When the movie begins and the titles roll on the screen, the name – Oru Kuprasidha Payyan – gets translated to 'A Notorious Boy.'
One hundred and forty four minutes later, when the movie gets over, it is still not clear how the title fits. Tovino Thomas playing the central character and presumably the ‘Kuprasidha payyan’ is anything but notorious. Then again, that’s the image the police investigating a murder tries to give him, when they write his name down as the accused and take him to court.
Director Madhupal gives you a rightly-paced thriller that turns into a court room drama in the second half, without a lot of surprises or nerve-chilling scenes. However, the narrative unravels smoothly, enjoyably, and with quite a few points to appreciate as you leave the movie hall.
The pace is perfect – the characters and the background needed for the story are quickly introduced, the murder takes place next, the investigation and court trial come afterward. Nothing is hurried, nothing dragged.
Our hero Ajayan is straightaway introduced as a man with a lot of physical power and a man with a problem. We figure this out at the end of a bull fight when Ajayan fights down a charging bull. Once the fight and therefore the need for him are over, our hero is pushed down by one of the other men chasing the bull. Go away, they say, and Ajayan has a strange expression on his face. With creases on his forehead, a vulnerable face and a slightly stooped back, Tovino lets you know that Ajayan is perhaps not all that well up there.
But then, like the title, this little detail is not explained throughout the movie. Madhupal, known for his realistic films, might have felt that this is self-explanatory. There is only a repeated version of Ajayan’s background coming through the film – that he is an abandoned child, his stepmother too had given up on him, no one wants him, he has always been alone. Ajayan too when he speaks – in the voice of the hapless – repeats this, to Chembakammal (Sharanya) who is like a mother to him, to Anu Sithara who plays his co-worker at a little restaurant, called Paradise Hotel.
In this respect, you feel the story is a bit of a cliché, the tale of an orphan hero – but the typicality is forgotten when you see why that is important. It is not for sympathy (or perhaps like some mock, to cut the cost of parent-playing actors). The story throws light on how crimes are sometimes solved by blaming the weak and orphaned, with no one to clear their name. It somehow feels real and therefore scary when the people who could help Ajayan are brainwashed or blackmailed systematically, like it is a tried-and-tested formula used now and again.
Ajayan’s immediate circles are introduced in the first few scenes – a few friends making fun of him for going after a richer, educated girl, the hotel owner, wife-bullying neighbor Bhaskaran (Alancier), Anu and Chembakammal.
It is lovely to see how Madhupal does characterisation – in one short scene, you figure out what a drunk, merciless character Bhaskaran is. Chembakammal’s strong character comes through in the short time Sharanya has on the screen – a woman who had to flee Tamil Nadu many years ago, following an inter caste relationship that had created a lot of trouble. You get a taste of her motherly affection for Ajayan, the boy who comes to pick up idlis from her, for the hotel. Ajayan himself is easily the slow-witted, vulnerable boy who is extremely sensitive and thirsts for affection. Though Tovino looks the part most of the time, perhaps the vulnerability goes overboard when he emotes.
It is important that all this is conveyed in the first few scenes for the murder happens next and we simply wait for the predictable arrest of Ajayan. Madhupal’s brilliance in characterisation shows again when the police are introduced – the dutiful local police first and the ruthless crime branch police later. Sujith Sankar and Sudheer Karamana especially play well their part as the annoying torturous officers.
Nimisha Sajayan makes a late entry but it is such a joy to see her not wasted in a few scope-less scenes in the background. She plays beautifully the nervous new lawyer fighting for justice for Ajayan. The second half of the film is ruled by her Hannah (Tovino’s fight scene in the jail appeared like an appeasement to the hero). She prettily pulls off the tense woman fighting her mentor (Nedumudi Venu is excellent as the annoying senior) in court. Her words at the court are at first stammering, nearly swallowed. The words appear to come with difficulty and the dubbing, though not excellent at all times, seems to fit just right. As opposed to the short scene when Shwetha Menon appears and Bhagyalakshmy dubs for her in a high and dramatic voice.
A pleasant surprise was producer G Suresh Kumar playing effortlessly the judge who can be critical, strict and righteous at the same time.
It is nice to see Tovino take up a vulnerable role, where he doesn’t come out throwing away all the villains himself and instead depends on a young woman to save him from his misery, sobbing and begging her many times for help. Something many mainstream heroes may not willingly do.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.