Sunday, February 7, 2016

Action Hero Biju (2016)

Director: Abrid Shine
Writers:  Muhammed Shafeekh, Abrid Shine
Cast:       Nivin Pauly, Joju George, Anu Emmanuel
Language: Malayalam

The tagline of the film states that it is a ride with a Kerala Police officer and it is also presented in such a style. There is no central plot for the film and it is presented as vignettes from the daily routine of a Police sub-inspector. The title of the film, which suggests it to be in the mould of Police action films that featured Suresh Gopi, is ironic since it tries to be just opposite of that. 

This is Abrid Shine's second film as a director after making a very good debut with '1983', which can be classed as a sports/nostalgic/feel-good film. Sports films are very hard to get right and he managed to do that with 1983. This one had considerable hype prior to its release with it being Nivin Pauly's first film after the huge success of 'Premam'. First half of the film works quite well with some very good humour. I generally take issue with the skit format of comedy in Malayalam films these days but it doesn't matter for this film since it aims to be in such a format anyway and there is the context of a Police officer and Police Station to the whole thing. I had huge issues with the film 'Amar, Akbar, Anthony' for the same reason but the quality of comedy and its placing is much better in AHB. But sadly, it pursues the AAA model further in the second half with its social message bullshit. Just that it is not as unsubtle as AAA but that is not a hard thing to achieve. The film ends up as a rich man's AAA but still manages to be thoroughly average overall. 

The film picks low hanging fruits like 'Freakenmar', gays etc for some of its humour and the usual middle class worries of Malayalees like drugs in schools also features. Some people have billed it as a realistic take on Police life but I thought it just went too far on the other side and ends up as a very binary portrayal. I don't know if it is the after effect of 'Rohith Vemula' issue but I am seeing caste everywhere these days. I don't know if it is just me but I saw a very castiest/classist tinge running throughout the film. There is also this 'poor me' attitude from some of its male characters with the frequency of females being the bad apples in this film seeming disproportionately high mainly due to the presence of Suraj Venjaramoodu and house-maid story-lines in the second half, which are meant to tug at our heartstrings. There were some rumours about production time difficulties for this film and it seems true based on the evidence of the second half. What starts out as a realistic portrayal becomes ridiculously bad during its climax. You  have the hero single-handedly taking on four quotation guys and choosing to use his gun, how he still has it after the long fight is still a mystery, only after getting stabbed. On top of that, he delivers a sermon about Police, which only served to expose his limitations as an actor with the handling of long monologues, which is a core competency of the likes of Suresh Gopi, Mohanlal and Mammootty. They also came sporadically during the first half but I initially thought those were actually some intelligent joke on how ridiculous it is to have such monologues in films. But turns out they were just some limited acting. 

To sum up, it is a film of two halves with a quite good first half and rather average to poor second half. The low pay and long hours of Police officers in India explains a lot about why they end up behaving like they do. It would have been compelling watch if they actually tried to incorporate that in a good manner. The only realism in the film is to do with some of the procedures that they show rather than in any of its characters. AHB turns out to be a missed opportunity. Prithviraj starrer 'Vargam' was a quite good police film from recent times.

PS: The leading lady/girl of the film is supposed to be the daughter of an entrepreneur/film producer in real life. That is all that is required to be said about her role and performance.

Rating: 2/5