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Garudan Review: Suresh Gopi-Biju Menon Thriller Subverts Tropes Of Cat & Mouse Chase

You might guess how Garudan, a tense investigative thriller, will unravel. But the cleverness of its execution will still leave you impressed.

Garudan Review: Suresh Gopi-Biju Menon Thriller Subverts Tropes Of Cat & Mouse Chase
Detail from the poster of Garudan, starring Suresh Gopi and Biju Menon

Last Updated: 02.42 PM, Nov 04, 2023


IF you are someone who earnestly watches films, chances are that you might develop an intuition when it comes to the possible twists and turns in mysteries. You can even guess some of the red herrings that are casually or deliberately planted in the course of the narrative. In that way, you know how Garudan will unravel, but it is brought together with a cleverness that leaves you impressed.

A college girl is severely brutalised and admitted to the ICU. Without much ado, SP Harish Madhav (Suresh Gopi) starts his investigation, and in seven months, they nab the culprit — who turns out to be her college professor, Nishant Kumar (Biju Menon). He is sentenced to life imprisonment and Harish, who is retiring, has been given a fitting farewell. All is well in the universe until Nishant reappears after his prison term to reopen the case. Is it that Harish who always had an impeccable track record went wrong? Or is Nishant playing a vindictive game? Directed by Arun Varma, and written by Midhun Manuel Thomas, Garudan cuts loose from that point, with several false trails thrown in.

The core investigation is dealt with economically (smart writing). However, it is staged in such a way that despite what seemed to be a straightforward probe, questions remain. Primarily it’s a battle between two characters and they are ably sketched. SP Harish Madhav can be called a Suresh Gopi-esque cop trope: the righteous, efficient, no-nonsense police officer who takes (far too much) pride in his khaki. Thus proving that when it comes to donning khaki, he will never be able to exorcise the ghost of his most iconic cop character, Bharath Chandran (Commissioner).

At times one gets the feeling that maybe he has added a few lines on the spot to amp up the glory of a cop. So lines like “Once a cop, always a cop” sound like what Suresh Gopi himself earnestly believes about police officers. After all, he himself has confided that he gets a special energy when he wears the khaki. Having said that he looks like a spent force on screen. Take for instance the slice where a few gundas corner him at a tea shop as we await the ensuing fireworks. But that slyly placed stardom showcase lands futilely. And those constant assertions on duty, integrity, and khaki seemed like a postscript.


In hindsight, Harish comes across as another version of CI Abraham Mathew in Pappan. Harish has a wife and a 20-something son, and they are — as expected — on the sidelines. The portions they do have are also superficial. One felt the actor's off-screen persona clashed whenever he slipped into the role of the dad. But then the narrative is only fixated on Harish’s professional side. After one point, you wonder if he is obsessed with rendering justice or proving a point against a convict. That’s why his integrity fails to touch you.

His friendship with advocate Thomas Iype (Siddique, who can do this character in his sleep) gets more screen time and it’s sort of nice. Iype gets a generic sketch and does what’s expected from a friend.

But Nishant’s arc keeps you intrigued — one isn’t able to read his mind or face. He has very few dialogues as well. And yet, one feels an odd sense of sympathy. Typically, his wife and daughter are just stock characters. Women in Garudan seem to have been included for representation purposes only.

If the first half keeps your attention fastened to the screen, despite the intriguing twists in the middle, the narrative starts to untangle predictably during the last quarter. The courtroom scenes, for instance, felt too premeditated, more so as the narrative demanded a bit of drama.

Some of the characters and conflicts are too hackneyed. Harish’s run-in with the politician, for instance — you know where this will all lead to. Thalaivasal Vijay as Col Philip, the traumatised father of the survivor is another formulaic casting, which is further worsened by the dubbed voice of veteran actor Vijay Menon. He has been a sophisticated English-speaking voice of Malayalam cinema in the last three decades.

What’s cheering is the filmmaker’s decision to stay away from depicting sexual violence on screen. Last time, we saw how B Unnikrishnan was ruthless in showing sexual violence graphically through a voyeuristic lens in Christopher. Instead, the violence in Garudan is graphically narrated by the perpetrator and it’s twice as unnerving. One could almost feel the violence and pain of the victims.

For Biju Menon, this could get him out of a rut. He has been saddled with comedy and serious roles for a bit lately. Nishant is a stunner from the actor. Anything more could be a spoiler. Varma makes a promising debut!


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