Urumbukal Urangaarilla—these ants can tickle your funny bone

Heist stories are one of the most sought after in Malayalam cinema these days. That they combine a lot of sellable elements such as humour, suspense, and drama to engage the viewers may be the reason for the interest in them.

Director Jiju Asokan’s Urumbukal Urangarilla would have been just another cat-and-mouse chase with an interesting title, but it successfully hooks you on to your seats with its well-crafted narrative that has some subtle humour, timely twists, and some interesting sermons about the ethics of robbery.

This is surely Jiju Asokan’s breakout movie that would make him a director to look forward to. Jiju had a rather unimpressive debut with the movie Last Bench years after scripting the Jayasurya-starrer hit ‘Shakespeare, MA Malayalam’ in 2008.

On the surface of it, the plot appears to be rather naïve and simple. A wannabe thief Manoj (Vinay Forrt) finds his mentor in a veteran thief Kelu Asan (Sudheer Karamana) when he tries to steal from him inside a bus and they soon start sharing a bond. Joining with Kelu Asaan’s protégé Benny (Chemban Vinod) as an apprentice, Manoj sets out on a thrilling journey in which he learns the tricks of the trade along with some lessons about the ethics of robbery. They hit some fortunes along the way and finally end up behind bars.

On a parallel track, two friends (Aju Varghese and Mustafa) who run chit fund business go broke and land up in the same jail. A retired couple who wait for their son to return home from his workplace share good friendship with this duo. These stories have an interesting connection that is slowly unraveled through twists in the plot. Is Manoj’s real objective to become a thief or has he got other plans? Are these characters related to one another in some way? Do they share a common purpose? The answers to these questions are revealed in the climax sequence.

The humour in the script and the clever use of ‘Chora Puraanam’ or the teachings about robbery make the first half really humorous and engaging. In the post-interval phase, you start to feel that the tracks do not jell well with each other and that the director has set out to tell a different story altogether abandoning the first one. However, a few sequences later it turns out that the journey was not what it appeared to be.

The film starts as drama, moves on to comedy with some interesting robbery sequences, and delivers a big punch to finish it all. It’s interesting to watch how the director builds up the story with a slew of well-written characters and juxtaposes the life of thieves with that of ants. According to Chora Puraanam that Kelu Aasaan and Benny narrate, ants and robbers share some common features—both are organised, perseverant, driven by purpose, and most importantly, they don’t sleep! There are times when the teachings go overboard, but the narrative is quickly brought back to track.

The freshness in the treatment along with some truly deceptive performances by the lead characters Vinay Forrt, Chemban Vinod, Sudheer Karamana, and Ananya save it from being old wine in a new bottle. Vishnu Narayanan’s camerawork, Lijo Paul’s editing, and Gopi Sundar’s background music build up the suspense. Urumbukal Urangaarilla is a humorous little film with some fresh narrative style. This quirky bunch of crooks can make you come out smiling.