Written and directed by Anil Radhakrishnan Menon, Sapthamashree Taskaraha is a con-comedy i.e. the comedic caper of a bunch of con-men and/or a total con-job of a comedy. To explain my stand I have to draw your attention to the fact that the movie is a subtle rip-off from Hollywood mainstream, drawing strains from Oceans’ Eleven and The Italian Job to shuffle its way to the climax.
What’s disappointing is that it almost had me with the first half. The story unfolds from a confessional somewhere in Thrissur – when Chemban Vijay as Martin, a nincompoop thief and narrator, decides to atone. Through which we are introduced to Narayanankutti (Neeraj Madhav), a paavam pattar (?) and engineering genius, the dark and broody Shabab (Asif Ali), Salaam Pasha (Salam Bukhari) the resident Houdini and show magician who has his way with padlocks and chains, Leaf Vasu (Sudheer Karamana) who’s missing a few links upstairs, Nedumudi Venu as the good and giving Nobilettan, who has been grievously wronged and is scamming with a vengeance, and Prithviraj as Krishnanunni, an unlikely hero with no ideas of his own and a bit of a pushover. The story also brings in Joy Mathew, crucial, as the corrupt and cowardly Pious Mathew, and his two brothers Christo and Franco.
Anil takes time and care with his characters giving them all enough screen-time. They meet in prison and without further ado are swapping anecdotes and scratching each others’ back. The camaraderie is infectious – bitter and sweet – with laughs along the way. They have decided to avenge Nobilettan, who has a plan ready for them, to be carried out in the second half, which is also around the time things start to dip. By this time Anil has gotten lazy, he has a decent premise and characters that have come together nicely, and he uses short-cuts to help him finish the job.
The other things to notice is that for a bunch of amateur con-men the plan falls in to place without too many inconveniences; and Prithviraj’s unconvincing Thrissur basha.
In the director’s defence these elements have been contextualized seamlessly – but then again the avenues for bizzare con-jobs in Kerala are plenty and unsparing even of political bigwigs. For performances you can look forward to Chemban, Neeraj, and Sudheer, and hope we see more of them in the future. Joy Mathew and his conniving brood are natural in negative and pull off a scam more original than the one at the crux of the plot, and Nedumudi Venu doesn’t have to do much besides being old.
The editing is sharp, which probably explains why the introductory chapter is not tiresome, and gives elasticity to the chase sequences. It’s disappointing because Anil was onto something – with the characters he sketched out, the resurrection of a genre that was forgotten, and the bits of cleverness and comedy, you only wish that he took some more time and carried out the film with his own flair instead of hacking.