Haridas(Mammootty), a detective by profession, is haunted by the brutal murder of an young girl named Manikyam in the village named Paleri, where he was born. The murder was committed in 1955 on the same day when Haridas was born. A local priest was also killed in the same village on that day. Manikyam was murdered 11 days after her marriage to Pokkan, a village idiot. Pokkan’s mother, Cheeru(Shweta Menon), is the village prostitute and local brewer.
Haridas decides to unravel the mystery behind these two murders to satisfy his curiosity. He leaves to Paleri with his colleague Sarayu(Gowri Munjal), with whom he is having an extramarital affair. It is a difficult journey searching for the truth as most of the witnesses for this incident have long been dead. There are a few people alive in the village who were from the same era. So, he has depend on documents from court trial, hearsay from the locals and first person accounts from the people from a bygone era.
The movie tells Haridas’s quest for truth where he patiently pieces the missing information and finds out the identity of the killer.
Ranjith scripts and directs this movie based on the eponymous novel by T P Rajeevan. Ranjith uses Haridas as the narrator and embeds him in the action during the transitions from the present to the past in the initial part of the movie which effectively aids the viewer to orient to the quick changes in the era. Ranjith also has used theater artists for enacting the key roles. This helps in building the suspense as it is difficult to associate good or evil with a lesser known face. For older roles of the key characters, who are well into their 70’s, Ranjith has used Sreenivasan and T Damodaran. Ranjith’s favorite, Siddique, also acts adding to the list of well known actors in the movie. The brilliant part of adaptation is the introduction of Ahmed Haji at the interval. In the novel, Haji appears early on. While adapting, some of the key characters loses their significance. Their contribution towards the investigation comes as a big surprise for a person who has not read the novel. Also, the climax lacks impact.
Mammootty excels as Haridas and Ahmed Haji. While Haridas is a restless and confused man living in the modern times, Ahmed Haji is the arrogant feudal lord who can destroy lives callously. While Haridas is simple yet modern, Ahmed speaks in dialect which is prevalent in northern part of Kerala. Dialect is an easy and comfortable mask to wear for Mammootty. But it is often the lust and arrogance of Haji that pleases and surprises the viewer. Ranjith scores on how he decided to shoot these characters. He has decided to shoot all scenes of Haridas first. This is evident from the fact that Mammootty sports his trademark moustache as Haridas. Ranjith then shot Ahmed Haji who sports a Vaikkom-Mohammed-Basheer moustache. This would have required a lot of planning by Ranjith.
Shweta Menon impresses as Cheeru. She portrays the younger and older phases of the same character. As young Cheeru, she oozes sensuality not only with her body but also with her looks. As the old Cheeru, she has a slight stoop and an perpetual contempt for everything.
Bijibal’s music is loud at places. But mostly, it haunts and also heightens the suspense.
This is not suitable for viewing with kids as it has a lot of disturbing scenes.
Though this falls short of as a classic movie, it is still a noteworthy attempt in creating meaningful cinema.
Picture Courtesy: www.nowrunning.com