The memories of Raveendran Pillai (Lal) start from the point where he was instructed by his superiors to shoot and kill Joseph (Prithviraj), a communist leader who had emerged as the leader of a group of idealistic youth pledged to fight against exploitation and corruption in the early 70s. Raveendran Pillai remembers how his superiors had forced him to shoot Joseph and kill him after being subjected to the worst kind of third degree torture. Joseph was the prime culprit in murdering a cruel landlord Krishnadeva Saiver (Atul Kulkarni).
Again, Raveendran Pillai travels back in time and remembers how he had met Joseph for the first time and an unusual kind of bonding had developed between them. He also remembers how he had met Joseph's childhood sweetheart Saramma (Dhanya Mary) in Wayanad, after a long gap of time. The dreadful experiences of Saramma and many others at the hands of the cruel landlord Krishnadeva Saiver were an eye-opener for Raveendran Pillai, who started sympathizing with Joseph and other naxalites.
Things take an unexpected turn, when Ravindran Pillai, decades after the death of Joseph, files a counter-affidavit in court that sheds light on the unsavory truth that lay buried for years. In a few hours, Ravindran Pillai is surrounded by media persons who want each and every detail about the incident. However, from then on, life becomes bitter for Raveendran Pillai. Things start changing in his family, comprising his wife Karthyayani (Rohini) and two children. All this forms the plot of Thalappavu.
The movie focuses on the tormented life of the policeman and the mental agony that he went through after the shooting. Without any doubt, Thalappavu belongs to Lal who comes up trumps as the repentant police constable. He does capture the pain, remorse and the helplessness of the troubled protagonist very well and makes the character look real and believable.
Prithviraj also delivers a strong and commanding performance as Joseph with more than his share of emotionally high-strung moments. Dhanya Mary as Saramma is natural and charmingly convincing, managing to recount an agonizing tale through her sorrowful eyes. Rohini as Karthyayani, Atul Kulkarni as Krishnadeva Saiver and all the other cast members render able support.
In his debut film, director Madhupal has taken a lot of freedom with the random assignment of sequences in this finely-crafted narrative. He makes no mistake to be truthful with both protagonists and in the screenplay. There is no fixed time frame in the film, which randomly shifts from the past to the present and to the further past without any restraints. In that sense, the film has turned out to be a random array between the past and present, bringing in a genius mode of film making that is out-and-out notable. Madhupal's efforts also deserve applause for taking a bold theme for his directorial debut.
Babu Janardhanan has made a wonderful job of the screenplay, while Azhagappan makes his presence felt with his brilliant camerawork. Shyam Dharman's background score and songs penned by O.N.V. Kurup and set to tune by Alex Paul jell with the mood of the film. Thalappavu is an example of a movie in which the every member of the cast and crew has performed at his or her best.
Cast: Prithviraj, Lal, Atul Kulkarni, Dhanya Mary, Rohini, Jagathi Sreekumar, Manian Pillai Raju
Script: Babu Janardhanan
Lyrics: O.N.V. Kurup
Music: Alex Paul