Big Brother review: A flat, frustratingly outdated affair
An unexciting family drama that has nothing new to offer
Big Brother is a film that has come out 20-25 years late — just like its main character Sachidananadan (Mohanlal), who is released from prison after serving a 24-year sentence for a double murder, one of which was accidental. There are some genuinely heartwarming stretches in the film's opening portions when Sachidanandan is trying to re-adjust to society and bond with his half-brothers Manu (Sarjano Khalid) and Vishnu (Anoop Menon). As a man suffering from the severe after-effects of the traumatic experience, Mohanlal does what he does best to draw our empathy. Sachidanandan is unable to sleep in his father's luxurious residence and is awkward around strangers. He embarrasses his relatives on more than one occasion by not shedding the habits he acquired in prison. The film manages to get a comical scene or two out of this situation.
Cast: Mohanlal, Mirna, Sarjano Khalid, Vishnu Unnikrishnan
But everything goes downhill from thereon. When a Keyser Soze-like figure named 'Edwin Moses' wreaks havoc on Sachidanandan's life by hurting those close to him, he comes up with a plan to make things right. Sachidanandan is a character who is made to look near-superhuman. He can see clearly in the dark — something he trained himself to do in prison — and this leads us to one surprising revelation early on.
All the following revelations, however, end up being damp squibs. The entire film is the equivalent of watching a magician promising to bring out a live bunny out of his hat and then giving you the toy version instead. But then, this film didn't come with high expectations in the first place. It delivers exactly what was promised in the promos.
The presence of cardboard villains is another factor that gives you a constant sense of deja vu. Everything you see in the film has been done before in different, much better films. We also get a ridiculous attempt to concoct a romance sub-plot when the leading lady falls in love with the hero just hours (or is it minutes?) after meeting him. This phenomenon is later explained by one of the characters as "Stockholm syndrome." But the odd thing about this explanation is that the girl wasn't even aware that she was being kidnapped. It makes one go, "Huh?"
And you can't really blame Mirna as she doesn't have much work to do here. It's the sort of thin characterisation often found in Telugu masala movies. At one point, she says "Yay!" and high-fives when she witnesses the hero beating up the goons. But one can't discount Mirna's efforts completely, because there is a hospital sequence (a possible nod to the hospital scene in The Godfather) where she displays genuine fear and concern. The problem is that every attempt by any of the actors to redeem themselves is undermined by whatever they did before in the film. This is why characters who maintained a quiet presence in the earlier scenes end up looking awkward and comical when they suddenly do something out of the ordinary. Case in point: Sarjano's angry outburst in the hospital scene.
The less said about the fight scenes, the better. They are unexcitingly choreographed and annoyingly repetitive, with a relentless assault of slow motion. The punches have the bad guys whirling so much that at one point I wondered if they were rehearsing for a Sufi dance.
If there's one actor — aside from Mohanlal, of course — who makes the film somewhat tolerable is Vishnu Unnikrishnan, who tries to get a few decent laughs out of the material he is given. In fact, Sachidandan's camaraderie with his childhood prison mates (a bond that evokes the Mammootty film Kauravar) is more interesting to watch than his interactions with his brothers.
It was only recently that we got another Malayalam film with 'brother' in its title. Big Brother, just like that film, has an unpleasant flashback for one of its main characters and seems to have been similarly built around twists and not the other way around. Though it doesn't aim to depress its viewers with gruesome sequences like that film did, it is nevertheless a largely flat and frustrating experience.