Director: Darwin Kuriakose
Writer: Jinu Abraham
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Siddique, Indrans, Jaffer Idukki, Pramod Velliyanad
Available in: Theatres
Runtime: 145 minutes
Darwin Kuriakose’s Anweshippin Kandethum is a film that stays intensely true to its title throughout. “If you seek something, you will find it,” is the literal meaning of the title and fittingly, the sub-2-hour-30-minute narrative remains resolutely focused on what it “seeks”. The debutant filmmaker borrows Jinu V. Abraham’s assiduous script and lends it a moody, edgy touch that elevates a regular police procedural into something more memorable. And in all likelihood, that is exactly what the film is in pursuit of - to do away with the frills and the redundant ruminations of the modern-day murder mystery and offer a film that is engaging and tantalising at the same time. Say what you may of the final output, but Anweshippin Kandethum deserves a thumbs up just for the sheer clarity that its makers exude.
The year is 1994 and Anand Narayanan (Tovino Thomas) is a cop under suspension. We meet him for the first time at a juncture where his eyes are shallow with dejection and his shoulders have dropped with fatigue. It doesn't require much to surmise that whatever he has been suspended for, he hasn’t done it. And even if he has, he probably has a reason for it. The title credits that follow suit confirm our suspicions. We go back slightly in time and switch the setting to the bucolic town/suburb of Chingavanam in Kottayam. A college girl has been reported missing by her father and the sub Inspector in charge, Anand, is young, upright and raring to take a crack at it.
Darwin Kuriakose invokes a True Detective kind of visual grammar (if you will) here and soon transports us to the crammy yet picturesque lanes of Chingavanam. There’s something very beguiling about the way the debutant filmmaker functions here and it is hard to pinpoint what exactly about his ‘style’ works the most. The best bet would be on the economy of his craft. Not a single shot (Gautham Sankar's superb cinematography) is of the sweeping kind to establish what the town is like, nor does he dedicate a bystander/character to tell us what this town is about. Yet, you have soaked up all of it - the melancholia of the place (accentuated further by Santhosh Narayanan's excellent score), how a case of someone gone missing has thrown almost everybody off and how the simmering communal tension rises to the surface with minimal provocation. Everything moves briskly, as though trying to keep pace with the SI who has the gift of the hunch. But fascinatingly, he isn’t one of those otherworldly geniuses who are just somehow (annoyingly) always ahead of the game. Nor does he boast those existential quests whose answers are to be only found by solving the case - and Tovino Thomas puts on a great show despite all the “limitations”.
Instead, our guy here is the viewpoint with which the narrative forays into the case and beat by beat, unravels itself. Anand Narayanan doesn’t fiddle much and isn’t the most enterprising (in the cinematic sense) protagonist either, except that he wants to find the young girl more than anyone else. Perhaps more than her father himself. However, he is disparaged by his seniors at this point who want none of the communal stress coming their way, do not wish for his new kid to hog up the limelight either and soon enough, Anand is relegated to picking up biryani for them. This is an interesting ‘crossroads’ point in the film, I thought, wherein we are likely to get a sequence or two (at the least) to understand the thoughts of this now-downcast young police officer. On the contrary, the film only maintains its impetus and does not let go of the reins until it really has to. Anand’s wits are on full display and the man impressively traces his instincts to get to the bottom of the case. And before you know it, we are at the interval.
What happens a few minutes prior to the interval is, of course, pertinent to the narrative and without divulging much, let’s just say things don’t pan out well for Anand and his three other men. The whole suspension angle becomes relevant here and knowing just how good he is at the job, we seek a new redeeming opportunity for him just as much as he does. Right on cue, lands a cold case that the team of four could pick up and regain some of that lost pride. As far as narrative development goes, this whole contrivance comes as a bit of a masterstroke because of multiple reasons; for starters, we know just how exciting things were pre-interval and another stiff dose of mystery would simply be perfect. More importantly, who doesn’t love a gripping cold case? With a sleight of hand, we are then transported to Cheruvally, a similar town that is idyllic for appearances, but is actually doused in tragedy which occurred about six years ago. The Lovely Mathan missing case has now made way for the Sreedevi Murder case.
Darwin Kuriakose and Jinu Abraham do not take much time to lower us into this new belly of drama. A plethora of characters, a slew of this-happened-that-happened conversations and more come to the fore but none of this feels overwhelming because the intrigue has sustained all along. Except the stakes have been raised considerably and our expectations, too, are greater than before. So much so that what’s eventually delivered doesn’t fully satiate those cravings. The new case is as gripping as a mystery could get but something about the way this chapter unfolds lacks the high that we were left with at the cusp of the interval block. It could be a combination of factors - from the simplistic, almost Feluda-like solutioning to the verbose nature of storytelling - but the second half of Anweshippin Kandethum doesn’t fully live up to the hype it had set for itself.
Would that mean the film is a tale of two distinct halves? No, not at all. The concern, though, arises with the approach that the writer and the director take as they come off a little unwilling to “up the ante”. Despite all the fun and adventure, it starts to feel like Anweshippin Kandethum is dangling in a tentative position as it refrains from being neither a full-blown docu./investigation drama, nor a deep character study. It has all the scope to head in the direction of the latter but even when you welcome the decision to not do so, the eventual outcome isn’t as, for the lack of a better term, thrilling as before. The climax or the resolution, too, seems a little convenient and that Feluda reference — of the story now belonging to a different era of suspense-writing — becomes more apparent at this point.
Still, Anweshippin Kandethum is a solid thriller that’s worth our time. No doubt that the essence or crux of this film has been found and felt in multiple other outings of this (now-done-to-death) genre but Darwin Kuriakose’s gaze is a distinct one. Not only does he imbue his world with a lot of uncertainty and anticipation, but he does the job with a lot of originality. Aside from the exquisite camera work, colour grading, background score, etc. Saiju Sreedharan’s editing is another great contributor to the overall experience - and that’s exactly where the film scores the highest, on the merit of some superb technicians who know how to take a regular to a whole new level. Alongside, it's a film that relies largely on its splendid ensemble cast led by an in-form Tovino Thomas and makes everything work because they are all just so good.
Watch Official Trailer of Anweshippin Kandethum