Purusha Pretham Movie Review: Gritty procedural with an even blend of the comic and morbid
Despite its experimental nature, Purusha Pretham, too, boasts an 'epic' scale in that Krishand populates his frames with multiple characters, each with their distinct quirks
"Living and the dead have become unpredictable now," says a character in Purusha Pretham (Male Ghost). In Aavasavyuham, it was a living being that caused much chaos. In Purusha Pretham, it's a dead body that does it. In his new feature streaming on SonyLIV, Krishand portrays a group of characters trapped in perpetual anxiety. This, of course, gives rise to some absurd situations like in Aavasavyuham; this time, though, Krishand's treatment of the material is notably different from that film even though both share similar visual styles. It's a strange beast and takes a while to get used to. Given the title, which is police parlance for a male corpse, and how the entire film pivots around one incident, the discovery of an unidentified cadaver, brace yourself for a fairly long but understandable preoccupation with the morbid. Naturally, it's not an ideal film to watch in the morning -- or when feeling under the weather.
Cast: Prashanth Alexander, Darshana Rajendran, Jagadish, Devaki Rajendran, Jeo Baby
There are places where one feels the conversations are not that engrossing and needlessly elongated. But fret not. Krishand keeps it easy by extracting humour out of the most mundane conversations. There is a whole gag involving the police serving lemonade to guests and each other. Another has a superior conducting an orientation session where all the juniors ask questions just to appear 'studious'. I cracked up at the scene where a query about Vitamin D deficiency gets a cop transferred to traffic, hoping he will get "enough sunshine."
A notable aspect of Krishand's work is that people don't react as how you expect them to. The same goes for Purusha Pretham. For instance, a suspect's mother tells Sebastien to "teach him a lesson" instead of getting dramatic and pleading with him to let her son go. Krishand's brand of humour manifests itself in inventive ways this time around. It's not always loud or escapist. Take the situation where a group of cops hope the corpse floated to the other side as the opposite would mean their jurisdiction. It's a job that, given a chance, they would rather avoid, but strangely enough, some cops think dealing with the stink of corpses is better than being out in the city doing something more complicated like, say, a lathi charge.
The film opens and closes with the same shot: a scene from a television serial featuring a policeman (Zhinz Shan from Aavasavyuham) moonlighting as an actor. Of course, he is playing a different character in both. He is the other character from Purusha Pretham who imagines himself in a movie, but at least he gets to act in something, unlike Sebastien. He will get anxious too, but it's more to do with his acting career than his position in the police force. One heated conversation with Sebastien has him berating the latter for losing his beard. "My fans are upset over my lost beard!" he cries. One would think that Sebastien and his serial actor superior joined the police force after watching too many movies.
Despite its experimental nature, Purusha Pretham, too, boasts an 'epic' scale in that Krishand populates his frames with multiple characters, each with their distinct quirks. Rahul Rajagopal, the leading man from Aavasavyuham, shows up now and then as a fellow police officer. And so does actor-filmmaker Jeo Baby (The Great Indian Kitchen), who gets one of the film's funniest roles, as one of Sebastien's superiors, with a remarkable flair for sarcasm. Much intrigue is conjured by a subplot involving Darshana Rajendran's Susanna, her missing husband, her brother, and her involved lawyer (James Eliya). It's hard to get a read on Susanna, and Darshana tunes her demeanour in a way that upholds the mystery of her arc right to the end. Susanna is essentially Krishand's spin on the femme fatale, a staple of most noir fiction.
Jagadish makes a strong presence as a clumsy, frustrated policeman who creates enough mess to make everyone, including Sebastien's, head spin. If all that's not enough, Sebastien is dealing with his sick mother, who happens to be unbearably foul-mouthed. The unmarried Sebastien also juggles a clandestine relationship with a woman (Devaki Rajendran), bringing along a whole different set of complications. Making matters worse is the inability to find the people capable of carrying out the exhuming process, and -- what if someone forgets the original burial position? Meanwhile, Sebastien is staunchly convinced that the corpse is not Susanna's husband, and the rest of the film tries to ascertain whether his assumption is correct or not.
For most of the film, Prashanth Alexander moves around as though he is waiting for his big Suresh Gopi moment from a Shaji Kailas cop movie to happen. (Sebastien's ringtone is the theme from Shaji Kailas' Commissioner.) But here's the conundrum: he is inside a Krishand movie. So the only thing he can do is make do with what he has got. He has to imagine himself in extraordinary circumstances -- that is, make up grandiose versions of his ordinary escapades -- because he is often rendered impotent by the gravity of the situations he is thrust into. It's easily Prashanth's finest role, much-deserved for an actor often relegated to supporting characters. As a vulnerable character trying to take at least some semblance of control over an infuriating life, Sebastien is so well-etched -- body language, mannerisms, dialogue delivery -- that I forgot that this is not the first time he is playing a flawed cop.