Investigative thrillers in Malayalam films usually follow a pattern. The larger than life hero, overacting and mostly overdressed villains, namesake heroines, bombastic dialogues, jump cuts, dizzying angles and ear-splitting background score. The mystery mostly gets lost amid the entire din and everything is about glorifying the hero.
Anjaam Pathira makes a delightful detour from the usual tropes. Though there are a few issues, the film as a whole makes for an engaging thriller. The film begins with psychologist Anwar Hussain (Kunchacko Boban) visiting a serial killer Ripper Ravi (Indrans) who is on death row. Anwar is trying to become a criminologist with the police, and he is supported by senior officer Anil (Jinu Joseph).
Anwar Hussain is brought into the fold after a police officer’s body is found with his eyes and heart removed. DSP Catherine (Unnimaya Prasad) leads the investigation team. Though Anwar has an intuition that more policemen will be targeted, it is ignored by Anil. But Anwar is proved right as another policeman is abducted and his body found dumped at the police control room. The second time, they find a statue of the goddess of justice with her eyes open.
Anwar ropes in a talented hacker Andrews (Sreenath Bhasi) to help the police. With mounting pressure, DSP Catherine attempts to lure the killer by placing herself and other policemen as bait. The plan fails miserably, and her driver loses his life. This time, the killers send a chilling warning to Anwar by delivering the body to his home. With stakes getting higher and mounting pressure, the investigating team is at their wits’ end. They get a breakthrough with the fourth murder. Anwar links a fidget spinner found at the scene of crime with a psychotic killer, which turns out to be the best lead they have. But the city police chief replaces the team with a new one. The new team follows up the lead and finds the psychotic killer and his associate dead in an apparent murder-suicide. The police close the investigation, but Anwar is not convinced. His instincts tell him that this is not over, and he is proved right.
Director Midhun Manuel Thomas made a mark in the industry with his whacky cult comedy Aadu Oru Bheekara Jeeviyanu. Known for his comic films, Midhun’s foray into the thriller genre was seen with a bit of scepticism when the project was announced. The trailer showed promise and he has succeeded in delivering a decent thriller. Midhun managed to keep things taut for a major portion of the film but seemed to struggle to tie loose ends. The twist in the end felt forced and the sudden incursion of key characters towards the fag end dampened the otherwise competent thriller.
What makes Anjaam Pathira interesting is the importance given to the story and the supporting characters. Kunchacko’s lead character is not made to be a superman. Anwar looks, walks, talks and behaves like an ordinary man. The character’s intellect and skills of observation are brought out in an organic fashion. And Kunchacko plays it with the right amount of gravitas. The actor has found a sure footing in his second stint in the industry, balancing his youthful looks with mature performances.
The police officers are thankfully not portrayed as total nincompoops. Jinu Joseph’s character has the shades of the world-weary cop who grew through the ranks and is mostly apathetic. His performance gets interesting as the film progresses. Unnimaya Prasad has been a constant presence in the Malayalam industry for a few years now as an assistant director. This is her major acting role post Varaththan. She plays Catherine as a tough cop without being loud or crass. But her stone-faced expression gets monotonic and leaves much to be desired. Ramya Nambeeshan as Anwar’s wife Fathima is given a raw deal as her character is simply there for window dressing. Playing the goofball is Sreenath Bhasi’s forte and he delivers once again.
The stand-out performance in the film is from Indrans, playing the remorseless serial killer on death row with perfection despite minimal screen time. The ever-present grin and the glint in his eyes as Ripper Ravi spoke about his motivations reminded of class acts in the genre. Midhun could try and develop a film around this character.
Cinematographer Shyju Khalid keeps a grey overtone throughout, never letting the audience escape the seriousness of the film. Sushin Shyam’s background score is inspired from foreign noir films. It sets the mood but never overpowers the scenes.
As an ardent fan of investigative thrillers, I have more than a few gripes. That being said, Anjaam Pathira is still a compelling film that gets it right to a great extent.