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Kooman Movie Review: Jeethu Joseph thrills us yet again; brings out the best in Asif Ali- Cinema express

Kooman Movie Review: Jeethu Joseph thrills us yet again; brings out the best in Asif Ali  

The third act of Kooman recalls recent headline-grabbing incidents in Kerala. Naturally, the film has a prophetic quality.

Published: 05th November 2022
Kooman Movie Review: Jeethu Joseph thrills us yet again; brings out the best in Asif Ali

For some of us, a tea shop is where we get our best ideas. In police constable Giri's (Asif Ali) case, it's like a portal that gives him the most crooked ideas. The first thing that will probably come to your mind after seeing this tea shop is that it looks eerily similar to the one in the Drishyam films. And like it did in those films, it's also a meeting place for people the protagonist can't stand -- the place of origin for everything that ails Giri. He likes to look more influential than his superiors but gets constantly reminded that he is a mere constable. 

Director: Jeethu Joseph

Cast: Asif Ali, Renji Panicker, Hannah Reji Koshy, Baburaj, Meganathan

When things cross the breaking point, he wants to teach his superiors a lesson. The shame and embarrassment compel him to become protege to a veteran robber (the ever-reliable Jaffer Idukki), who activates a switch that turns on Giri's second personality. Very soon, we see him sneaking in and out of houses at night -- occupied ones, mind you, because, as his guru taught him, there's no thrill in entering empty ones. And then something happens post-interval -- suffice to say it's the kind of material at which Jeethu Joseph is so good. Now combine his efforts with that of cinematographer Satheesh Kurup, composer Vishnu Shyam, and editor VS Vinayak, and you get an experience that makes you lean forward in anticipation.

The idea of a shady investigator is not new -- remember Al Pacino in Insomnia? Prithviraj in Mumbai Police? -- and, yet, Kooman manages to excite with a unique, psychology-obsessed story pivoting around a fascinating character in the form of Giri and a perfectly-cast Asif Ali playing him. It's unlike anything Jeethu Joseph has done before. However, it's closer to his 2013 film "Memories" in that it paints an almost vivid picture of its protagonist and his psychology. We are curious to know why Giri became this way. Was there a traumatic event in his childhood that caused such tendencies? Or is this something that happened recently? 

By the midpoint, we have a good guess, validated by Anoop Menon's psychiatric counsellor in a nicely done expository scene. And Asif rises to the challenge, supplying the oft-brooding Giri with the necessary edge, cynicism and mischievous streak. So whenever he goes through one of his ''episodes", we get a palpable sense of all the effects caused by adrenaline rushing into his body -- good or bad.

The entire investigation also provides an opportunity for Giri, who has yet to overcome his demons, to redeem himself. Moral support comes via Renji Panicker's recently retired superior, essentially doing what MG Soman did for Suresh Gopi in "Commissioner". Giri is the kind of policeman who would most likely get slapped by Bharatchandran. While watching the interactions between Asif and Renji, I imagined an alternate universe where MG Soman was offering 'therapy' sessions to a police constable in Bharatchandran's force when not telling the latter why he should control his temper. 

I also liked how self-aware the film is. In one instance, a character says, "All this sounds like a movie script," a reminder that you are watching something very cinematic and not one of those 'realistic' thrillers that you need to take way too seriously. It is, after all, a Jeethu Joseph film. Do you believe anything that happened in Drishyam or Drishyam 2 would happen in real life? I don't. 

The third act of Kooman recalls recent headline-grabbing incidents in Kerala. Naturally, the film has a prophetic quality considering it was scripted much before all of this. When we saw the news, we asked the same question that one or more characters echo in Kooman: "Do these things happen even in this day and age?" Apparently, it does.

I didn't care much for the final showdown, though, which feels like something we have already seen, probably in Indiana Jones films. Although the staging of the fight sequence is not exciting, everything preceding that moment conjures up a fair amount of dread and suspense. 

In screenwriter KR Krishnakumar's last collaboration with Jeethu Joseph, The 12th Man (also his debut writing effort), he managed to kickstart stimulating debates about human nature and its capacity for wrongdoing and withholding secrets, even from one's loved ones. Kooman, too, similarly exercises your brain. 

Considering what happens to Giri's career in the climax, I wish he would appear in the next Drishyam film. Wouldn't that be fun?

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