Malayalam director Jeethu Joseph has been playing down expectations for "Oozham", warning the audience not to expect another "Drishyam". He was right to do so.
If "Drishyam", a tightly-knit thriller about a man and his family who cover up a murder, was all about the plot, "Oozham" is all about what can happen when the plot goes AWOL. Despite Prithviraj's considerable screen presence, the film suffers because the storyline simply does not match up.
The film begins explosively enough - yes, there's a bomb involved. Prithviraj appears as the smoke clears. And we're introduced to Surya Krishnamoorthy, a man with a tragic past. It turns out that as in "Memories" (Prithviraj's earlier film with Jeethu Joseph), his family has been killed right in front of his eyes. Only, this time around, Surya witnesses it all through a webcam.
Surya, who lives in the US and does "controlled bomb explosions" for a living, makes it his mission to hunt the men down for revenge. It turns out that his father (Balachandra Menon), a government health inspector, had figured out a pharma company's conspiracy to spread disease in the city of Coimbatore where all of them live.
The plot, however, is like a giant slice of Swiss cheese. Full of holes and well, cheesy. For instance, Mr Krishnamoorthy has no evidence whatsoever of the pharma company's activities other than a bunch of newspaper clippings and magazine cut-outs. He consults his adopted son, Aju (Neeraj Madhav), a hacker, on where he can store these online and Aju tells him that he can keep it in his Drafts folder on Gmail of all things! There are many other such instances of absurdity too, with the climax at the end topping it all.
The story plods along in a predictable fashion as Surya's enemies are killed off one after the other in the same fashion. There are no twists, no turns - not even a speed bumper. Jayaprakash plays Wilfred, the evil scientist slash corporate honcho. Though a talented actor, the script lets him down and he struggles to be a menacing villain.
He and his sons are, for some reason, very anglicized people who speak in English almost all the time - perhaps to give company to Prithviraj who has been trolled aplenty for his 'bombastic' English speaking skills on social media. The language wouldn't have stuck out like a sore thumb if the performances had been convincing. As it stands though, it borders on the annoying.
Pasupathy makes an appearance as a Sri Lankan expert on bombs and general thuggery. Once again, a good actor wasted in a poor script. The female lead, Gayathri, played by Divya Pillai, joins Surya in his revenge mission in a lackluster performance.
"Drishyam" is a hard act to follow but the disappointment with "Oozham" is independent of that. This is a bomb that comes defused and sadly, we're nowhere at the edge of our seats.