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Anweshipin Kandethum Review: No Novelty Here

By ARJUN MENON
February 15, 2024 17:25 IST
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Anweshipin Kandettum is a fascinating genre exercise let down by its incessant attention to details, observes Arjun Menon.

Anweshipin Kandethum is about four unlucky cops. At least that's what the makers want you to believe.

This latest addition to the long line of investigative movies in Malayalam revolving around a team of cops is a underwhelming effort that tries to do too many things at once.

As I was watching Darwin Kuriakose's version of this particular sub genre of films, I couldn't help but remember yet another under discussed film belonging to the ilk, Rajeev Ravi's drab procedural Kuttavum Shikshayum (2022), the title of which is a direct translation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.

Like the classic work of literature, one could see shrouds of introspection and moral murkiness in the Asif Ali starrer, which similar to Anweshippin Kandethu, also dealt with a team of police officers in pursuit of the truth, willing to go the extra mile.

The two films share nothing but this superficial logline and the conviction of the makers could not be any more different. But that's beside the point.

There are glimpses of what Jinu Abraham was trying to do with Anweshipin Kandethu that mirrors the basic conceit of Kuttavum Shikshayam.

That lies in the way the writing offers a glimpse into the tortured psyche of the central figure who represents the hero's journey in all its glory, trying to recapture a feeling of being in control once again and their feeling of self worth.

 

Asif Ali's character in Kuttavum Shikshayam is driven by his innate guilt (borne out of a past tragedy) and sense of responsibility to unearth the mystery, whereas, in the Tovino Thomas starrer there is an abject refusal to define the protagonist by way of his actions.

The first thing that holds back Anweshipin Kandethu from its path to become the visceral character piece it could have been is the absence of interiority.

You never get to spend time with the internal world of the hero who reeks of blandness and a sense of stale conventions.

But the lack of meaningful depth or personality is a feature and not a bug in cinematic parlance.

That is in total cohorts with the tone and pacing requirements of a more crowd-pleasing entertainer.

However, this characterisation also extends to the broader writing in the film that prefers large strokes over any nuance.

Anweshipin Kandettum is bothered more with the complicit details of two seemingly unrelated cases, that map the hero's (and his team's) growth from being a symbol of ridicule and embarrassment, to being a beacon of hope and purpose.

The film follows the death of two young women in the late 1980s and early 1990s that inadvertently change the lives of a few policemen forever.

The first case foreshadows the biblical connotations of the film's title and also kickstarts the film's fascination with a sort of religious fanaticism, a thread that loses its connective tissue later on in the narrative.

The second half is the hero and his team's efforts to recapture lost glory when offered one last chance.

The wall-to-wall score by Santhosh Narayanan underlines the scope and pitch of the movie in more ways that once.

The score sometimes wanders off into territories of excess and ends up overdoing the intrigue, that is non existent in the screenplay.

The episodic structure of the film's two halves is an inspired conceptual idea that fails to find its footing as the emotional coherence of the former half is met halfway by the done-to death whodunnit tropes sprinkled in the second case that looses steam along the way.

Darwin Kuriakose gets a slick period look intact. Few films in Malayalam in recent memory has registered even the most mundane period appropriate detail like a vintage car or some retro setwork without resorting to wonky CGI and special effects, which elevate the film's technical finesse.

Gautham Shankar, who has previously shot films like Kalki (2019) and Thankam (2022) relishes the opportunity to infuse a more time appropriate look drenched in browns and yellow hues, without compromising on the visual grammer dealing mostly in shadows and natural light over any superficial colour schemes.

Tovino Thomas is toned down and fine-tuned in a part that does not demand much from a performer of his standing.

The fluidity of the film is not met with a rigidly conceptualised hero, who is forced to be an passive observer of the events unfolding on the screen.

There is no innate sense of urgency or stakes in the way his character behaves, walks and interacts with other people. It's a given that he is in control of his pent up emotions at all times.

Tovino carries the film on his able shoulders even when the exposition dump starts to pile up as the cases unfold.

The rest of the supporting cast clearly is meant to be bystanders in the investigation, and this is where the film loses sight of its subversions.

In any other movie, a superficial yet friendly rag team of cops would suffice, but Jinu Abraham's narrative hinges on the interplay between the four man team that somehow gets sidelined in between the complex plot machinations of the second case.

The screenplay lays down the minutiae of the crime, but the novelty wears off after a point.

The rest of the team become ciphers meant to symbolise a larger glitch in the criminal justice system that spits out the earnest harbingers of change in favour of comfortable legalities and prejudices.

We never get to see them break ice and interact as a team but merely get offered a few shoehorned in sequences that falls on its face in its exploration of any real group dynamic or personal stakes.

They are designed to be individuals who are turned down by a mysterious turn of events to be at the receiving end of a unfair legal system. But they come across as mere stand in extras mumbling lines and exiting scenes after providing context to factual pointers of the case.

Baburaj and Pramod Velliyanad serve some comic relief in an otherwise humourless film.

There are twists and turns that keep you going, but there is a lingering sense of what these seemingly well intentioned pieces could have been if the writing found a way to synthesise the tension inherent in the material.

The film splits the difference by doubling down on the technicalities and cliches of whodunnit mysteries, forgoing all the latent character work.

Anweshipin Kandettum is a fascinating genre exercise on paper that is let down by its incessant attention to the details.

We spend too much time with the looped in exposition revolving around the crime that in no way connects other than an arbitrarily thrown down twist at the end that somehow round up the thematic arc of the unlucky team of losers destined for no glory.

Anweshipin Kandethum Review Rediff Rating:

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ARJUN MENON
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