Not a word, not a pause, not a look, not a sigh feels out of place or unnecessary in nayattu (the hunt). Director Martin Prakkat’s new film packs many genres into one: a police procedural, an escape film, a suspenseful thriller, and a sociopolitical commentary on today’s Kerala (or India, or the world, if you choose to see it that way). ). It didn’t seem possible that Malayalam cinema could throw up a gem to compete with great Indian cuisine this year, but it already has: nayattu it is.
written by shahi kabir and exquisitely edited by mahesh narayanan and rajesh rajendran, nayattu begins with a burst of noise and color, and ends quietly in a gray and dreary landscape. it takes over half an hour to reach an incident that sends its three protagonists on the run. every moment thereafter contains an observation, foreshadowing, or unexpected turn of events that keeps the story rolling relentlessly but quietly toward its climax.
The first 30 minutes establish the characters and backgrounds of police personnel KP Maniyan (Joju George), Sunitha Krishna (Nimisha Sajayan), and Praveen Michael (Kunchacko Boban). two of them are Dalits. Maniyan is a veteran who adores his gifted daughter. Sunitha and her mother are living together and fighting a troublesome member of the extended family as the film opens. Praveen is a new member whose focus is the well-being of his mother.
sunitha’s complaint against her troublemaking relative leads to a fight at a police station. this clash works against the trio when they are later involved in a dramatic episode and find accumulated evidence suggesting that they colluded in a crime. The facts could easily be discovered, but the political situation in the state is such that reality matters less than perception, so the force is tasked with incriminating Maniyan, Sunitha and Praveen.
The fight at the police station is the only passage in nayattu that made me stop. the assailant in the case is a nasty young dalit (jineesh chandran) which is not in itself a problem: the portrayal of marginalized communities in film should be about normalization not deification, and the characters should cover the whole gamut from good to bad the problem here, however, is that without quite saying it, the chain of events seems to imply that social, political and media sensitivity towards dalits gives dalit hooligans an unfair advantage over dalits. law enforcement officers. when you watch nayattu in its entirety, it’s clear that this isn’t the overall point of the film, but still, the margin of doubt that passing scene leaves behind is unacceptable considering how the caste sections Superiors are always looking for an excuse to represent exceptional cases as the norm and claim victimization at the hands of Dalit protection laws and policies.
nayattu is about how individual human beings are irrelevant in the face of political machinations, and how amoral politicians who claim to care about an oppressed social group use the anguish of the community to further their own ends selfish if showing concern for the marginalized calls for scapegoating them, so be it.
A sense of disappointment and despair pervades nayattu, but the open ending also leaves room for hope if you wish to play it that way.
early in nayattu, maniyan follows orders to frame an innocent man for a crime he did not commit. the simplicity with which he plants evidence is chilling, but he says bitterly, “even thugs have the option to accept or reject dates, we don’t have that freedom.” soon the system he once obeyed turns on him with the same cruelty with which it once so casually used him.
shahi kabir, who previously wrote the joju george-starrer joseph, once against has put his experience as a cop to good use in nayattu. Knowledge of him shines through to Maniyan’s hopelessness and the investigative methods used by his colleagues, all of which are convincingly described.
unlike last year’s otherwise remarkable anjaam pathiraa, in which unnimaya prasad was cast as a symbolic high-ranking policewoman who ended up standing helpless and ruining her job while a man solved case in nayattu an officer named anuradha is in charge of tracking down maniyan, sunitha and praveen, and she really does something. Anuradha is well written as an efficient detective, and actor Yama Gilgamesh looks and acts superbly.
The supporting roles are all filled by well-chosen performers, including, in a rather lengthy role, Anil Nedumangad, whom we lost so tragically last year.
Potential customers are in spectacular shape. Joju George gets the most colorful role among them but he is not allowed to outshine Nimisha Sajayan or Kunchacko Boban. At first, Nimisha’s Sunitha is shown to be less mentally tough than the men and it seemed like the film was headed down the path of writing the two men as protectors of this hapless woman, but luckily it doesn’t quite get there.
Perhaps unknowingly, the script shows Maniyan, Sunitha and Praveen slipping into traditional gender-designated roles at a time when they are on the run. Other than that, nayattu defies the tendency to normalize patriarchy in contemporary Malayalam cinema with little touches like a man hanging a woman’s underwear on a clothesline and a man wordlessly buying sanitary napkins. for his partner. when he realizes, without being told, that she is having her periods. such consideration is not common in Malayalam cinema.
the effortless beauty of munnar captured by dop shyju khalid in the second half of nayattu reflects the effortless beauty of the film. nothing is forced or invented in the script. the music (by vishnu vijay) and sound design (by ajayan adat) are understated and perfect. and prakkat, whose last film was the widely acclaimed, widely awarded and widely viewed charlie (2015), patiently allows his ingredients to simmer without once messing up his chosen pace or serene demeanor. of the narration.
nayattu is about a heartless system that unblinkingly devours the very people who sustain it. Netflix’s synopsis reads: “Three cops become pawns of unscrupulous lawmakers when they find themselves framed in an incident in the middle of a political election and must go on the run to evade arrest.” is that – yes. it’s also pretty indescribable.
Score: 4 (out of 5 stars)
nayattu is streaming on netflix.