Mumbai, 24 May 2019 20:00 IST
Madhupal's film is a layered study of an individual caught in a surreal tale of a legal mystery that rises to an equally emotional pitch.
Tovino Thomas's Ajayan in Madhupal's tragedy, Oru Kuprasidha Payyan, has shades of Albert Camus's The Stranger. Awkward, introverted and an orphan, he finds himself struggling to fit in with the world around him. Naturally, he becomes the most eligible to be framed as the murderer in an unsolvable case. Except that he maintains his innocence.
This captures the legal wrangle that Madhupal has based his film on. Set to simmer, the film takes its time to come to a boil in court, with each character offered enough exposure, each angle covered. The script by Jeevan Job Thomas is taut and layered enough to bring out the depth and dimensions of the case Ajayan is caught in.
The story is fairly simple. Ajayan, a loner, finds himself working in a hotel. His only close friend is Chembammal (Saranya Ponvannan) who makes idlis. Both loners form a maternal bond. Except when Chembammal is mysteriously killed, Ajayan becomes an easy scapegoat for the police to hang the blame on.
Madhupal shifts the perspective of the thriller from a whodunnit to the accused. The story focuses on Ajayan and his struggle to prove his innocence. He is helped through this by Hannah (Nimisha Sayjayan), cast perfectly. The actress plays a novice lawyer on her first criminal case with an earnestness and dedication that is impressive.
It is through Hannah that we examine the case in a different perspective. But the director does not portray her as a heroic saviour. She is nervous, fidgety, and unable to handle the pressure of her superior, advocate Santosh Narayanan (Nedumudi Venu). The interactions in the courtroom make for some intense and fascinating scenes.
Anu Sithara has a small role as Jalaja, Ajayan's love interest, but it is too small to make an impression.
At the heart of it all is Tovino Thomas. Playing the socially awkward, distant Ajayan, the actor is immediately arresting. The most emotional moments of the film are buoyed by the expressive nature of Thomas's acting.
Madhupal's slow-burning examination also offers an inside look into the flawed nature of India's legal system. A system where police officers are forced to conclude every case will always result in biased results. It is for these innocents that lawyers need to stand up. But with a hierarchy in place there as well, justice is often impeded.
In Oru Kuprasidha Payyan, Madhupal manages to tell the story of one such man caught in this trap.
Oru Kuprasidha Payyan will be screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre on Sunday 26 May 2019 at 2 pm.
Related topicsHabitat Film Festival
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