Readers Write In #361: Nayattu (The Hunt)

Posted on May 12, 2021

19


(by Sundar)

Early into the film,the seasoned ASI Maniyan (Joju George), along with the rookie officer Praveen Michael (Kunchacko Boban), visits a house of an influential family and very casually goes about the task of planting evidence in the ‘crime scene’ – in order to fix an innocent chap at the behest of the powers placed at the higher echelons of the ‘system’. This particular scene serves as the sheet anchor for the rest of the story; it effectively prepares our minds which would gradually be introduced to the manifestations of increasing proportions and unnerving meanness, of the faceless, heartless and ruthless system that we have created for ourselves, with democracy as its bedrock.

The movie starts with a heavily charged up final match of an All Kerala tug-of-war tournament. Leading the underdog Kings Piravom is Praveen, a new cop, and they are up against the reigning champions, the Ernakulam District Police Rural team. The result of the match is not really relevant, as the story is neither about the game nor about the role-conflict of Praveen. As it moves there are more similar sub-plots, though operating on a lesser scale,like the ones revolving around Maniyan’s daughter and her dance trainer, Praveen’s love failure and his mother’s arthritis. Here again, none of them seemingly has any direct bearing on the story. But these scenes actually draw you into the world of a small-town police station (a ‘system’) and before even you realise you are in the thick of things.

nayattu

The incident at the police station involving a Dalit party members and the lead cops is the launch pad for the story – and from there on the film takes a totally different, intense and riveting trajectory. It is simply beautiful writing. The screenplay constantly ups the ante for the audience, but in a smooth and thrilling way. Take for instance, the scene where a police car intercepts the pickup van that is sneaking out with the three accused; upon inspection the cop spots the three; so what does he do now? There is no story if they are caught so early. So, they had to be allowed to escape. It happens so. The writing is not breaking any new ground here. But even when sticking to the onscreen grammar for most of the time, merely by finding intelligent ways to place such elements, Shahi Kabir,the writer, wins over both our brains and hearts. Nayattu is not about the end. The story is not about the whats and hows of the hunt, rather it tackles something more fundamental – the why of the hunt.

The casting of the film is extraordinary. Walk randomly into any police station or watch out for police vehicles roving our roads, and you are bound to see cops like Sunitha (Nimisha Sajayan), Maniyan or Praveen. With proper casting in place (Dineesh as Biju, is another example of perfect casting; full of unbridled rebellion and plain spite)the work is already half done.The actors make it a whole with their amazingly candid performance that warrants the usage of the much abused phrase, ‘lived their roles’.

While watching the film it is impossible to resist the thoughts of Vetrimaran’sTamil movie Visaranai(2015). Nayattu is exactly about what Visaranai was about. Both are from the same embryo. But the Malayalam film, without compromising on its sincerity, has taken a more palatable form (not necessarily better or worse); stripped of raw violence, with added aesthetics and songs, and filling a bigger canvas.

Nayattu, one more successful creation from Martin Prakkat, is definitely not an edge-of-the-seat thriller – it is much more.

[ PS: There are some 101 nice things in the film, three of them are here:

 i) In an initial scene, the Circle Inspector is seen lecturing to his man the proper ways of attending to nursery plants. Later we get to know that he was a teacher before donning the uniform.

 ii) The prize money for the tug-of-war tournament is Rs.88,888/-. Cool! The winning team also gets a full-grown goat. Burrrp!

iii) The police van moves with the two accused only to stop for a moment, just to allow an old lady to cast her vote.