Tag Archives: anuj chakrapani

Nayattu: Cops Vs. Cops

It’s a small world in director Martin Prakkat’s latest Malayalam movie Nayattu, set in a town in Kerala. One of the three principal characters, the rookie cop Praveen Michael (Kunchacko Boban), operates under the tutelage of the seasoned Maniyappan (Joju George); Maniyappan was actually trained by Michael’s father back in his younger days. On the other hand, the lady cop Sunitha (Nimisha Sajayan), completing the movie’s lead triumvirate, happens to be cousins with Biju (Dineesh), a controversy-loving troublemaker who loves to influence the political landscape in the region.

With such a closed setting, it seems only par-for-the-course that the lives and destinies of these four characters should be interconnected. The butterfly effect kicks off in a lovely scene outside a police station where Biju defaces the wall and gets into a tiff with Maniyappan. The simmering tension is brought to life in a remarkably executed sequence, and the seemingly insignificant incident snowballs into a controversial moment. Biju gets locked up and the incident takes over social media channels. Shortly after, returning from a wedding in the middle of the night, the three cops find themselves on a deserted road, spotted next to the heavily injured body of Biju’s partner. This is the setup for a desperate fight for their survival and pits them against their own colleagues – talk about landing at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

As a movie, Nayattu works on many levels. It’s a solidly written old-fashioned thriller that showcases one set of cops chasing another in a cat and mouse game. The hunt (hence the title) is filled with several edge-of-your-seat moments in the backdrop of the picturesque and dense forests of the Kerela-Tamil Nadu border. For example, the scene when a cop at a security checkpoint shines the torchlight and finds the fleeing trio in the back of the truck. Or the scene when Sunitha splits from the two men and decides to head back home, only to realize the danger ahead and turn back into a speeding vehicle. Despite the sense of impending doom in their escape plan, Prakkat keeps the action tight and engaging.

But to view Nayattu merely as a thriller would mean to overlook the numerous aspects of its fine screenwriting. The movie’s theme of three cops becoming pawns in the hands of the establishment is preserved throughout, thanks largely to the treatment of the lead characters. We see and hear only a little bit of their background (one’s Mom is terminally ill, while another’s daughter is nursing a wish to win a dance competition in front of her Dad), but not so much that the focus would distract from the central conceit. During the search, the characters are constantly looked at as a trio, and their photographs are circulated across the internet for identification, with most of the search crew unaware of their names. Such treatment makes us look at them only as a bunch of cops being preyed upon, and not as Michael, Maniyappan, or Sunitha. Also, the fact that there are more such pawns in the setup is underscored by how Anuradha (the lead cop heading the search, played by Yama Gilgamesh) is manipulated by her own jefe’s during her search to locate the trio. Nayattu isn’t about these three cops at the center of this mess; transpose them with Anuradha and her mates, and we may well have had Michael, Maniyappan, and Sunitha on this side of the aisle, hunting the former down. 

Set against the backdrop of local elections, the movie also illustrates that when communal tensions flare, political machinations begin to “administer” the state. It’s a premise not too far from reality, in a country where the system often becomes a player. When that happens, unlike the other thrilling game of tug-of-war at the start of the movie, there can never be a fair result.

Anuj Chakrapani loves cinema and believes movies, like other forms of art, is open to interpretation. And when you begin to interpret, you realize that the parts are more than the sum. Adopting a deconstructionist approach, he tries not to rate movies as “good” or “bad”, instead choosing to capture what he carries away from watching them. Anuj lives in the SF Bay Area and works for a large technology company.


Sushant Singh Rajput in Kai Po Che.

One Year Since Sushant…

As the first death anniversary of Sushant Singh Rajput approaches, we relive the moments that made his memorable debut in the 2013 movie Kai Po Che.

At the start of director Abhishek Kapoor’s film, a bunch of athletes is introduced to us, one after the other, with a voice-over in the background telling us about their names and their achievements. The screen slowly pans out and we realize the voice is actually that of Govind (Rajkummar Rao), and this is a pitch for his Sports academy (Sabarmati Sports Club). He ends the presentation with a quick mention of a potential international debutant in cricket, named Ali, albeit without any visuals.

As the story rewinds to 10 years earlier, we, and Ishaan, (the second protagonist of the three lead characters, played by Sushant Singh) first notice Ali from his back after the latter “catches” a ball whacked by Ali beyond the imaginary boundary in the crowded playgrounds. Ishaan asks a boy who the batsman is; the boy mentions he is someone from “outside their territory”. A few moments later, Ali throws a challenge to Ishaan, still a stranger to him. It is a win-all, lose-all challenge with a container of marbles at stake.

The scene quickly shifts the focus to the relationship between Ishaan and Ali, who are now tutor and disciple at the Sabarmati Sports Academy, still at its nascent stage. It takes a while for either of them to earn the other’s trust, and these scenes are nicely staged. Ali, still a boy, has his loyalty divided between the game of bat and ball and the one with marbles. Ishaan fumes at his commitment and chases him away from a practice session. In another scene, he storms into a Math class being instructed by Govind and teaches Ali the importance of stroking on the off-side. Ali scratches his head. Why? He is a natural, no? He doesn’t think too much when batting and gives the ball a thump the only way he knows. But Ishaan looks beyond this love-hate relationship with Ali and sees a future in him that no one else does.

Ishaan, the fearless warrior that he is, doesn’t bat an eyelid before breaking the headlight of an SUV, as a reprimand for a driver honking during the viewing of a cricket match; he likes to hold a gun that scares people nearby; and towards the end, he does not fear heading to Ali’s den for a cricket match the next day. But even the boldest have a weak moment, and Kapoor captures this beautifully in a short conversation on the phone between Govind and Ishaan, when the latter requests him to come over while expressing a “strange feeling of fear”.

The movie itself isn’t only about this tutor-disciple relationship. There is another delicious teacher-student relationship featuring Govind and Ishaan’s sister Vidya (played by Amrita Puri). Vidya woos him during Govind’s math tuition classes as he tries his best to wiggle out. 

The bigger problem for Govind though is the sports club he has set up with Ishaan and Omi (Amit Sadh). They are struggling to break even but are already dreaming of another facility in the city inside a mall. In the hope of making it big someday, they double-loan themselves while moving to the new mall. But their dreams are crushed when a natural calamity strikes one day. With everyone rushing for shelter, Govind instead runs barefoot to the mall to find what remains of the devastation. With such a feverish build-up to the interval, we look forward to how the story would shape up in the second half.

But from a fictional account this far, Kapoor shifts focus entirely to real-life happenings in 2001-2002. The principal characters take a back seat, while the supporting characters suddenly hog the limelight. There is generous screen space for Omi’s uncle, Bittu, the banker for the trio’s sports club in the first half, who unleashes his darker side. Omi himself, shown as a man of fewer words than others, is reduced to becoming a caricature towards the end.

All the subtleties and nuances that made the first half memorable are replaced by in-your-face moments that make you squirm in your seat towards the end. Even the 2001 India-Australia series, of which the second test match is covered with sufficient detail, appears to be shoe-horned into the plot without any major reason. They do create a feeling of nostalgia in the cricket lovers inside us, but what business does it have in a movie about the dreams and aspirations of three young men?

I wondered why Kapoor didn’t switch off the distractions to the plot with the material in his hand.

Anuj Chakrapani loves cinema and believes movies, like other forms of art, is open to interpretation. And when you begin to interpret, you realize that the parts are more than the sum. Adopting a deconstructionist approach, he tries not to rate movies as “good” or “bad”, instead choosing to capture what he carries away from watching them. Anuj lives in the SF Bay Area and works for a large technology company.