I watched this whole movie and I am still not sure who did it and why and all of that. But it was certainly entertaining! Although not as entertaining as the last CBI movie I watched, Jagratha CBI, where the twists were just BONKERS.
It hurts me somewhere deep inside that I can’t watch this series of chronological order. My most deeply held belief! Everything must be done in order! Thus my mad dash through the entire Lord of the Rings series before I allowed myself to watch the movies. But at least with this series, it doesn’t seem really really really important to go through them in order. There are a few recurring characters, along with our central Mammootty detective, but for the most part the stories (the two of them I have seen) tend to be autonomous. Although they are connected in tone.
What makes this series different is two things: The plots and Mammootty’s detective. Or, you could say what makes them different is one thing, the way the plots and Mammootty’s detective intersect.
See, the plots involve an incredible level of messy human imperfection. Sex, violence, drugs, greed, everything comes together in a big stew that ends in death. And then there is Mammootty, the epitome of logic and clean clear thinking, slowly moving through and clearing out the emotions and lies and everything else that lead to this mess. That’s what is appealing, the slow build of this complex story with the occasional interruption by the refreshing mind of Mammootty.
Mammootty, supposedly, helped come up with this character himself. A Brahmin who uses his trained intellect to slowly unravel mysteries, instead of the usual detective type who punches first and thinks later. It’s also supposed based on a real detective? Who went to the same school as Mammootty but a few years ahead of him? And had investigate a series of famous murders in Kochi around the same time as the first CBI film came out?
No matter where exactly the idea came from, the execution is brilliant. We start with the mystery. The messy complicated mystery with all kinds of secrets and motives and passions. And then after we have been completely confused and lost the ability to trust anyone (including the incompetent/corrupt police), poof! Mammootty appears. To take the world and set it right. This isn’t just about solving a puzzle, this is about finding our way when we are lost in a sea of uncertainties.
And now I am going to see if I can dive into that sea of uncertainties again and try to figure it out.
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The opening is such a Manichitrathazhu ripoff! But in a clever way, where they take our expectations and turn them around. A group of young women arrive at a remote-ish old mansion. There is a mysterious room that is always kept locked. And an unhappy slightly older woman with a failed marriage in her past. And a young woman who seems overly curious about this mysterious room. And then, MURDER! The young woman is found dead at the foot of the stairs.
(I know the remake is bad, I don’t care, I will use any excuse to post this song)
Jumping forward several years, Mammootty has been brought in. The original case is still unsolved. And we cut between the present day with Mammootty solving puzzles one by one, with the past when the puzzles were first set up. Dogs chase a scent, then lose it. The honest young police officer volunteers to spend the night in the mysterious room, and is found the next day with a broken leg laying on the ground outside. Finally, the room was sealed by a priest and closed with a sacred thread. Again, Manichitrathazhu.
From there the plot goes round and round and round through all kinds of cul de sacs and dead ends. The mysterious evil room is solved when Mammootty confidently picks up a baby and places it inside. And then opens the door a few minutes later to show the baby, perfectly happy, still inside. And Mammootty explains that all of the fear was created by their own minds, their expectations. But a baby, with a clear mind, had no fear.
(Speaking of babies, oh my goodness is Taimur cute! And in this photo, kind of looks better than both his parents. A mustache Saif? Really? And Kareena, no criticism, you look like a tired happy loving mother, which has it’s own kind of beauty, but also maybe put on some concealer around your eyes before you put a photo online?)
It’s a very dramatic scene, but I can’t help thinking there had to be a better option than just throwing a tiny baby alone in a room! Even a non-cursed room, doesn’t seem terribly safe. Like, couldn’t Mammootty himself just go into the room to prove it is safe? Isn’t that his superpower, the clear logic of his mind?
Speaking of his “superpower”, there is a great moment when he goes toe-to-toe with the priest who locked up the room, answering a series of abstract questions to prove his Brahmin knowledge. Oh, and then there is the best possible moment, when he ends the scene by saying he doesn’t know everything, he only knows the particular stuff that he has learned. Which, in a broader sense, is saying that as a Brahmin he has been trained in logic and so on, but that makes him no better or worse than anyone else, everyone has their own kind of knowledge.
Although he is better than most other people in that he has trenscended greed and desire and other petty distractions. In this movie and the last one, there were a few “good” people mixed in with the rest, but the majority of the plot was about how everyone has some selfish sinful secret to hide. The actual solution to the murder, in both films, is very simple. But it is hard to reach because of all the other totally unrelated secrets being hidden by the “innocents”.
From one perspective, this could be considered a bunch of “red herrings”. Tricking the audience by confusing them so they can’t see how simple the solution really is. But from a larger sense, it’s about showing how some tragedy was inevitable, so long as society is filled with these hidden desires and giving in to illusions.
(Maya Maya! No song videos that I can find for this movie, so I am throwing in any old random thing)
That’s what Mammootty is for. Not just to solve the murder, but to reveal all of these illusions. Whether it is medical negligence and cover up, or an affair between leading members of society, or just the innocent self-hypnosis involved in a family convincing itself that a secret room is filled with evil.
It’s only after all of this is worked through that Mammootty is able to find the real clue, the sacred golden jewelry hidden away that should have been donated to the nearby temple. The temple which still has that jewelry, meaning this is a perfect duplicate fake. Why?
And here we come to religion! Religion winds its way through this plot. The Mammootty Brahmin challenge scene, that felt lovely and natural from the characters. But the information that our victims boyfriend is the son of a man who converted to Christianity, and the lengthy section in which we meet this man, and his second wife who convinced him to convert. And all the talk about the “forced” conversion of the son. All of that felt really weird! I am probably missing something specific, maybe it is making fun of a particular person in Kerala society, but the just sort of common acceptance that “forced conversions” are a thing that happens is very odd to me. Along with the seeming implication that while the son was being blackmailed into converting, the father was being seduced into it.
Part of it felt possibly anti-Christian. But another part of it felt slightly different because of how diverse Kerala is religiously. Changing from Hindu to Christian isn’t looked down on necessarily because being Christian is “bad”, but because everyone should have respect for the traditions in which they are raised, and the self-respect to stay within them. I kind of feel like Muslim to Christian, or Christian to Hindu, might have a similar disapproval from society.
(Why can’t we all achieve the perfect religious harmony shown here?)
Skipping forward to the end, our temple priests! Who happily work with Mammootty in a sting operation to track down the jeweler that made the fake and, presumably, commissioned the theft. And, finally, we have the solution! Which cuts across all levels of society with a shared culpability, very nice.
Our jeweler, with a lot of money, is the one who provided the motive. The aristocratic family, fallen on hard times thanks to failed investments by the male head of the household, needed money. And the person who actually coordinated it-the loving widowed aunt! Who early that day had welcomed with hugs and food this young woman, and that night killed her. And the one who carried it out, the low class impoverished Tamil worker. So we have the merchant class, the landed aristocrats, and the desperately poor, all of whom have their own weaknesses and ability for evil. Because weakness and evil can appear within anyone.
It’s too bad that it is always the young woman who suffers and dies from this evil. On the one hand, can’t we have a film for once where the running screaming person is a young man instead of a young woman? On the other hand, in a larger sense, if this murder is meant to be the result of all the wrongness of society coming together, then yeah, young women do tend to be the ones who suffer the most from the ills of society. If we think of the films from the perspective of revealing the darkness in the souls of humanity, with our Brahmin hero their to guide us through it, then having that darkness result in the pain and suffering of a young woman seems pretty perfect.