‘Forensic review’: Mamtha-Tovino film tries too hard to surprise

At the heart of the film is an investigation team led by an IPS officer played by Mamtha Mohandas and a forensic medico-legal advisor played by Tovino Thomas.
‘Forensic review’: Mamtha-Tovino film tries too hard to surprise
‘Forensic review’: Mamtha-Tovino film tries too hard to surprise
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Loud background music, slow motions, I-told-you-so moments and some gore – Forensic sticks to all the key elements of a mystery thriller. You might doubt for a moment whether the key suspects are revealed too soon, defying the standard rule of revealing the killer only in the last possible moment. But first-time directors Anas Khan and Akhil Paul throw one surprise after another, and in the end you leave with a handful of twists, at the heart of which is your investigation team led by IPS officer Rithika Xavier (Mamtha Mohandas) and forensic medico-legal advisor Samuel John Kattookaran (Tovino Thomas).

The film is tightly packed and has its moments, but the script tries too hard to keep surprising you, missing the whole point that the story comes first. The writers seem to be sticking to a formula, with the characters sometimes sounding like schoolteachers explaining what is going on to the audience. This is understandable to an extent – a lot of technicalities come up and you need some sort of a device to convey it in simple terms. Only, the method of doing so appears juvenile.

The team is chasing a serial killer who is abducting little girls from random places in Thiruvananthapuram, all of whom turn up dead, with a deep knife wound. No little boys. In fact, it is never explained why the killer carries off only girls.

Rithika is put in charge of the case and she looks disturbed when she learns Sam is the medico-legal advisor. It might remind you of old movies where the hero and heroine come across each other at a later stage in life and there is a flashback, a shared history. To the film’s credit, neither Sam nor Rithika go into flashback mode as soon as they see each other. The history comes out in good time, and without drama. Mamtha looks controlled as the senior police officer who has seen enough in a long career of solving crimes. Only a small look of horror betrays her emotions on seeing the first murdered child. She sounds business-like when she speaks to Sam, slightly harsh too at times, but without the past getting in the way.

Tovino is professional-looking – be it the way he dresses or his focus on his work, not distracted for a moment by anything else, including the indifference shown by Rithika, whom he addresses as Madam. There is none of the tit-for-tat or show of old grudges that you fear would come, like it did in movies of the past. This film has a single focus, and that is on the crimes at hand.

The only moments that it goes off the track are the short sequences involving family and relationships, but those have a bearing on the main story and are not a side-track for entertainment. It is a huge relief when Sam’s intern, Shika, played by Reba Monica John, is not introduced to include a romantic side to Tovino’s character. The interaction between the two characters is like any between professionals, neither’s gender coming into the picture at all. In a scene where they find some old skeletons buried in a barren piece of land, it is Shika who gets down on her knees and examines them.

With all its focus on the crime, however, the writing often becomes mediocre. The I-told-you-so moments, lines seemingly written just for the extra claps, a couple of stunts, though well-choreographed, do not exactly fit into the script. But then the film attempts to explore a disturbing idea, one that cannot be revealed without spoilers, but one that’s real enough to be worried about. Jakes Bejoy’s music sounds like an attempt to reflect this theme.

Among the performers, perhaps the children score the most, and there are quite a few of them, beginning from the killer’s childhood, to Rithika’s child, to the victims among others. Saiju Kurup, Renji Panicker and Prathap Pothan have small but effective roles to play, which all three proven actors do well.

With some re-work on the lines, some reduced drama and noise, Akhil and Anas could have made a more convincing thriller.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.

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