahadh Faasil: ‘He fearlessly explores various extremes with each film’

Set in Karnataka, Dhoomam tells the story of Avinash (Fahadh Faasil) and Diya (Aparna Balamurali), a couple plunged into deep trouble after Avinash decides to quit his lucrative position at a cigarette company.

Despite starting as the marketing head of the company, spearheaded by Sid (Roshan Mathew), and successfully leading numerous impactful campaigns which significantly boosted the firm’s sales, Avinash’s conscience begins to torment him when he realises that even children are falling prey to tobacco addiction, and the company willingly embraces these ‘new’ customers. This realisation compels him to leave his job.

Freedom Sale

Unfortunately, Avinash’s troubles escalate after submitting his resignation. Avinash and Diya are abducted by an unknown person who plants a time bomb inside one of them, forcing the couple to gather Rs 1 crore within a specific timeframe. The bomb’s timer can only be kept from ticking down by, ironically, smoking cigarettes. Failure to comply will result in an explosion. Seeking help from Sid and his uncle Praveen (Vineeth), Avinash finds himself ignored and neglected. However, the couple devises a plan to acquire the required fund through the company itself.

As their desperate journey unfolds, tragedy strikes when Praveen is shot dead and Sid is wounded by a bullet. Falsely accused of these crimes, Avinash and Diya become the prime targets of the police. The remainder of the film focuses on their relentless efforts to save themselves from this perilous predicament.

Dhoomam, as suggested by its title and trailer, revolves around the theme of cigarette smoking and its impact on countless lives. The film highlights how the heads of tobacco companies, fully aware of the health risks associated with their products, avoid consuming them. However, these very firms employ various tactics to promote cigarette use, leading to them becoming filthy rich while users gradually succumb to the clutches of death.

While a film that aims to deliver a significant message is commendable, considering the influential power of the medium, a movie solely created for this purpose can paradoxically yield counterproductive results. Dhoomam stands as a testament to this as it excessively prioritises the subject matter while neglecting the technical aspects.

In one scene, Avinash accurately summarises the film as a whole, stating, “You all must have seen the (anti-smoking) public service ads that are played in our movie theatres. What if we make such ads in a way that people will actually see it?” While Dhoomam can be seen as a 2-hour-24-minute-long public service advertisement, its ability to captivate audiences is questionable. The primary reason for this lies in the film’s weak script and poorly crafted dialogues, resulting in very little substance beyond its central theme.

Despite the sluggish pace of the initial act, one would assume it is building towards a significant impact. However, Dhoomam disappointingly offers very little in that regard, ultimately presenting a series of disconnected scenes that fail to make compelling points. Not only does the film lack emotionally resonant moments, but it also struggles to engage the audience throughout. Additionally, the frequent flashbacks, although intended to enhance the narrative, ironically hinder the viewing experience, as they focus only on how cigarette companies make strategies to boost sales. While these sequences had the potential to make a profound impact, they end up being mere recounts of Avinash’s past without offering substantial depth or substance to the overall story.

One of the major drawbacks of the film lies in its excessive reliance on dialogues. Dhoomam fails to let a single moment pass without characters resorting to explanatory dialogues, almost resembling a running commentary for the viewers. At the same time, the manner in which these dialogues are written indicates that much of their essence was lost in translation. The stark contrast between the Malayalam dialogues and the natural and flowing Kannada dialogues here, penned by writer-director Pawan Kumar himself, further emphasises this point. It demonstrates how the film could have fared much better if it had been made in Kannada and if the narrative style had been adjusted to align with contemporary trends, instead of the 2010s.

On the performance front, both Fahadh and Roshan showcase their talent impressively, both individually and in their scenes together. However, the contrived dialogues and drab script undermine their efforts, resulting in a somewhat childish portrayal overall. Despite her previous successful performances, Aparna Balamurali disappoints here in her depiction of a woman paying the consequences for her husband’s actions, as it comes across as unconvincing.

Although his role is minor and lacks a significant contribution to the film, Achyuth Kumar manages to leave a lasting impression. Joy Mathew and Nandu also deliver decent performances with the material they are given, while Vineeth’s acting fluctuates between impressive and unimpressive in alternating scenes.

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In terms of technical aspects, Preetha Jayaraman’s cinematography and Anees Nadodi’s art direction shine in Dhoomam, capturing visually captivating scenes and creating a compelling atmosphere. However, Poornachandra Tejaswi’s music fails to make a lasting impact and leaves little impression on the viewers.

In short, Dhoomam serves as a reminder that merely having a significant message is insufficient to create a captivating film; it would, at best, help make a public service advertisement. To truly engage and captivate audiences, a film requires a multitude of other elements that should work harmoniously together.

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Dhoomam movie cast: Fahadh Faasil, Aparna Balamurali, Roshan Mathew, Achyuth Kumar, VineethDhoomam movie director: Pawan KumarDhoomam movie rating: 1.5 stars

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