Vineeth Sreenivasan's Oru Cinemakaaran starts off like a film that's going to be about the struggles of an assistant director who is looking to survive in an industry that sells dreams. He has no money, the producers have no time, and his family has no patience. Where will poor Alby who never gets what he wants from God do?
The first twenty minutes of the film set it up as a gentle romcom with a few songs thrown in. Alby and Sarah (Rajisha Vijayan) are in love and their families oppose the relationship because they belong to different communities. However, even as we settle down thinking this is going to be one of those battles for love, the film avoids taking that all too familiar dramatic turn and before we know it, the couple is married. So now what, we wonder.
It's time for behind the scenes.
Can a struggling cinemakaaran afford to live a life that he often projects on screen? What happens when there's no happy ending in sight?
Oru Cinemakaaran builds up the tension slowly. You can feel the desperation in Alby's mind as he runs around asking people for money, swallowing his pride every time he hears a ‘no’. As he stutters, forgets things, and does his best to hide his financial situation from his wife, you feel the darkness clouding his judgment.
Vineeth is at his best when he portrays a man sinking in frustration. The sequence when he struggles to make it to the bank in time is especially impressive. Ironically, it is when this cinemakaaran is made to dance for unnecessary duets that he looks ill at ease.
The film turns into a thriller with a fairly good twist at the end. If you've read your share of Agatha Christie when growing up, this is the kind of crime that Papa Poirot would love to bring to a denouement. However, one wishes that writer and director Leo Thaddeus had explored the other characters involved with more depth. The coincidences seem a tad too convenient although Google tells me that the science is well researched.
Prashant Narayan plays the cop who cracks the mystery. As the oily and rude police officer, he's not someone you like but then his job is not to be liked, it is to induce discomfort and he pulls that off alright. One wishes that the lone woman cop had been given at least a line to say - all she does is smile and look embarrassed when her senior officer flirts with his wife over phone.
The rest of the cast, Renji Panicker, Anusree and others are convincing enough. The security guys who goof around are hilarious and evoke laughter at unexpected moments.
Oru Cinemakaaran is not quite in the league of Drishyam which has become the gold standard for the Malayalam whodunit in recent times. But it's a well-made effort with enough intrigue built into it to keep you watching till the end. At least, for Alby's sake, you do want to know if there will be a happy ending.