Child abuse, animal torture, caste conflicts, rape, serial killings, a psychopath, a Royal Enfield bullet, and a game of Antakshari — these very discordant elements come together successfully in the film Antakshari. Written and directed by Vipin Das, the film is an ominous investigative thriller, which manages to keep you engaged.
The movie, with Saiju Kurup in the lead as circle inspector Yesudas, is thrilling in parts but falls back on the format of investigative thrillers inspired by American web series as it places a psycho-killer at its heart. We have seen something similar happen in many Malayalam films of late, including Memories, Anjam Pathira, The Great Father, etc.
However, unlike the above mentioned films, Antakshari takes a different approach. The movie begins by showing two presumably upper caste men tormenting an underprivileged woman who is accompanied by her son de ella who has mental illness. In a moment of aggression, the boy tries to stab one of the men. The two men rape the woman in front of the child to avenge the ‘insult’. In the next scene, we see the cop Das, played by Saiju Kurup, as he buys a second-hand bullet. Suddenly it is a different movie as we meet the Antakshari-loving honest cop.
The movie changes its mood once again as Das’s daughter is attacked by a masked person in front of Das’s wife. She loses her voice as she deals with the trauma of almost having her daughter de ella almost murdered in front of her. An intuitive police officer and a worried dad, Das starts to investigate the assault. With the help of a newly appointed police officer named Srinivas (Sudhi Koppa) who joins Das’s station on probation, Das finds a link between his daughter’s case and a few other assaults. Other threads also link to their story, while others add to the dark mood of the narrative.
The movie doesn’t follow a familiar format and keeps audience guessing for the most part. The director manages to keep the mood of the movie tense as the trauma that the dramatis personae have faced in the past are slowly revealed. Yesudas is also not depicted as a super cop but a vulnerable and soft-hearted police officer who is frightened by what has happened to his daughter. His character of him comes as a welcome change after the path taken by many other investigative thrillers we have seen in Malayalam. Saiju Kurup has done justice to his role. Sudhi Koppa, Vijay Babu, Priayanka, Kottayam Ramesh, Binu Papan are also a good fit for the roles. Bablu Aju’s cinematography and Arjun S Mani’s sound design goes well with the dystopian mood of the movie.
Antakshari is now streaming on SonyLiv.