The template of CBI series of movies is constant. There is a murder. There is the local police. There is the CBI. There are dummies. There is Sethurama Iyer, Chacko, and Vikram. There are many red herrings and finally Sethurama Iyer catches the culprit. In the previous three installments, the crime was just regular murder. For this new version, script writer S.N.Swamy has added a supernatural element as well.
Four years back, Anitha (Gopika) came home to Animangalam Tharavadu with her friends. That night her friends Mythili (Samvritha Sunil) is found dead below the stair case. The house had a locked pooja room, similar to the one seen in Manichitrathazhu and the girls had tried to open it. Police came to investigate and concluded that some ghost was at work. A priest, Kappra (Thilakan) was called to investigate who asks the family to sell the house as soon as possible.
All these were told to Sethurama Iyer when Anitha’s fiancee Sai (Jishnu) meets him in the airport. Iyer gets interested in the case and decides to investigate with the help of Chacko (Mukesh) and Vikram (Jagathi). As the investigation proceeds, they find that Mythili had a lover, Pradip, whom none of her family members had seen. He did not even turn up on her death. Also when Mythili’s parents asked CBI to investigate, they were threatened by goondas to withdraw the case.
The tharavadu too had its share of shady characters. There is the Tamil servant (Mohan Jose) and his wife Maya (Suvarna). There is a Dr. Krishnan Nair (Sreekumar) and Dr. Baby (Riza Bava). Like the scenes in Manichitrathazhu there are abnormal happenings all the time, like cupboards falling, vessels breaking and all lamps shaking in unison. Iyer and crew follow many false leads, question everyone and very ably finds the culprit (the least expected person).
Scriptwriter S.N.Swami does a good job in keeping the secret till the end, while taking us along a decent ride filled with many twists and turns. While the movie was touted as something different due to the supernatural elements, that part fades away after the interval. From there on, it is a regular murder mystery. Whenever Iyer is questioning a group of people, the camera lingers on the face of one person, who is seen sweating or is in discomfort. Usually it turns out that the person is innocent. We have seen this technique from the first CBI movie and the film makers have not outgrown it. The culprit is usually the person who gets the least screen time and dialogue and this time too it is so.
Whenever there is scene filled with tension, Salu George’s camera brings in close ups of eye balls of various people, which reminds you of the various court scenes in Mahabharata where the camera used to wander on each person’s face for a reaction. There are running shots in the house using the regular camera. If it was a steady cam, the shot would have been smooth, but this one just causes headaches. The lighting in the house is terrible, especially in the pooja room where red light has been used.
In all CBI films there is a final scene where all the protagonists are assembled and Iyer finds the murderer. In this movie when the same is done, the camera first shows an extreme close up of the culprit’s face from the front, then from the right side, then from the left, then again from the right, then from the front, while a thousand monkeys bang on the drums, cymbals and keyboards in the background, which will remind you of the numerous dramas you saw as part of the local temple festival.
Much more irritating is the background music. There is a scene where Kapra meets Iyer for the first time. Iyer walks from one end of the courtyard towards Kapra. As he walks, the camera follows Iyer and Shyam’s CBI background score blares. The camera then shifts to the back of Kapra. Then it follows Iyer. Like those arrows which go towards each other for 30 mins in Ramayana and Mahabharata series, they keep walking towards each other for some five minutes. Then when they face each other, the theme music fades away and some other jingoistic music sets because Kapra is looking at Iyer with suspicion. This goes on for a while. Then Iyer introduces himself and Santoor music plays in the background. Even Director Kamal would get a headache with this background score.
Even with such B-Grade production qualities, the movie is watchable only because of two things – 1) Mammotty, who saves this movie as Sethurama Iyer and 2) You want to find out who was the murderer. This movie is just an all in all Iyer movie and Mammotty makes him come alive. Rest of the cast are wasted entirely except for Jagathi who gets to play a short and memorable character. Mukesh has nothing much to do. Thilakan’s Kapra was interesting, but he just vanishes after the interval.
If you want to know why actresses like Gopika and Samvritha are moving off to Tamil, this movie is a perfect example. Samvritha dies in like five minutes, so she has nothing much to do. Gopika gets to dress beautifully and to mouth maybe six short dialogue in all. She is seen in many other scenes just as a prop. It is sad to see talent being wasted like this, but then what do you expect in a macho macho movie?
The series has been very successful and there could be yet another Sethurama Iyer movie. If they plan to make one more, we request K.Madhu and gang to spend some money to increase the production values.