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Unriddling Salute with screenwriter Sanjay- Cinema express

Unriddling Salute: Interview with screenwriter Sanjay

In this spoiler-filled discussion, the co-writer of the Dulquer Salmaan-starrer explains some of the film's narrative choices that baffled a section of viewers

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Published: 11th April 2022
Dulquer Salmaan in Salute, Sanjay

The fans of director Rosshan Andrrews and writers Bobby and Sanjay expected Salute -- streaming now on SonyLIV -- to create the same sensation as their acclaimed previous investigative outing, Mumbai Police. However, that was not the case. While some found it a satisfying experience, others bemoaned the lack of clarity in a few narrative choices and the lacklustre execution. Be that as it may, it must be said that when a film can trigger interesting discussions, it wouldn't be fair to dismiss it outright. So we thought it wise to wait for a while after the film's release before engaging in any spoiler-filled discussion with one of the brains behind it, Sanjay, who was gracious enough to clarify some of the baffling doubts that most viewers had.

Excerpts:

'Charting Aravind's moral journey was more important'

If you were disappointed at not seeing the villain's face, Sanjay shares that this revelation was not part of the plan. "It becomes irrelevant in the face of what really matters: Aravind Karunakaran's moral journey, the spaces he goes through and the people he encounters. We didn't think peripheral emotions had a place there," he adds. "When it comes to morality, we wanted to go beyond individuals and other things. Aravind's moral victory and doing the right thing took precedence over the bad guy's identity. He is like the biblical figure Moses, who grew up in a palace with all the comforts, but later flees from them because he becomes uncomfortable. When he is on his sabbatical, he becomes compelled to go back to where he came from because the case bothers him. Aravind's moral journey was imagined with three phases -- comfort, sabbatical, and return.

'Diya gives Aravind a wake-up call'

If anyone wondered if Diana Penty had anything much to do in the film as Aravind's girlfriend Diya, Sanjay has an explanation for that too. "Aravind happens to be a man leading a very unconventional life, which, among other things, is evident from his live-in relationship with his girlfriend. Yes, Aravind is the whistleblower here, but his girlfriend gives him a wake-up call. When he fights those harassers, she reminds him that he is not a cop anymore. He rejoins the force that very night. You see, without Diya, there is no story. She becomes the catalyst for his return. I've seen some people question the logic of a cop rejoining suddenly. Well, it's not actually sudden. The process had begun already. That decision happens to be the culmination."

'Ajith Karunakaran is more like a father figure'

Why does Aravind Karunakaran admire his elder brother Ajith so much? Why does the latter start acting like a comical character after a point? Well, Sanjay has answers for that too. "We didn't want to be loud with our depiction of their bonding. That scene where they buy a car conveys a lot about their relationship. Besides, if you have noticed their body language, it's more like Ajith is a father figure to Aravid than an elder brother. Also, if you take the example of a real-life father-son relationship, it's not always possible to pinpoint the exact reason for the admiration. It's all about the little nuances. As for the comical behaviour of Ajith, it's the fear of his transgressions coming out in the open that makes him behave that way. He becomes pathetic. Fear can take people to any extent. I mean, his daughter is about to get married, and he can't imagine the embarrassment it would cause."

The case of the duped woman

A section of viewers also questioned the relevance of the heartbroken woman complaining about a man who duped her. "You'll see that this film cannot be told without her. The woman talks about a man named Deepak Menon, working in the KSEB, duping her and building a house with the money he took from her. That's when Aravind gets a call about Chandran Pillai being in Kollam. Aravind then asks his superior officer permission to go to Kollam, but he doesn't get it. When he is in front of the women's commission, Aravind's subordinate tells him that the number that called the aforementioned woman doesn't belong to Deepak Menon from Thrissur, but one Danny from Kollam. Aravind thinks this is a good chance for him to go to Kollam."

Elaborating further, Sanjay adds, "While Aravind's fellow officers search for Danny, he ends up at Sudheer Karamana's place assuming that he is Chandran Pillai. But he is told by another officer that he is not Chandran Pillai. Then Aravind, feeling helpless, decides to find the man who had called this woman. That man tells him the phone is not his -- it belonged to a man from the secretariat named Reji Zachariah. The team, when they further investigate the woman's case, is told by Reji that another man is doing everything under his identity, following which Aravind is directed to an island. Once there, they notice a house -- which they remember the woman telling them about -- and Aravind realises that the man he is looking for and the person who duped Reji Zachariah and the woman is the same person."

'OTT release is liberating'

Salute is among the most un-Dulquer of the actor's films, meaning it was devoid of the prerequisite cinematic elements that usually accompany even the most unconventional Dulquer film (remember Kammattipadam?). Sanjay, Bobby, Rosshan, and Dulquer were on the same page about taking a subtle approach. It's one of the reasons why they decided to release it on an OTT platform -- a unanimous decision, he adds. "We did consider a theatrical release initially, but then the pandemic reared its ugly head again, and we had to put that plan on hold. But, when we later thought about it, we felt that the OTT way would be better. An OTT release is liberating because we can appreciate the film on our own rhythm. We were not interested in spoonfeeding, melodrama or clear resolutions."

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