'Arjunan Sakshi' serves as a timely indictment of an entire social structure and stems from the innate fissures that exist deep within it. It is a multi-pointed critique that brings everyone around - the administration, the police force, the state, the media and the general public - under the scanner and unveils a startling story of victims and perpetrators.
'Arjunan Sakshi' starts off with a letter to the editor of the Mathrubhumi daily from a man named Arjunan, who claims that he is witness to the murder of Feroz Mooppan (Mukesh), the former Cochin Collector. Anjali Menon (Ann Augustine), the journalist who publishes the letter lands in big trouble, with the murderers hot on her heels threatening her to reveal Arjunan's identity. Meanwhile Roy Mathew (Prithvi), a young architect who has arrived in the city to take up his new job, gets mistaken for Arjunan and finds his life in jeopardy.
The Metro Rail issue that forms the crux of the film is just an iconic representation of the several government projects that have been launched amidst much fanfare and that ultimately never saw the light of the day. These issues unfortunately are never usually tackled on a personal level as the common man remains busy with immediate everyday concerns, and makes do with whatever little he has (or has not) at his disposal.
What makes 'Arjunan Sakshi' different from the usual potboilers that take on the bureaucracy is that it prompts you to think, and probably even take a definite stand for once. The dreadful traffic menace that has been getting worse with each passing year and which we have learned to live with over the years has been brought up for deliberation on two occasions. Roy and Anjali get stuck in the midst of a jam and the stifled camera decides to get some fresh air by drawing up and away from them revealing a hefty column of vehicles that have come to a standstill. Later, during an emergency, the tra(gedy)ffic strikes again, and having emerged out of it unscathed, Roy frustratedly exclaims that there should be hundreds of people out there who go through this misery every day and yet, 'Nobody even cares'!
Roy's indignation finds an expression before the Police Commissioner as well, and he voices the sentiments of thousands of people when he asks what the purpose of a law enforcement system is, if it doesn't even guarantee the safety of an ordinary man walking through the streets. This is the voice of an oppressed man like you and me struggling to stay alive in a scary scenario where insecurity and sheer dread of power reign supreme.
Ranjith doesn't let Roy gain super human proportions and has his protagonist retain a very human air around him. You even see him go through those odd moments when he is real scared, confused and indecisive. At times he makes the wrong choices and bumps into dead ends. It's only when he shakes a leg at a party or gets to slam his fists in an action sequence towards the climax - two sequences that simply do not deserve to be there in this film - that you see him flashing those heroic traits, albeit for a very brief while.
Despite all this, if you walk out of the theater with a feeling in your mind that probably you had expected something more from this film, its because the thriller ride that 'Passenger' was, is still fresh in your minds. Also, 'Arjunan Sakshi' moves ahead at an unhurried pace, and though it has a running time of about two hours appears much longer than that with the leisure taking its toll on the viewer.
Prithvi could be proud of 'Arjunan Sakshi' less because of the prospects that it offers him to explore his potentials as an actor, and more because he is part of an extremely relevant film that has its feet firmly planted on ground. It has to be said that he's perfectly cast as well, and as the youthful engineer on the path of self-discovery delivers a dynamic performance that is absolutely admirable. Ann looks delightfully charming as the energetic journo and comes up with a creditable performance.
Never in a film before, has probably the urban landscape of Cochin looked as appealing as in 'Arjunan Sakshi'. The towering new structures that make up the suburbs, the suave coffee shops and the KFCs all form a part of this pretty picture of a booming port city that is all set to turn metropolitan very soon. Ajayan Vincent is the cinematographer in action here, and he draws the contours of the city in daylight and darkness with an equally remarkable panache. A car chase sequence that has been shot amazingly well deserves a special mention.
'Arjunan Sakshi' proves beyond doubt that Ranjith Sankar's 'Passenger' was no mere flash in the pan. I wonder if it's a crowd pleaser like his former film, but it's the kind of film that needs to be made, and above everything else, needs to be seen.