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Nayattu Another Stunning Malayalam Masterpiece



Nayattu(Netflix, Malalayam)

Starring  Kunchako Boban, Joju George and Nimisha Sajayan

Directed  by  Martin Prakkat

Rating: ****

I am  fully certain now that  the renaissance in Indian cinema  is  coming to  us through Kerala. Every  month there is  one  masterpiece  in Malayalam, if not two. I could barely get Dileesh Pothen’s  Joji out of my head when this  one creeps up on us like  a  motionpicture meteor tearing  through  many of notions on the vicious  cycle  that  controls  the  relationship  between  the common  man and  the government machinery.

 There have been brilliant  films on police brutality  in recent times, the Tamil  Varnan being the  most recent one. Before that  there  was  Vetrimaaran’s Visaranai in Tamil.So  graphic  in its brutality  it made you flinch. Nayattu provides  the  view from the  other side.

  Three cops in a Kerala police station of  different ages and ranks get embroiled  in  a case  of  police brutality that sends them on the run  and ends in the only way a tragedy  as topical and burning as this  can end.Nayattu takes  about 30 minutes to  warm  up. Once the three cops’  escape  from  sure-punishment  for a crime they havn’t committed  kicks in,  the narrative  pace is breakneck breathless  and unstoppable.

Very often when a director  adopts the thriller format  for a socio-politically relevant  theme, the  ‘message’ gets submerged  in  style,  and the substance is lost in posturing.Not here. Not this time. Director  Martin Prakkat(whose last  film Charlie with Dulquer Salman was a cult hit)  manages  a  near-impossible balance  of  headlinish  immediacy  and  a far deeper  thematic thrust and relevance which question a  system  of governance  where the  oppressor  and  the oppressed eventually become one.

This is  what happens with the three cops Maniyan(Joju George) , Praveen Michael(Kunchako Boban) and the lone woman among the two men Sunitha(Nimisha Sajayan , the  richly lauded protagonist  from yet another Malayalam masterpiece  of  2021 The Great Indian Kitchen). It is to the three  actors’ credit that their kinship in crisis  doesn’t need to be  constructed  by the  plot. From the moment  they are thrown together  in the crisis, they seem to share some  kind of an anguished  camaraderie which doesn’t depend  on  extraneous props and trappings.They are  cops by choice and  fugitives  by  fluke.

 Organically and effortlessly the director  follows his three heroes through their  nightmarish road trip which  never runs out  of fuel, never loses  momentum. There are times when I  nearly stopped  breathing.Till the last , I  was  holding my breath to see how  this monstrous mess  would end.

 I  can’t say the ending is conclusive or even satisfying to me as an audience. But I am  not surprised that  director  Martin Prakkat and his writer  Shahi Kabir  leave us  with more questions than answers about a system and work ethic where corruption is  a byword. The director’s  eye  for  detail and his keen observation  of  human behavior during crisis make Nayattu a remarkable journey  into  the heart  of darkness.

The three main actors seem to have been born in khaki.My favourite moment  in the film is  when  Sunitha has her periods in the  forest in the  hills  and   her colleague plods down to  the nearest market to  get her pads.  But before that their  impoverished host senses her discomfort  takes off his  only clean dhoti and  gives it to her quietly.

This  show of empathy in a relentlessly  speeding narrative is  like a slap in the face. We have created  our own hell, when we  could have created  the other  alternative just as well.

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