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1744 White Alto Movie Review: Senna Hegde's crime caper is moderately fulfilling- Cinema express

1744 White Alto Movie Review: Senna Hegde's crime caper is moderately fulfilling

1744 White Alto is vibrant in the Rajesh Madhavan-Anand Manmadhan portions or the cops' banter but lethargically paced in other places

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Published: 18th November 2022

The two thugs in 1744 White Alto -- the one who speaks, the other mute -- might evoke Coen Brothers' Fargo, but Senna Hegde's new film is not as vicious. It's not interested in showing all the violent details. There is a murder, but it happens offscreen. There is a climactic shootout, but we only see the aftermath. It doesn't shy away from spilling blood, but that's so rare. Like Senna's breakthrough film, Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam, White Alto was 'Made in Kanhangad' but doesn't "belong" to Kanhangad. Its sensibilities are miles apart from that of Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam. The only thing 1744 White Alto has in common with it is the mention of thinkalazhcha (Monday) because one of its characters, a superstitious Lord Shiva devotee, thinks it's a good day to make offerings at the temple. Thinkalazhcha nalla divasam. (That's the title of a Mammootty film, by the way.)

Director: Senna Hegde

Cast: Sharafudheen, Rajesh Madhavan, Anand Manmadhan, Vincy Aloshious

1744 White Alto is a dark comedy of errors in the vein of a Guy Ritchie or a Coen Bros movie, but as I said earlier, it's not as violent or as complicated as their work. The 'error' happens midway through the film when keys belonging to two identical-looking Maruti White Alto cars end up in one man's pocket. One of these keys belongs to the thugs -- Ebi and Kannan -- played by Rajesh Madhavan and Anand Manmadhan, two terrific actors who have been fetching more notice of late owing to their laudable script choices, such as Nna Thaan Case Kodu (Rajesh) and Attention Please (Anand). 

The only Fargo similarity is the detail that one of them is more talkative. (In the Coens' film, the other guy can talk, but only rarely.) The events in White Alto begin with them -- when the mute guy, Kannan, presses the trigger when someone calls him 'dumb'. His second prey is luckier; he only has to deal with Kannan's John Cena-style wrestling moves and a broken leg. Now it's up to Sharafudheen's cop Jojo to put together the missing pieces.

The film is most vibrant when focusing on the colourful banter between Ebi and Kannan or between the male cops assisting Jojo -- played by Sajin Cherukayil, Arun Kurian, Ranji Kankol, and Radhakrishnan. Sajin is the Shiva devotee who thinks he is the world's greatest detective; Arun plays the engineer-turned-cop who behaves like that superhero professor who can read your thoughts. And the other two guys have their own quirks and insecurities. Whenever these guys get together, the film is a riot.

Sometimes it could be a background dialogue that does it. Sometimes, it's the wordplay. ("Renji, m***ji.") Sometimes it's doing something ridiculous like crawling -- "like we used to do in the army" -- and Sharafudheen's comical response to it when they are on the way to apprehend a dangerous suspect at night. I also cracked up at the slowest car chase in cinema history (is it?). One amusing moment has Sajin describing the benefits of a diesel vehicle over a petrol one; another has him excited about the prospect of driving an Innova. 

Sometimes the humour comes from characters talking about things that have nothing to do with the main plot. The delivery is not deadpan or exaggerated, but there is a particular rhythm to how these guys behave, which occasionally recalls the energy of a Wes Anderson movie. They don't always make you laugh out loud, but we are amused nonetheless. In one instance, a fair amount of rib-tickling confusion happens courtesy of a name mix-up; in another, a clown costume offers a possibility of irony. The whole thing often feels like watching one of those old British comedy shows like Faulty Towers (or something in that vein) but without the sound of applause. We also get an inventive tribute to the original Home Alone

However, the film becomes gripped by lethargy whenever it trains its lens on Jojo's family issues or on Nawas Vallikkunnu's Vijayan -- who becomes indirectly connected to Ebi and Kannan -- or his annoying sister-in-law. There is, however, a clever writing choice with regard to the latter -- the idea of his sister-in-law doing all the chastising -- who repeats the same later -- instead of his wife. Some scenes, like when Jojo engages in idle chatter with a barman, felt unnecessary. These are speed-breakers that nearly threaten to take you out of the film. Some punchlines are ruined by adding music. Speaking of which, the soundtrack didn't enhance the narrative except for the score that informs the mood.

Cinematographer Sreeraj Ravindran, who also shot Thinkalazhcha Nishchayam, makes his love for wide shots evident again in White Alto. He treats the terrain of Kanhagad as though it belonged in a Western and utilises the striking colour contrasts of the land and sky to stunning effect.

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