Kuttavum Shikshayum

Kuttavum Shikshayum

To put it superficially, this plays out like an anti-thesis to Theeran. Both these films are primarily covering a cop investigation, a hunt for a gang of thieves, spanning two polar-opposite landscapes of the country. While the Tamil film is deliberately built as a clever, fast-paced star vehicle focused on providing stellar cinematic highs, this Rajeev Ravi film carefully comes-together as a tense, slowburn thriller that operates on an extremely grounded, realistic note. These are diametrically opposite films, but they ultimately make for a terrific viewing experience. They’re winners in their own respective merit, because they clearly achieve what they set out to do.

While Asif Ali’s Sajan can be called the protagonist since he’s the primary guy walking the audience into the narrative, once he gets a team, the film chooses to not centre its attention on him. It begins to provide enough coverage to everyone in the team with casually presented character details. This becomes a very memorable aspect – the sketching of people and the mundane moments they share. The actors render them with a lot of charm. Basheer’s composed wisdom from decades of experience in the service, Abin’s SI ambitions, Rajesh’s honeymoon phase of his marriage, the Hindi cop’s safeplay, all of these come across organically amidst smoke-breaks, terrace sessions and long drives. This is why, in an abstract sense, the film feels like its something that comes together rather than something that’s constructed.

Sajan’s arc is quite muted in the midst of such delightful character establishment. It’s a tad unaffecting while watching, but makes sense in retrospect with regards to the level at which the film is pitching its drama in. But the problem is that his catharsis doesn’t come across elaborately. It’s something I would’ve liked to feel along with him in the moment, rather than how its currently told to us by the character himself, in a very subdued epilogue of sorts. Another reason why I feel his arc could’ve been a tad more pronounced, or even dramatic, is the weight in the film’s title. His crime being his punishment, is registered more as a thought, than a theme of the narrative.

Women don’t play a primary role in the story, but there are two occurences of them across two different regions, where they’re seen to be turning hostile to protect allegedly erring men, one in Kerala and one in the north. I wonder if this is by design or a mere co-incidence.

In terms of its outlook towards the police, the film comes across more ambivalent than it actually is. These are all erring cops, remarkably sloppy and not as smart as cinema in the past has portrayed cops. But each of them is seen to at least have some resolve. Sajan has the darkest past amongst them, but his repentance is framed quite softly as compared to the gravity of his crime. It gave me the feeling that the makers blame the system more than they blame an individual’s moral choice. There’s also a line in the epilogue that points to bureaucratic unfairness to police – “That’s how things work.” The narrative might have been a more complex reading of the police service without the same. But given that writer Sibi Thomas is serving as a Circle Inspector in the Kerala Police, it makes sense that the balancing won’t be entirely neutral.

Rajeev Ravi has a solid technical team to back his atmospheric aesthetic. B. Ajithkumar’s editing is superb, providing a clear and engaging sense of the passage of time and some absolutely neat visual punctuations betweens scenes. The background score tends to spill over from one scene to another, which is another aptly used, common trick to keep the momentum going. The sounds of rumbling cars, constantly strutting boots, all play a major role in grounding the film and keeping it busy on a subconscious level.

I’m not quite sure where to place this in Rajeev Ravi’s filmography, but it’s a rewarding film once again for his attention to milieu. I really wish it had delivered on its philosophical ambitions in addition to its very well-researched bureaucratic commentary. If you’re looking for thrills, I’d suggest you head elsewhere, but if you’re game for atmosphere and tension, this is one solid experience.


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