Director: Midhun Manuel Thomas
Writer: Randheer Krishnan
Available in: Theatres
Duration: 144 minutes
Expectations were sky high ever since Jayaram announced his long-cherished comeback vehicle with the director of Anjaam Paathira (2020). There was a feeling of something finally clicking in place for the senior star who has been on the lookout for a film that refurbished his image and standing in the industry. Abraham Ozler fully packs a punch and delivers on the incredible hype that was surrounding the project from the time of its announcement.
Abraham Ozler is a traditional whodunnit mystery elevated by some specific filmmaking and writing decisions that explore the idea of what a medical thriller entails by way of its genre trappings. The film is old-school by design yet manages to imbibe the most heavy-handed strokes in the screenplay with crowd-pleasing storytelling sensibilities.
The film is unapologetic in sticking to the structural and narrative ins and outs of our standard serial killer procedural, but Midhun Manuel Thomas infuses a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Ozler is a triumph over his last directorial, which featured a similar trajectory in terms of setups and payoffs, but lacked a charismatic central hero to pull our attention.
Jayaram is a genius casting choice for the role in hindsight, and the actor earns the emotional heft of the part. Playing an insomniac, aged cop, the actor transcends his onscreen image with a well-observed, toned down yet sharp rendering of what could have easily turned out to be a stereotypical investigation hero commonly found in these films and turns in some much needed nuance in his performance.
The brooding glares, peculiar gait and the sparse body movements add to the pathos of the hero's backstory and Jayaram sells the cold, blank pitch. By now it's not much of a surprise but Midhun Manuel Thomas seems to have upped his game since Anjaam Paathira, and seems to be better equipped to handle the tonal variations. There are scenes where he tries to bridge comedic beats with drab subject matter to middling results.
The rest of the supporting cast also render knockout performances, especially Jagadeesh and Senthil Rajamani also work against their common perception and step into roles opposed to their industry cred. There are some guest appearances and extended cameos, as expected, and the scenes in the latter half with major plot reveals make great use of their presence in the film. It's a smart way to solidify narrative stakes through the power of casting.
Midhun Manuel Thomas also develops a diegetic means to bridge the flashback scenes with the current timeline through the famous 'Poomaname' song and that sort of irreverence to the classical soundtrack template works due to the economy of storytelling. Much is conveyed through the jarring but well-placed use of the song in various pivotal scenes, morphing into a recurring motif of a larger tragic event.
However, the flashback scenes do drag out for a bit more than required for the plot mechanics to work and the exposition is clunky at times with audience-friendly lines being thrown around resulting in some unintentioned silly moments. But Midhun manages to maintain the tonal control and no-holds barred pacing strategies that waste no time in setting up stakes with regular cross-cutting between events.
The film is conceived to be an entertainer that swiftly gets its crime movie beats sorted out, and the done-to-death genre tropes do come in plenty but composer Midhun Mukundan manages to add layers of intrigue through his pulsating score. DOP Theni Eswar also manages to avoid the glossy, over the top lighting to make things look grounded and lived-in through the great use of shadows and natural sources.
Abraham Ozler is a coming together of two different sensibilities in terms of the actor and director, marking a new phase in Jayaram's filmography. There is something oddly endearing about a filmmaker and an actor known for their comedic films, venturing into interesting stories that use a totally different facet of the artists inside them.