Onto the next release of the weekend and I have finished watching the new Malayalam film Kannur Squad starring Mammootty which is now available in a theatre near you. There is a certain sense of quality that is associated with Mammootty and his films wherein he has been dabbling with different genres as opposed to opting for bare minimun fan service much unlike his peers. And that is what has made him a frontrunner of sorts. If an actor is willing to completely surrender to the creativity of the maker then more often than not, the film would turn out to be special. Another thing that Mammootty has done is that he has collaborated with young filmmakers and that has transpired into a whole new level of freshness in his filmography in recent times.
The Malayalam film industry has blown hot and cold in 2023 which is very unlike them. The shift in the trend has been towards the feel good genre as opposed to event films. Yet, every now and then a film from the industry has come out of nowhere to eventually emerge on top. If it was RDX on Onam, the buzz around Kannur Squad has been positive as well. This is particularly good news even for Mammootty who was coming on the back of a massive flop in the form of Christopher. With all the buzz around me, I ventured into Kannur Squad with a lot of hope and excitement(I just about managed to get tickets for it). So then is Kannur Squad worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Based on true events, Kannur Squad follows the story of members of the Kerala Police who investigate the murder of an influencial person by chasing the culprits across the country. The premise of the story isn’t novel even to the Malayalam Film Industry who had previously produced Kuttavum Shikshayum that had a similar premise which was also previously made in Tamil titled ‘Theeran’. And my little skepticism with the film did lie with exactly this aspect on whether this is the same story which is retold. But all my fears were evaporated with this splendid story which may have a similar skeleton to it but is told with a lot of flair. The screenplay standing at about 160 minutes does make for an engaging watch from start to finish while dabbling with some of the common curveballs of the story from this genre. It is compelling and absolutely riveting in its approach.
And what is the drama without the perfect world building and character development in a Malayalam Film?? I can say this with a lot of pride that it is only the Malayalam Film Imdustry which has been consistent with its world building and character development even in films that may not have quite been appealing. That is the case here as well, wherein the makers get the setting spot on from the word go. The dense jungles at what seemed like a Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, did add a layer on intrigue straight away to the proceedings. You are slowly introduced to the protagonist in grand fashion as he and his team members look to nab the culprits. At this point, we do not know much about what the case is. As it turns out, this event is being narrated to a reporter, on how the investigation transpired followed by the ‘Kannur Squad’ nabbing the culprits. This 20 odd minute sequence sets the ball rolling perfectly for the events to follow.
The proceedings are engrossing and riveting once the main case is assigned to the team who has been disbandoned due to friction between its team members. So the writers here add another layer to the events by introducing the character dynamics between the members of the team as they stand. Another layer added is adding a time limit of 10 days to crack the case. This was really a good move given that it added to the overall urgency of the drama. And once the investigation begins, each piece of the jigsaw begin to fit in slowly, this while the viewers are also introduced to the antagonist of the film.
While the first hour might seem like just a buildup of sorts, the second hour was perhaps one of the most riveting halves of the year with the action spreading across the country owing to the manhunt. The portions of investigation transpiring first in Mumbai and later in Uttar Pradesh did add a freshness to the tale while continuing to be rooted in reality(with mild creative liberties). The entire sequence that transpires at the village was one of the most nail-biting and tense sequences that I have watched this year. There was tension in the air which was sliced with acts of violence resulting in a riveting watch!
Along the way, the plight of the cops are also tapped upon almost as an undercurrent. But the difference between Kuttavum Shikshayum and Kannur Squad was in its approach wherein the former was more of a docu-style approach of cracking the case while the other was relatively in the commercial space. And both worked for me! The events leading up to the final act are interesting with a few twists and turns along the way wherein you feel that the team may have hit a dead-end, only to emerge out of it. The final act was fan service from Mammootty and a tad underwhelming but taking nothing away from the compelling journey that the writers take you on. Overall, the writing is brilliant and made for a wonderful watch.
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are well written while being short and crisp that do leave an impact. There are no monologues that would disrupt the flow of the drama. The music is good but it is once again the BGM by Sushin Shyam that stands tall. Each of the action set-pieces and the entries are met with pulsating background scores that had me grooving and foot-tapping every single time. The cinematography is outstanding as well, capturing some wonderful frames while also building on the intriguing ambience of the drama. The action set-pieces comprise of slow-motion sequences but the makers do well in timing the slow-motion sequences to perfection. The editing is sharp and crisp right throughout. Director Roby Varghese Raj does a tremendous job in his debut outing by always keeping the story moving. Right from the world-building and characterization to creating tense moments of intrigue, he excels and how! The direction was top notch here particularly in the riveting second hour where the urgency was at its peak.
The performances are outstanding by the ensemble cast. Kishoreas Cholan is brilliant to watch with his mannerisms and body language. Deepak Parambol as Riyas has his moments to shine and he is terrific, as are Shebin Benson as Ramzan and Sarath Sabha as Vinod despite a limited screentime. Manohar Pandey is outstanding particularly in that entire village sequence. Resh Lamba is supremely impressive as Hathoda in a wonderful job done overall. Shabareesh Varma as Shafi had a nice little character to portray and he was splendid to watch. Azees Nedumangad as Jose showcases his vulnerability with respect to one team member perfectly in a stellar job done. Rony David Raj as Jayan is brilliant to the core as the cop who was caught taking a bribe for the first time. His insecurities and uncertainties are brilliantly put to test in his wonderful performance. Arjun Radhakrishnan as Ameer is menacing and suave while being a perfect nemesis for the protagonist.
But this is an out and out Mammootty show who is aging like fine wine. There is a certain aura around him which is so likable that you can’t help but notice him onscreen. As George, he has a commanding presence and emotes with an inherent charm while also excelling in combat sequences. The man is 72, let that sink in again! Another towering act by a wonderful actor!
Kannur Squad is a riveting police procedural drama with stunning performances that comes with my highest recommendation. Available in a theatre near you and Highly Recommended.