Director: Prasobh Vijayan
Cast: Jayasurya, Shruti Ramachandran, Vijay Babu, Shrikanth Murali, Lal
Like the recent Rajavukku Check, Anveshanam is only nominally a thriller. It is actually a drama about parental grief where Aravind (Jayasurya) and Kavita (Shruti Ramachandran) deal with the curious circumstances in which their child died. The film is also — once in a while — an investigation about who was responsible for the death. What begins as a regular emergency procedure in a hospital turns sinister when child abuse is suspected by one of the nurses. This leads to a police investigation in which the parents are the prime suspects.
The premise of Anveshanam is similar to that of Drishyam, despite them being otherwise very different films. What if the focus of Drishyam had been the pain Mohanlal’s Georgekutty felt when he saw the havoc wreaked by mobile phones on his daughter’s life, instead of the way he saved his family? You might get Anveshanam. Like Georgekutty, Aravind too has to save his family from the authorities. He too, is on morally gray turf. But, Aravind actually might have blood on his hands.
Drishyam, very early on, clearly establishes the morality of its protagonist. Anveshanam cannot take a stand as to whether it is against child abuse, or whether it is for a more compassionate view of abusive parents who — in its view — couldn’t have meant their child any harm. While Georgekutty shows steely resolve in difficult circumstances, Aravind indulges in self-pity under the guise of grieving for his child. We don’t root for Aravind’s family because we are told very little about them. We are only told that both the child and its abuser might be from the same family. So, we avoid rooting for anyone.
The events are narrated in a non-linear fashion, but that does not add anything to the drama; it only confuses the viewer. The time and location of events is not intuitively established in the film. Instead, we are made to parse times such as 2:58:57, 5:58:56, 6:54:56, 6:54:58, 08:58:58, 09:10:57 (actual numbers from the film) to find out when things actually happened. And once we find that out, we realise it didn’t really matter when exactly something happened. In a film where even the exact hour hardly matters, specifying times to the precision of a second is distracting and pretentious. Sometimes, the times mentioned are only a couple of seconds apart. Unless those two seconds make all the difference (they don’t), it makes little sense to burden the viewer with all this arbitrary detailing. The non-linear style does not mask the fact that nothing much actually happens in the span of the few hours that the film depicts; there aren’t enough events to lend dramatic tension.
The film appears to highlight the problem of child abuse. But, it spends most of the time depicting how unthinkable it is for a parent to intentionally abuse a child. It does this in various ways, and some of them are in bad taste. For example, the corpse of Aravind’s son is thrown down a flight of stairs — with his cold consent, that too — to simulate wounds that will help convince the police surgeon that it wasn’t a case of child abuse. We are shown Aravind breaking down when this happens, but we cannot believe that his tears are not those of self-pity. The film uses the issue of child abuse to focus on the parents’ trauma, and it often moralises in the latter’s favour. Instead of taking a stand against child abuse, the film tries to justify that a parent cannot really mean to harm the child. That’s a shocker, not a thriller.