The weekend is here and it has just gotten better! After two back to back blockbusters with Drishyam and Drishyam 2, the actor-director duo of Mohanlal and Jeethu Joseph are back with their new Malayalam film 12th Man. And there are so many things going in the film’s favour. Firstly, it is a Malayalam film and by now we all know how articulate and technically sound Malayalam films are. Secondly, it is directed by Jeethu Joseph who I believe is a master of constructing thrillers. And thirdly, it stars the stalwart Mohanlal who needs no introduction.
I remember watching its trailer last week and firstly it was the title of the film which caught my attention. 12th Man is truly an intriguing title. Secondly, the trailer was cut in such a manner that almost nothing was revealed in it. And that is something which the marketing team of Big Production Houses needs to learn and implement. Do not reveal any bit of the plot yet cut the trailer in a manner to build a world of intrigue and curiosity. Which is exactly what the trailer of 12th Man did. And with that I have finally finished watching the Malayalam film 12th Man, is it worth your time, stay tuned.
Story & Screenplay
12th Man follows a closed door murder mystery involving 12 people transpiring over the course of 24 hours. And if this one liner does not evoke any sense of curiosity then little things will! This is a classic murder mystery which is setup behind closed doors. I remember it was in school that we were given a task of building a perfect setup for a murder mystery. And given my limited knowledge of cinema even back then, I was applauded for my efforts. It is simple – you need to have multiple characters stranded in a remote location with a bit of the weather playing spoilsport until a person is bumped off.
And this is exactly what transpires. But therein lies the genius of Jeethu Joseph. If you are familiar with his filmography then there is considerable amount of buildup at the very beginning. And here, there are as many as 12 characters and so while you as an audience try to focus on their name(considering that this is a murder mystery) and their traits, the story begins to unfold. Once you are settled in, a chain of events unfold which make the film exciting and entertaining to watch leading up to the murder where everyone is a suspect.
From there on, the entire drama unfolds in a single room and it is here at the drama is cerebral and manages to hold your attention which was not easy at all. Closed door investigations are difficult to execute given their conversational nature. But here, everyone is a suspect wherein the drama is layered and each layer when peeled off reveals a totally different picture. So you are left guessing on who the murderer is and it is next to impossible to nail this one as everyone had a motive. And the final reveal is a good one too leading up to a satisfying final few minutes. The screenplay is water tight and manages to hold your attention.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational but you need to really pay attention to it. Any distraction and you may miss out on the smaller details. The music is devoid of any songs but the BGM scores especially in the second hour thereby successfully creating an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. The setup is outstanding. Director Jeethu Joseph is a master of setting up a world of mystery and throwing in twists and turns every now and then. And he is in top form here. This was a tricky genre to crack and he does an outstanding job here.
The performances are layered and well measured here. Anu Sithara as Merin is first rate and is Shivada Nair as Dr. Nayana who is top notch. Aditi Ravi as Aarathi has her moments to shine as does Chandunath as Jithesh. Rahul Madhav as Sam is excellent as is Anu Mohan as Siddhu who is equally brilliant. Priyanka Nair as Annie is outstanding particularly in the final 20 minutes. Saiju Kurup as Mathew is well restrained and his character will keep you guessing. Leona Lishoy as Fida looks pretty and again has a very layered character which she pulls off with aplomb. Anusree as Shiny is fantastic and her smaller nuances in her character stand out. Unni Mukundan as Zakariah again is well measured in his performance. But is Mohanlal as Chandrasekhara who shines in yet another towering act. The way he is able to control the proceedings in the second hour treading on a thin line is nothing short of sheer brilliance on his part.
12th Man is a brilliant nail biting murder mystery which comes with my highest recommendation. Available On Hotstar.