Based on real-life events, this hostage thriller is crafted with a loud, but consistently cool demeanour. The film is barely silent, with a constant input of dialogue and music. But the subtle buildup in the blocking, a thumping background score and the ensemble’s measured performances make the whole thing a little too cool, to complain about a loud soundscape. The score isn’t about underlining emotions as much as elevating them- with great results. This is the voice of the downtrodden being amplified in an awe-inspiring way. It has a strong, assertive tone that has a cold demand for reforms.

The narrative is set around the day-long events of October 4, 1996, wherein the then collector of Palakkad was held hostage by a group of men asking for withdrawal of amendments to the Kerala Scheduled Tribes Act 1975. An unlawful protest on paper at least, but director Kamal KM lends the men absolute dignity, clearly understanding a cause that’s truly asking for something the “system” isn’t even designed to think about: preference for the natives of a land. For people being held hostage by bureaucracy, would there even be a way for them to “protest” legally without hurting themselves? Pertinent questions are raised at regular intervals while also keeping the flame of tension simmering.

This is a visibly well-constructed film, with barely any off-note in its proceedings. It’s dealing with a dead-serious subject, but lands the right moments to be cool without calling much attention to the same, like losing the trail of a cop, or walking into the place of action. There’s also a lot of understated power in its political statements, especially ones that slam both those ruling and the opposition. I believe “yes, all of you” arguments attract less attention than ones that pin-point to one particular party, in the context of electoral politics alone. So the film isn’t rousing in that way, but the absence of that sort of a conventional approach to its statements makes its charged up emotions seem even more authentic. Vinayakan’s cold rendering of Balu is synonymous to the seriousness of Kamal KM’s voice. Likewise, everything just seems to come together in this film.


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