Purusha Pretham will easily make every '10 best Malayalam films of 2023' list.
Last Updated: 12.40 PM, Mar 29, 2023
Story: Purusha Pretham follows the struggles of two cops after they come under the scanner for misplacing an unidentified dead body.
Review: Purusha Pretham means Male Ghost. The title may give you the impression that this film is a horror movie. But, it's not. It's a dark comedy that satirises the Kerala police department. The police department considers using the term Pretham, meaning ghost, to refer to unidentified dead bodies. Any other term is deemed to degrade the dead. The irony lies in the fact that while on record there is so much effort is taken to protect the dignity of the dead, in reality, the opposite is true.
Purusha Pretham is directed by Krishand from a script written by Ajith Haridas and Manu Thodupuzha. In this film, we meet an unlikely hero, 'Super' Sebastian (played by a wonderful Alexander Prasanth). The first time we meet him is through a story narrated by Dileep (played by Jagadish, and it is one of his best performances). Dileep talks about Sebastian's gallantry and the terror he invokes in the hearts of those who are on the wrong side of the law. The cases handled by Sebastian have achieved the status of legend in police circles. So much so that young police officers, who haven't seen Sebastian in flesh, have heard and become big fans of his legendary exploits.
Also Read: Darshana Rajendran: In Purusha Pretham, I had to fully subscribe to the idea Krishand had in his mind | Exclusive
But, some know that Sebastian doesn't say the whole truth. He takes a lot of creative freedom when he explains the story behind his injuries. The reality is always less exciting than the fiction invented by Sebastian. And many of his colleagues don't seem to care about this fact as long as they are entertained by the incredible stories of Super Sebastian, where he demonstrates courage and grit that befits the popular image of a cop. Because the actual police work is not that exciting.
Purusha Pretham turns the popular tropes of cop movies on their heads. The film's underlying thesis is that most, if not all, popular cop movies made in India have been lying to us. They have been Super Sebastian-ing us for decades. The cops who get to perform some heroic feats are few and far between. The majority of them have to execute the orders of their superiors without asking a lot of questions. And sometimes those mundane tasks could be menial and not something worthy of sharing with one's family. The cops are not always chasing the robbers, bursting the mobs and stopping the crimes before they happened. The police department is understaffed and overloaded with so much work that it comes up short of its sworn duty— to protect the common people.
Sebastian orders Dileep to help fish out a dead body from a lake. Even though the younger members of his team volunteer to do the job, Sebastian insists on Dileep doing it. At first, we think of it as some ugly powerplay and Sebastian is doing it to punish Dileep for some reason. And a few scenes later, it makes us realise something more sinister. "Some people think we are only entitled to carrying the dead body and cleaning toilets," rues Dileep's son, while asking him not to perform such tasks in future. It makes us go, "oh, yes. The caste prejudice at play."
Also Read: Purusha Pretham is a crime noir-ish comedy that audience would enjoy if they connect with it: Krishand | Exclusive
And we will have another epiphany well into the second half of the film. Sebastian is suspended from the job and he's drinking his sorrow away at the regular bar. He demands a drink past closing time, but the manager refuses. And Sebastian gets all tough on the manager, hoping he would not fight back given he has heard so many legendary stories of him. He was so wrong. The manager takes Sebastian to the back of the bar and puts a beat down on him. As Sebastian is getting beaten by a civilian, the movie poster of Suriya's Singam, plastered on a wall, comes into focus and reveals the irony of the situation.
Purusha Pretham is a procedural drama. It revolves around the events that happen when Darshana Rajendran's Susanna comes to Sebastian's station to claim an unidentified dead body. After asking a few basic questions, Sebastian is convinced that 'Purusha Pretham' is not Susanna's husband and dismisses the possibility of exhuming it. But, she insists on seeing it. The problem is Sebastian and Dileep, who have seen so many cases of unidentified dead bodies, might have not followed all the procedures as required by the law. Sebastian delegates his share of the work to Dileep and Dileep trusts the caretaker at the graveyard to bury the body as per the procedure, and rushes back home to catch his favourite TV show.
Sebastian and Dileep might have done such infractions many times before. But, their mismanagement of Purusha Pretham this time, comes back to haunt them.
Purusha Pretham is peppered with so many colourful characters. The high-energy performances of the cast make it an exciting watch. Especially, Alexander Prasanth delivers a performance that seamlessly switches between the personas of a hero cop and an average joe. Each frame in the film tells more than one story. Often the characters only appear on the edges, leaving a lot of empty space in the frame. It's as if the director is inviting us to fill it up with our imagination and reading of the movie. We can never see the full scope of their personalities. Like Sebastian, all characters tell only half-truths. The editing of this film is awesome, giving out a lot of details that help us to fill up the gaps and give a glimpse of what actual police reports look like.
The verdict: Purusha Pretham will easily make every '10 best Malayalam films of 2023' list.
This latest Malayalam movie is streaming on SonyLiv .