I got to watch this Nivin Pauly starrer movie today, and I was blown away. This is without argument the first hit for Malayalam movie this year, and a milestone for Nivin, who turns producer for the movie, and Abride Shine, the director. Its surprising how a movie can break stereotypes, yet still be a clean entertainer in this time and age. This is one of those rare gems you can watch with your parents, and kids, and still have lots to talk about when its over. TLDR: catch it at the earliest.
The movie is an unconventional-cop-story. Thanks to intelligent writing, the movie holds together spectacularly even when there is no one single plot or one big villian. Every other cop-movie has the officer chasing down an underworld don, or a corrupt politician, or even has the Indian cop travelling abroad to solve their cases. Not Biju Paulose. He is the town Sub-Inspector for Erankulam, and he plays within his jurisdiction only, as per the book. I say per the book here, because Biju even knows a few law points to back him up. The movie follows about one-month of a life of very dedicated and honest police officer, and his small team. And the myriad of colorful charachters you might meet in the city. And it is these charachters and their police cases that give us an insight as to what the life of an average police officer is like in Kerala (and the rest of the country too).
The screenplay builds up the intensity of the cases, it starts with a what is usually called petty-cases, a terminated employee not getting her promised salary, young law breakers driving illegal vehicles that sort of stuff. You realize that these might be called petty cases, but an officer cannot simply write them off, he has to give everyone the same attention, and same priority. Then the cases intensify, there are drug dealers, the gunda mafia. Towards the end, Biju himself ends up in hospital due to an encounter.
Star of the show, Nivin Pauly’s charachter of SI Biju Paulose is the uncorruptible , honest police officer. He cannot stand injustice. And he makes sure he dolls out justice to anyone in his jurisdiction coming to him for help. He does not care for ministers, or rich affluent people. He is the common man’s hero. But that does not mean he takes law into his own hands. Nothing illegal. As he says clearly in the movie, “its not about right or wrong, its about the law”. He is willing to turn the other way if the culprit is willing to compromise with the victim. But if the culprit does NOT, well, then its Biju’s way. Nivin changes tone all through the movie, he talks to the complaintants calmly and pleasingly, but if he finds anything illegal, he raises his tone and shouts down the enemy. He is not afraid to smack someone in the face, or use his favourite tool – the humble coconut ! If every policeman in the country were like this, the country need not have lawyers and judges.
What stood out:
- A bunch of new actors play the complaintants, everyday people in the city. Housewives, auto drivers, drunkards, thiefs, shop keepers. Everyone plays them convincingly, with enough lines. Lot of humour there.
- Sooraj Venjaaramoodu’s 5 minute cameo in the movie steals the thunder. His charachter Pavithran breaks stereotypes too. When he first walks into the station, he looks inabreiated. His complaint is that his wife left him for his friend. We, the audience, is convinced that is is Pavithran’s fault. Surely the wife cannot be blamed. Biju calls them both to arrive at a compromise. The second time we meet him, we are in for a shock. Turns out, Pavithram does not drink or smoke. Is not a wifebeater or drunkard. He works hard for a living and provides for his wife and his only daughter. The 5 year old daughter is his entire world. But his wife was in love with somebody else the whole time. Pavithran is willing to take back his wife, and even willing to correct any mistake he might have commited. When Biju puts forth a compromise proposal to share custody of the daughter, is is revealed that the daughter was never Pavithran’s ! Sooraj’s acting to his revelation is simply jaw dropping. There were claps in the theater when he finally leaves the station in tears. Reminded me of that scene in Indian Rupee when thespian Thilakan cries holding on to a pole for support.
- The movie addresses a few threatening & relevant social evils. The officer talks about the suicide of a mother with her baby at a school function, explaining his point of view that it is when people lose courage to face challenges in every day life that they brink on suicide. He opines that modern life in luxury and care has made people weaker, and when they are not able to meet their goals in life, they give up easily. And the urge to overcome obstacles has to be learnt at home and school. As per official reports, Kerala has the highest suicide rate among the major states in India.
- The other topic addressed is the rising usage of drugs/intoxicants among youngsters, specially children. This can be seen as a cliche because Biju is never shown smoking or drinking in the movie, being a police office, one would assume otherswise. He is againts usage of tobacco or drugs, and gives a like statement that the boys in the family have more freedom, when they should be under scrutiny too.
What did not;
- The most useless movie charachter of the year award would go to Anu Emanuel. With no dialogues, or anything to contribute to the movie, she was just there for eye candy. Her part could have completey written off and that could have improved the movie.
Stray thought: This is Nivin’s first joint production. He is really nervous with the venture. And thankful. The first 3 minutes before the movie is full of him and Abride thanking everybody he ever met on their journey to this movie. And special thanks was to Vineet Sreenivasan, who gave Nivin his first role.
This is definitely the first big hit of this year for Malayalam cinema. Off to a good start, here’s expecting more…
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