Antakshari Malayalam Movie
Vipin Das's Antakshari takes a little while to get going. The movie begins with the story of a little boy and his obsession for a Bullet bike. The boy wishes to ride the bike, but the guy who owns it does not want him to sit on it because he is from a lower caste. The movie then goes to a different timeline with Saiju Kurup as a police officer who loves a game known as Antakshari. It is a game where one person sings a few lines of a song and another sings a different track starting with the last letter of the first one.
Antakshari is a fun game, but the movie uses it in inventive and wicked ways. For instance, Kurup's character loves the game so much that he uses it as a soft torture tactic for people in his police station who are suspected of felonies. Not everyone likes to sing, and it is torturous for some to do so.
Unlike the game, the movie has a loose structure in that not every scene resumes from the point where the preceding sequence ends. This creates some unwanted characters or story threads having little to do with the main plot. So, we get the story of an engineering boy, his differently-abled friend and his stepfather as well as that of a doctor who mistreats a nurse. There is also a politician character, played by Vijay Babu, who has little to do with the film's story. The director spends much time on these characters who have little to no relevance to the main plot.
Things start to cohere and make sense only midway through the movie. Kurup's cop character, Das, starts to put together pieces of evidence to build a case against a killer connected to his personal life. Now, I know it all sounds a bit of a cliche, but the latter half of the movie feels fresh in its presentation. Take the Antakshari game itself, for instance. An interesting aspect of the game is that its participants seldom know which song is coming. Vipin Das uses this nature of Antakshari in a fascinating cat and mouse game between the protagonist and a murder suspect he chases. The choice of the songs at the end are quite clever and do not seem random. For one thing, most of those are the songs of Yesudas, whom the protagonist of Kurup is supposedly named after. You may sing along in accompaniment.
I also liked the main plot of the film that explains how and why a killer is on the loose. It is a bit like John Carpenter's Halloween in the home invasion aspect involving a serial killer. Only, here, the villain has a stronger, more personal motive for his deeds. Technically, too, the film is a sheer delight. The lighting, artwork and cinematography all bring a sense of claustrophobia and urgency to the proceedings. A scene that merges the image of a little boy who runs and the mirror of the bike, is a near masterstroke in storytelling.
The performances are also uniformly good across the board. Binu Pappu as a seemingly corrupt cop. Kottayam Ramesh with his trademark laugh and quirks. Sudhi Koppa as a loyal and dutiful cop. Priyanka Nair as a concerned wife. And, Saiju Kurup as a helpless man who gets a tad reckless and goes to any extent to save his loved ones. They are all outstanding in a movie that finds inventive ways to keep us on tenterhooks and mostly succeeds in what it sets out to achieve.