Director: Darwin Kuriakose
Writer: Jinu Abraham
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Siddique, Indrans, Jaffer Idukki, Pramod Velliyanad
Available in: Theatres
Runtime: 145 minutes
Darwin Kuriakose's debut film Anweshippin Kandethum (2024) is the latest in the list of recent Malayalam films that chronicle the journey of a team of police officers investigating a complex case. The other titles in the list include Operation Java (2021), Kuttavum Shiksayum (2022), Thankam (2023) and Kannur Squad (2023), among others.
A seamless blend of Jinu Abraham's old-school writing sensibility and a frantic visual tone drives the film forward at a relentless pace, especially in the first half. The dialogues, however, are a bit on the nose in several crucial scenes and undercut the film's tendency to go for a grounded approach.
The ever-intuitive yet unlucky hero building a team of humiliated cops has always been a dependable conceit for screenwriters looking to ground a seemingly normal crime story within the confines of a genre entertainer, and it is no different in Anweshippin Kandethum.
The choice to approach the mystery through the lenses of multiple characters should ideally lend itself to exploration of diverse characters even if it follows the familiar beats of a whodunnit. This film, however, is more interested in the broader strokes and as a result, none of the main characters register as breathing, living human beings, but double up as ciphers in a broken system that foregrounds hair-brained legal concepts over logic and reasoning.
The mainstays of the subgenre genre are not upended in any major way as the film is faithful to the way the fixtures of murder mysteries are explored in the backdrop of an ensemble character drama. Jinu Abraham carefully sets up the wider stakes of the crime and the missing case with a few well-written exchanges that set the story in motion.
The film kicks off with a deceptively simple setup dating back to the late 80’s and a missing case of a teenage girl that escalates into a religious issue threatening to diverge the case. Director Darwin Kuriakose finds interesting visual choices to bring the mundane facets of the procedural work alive on screen.
The score by Santhosh Narayanan is almost treated as an omnipresent threat that looms over scenes with an overtly deafening impact at places. The camerawork by Gautham Shankar, on the other hand, manages to invoke the period look through ample use of natural light and shadow effects that punctuate the film's kinetic visual energy with a sense of grounded retro look.
Tovino Thomas is largely understated as a one-note protagonist, who is largely an opaque device meant to drive the plot forward. The actor finds novel ways to make it rise above the surface-level tension in the screenplay. However, there is nothing much going on here below the surface and it is Baburaj and Pramod Velliyanad who function as the brief comic relief in an otherwise self-serious film.
The second half follows a redemptive journey that is tonally different from the former half and the film transforms into a separate episode following a different missing case. There are no echoes or parallels drawn in the way the two missing cases except for the unfortunate ways the team of cops end up solving the cases.
Anweshipin Kandathum is the cinematic equivalent of a pulpy crime novel, the kind of engrossing fiction that usually forms the unsaid backstories of the heroes of more accomplished crime procedurals of the ilk. Nuance and character writing are sacrificed at the altar of a genuinely interesting core idea in this lowkey film that never aims to break new grounds but is content with creating moments that stick for some time in our memory but ultimately fade away not amounting to much.