Nayattu Movie Review: A powerful, blood-boiling thriller
Martin Prakkat's Nayattu is a soul-stirring film that leaves you shaken by the time the end credits roll
After Midhun Manuel Thomas, Nayattu finds another filmmaker moving away from light-hearted entertainers to something more grounded, cynical and brutal. After the crowd-pleasing Charlie, Martin Prakkat has teamed up with Shahi Kabir, the screenwriter whose maiden effort, Joseph, became a runaway hit. Shahi has conjured up something more haunting this time around. Nayattu is a soul-stirring film that leaves you shaken by the time the end credits roll.
Martin and Shahi don't take long to get the ball rolling, and once they do, they do a fantastic job. The central conflict involves the death of a young Dalit man, and it's a problem increasingly complicated by the events preceding it. Three police officers -- the senior Maniyan (Joju George), the juniors Praveen (Kunchako Boban) Michael and Sunitha (Nimisha Sajayan) -- get trapped in a situation that forces them to go on the run. The hunters become the hunted.
Nayattu is about the butterfly effect created by the misuse of power across ranks. Every character in the film is a walking pressure cooker. The pressure is applied from the uppermost echelons of power, trickling down slowly to each layer and causing havoc. When it finally vents, the wrong people bear the brunt.
Director: Martin Prakkat
Cast: Kunchacko Boban, Joju George, Nimisha Sajayan
The film is also quite bold when presenting some of its statements, like how the troublesome members of a minority group can get away in certain situations because of their caste. Some will find these portions problematic, but one can't disregard the argument with absolute certainty. And having Maniyan and Sunitha come from the same community adds more weight to the narrative. In the middle of all this is Praveen, who enters the job with much idealism but has to accept the painful fact that idealism has no place in a system looking for more people to corrupt. If it can't do that, it simply chews and spits them out, leaving them with psychological trauma for the rest of their lives. And playing characters with plenty of emotional baggage, Kunchacko, Joju and Nimisha ace their parts.
Though the events in Nayattu are put in motion by the men, it's the women who leave the most indelible impressions. At several points, we are shown female characters experiencing varying degrees of pressure. A senior female cop, Arundathi (an impressive Yama Gilgamesh), takes a discreet smoke break before giving instructions to her team. Sunitha suffers a nervous breakdown while witnessing two men get into a fight. On the other side, Sunitha's mother has to co-operate with the cops who are on the trail of the three, and the school-going daughter of a male cop has to live the rest of her life with a devastating story. But the film's most telling image is that of a visually impaired woman casting her vote. There, too, pressure is applied, but of a different kind. We don't get to know who she wanted to vote for, and we don't get to know if her son placed her thumb on the right button either. It's a scene positioned at the right moment, and it speaks volumes.
The extreme cynicism of Nayattu brings to mind the films of Italian filmmaker Francesco Rosi, who, during his time, made similarly disturbing political thrillers. Nayattu achieves the same effect in its final moments, which convey the futility of fighting injustices and darkness in the world. The image of powerless characters is not a pleasant one, but it makes for powerful cinema.