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Review Tamil

Penguin review: Keerthy Suresh is masterly in a film that promised much more

Release Date: 28 Oct 2020 / 02hr 12min

Cinestaan Rating

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Keyur Seta

The mystery thriller has a very good build-up and you are sucked into the narrative from the word go.

It is imperative for a mystery suspense thriller to get you involved during the build-up so that you look forward to the culmination of the tale. Eashwar Karthic’s Penguin does that pretty well. The very first scene of a man with a Charlie Chaplin mask emerging from behind the statue of an angel along with a little boy sucks you into the narrative.

This story is about Rhythm aka Ritu (Keerthy Suresh), who lives a rich lifestyle in picturesque Kodaikanal, a hill station in Tamil Nadu. She is pregnant and has been told to take extra care since she regularly gets disturbing dreams. The visuals she sees are related to her past.

When Rhythm was married to Raghu (Linga), she had had a baby boy whom they had named Ajay aka Ajju. A few years later, the toddler went missing. Rhythm and Raghu searched for him frantically but to no avail. The cops believe Ajay was kidnapped and killed, but Rhythm doesn’t buy the theory.

After six long years, Ajay suddenly returns. Rhythm is relieved to see him. However, he refuses to speak a word. Who had kidnapped Ajay and held him for six years? How did he return suddenly? More importantly, what was the culprit's motive?

This story isn’t narrated in a linear way. The screenplay smartly uses flashbacks and a non-linear style of narration. We get to know certain story developments that are surprising but are presented in a subtle manner without a hue and cry. The revelation about the father of Rhythm’s second child is a shining example. What works more for the film is that it is high on emotional quotient as well.

Chilly hill stations provide a perfect setting for scary thrillers. Cinematographer Kharthik Phalani makes brilliant use of the visuals of Kodaikanal, especially the mist and fog. That’s not all. The film has plenty of shots, both indoors and outdoors, where you are compelled to applaud his camerawork.

It would be an understatement to say that Keerthy Suresh’s performance also plays a role in keeping the mystery alive. She does much more than that. She turns the challenges of this complicated character into opportunities. Right from being scared and vulnerable to appearing tough, she gets it right.

It must have been tough for Master Advaith to play such a psychologically challenged character while keeping a straight face at his age. But he matches Keerthy’s act and that is some achievement. Mathi as Dr David is also impressive despite the limited screen time.

Despite all these pluses, Penguin falters in the last half hour or so. The most crucial part in a film of this genre is to fit in the pieces of the puzzle, but that is where the film stumbles.

Though the identity of the culprit comes as a surprise, the reason given for committing such a complicated and downright weird crime is lame. The ending moments also ensure that a few important questions remain unanswered. The protagonist’s reason for acting in a certain way in the penultimate moments also poses a few questions.

Penguin is one of those films where you desperately hope for it to work out well since the build-up was so impressive. But why the film faltered in the end may remain a mystery.

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