‘Mridhu Bhave Dhrida Kruthye’. Soft in temperament, yet firm in action.
- motto of Kerala Police.
Khaki and the Malayalam film industry have a history. On the silver screen, that is. Bharathchandran IPS and Inspector Balram – immortalised by actors Suresh Gopi and Mammootty – are household names for any average Malayali.
But such larger-than-life portrayal of superheroes in uniform saw a tectonic shift with the release of Abrid Shine’s Nivin Pauly-starrer Action Hero Biju (2016), which showcased the trials and tribulations of an average policeman. It was a trendsetter of sorts, spawning a string of realistic investigative films involving humans in uniform, and staying true to the motto of Kerala Police. Films like Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Unda, Nayattu, Kuttavum Shikshayum have been a welcome change.
It is to this genre Roby Varghese Raj’s Kannur Squad belongs. But it was also the debutant filmmaker’s biggest challenge – to retain the novelty factor. The film is inspired by a real-life police team with the same name, put together by former Kannur SP Sreejith. Mammootty essays the role of ASI George Martin who leads the team of four – the others being Jayan (Rony David), Shafi (Shabareesh Varma) and Jose (Azeez Nedumangad) – which investigates a high-profile murder case, which takes them on a cat-and-mouse chase across the country.
The trailer had invoked comparisons with Rajeev Ravi’s Kuttavum Shikshayum, which had a similar storyline. One cannot deny the similarities, but the writers (one being the actor, Rony David) have ensured these are kept to a minimum. One may even be reminded of the Tamil flick Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru but it stands apart because of the treatment of the protagonist.
This is where Kannur Squad breaks free from the pack. The presence of a veteran like Mammootty at the forefront, takes the film a notch higher. While Kuttavum Shikshayum was too realistic (and, perhaps, flat) to digest for some, Kannur Squad has sequences – the fight scenes, in particular - which raise the tempo of the film every now and then. Sushin Shyam’s pulsating background score and music help, of course. There are shades of the brilliant Mammootty-starrer Unda in Kannur Squad but ASI George Martin is not SI Manikandan. With the latest flick, the legendary actor has continued his impressive run post the pandemic, which has seen gems like Nanpakal Nerathu Mayakkam, Puzhu, Rorschach and Bheeshma Parvam.
But it’s not a Mammootty show all the way. The next character of substance is easily CPO Jayan, which Rony has written for himself. He is temperamental, flawed but as real as any other man next door. The tension in the team because of him smoulders like a dying ember before bursting into flames at a crucial juncture in the film. Azeez and Shabareesh, too, have done complete justice to their characters. Another actor who deserves a special mention is Arjun Radhakrishnan. If Shyam in Dear Friend was a spark, Ameer in Kannur Squad is fire. Watch out for him.
There are hardly any female characters in the film, but it works in the film’s favour.
The script may seem cliched (and flawed) at times, but it succeeds in holding the viewer's attention. The portrayal of efforts in zeroing down on the criminals in Kannur Squad is mind-boggling. It is through such films a layman understands the struggles of the police to crack a case. Not every mission is a success, but they have to stay firm.
Film: Kannur Squad
Director: Roby Varghese Raj
Cast: Mammootty, Rony David, Azeez Nedumangad, Shabareesh Varma and others