The surprises that Deepu Karunakaran's 'Fireman' has in store, lie mostly in the mechanics of its plot. The commendable moment-to-moment feats in it, keep your focus away from the mundane visuals and the loose ends that hang about in abundance.
When a tremendously disturbed Achari (Salim Kumar) steers his car away from a gas tanker, the heavy vehicle goes for a toss, flipping the tank on to the ground, where it lies, threatening to go up in flames any moment. The fire brigade led by Fireman Vijay (Mammootty) takes charge, and the police force under the Commissioner Sherin Thomas (Nyla Usha) arrive to lend support.
To be fair to the makers, 'Fireman' has been crisply edited, and at just about two hours has very few hold-ups in between. The pace is brisk, the dialogues are curt, and the exploits vigorous. The rapid pulse that is maintained between sequences, stops the film from degenerating into one of those soggy thrillers that never get their thrills right.
It also has to be appreciated that the scenes that dwell on loss do not collapse into the maudlin sort, and when the leading officer Lakshmanan Pillai (Sreekumar) and later Shajahan (Unni Mukundan) give up their lives, the firemen move on, never for a moment, forgetting that their services are required elsewhere. The tears and dramatics can wait.
It's almost impossible though, to gauge the film maker's intentions, since 'Fireman' does end up being an assortment of sorts, and what started off as a fire rescue operation finally veers into thriller mode. When the Commissioner makes the announcement that the evacuation isn't possible because of the central jail being dangerously close to the accident premises, you brace yourself for some real hardcore action.
The expected action never enthuses, and Vijay instead gets busy playing a brain game. But what follows cannot be ignored, and as the fireman ventures into the jail to seek out a resolution with the prisoners, the script almost threatens to snap. It doesn't however prolong much further, and peace is thankfully restored.
Where 'Fireman' loses ground is in the fact that the film maker turns out to be a bit too obsessed with the star persona of his leading man, and tries to raise him from the stature of an ordinary fireman to a strapping officer who throws in some brawns and brains together to eventually emerge a hero. There are illustrations aplenty that are thrown in to prove that Vijay is no ordinary lay man; he wouldn't, for instance, think twice before leaning on to a fuel tank and meddling with the pressure gauge even as it threatens to blow up any minute.
The special effects in the film leave a lot to be desired, and when the fire explosion takes place, the ocular impact is shockingly mediocre. Visually, there is very little wizardry on show, though a film as this could have massively benefited with a bit more of technical finesse.
Fireman Vijay is certainly no challenge for Mammootty the actor, and he is quite at ease playing the safety officer. Unni Mukundan is aptly cast as the fellow officer who gives up his life en route the mission, while Nyla Usha is simply terrific as the police commissioner. However Salim Kumar, to me, looked seriously out of place.
Deepu Karunakaran does succeed in putting a human face on those thousands of fire fighters out there, who rush to serve, as a finger trustfully dials '101'. 'Fireman', is without doubt a tribute to this unsung breed of heroes, whose lives are as quickly forgotten as the reasons that they had laid them down for.
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