“‘Oru Kuprasidha Payyan’ is a movie with a special heart and a unique sense of integrity, but to say this film accomplishes in the cinematic sense anything beyond the reinvention of overused conventions is to be disingenuous. From a movie goer’s stand point, I guess the best thing about this largely predictable and featureless fare is that it is the best of a bad bunch of potboilers running at the cinemas right now”.
Kuprasidha Payyan isn’t a movie that deftly switches between the murky terrain of melodrama and gritty realism with ease. It invests an inordinate amount of time establishing the characters of Ajayan (Tovino) and Hanna (Nimisha). We learn that Ajayan has the demeanor and grit of Varunni with the charms of Tovino to boot. The opening scene shows Ajayan throwing himself into a rough tussle with a bull on the loose. The next scene perhaps sums up Ajayan’s existence: people taunt him about his recent humiliation at the hands of a love interest, instead of acknowledging lifesaving exploits with the bull. Story takes place in a rustic Vaikom and revolves around Vaikom. Ajayan (Tovino) is a timid orphan who is on trial for the murder of Ammala, arguably the only person who has ever cared for him.
Several months have elapsed since police started investigation. Following public protest, an apparently inept local police are replaced with crime branch which as we learn later are not much of an upgrade. I felt the film made it abundantly clear that it was concerned not with finding the killer but with establishing the innocence of Ajayan. Hanna, public defender for Ajayan, is someone seemingly fighting a losing battle of her own in a male dominated profession. Hannah starts doubting her abilities to defend the accused, as she gets used to the prospect of meeting head on a brute of a senior lawyer in Nedumudi Venu. There are sequences dropping hints of her traumatic relation with the senior lawyer, details of which are never revealed. I felt the film used the mounting but one-sided tension between the characters to great effect.
Story clearly carries distinct strands of complex themes, each of which required an elaborate, if not comprehensive, treatment of its own to establish its seriousness to the viewers. From the ostracized powerless to the murky workings of police system to breaking of Glass ceiling and workplace bullying, there’s a lot going on underneath the surface of procedural. Now, the presence of deeply humane themes alone does not make a film worth your appreciation. I’m not sure if the film is based on an original screenplay or a novel/short story, but director, Madhupal admirably takes a nuanced approach to showing the internal conflicts of characters by focusing on the slightest of changes in their body language. But not long after the courtroom proceeding were underway, I saw all subtleties being replaced with cheesy retorts and platitudes designed to please the crowd. But then that’s not unusual considering how while operating on commercial domain, filmmakers with strong artistic convictions may be forced to water down their craft for mainstream validation.
Barring the implausible court proceedings and unformed twists, of which I won’t write much, on the surface it plays out like your run of the mill courtroom drama. I’m no authority on matters of court, and I wish to draw no parallels, but I’ve seen too many courtroom classics to be convinced by the swift manner in which the young lawyer gets to the bottom of the case. Maybe the writer wanted to point out how the helplessness of the accused in a system allows the authorities to take some extra liberties, meaning that they can botch a cover up and still get away with it because nobody’s going to make a case for the scum of the earth. Of course that sounds more like a personal opinion than an argument. But then I’m not writing a top to bottom doylesque critique of each and every narrative flaw in the movie; a review of that nature should be reserved for a time when everyone has watched the film.
What I found really frustrating was the murdered woman’s sketchy characterization which basically left me incapable of connecting with plot development. Even with regard to the explanation for characters’ motivations, I had to rely on second-hand information. I suppose some of the details, as predictable as they were, had to be withheld on purpose to retain story’s unnecessary air of mystery. A case in point was Ajayan recounting his relationship with Chembammal to the police. Well, here’s my question: if the innocence of Ajayan is not shrouded in mystery at any point in the story (No Red herrings), why couldn’t it let us watch Chembammal narrate her story to him. Of the sundry other gripes I had with the narrative exposition, that bit is perhaps the only one I can write about here without giving too much of the story away.
Yes, it’s a movie with a special heart and a unique sense of integrity, but to say this film accomplishes in the cinematic sense anything beyond the reinvention of overused conventions is to be disingenuous. From a movie goer’s stand point, I guess the best thing about this largely predictable and featureless fare is that it is the best of a bad bunch of potboilers running at the cinemas right now.
PS It was not so much the Tovino vs Bull scene that captured my imagination as the AC/DC merchandise he sported.
Screenplay: Jeevan Job Thomas