Despite being his debut directorial, Roby also ensures that the film’s entertainment quotient never slags. This usually comes from its emotional sequences or the action scenes
Kannur Squad story: After a murder in Kasargode leads to state-wide protests, a team of police officers, Kannur Squad, are assigned the task of tracking and apprehending the culprits in 10 days. Though they have cracked some of the toughest cases in the past, this mission is not as easy as it seems, especially with some of the team members themselves at odds. How ASI George Martin rallies his team as they pursue the criminals from Kerala to Maharashtra and beyond form the plot of Kannur Squad, which is inspired by real-life events.
Kannur Squad review: Ever since the trailer of Kannur Squad had dropped, people were quick to point out the similarities between the film and director Rajeev Ravi’s Kuttavum Shikshayum, which also revolved around a group of Kerala police officers travelling to unfamiliar terrain to apprehend culprits who had committed a crime and fled to another State. In a way, the similarities start and end there.
Director Roby Varghese Raj’s film is a police procedural, which has elements seen in recent Malayalam cop thrillers such as Operation Java, Nayattu and even Thankam and that’s only because all these films tried to realistically portray the workings of a police team. But what makes this movie stand out, is that the makers are aware that they have got a superstar essaying the lead in the film while also having to ensure that the movie’s narrative never strays too far from the authentic nature of the plot, which is inspired by true events and cases investigated by the real-life Kannur Squad of Kerala Police.
Instead of straightaway plunging the audience and its characters the main investigation, Roby along with the film’s writers Rony David Raj and Muhammed Shafi first introduces ASI George Martin (Mammootty) and his team (Azeez Nedumangad, Rony and Shabareesh Varma) in the middle of a probe, just as they are set to catch a group of criminals from their hideout.
In this prelude, the writers also explore the dynamics of each of these characters, for instance, a police officer casually remarks that George doesn’t have a family and there’s a pivotal scene where Rony’s Jayan gets into a heated argument about a loan. Though these traits are subtly mentioned, they play huge roles as the story evolves; even when the focus shifts to the pursuit of the elusive criminals, it’s these humane and flawed personas of the four cops that make the audience connect with their trials and tribulations.
The script is interspersed with instances of how challenging it can be for a police officer, but they never come across as preachy. The cops here aren’t portrayed as ramrod straight, duty-bound men; they have their issues but they prioritise the mission – even when they have to use methods that’s now frowned upon.
Despite being his debut directorial, Roby also ensures that the film’s entertainment quotient never slacks. This usually comes from its emotional sequences or the action scenes. One particular sequence, where the cops get trapped in a chamber, surrounded by a mob of murderous flame-wielding villagers, hooks the audience with them trying to figure a way out. The scene is smartly crafted, while also playing to the gallery – both for Mammootty fans and for Kerala police.
Except for one twist, the one in the end, most of these are unpredictable and that takes you on a gripping ride with the cops as they traverse from Kerala to Maharashtra to UP to Orissa and Indo-Nepal border.
Mammootty continues his brilliant run, post-pandemic, with Kannur Squad. George Martin is a far cry from SI Manikandan in Unda, but there are still traits that make him a leader without superpowers. While there are ‘mass’ moments where the star gets to steal the spotlight, Mammootty ensures this is balanced by a nuanced and grounded portrayal of Martin. For instance, his voice quivers when he is proudly defending his team to his superiors when they don’t seem to comprehend the ground reality, and he is also the voice of reason to his teammates.
Out of the other three cops, Rony gets to put on his best performance till date as Jayan, a tainted cop who is given a chance to redeem himself. Azeez Nedumangad and Shabareesh Varma, who are known for their comedic chops, showcase matured and restrained portrayals in Kannur Squad. The film’s antagonist, Arjun Radhakrishnan, also catches the eye. Kannur Squad also has a few cameos by noted actors.
The writing also makes use of Kannada actor Kishore, an IPS officer who upholds ideals instead of justifying the systemic failures. This narrative also helps in establishing the various aspects of being a police officer across the country.
Given that Roby is a proven cinematographer himself, the visual language of the film was never in doubt. Rahil, who has cranked the camera for the film, ensures that the movie doesn’t share anything similar to the previous films of the genre and also has frames that would stay in the audience’s mind, much after the movie is over. Sushin Shyam also deserves the credit for this; his background score keeps the film engaging throughout. Praveen Prabhakar’s cuts are crisp and that the film travels from one State to the next, helping its pace even further.
Kannur Squad verdict: All departments fire in equal measure in making Mammootty’s police procedural a gripping theatrical watch. Kannur Squad also serves as a reminder of the challenges faced by duty-bound police officers, while keeping the audience hooked to the engaging narrative as a team of four cops chase four elusive criminals across the country.