Cast: Kunchakko Boban, Remya Nambeesan, Jinu Joseph
Director: Midhun Manuel Thomas
One of the essential qualities of a great crime drama must be an ability to take the viewers into the depths of the world of the ‘other’– of crime and moral decay – and dig beneath the obvious to explore the details of the unusual.
In Anjaam Pathira, Midhun Manuel Thomas assembles a brilliant set of technicians (cinematographer Shyju Khalid, editor Saiju Sreedharan, and composer Sushin Shyam) who create the atmospherics to contain an extraordinary crime drama. The film has better horror mechanics than Vinayan’s Aakasha Ganga 2. The title, for one, sounds deliciously mysterious. The basic premise of the film is centered on a serial killer who carves his victims’ eyes and heart out of their body to make a point. Kochi, through Khalid’s lens and against the backdrop of Sushin’s background score, is a city of distress, devoid of humanity, which could implode any moment.
However, the film falls short of the most important element ﹣ a screenplay that takes interest in cutting open the surface of this familiar premise and weaves a fascinating narrative. Midhun clumsily skates over the crime drama genre, foregoing sturdy writing for a weak cat-and-mouse chase between the killer and the crime investigation team, only to conclude in an even weaker point.
There is hardly anything in this film that challenges the audience’s general understanding of how a crime drama works within a commercial framework. The sleuths in the movie make familiar moves, almost never outsmarting the audience’s calculations. There are several twists and turns in the narrative, but none of them are stunning enough to make the viewer lean forward in awe. Instead of making the slightest attempt at a psychological study, Midhun obsesses over the cruelty involved in the modus operandi of the crime. Several times the images (partly blurred) of the victims flash on the screen, an effort to cash in on their shock value. But it isn’t a mere ability to shock that steams and runs a crime drama, but a literary flourish which is thoroughly absent in this film.
The crime investigators in the film, led by Anwar Hussain (Kunchakko Boban), an amateur criminologist who hangs out with the police to finish his research paper on serial killers, are habitual late-comers who are blissfully unaware of their deficiency. They are prone to asking obvious questions and making the most unintelligent moves that couldn’t blow a leaf. The investigation part, in many parts, resembles a parody. At one point, after the killer has murdered two cops right under the nose of the police force, a top police official announces without any sense of urgency, “This is an unusual case!”, as though it just dawned on him.
This lack of smartness in the writing has a heavy impact especially because the film is designed as a no-fun noir drama. It has little lighter touches. The actors, too conscious of the nature of the film they are in, always wear on their face a faux sombreness. The characters are the kind of people who prefer dim-lit rooms, at home and in office, and drive to wastelands in the middle of the wilderness to chat in peace. Hence, the audience has nowhere to look but the details of the whodunnit and whydunnit part of the crime.
And strangest of all, the crimes and investigation appear to happen inside a bubble, cut off from the rest of the society. Almost never does the film take an interest in humanizing the proceedings by looking at the reaction of the affected parties, including the people of the city, to these series of murders.
The film hops from one scene to another, without caring to linger on any emotion. The great reveal in the final part of the film is hastily done, mostly through verbal narration by a third person who provides hardly any information on how the antagonist grew into a criminal mastermind who butchers human beings in the most grotesque manner. Many promising sub-characters and cameos appear and disappear before you know, without making any impact.
Coming back to the sombreness the actors wear, it is Remya Nambeesan, who plays the criminologist’s wife, who has to bear the hardest brunt. Time and again in the film, she makes wisecracks. “You’re a hallucinating Macbeth!” she taunts her sleep-deprived husband in the middle of the night. In another instance, when her husband has hit a dead-end in his investigation, she turns around dramatically and says, “Da Vinci Code!” and goes on to give a piece of information that would turn vital in his job. The problem with this character construction is that everything about it, from her body-language to the placement of her scenes, screams fake. Hers is a faux personality that the film concocts to aid its woke aspirations.
Kunchakko Boban is someone who could play any role – collector, thug, milkman or cop – with that quintessential gentlemanliness he is known for off-screen. He isn’t a great actor, but he plays Anwar Hussain convincingly, applying the right amount of assuredness in his body-language. In the final part of the film, his character undergoes irrational tonal changes and takes on the villain physically, thanks to the film going all out to play to the gallery. Nevertheless, the actor retains his likeability.
Jinu Joseph is an absolute non-starter when it comes to pulling off a lead role, where he has to deliver dialogues and act a little. Here, Joseph’s inability to act coupled with badly-written lines make some highly irksome scenes. His is a role reminiscent of the characters late actor Rajan P Dev repeatedly played in the last years of his life, where he was at once the fool and the villain. Joseph, however, brings aboard only a certain prickness that he overplays.
For an audience exhausted from the brittle feel-good dramas Midhun Manuel Thomas had been churning out, Anjaam Pathira might come across as a welcome change. Here you see a director breaking the cocoon he had made for himself, and trying to enter an unfamiliar zone, clearly inspired by a variety of sources ranging from David Fincher to the recent Kollywood hit Ratchasan. Only if this courage to reinvent one’s career alone was worth a gallantry medal.
The Anjaam Pathira review is a Silverscreen.in original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.