CBI 5 - The Brain Malayalam Movie
K Madhu's CBI 5 holds its cards close to the chest until it pulls the rug out from under our feet. As the name implies, it is the fifth film in Malayalam cinema's longest-running franchise. Mammootty returns as sharp-minded CBI officer Sethurama Iyer, and there are new actors as law enforcement officers.
One of the best things about the CBI series is how it keeps its protagonist on the fringes of a case only to suddenly bring him back into the mix with a clap-worthy moment. For the longest time, I felt the absence of Mammootty in the latest installment of the CBI series. The movie has an extremely long build-up that pertains to a series of murders, including the home minister played by G. Suresh Kumar. One person who dies here is connected to the other, which points to the involvement of one killer.
Sethurama Iyer comes as the case almost approaches a dead-end, but it is complex to navigate even for an officer who is as brilliant as him. There is an interesting concept known as basket killing here, but the makers do not do much with it. Therefore, it only appears as a fancy name for a chain of murders.
Besides, for an audience member of a certain vintage, like myself, there is a bit of FOMO associated with the supporting characters from the earlier CBI films. Mukesh is in the movie as Chacko, but his character is a mere spectator here. One of the first things that Chacko tells Sethurama Iyer is that he has a family trip to attend. It does not seem right to me as Chacko is more committed to his duty than that.
Maybe he is off duty, but it seems like he was forced into the movie. Unfortunately, you cannot use Jagathy Sreekumar's Vikram in the same way as before due to the actor's real-life accident. But the makers include the character in an organic and intelligent way in the script. It is not like Vikram or Jagathy does not belong here; he has a small yet important role.
Now, the reason I bring up Chacko and Vikram is that Mammootty does not have the same level of support here as before. Renji Panicker is a good actor, but his character is new to the CBI series. His character does not have the same sense of continuity as Sethurama Iyer.
At the start of the movie, Ramesh Pisharody's character says that CBI officers are not serious people. But the rest of the movie is so darn serious that the actors have no choice but to be serious, making the earlier line seem contradictory.
The film also feels a tad too generic in places and plays out as more of a procedural. A lot of what happens here is as generic as in a standard thriller. Many moments give you the impression that the makers use too many coincidences for the officers to connect the dots. The sudden appearance of a key character in a religious establishment, for instance, makes little sense, and so does his reappearance later. Besides, does the home minister travel with commoners on the same flight with little security?
Despite its flaws, I enjoyed CBI 5 as it has its moments and is not half as bad as Nerariyan CBI. The movie makes you wait a bit too long for the fireworks to begin, but when it happens through a big reveal, it makes a difference. It is only in the climactic portion that Mammootty shows us why he is the brain of the operation. Like a good goalkeeper, the actor stays a spectator to the show for far too long but steals the big moment when the opportunity arrives. Mammootty also maintains a great sense of continuity to his CBI character.
There is also a good amount of detailing here that fans of the old CBI movies can appreciate. The makers have also kept up with the changes in technology reasonably well. Further, for a fan of those movies, like myself, just the familiarity with the CBI theme music is enough to stay engaged in the proceedings. Keep your expectations in check, though.