A crime is committed; you have identified the culprit and are about to reveal the mystery and then boom! There’s an accident and everything is wiped out of your memory and you have to start on a fresh slate, with your RAM totally clean and no one else aware of your condition, except for a couple of people. You see faces and are told who they are but you have no idea what these people mean to you – the culprit is probably sitting next to you but you haven’t the foggiest notion about it. People are out to kill you and you realize that you aren't the most popular guy around but you are powerless. Antony Moses has to figure out why, what and how it happened and no, this isn't based on the Bourne series!
The basic premise of Rosshan Andrrews’ Mumbai Police isn't entirely novel and amnesia is an age-old trick in the book of filmmakers but you’d have to admit that the movie is absolutely gripping and keeps you glued to your seat for a greater part of the journey. Yes, social networks have all focused on the movie’s climax and created polarized opinions on the movie, based on that. But such a line of thinking does no justice to a movie that has so much going right for it and I dare say, it is arguably one of the most satisfying police dramas that I have seen in Malayalam.
Mumbai Police has nothing to with the movie per se; it is just a name that the media uses to refer to three policemen – Antony, Aaryan and Farhan – who had at some point of time in their past worked in the Mumbai police force and are now stationed in Ernakulam. It is a bond of friendship that ties the three men – two of them are incidentally brothers-in-law but this is rarely spoken about and all relationships are just kept at the surface throughout the movie.
ACP Antony Moses (Prithiviraj) is entrusted the task of tracking down the high-profile murder of his close friend ACP Aaryan Jacob John (Jayasurya). Aaryan is shot dead in a felicitation ceremony and there is high pressure on the cops to get through to the bottom of the case. Antony is about to inform Police Commissioner Farhan Aman (Rahman) about the killer but at that critical moment, he meets with an accident and the case reaches a dead-end. Farhan insists that the memory loss be kept a secret and asks Antony to continue since he had already cracked the case and so the investigation starts all over again…
There are awkward moments that Antony faces as he slowly confronts the truth of his past. As the story moves in flashbacks intermittently, we realize that Antony is not exactly a man of scruples and is capable of extreme violence. He is nicknamed ‘Rascal’ Moses by the media but he’s a man who can produce results – a cop who can get things done, albeit ignoring the ethical dimensions of the job. He may be a rascal but is willing to give his friend the credit of an encounter (the thought did strike me fleetingly towards the end if this was a genuine gesture or a need to lie low to avoid being probed by the media, keeping the climax in mind).
The furious dare-devil cop Antony Moses A is in contrast with the brooding and silent Antony Moses B – he isn't even very sure which of this is his real self and so his emotions are all mangled up. In his own words, he is a man with no past or future and has to unravel the case to understand his true existence. The Dirty Cop turns over a Good Cop but it’s a transformation that he is unsure of and only when he identifies the killer of Aaryan, he is able to get a clearer picture of the past. (On a different note, if a memory loss can actually change the character of a man, it is interesting to see how one’s actions and deeds are driven by what one experiences in life and not where one is born into).
There are scenes that stand out in the narrative that moves back and forth between his two personalities. Take for instance, Antony meeting his sister in a restaurant where she wants to discuss about her husband. He’s partly shaken, unable to relate to her emotions and even when she touches his hand, he takes it back not knowing how to react. Yes, the world says that she’s his sister but is she really his sister? Take the scene when a man enters his cabin and invites him to his daughter’s invitation – there is awkwardness in their interaction and only later, he realizes that the stranger was the SP! The action sequences are well-orchestrated and Antony surprises himself when he fights off his attackers in the early scenes – his memory has been blanked out but not his inner police instincts.
A typical cop movie comes laced with a lot of bravado in its dialogues, political interference, corrupt cops and so many other lazy stereotypes but Mumbai Police avoids all these cliches. The cops even resort to hiring the services of local port workers in order to defend themselves against an expectant mob of unruly mob of navy fellas!
The clash between the police and the navy is a small but interesting segment in the movie; shows how the ego-clashes between Govt security agencies make them enemies of each other. The scene where senior assistant sub-inspector Sudhakaran (Kunjan) explains as to why he was drunk when on duty, after years of unblemished service is a rare out of place theatrical scene in an otherwise taut drama that doesn't waste screen space.
The thrills of the first half makes way to a more sober 2nd half, as Antony finally sets out to crack the puzzle in a way that defines his new personality. It is debatable if in a case with intense media scrutiny, Farhan can wait for Antony to return and take the gamble to put him on the task again, considering the situation he is in. Nevertheless, there is a greater eye to detail here, including a interesting perspective of a sharp shooter which brings Antony closer to the killer.
Prithviraj stands out in an outstanding performance as Antony Moses A and B – as he transforms himself from a fiery cop to a subdued one. From an aggressive gait, he develops a less assertive walk and finds himself unable to comprehend his emotions with the situation around him. The new man is willing to pay for his cigarette, greet people with a smile and exchange his alcohol with coffee – a change that Prithvi incorporates easily, but haltingly.
It is courageous for him to take up a role that any mainstream actor in Kerala would hesitate to do (there were rumours earlier that Mammootty would do this role but it’s really hard to imagine that). The past one year has seen him in different kinds of roles in Molly Aunty Rocks, Ayalum Njanum Thammil, Celluloid and now this and still we have wannabe critics who have a problem with him, for the simple reason that he questions the superstars!
Jayasurya is at ease in a more light-hearted role as a reluctant cop Aaryan, whose friends are his biggest asset in life. The ever youthful Rahman (dubbed by Shammi Thilakan) supports ably and needs to be utilized more by film-makers. Backed by Gopi Sundar's excellent BGM (except at a couple of places like a bike chase) and Diwakar's intense, brooding lens, Mumbai Police is a must watch.
And finally, coming to the most-talked about climax of the film that forms the backbone of the story and bares it all. It isn't easy to review Mumbai Police without talking about the climax and also avoiding any spoilers. Yes, it shocks and it is arguable whether or not the director is able to pull it off convincingly. The biggest stumbling block in the finale is the manner in which one of the individuals in question is depicted in a wimpish stereotypical manner that ensures that the audience does not care for the character.
Secondly, does the director seek to explain the killer’s Alpha-male tendencies exhibited by giving him such an attribute or is it only Aaryan who interprets his behavior in that manner? It appears disturbing that the director insinuates that the killer’s behaviour is largely driven by this and makes it a guilty secret. Wish they had pepped up this segment a bit more and not reduced it this kind of stereotyping. Is the reason for the crime entirely reasonable? That’s a tough call to make – there does seem to be a justification for the killing , if you put yourself in his shoes and the impact of the expose but then would Aaryan ever reveal such a secret? It looks unlikely and so the motive for the killing looks weak, to that extent. But then truth is stranger than fiction in many ways, it is upto us whether we can accept it or not.
After an abysmally expensive turkey called Casanovva, the trio of Bobby-Sanjay and Rosshan Andrrews definitely restore their lost credibility with an intense drama like Mumbai Police. It isn't the easiest of movies to make and comments on social networks tell you how difficult it is easy for people to digest when movies take the road not taken and shake the ground of morality that we have managed to keep in balance.
Originally published in MadAboutMoviez - http://www.madaboutmoviez.com/2013/05/mumbai-police/