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Critics Review
Kurup movie review: With an engaging narrative style, Dulquer Salmaan’s conman saga is thoroughly entertaining

The structure of the film is almost like a puzzle, where each chapter is a jigsaw piece and the audience has to assemble it from the information provided to finally figure out the mind of the man.

Sanjith Sidhardhan
Nov 12, 2021
cover image
Dulquer Salmaan in a still from Kurup

Story: Born as Gopikrishnan, a young airman fakes his own death and assumes a new identity, first to desert the Indian Air Force. Later, he tries to pull off the same stunt with a group of men to get his insurance money. Only the second time, it doesn’t go quite as planned and the cops led by DYSP Krishnadas are on his tail as he flees from state to state, in this retelling of the life of one of India’s most wanted fugitives, Sukumara Kurup.

Review: It’s not often that another character’s deeds get cheered for in a movie where a superstar plays a role with grey shades. On that level of storytelling itself, director Srinath Rajendran succeeds in partially answering the perennial question he has been plagued with - whether Kurup “glorifies” the murder-accused fugitive Sukumara Kurup. Amid all its surprises, shocks, period detailing, star cast and style, it’s the narrative structure of Kurup that stands tall and almost makes it one of the better thrillers about con men to release in Indian cinema. To even narrow the film’s genre to just a thriller is a crime, Srinath’s movie is more than that – based on the chapters it unravels.

Dulquer Salmaan in a still from Kurup

The film is the director’s take on the life of Sukumara Kurup, told through the accounts of Kurup’s friend during his airman days, his accomplice in the crime, the investigative officer handling the Chacko murder case and, we even get Kurup’s version where most of the fictional elements are in play, to provide closure to the largely-entertaining film. To show that Kurup is only inspired by true incidents, the names of the characters are all changed – Sukumara Kurup is Sudhakara Kurup, his wife Sarasamma is Sharada, his brother-in-law Bhaskara Pillai is Bhasi Pillai, Chacko is Charlie and so on. However, the core incident of that made Kurup’s story an urban legend – of how his plan of faking his death through a body that resembles his takes shape and how the heinous crime is committed – is still intact.

Being that the story is widely known to the public in Kerala, the task that the scriptwriters – Daniell Sayooj Nair and KS Aravind – and the director had was to sculpt an engaging tale that would keep them on the edge of their seats. They succeed to a large extent by showing the different sides of Kurup, his world and his people. This also allows the audience to frame their opinion on whether he was a mastermind or someone with a mindless plan. The structure of the film is almost like a puzzle, where each chapter is a jigsaw piece and the audience has to assemble it from the information provided to finally figure out the mind of the man.

In that regard, most of the movie also has an authentic feel to it, that also helps majorly in believing that it’s based on true incidents. That’s also why Kurup’s version of events – which is supposed to gel the other chapters – sticks out. Probably the makers wanted to go for a pacy, entertaining finish that also played to the masses – which it does – but it takes away from the efficient storytelling that keeps many invested till then. The stylised elements and flair that Kurup gets could remind some of movies such as Lord of War or Blow in certain portions where he is involved in arms smuggling, but it’s a huge step up in believability from the rest of the movie. Another grouse is that the start of certain chapters does slow down. This is because the preceding episode often ends on a high, and this causes an imbalance in the pace of storytelling.

Kurup is almost a role that was tailor-made for Dulquer; the actor carries off the swagger and but also gently toes the line between a mastermind and someone who just miscalculated the whole situation. In a particular scene where he absconds to Bombay to meet his aunt, who ask him if he is capable of killing somebody, Kurup summarises what had happened – even getting the audience to believe his bluff. While there are enough ‘mass’ scenes in the film with Dulquer pulling off all sorts of disguises as the fugitive on the run, where he truly shines are his combination sequences with Shine Tom Chacko. There’s a sense of foreboding in those scenes that he ably brings to the surface and it’s a marked difference from the earlier versions or the ones you seen in the latter half.

A still from Kurup

Shine is on top form as Bhasi Pillai – a constantly inebriated and jarring individual – and it’s easily one of his best performances yet. Indrajith as Krishnadas lends the right balance as the cop focused on hunting down a man who destroyed the lives of not just Charlie but his family too. Sobhita and Sunny Wayne play their parts effectively in the film that predominantly focuses on the incident in 1984. The film also has a few surprises in store.

The production team, led by Banglan, deserves special mention for authentically recreating the bygone era from the 60s to the 80s – complete with evolving fashion, cars and modalities. Cinematographer Nimish Ravi’s visuals are taut and delightful, straddling between the cityscapes during Kurup’s romantic chapters, the grim interiors of a car where the criminals hatch their plan, the pacy chase scenes and the lavish life in the Middle East – all the while ensuring that the intensity doesn’t wane. Sushin Shyam’s music gives Kurup the verve that a film about a conman requires. To cap it off, this film is definitely meant for theatre viewing.

Verdict: Srinath Rajendran and Dulquer succeed in pulling off a movie about an infamous fugitive through effective storytelling and engaging narrative, all the while ensuring that they do justice to the true accounts and use cinematic elements that a big movie with a star require. Kurup is a must watch and one of the better films about a conman on the run.

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