Director: Swapnesh K Nair
Cast: Tovino Thomas, Samyuktha Menon, Shalu Rahim
There was one adjective I could hear repeatedly as the audience spoke amongst themselves during the interval of Swapnesh K Nair’s Edakkad Battalion 06, and that word was cliched. This Tovino Thomas-starrer is particularly strange in the way one has to sit through elaborate scene setups multiple times only to notice the shoulders shrug midway as you whisper “Is that it?” to yourself. As these scenes play out, it’s like you can read the film’s screenplay, including the sidenotes the director must have made but forgot to fix during the film’s shoot. <Insert Tovino’s rousing speech about the Indian Army here> one of these notes must have read. <Insert emotional dialogue about a father and his wayward son> possibly said another. The dialogues in these situations should never have made it beyond the first draft.
The plot doesn’t help the film’s case either. Even if you’re trying to oversell this film, it never goes beyond “the incidents that occur in an army officer’s life as he comes home for a holiday”. I know what you’re thinking. Doesn’t that sound a lot like AR Murugadoss’s Thuppaki? But if the Vijay-starrer battled sleeper cells, the Tovino film’s main enemy is sleep…that of the audiences.
It’s impossible to look beyond the film’s dullness. The second you notice the setup for a scene, you not only sense what’s happening but you’re also able to foresee what’s going to happen in the scenes that follow. To be fair, you can still make an “uneventful” film engaging through mood, texture, detailing, performances and the characters, like we saw recently in Thaneermathan Dinangal. But there’s none of that in Edakkad Battalion. In fact, Tovino’s character is so one-dimensional and perfect that if he were to wear a crumpled shirt, it would automatically get ironed.
As the film progresses, it gets even more sluggish, and you realise how a more able director could have finished saying the same story in half the time. Conflicts feel like anthills and the film has a way of looking at its antagonists merely as a group of “freakans”, never backing them with any kind of writing or depth. The heroine too gets no role apart being a part of the most cliched Muslim marriage song ever, which is then followed up with the most cliched Ladakh song ever. The supporting cast too behaves more like caricatures than people.
Yet what’s most surprising is that a group of people behind this film must have thought that the one thing that was lacking in Malayalam cinema were stories about the Indian Army and Army officers. The makers must have thought that in Swapnesh, they had found a director who could tell a story of patriotism, albeit within the limitations of a small family drama. In other words, the makers must have thought that they’d discovered their own ‘Minor Ravi’.