*ing – Prithviraj, Nedumudi Venu, Asif Ali and others
Be warned : This is not a review. Do not read if you’ve not watched yet.
Rating : Highly watchable
I speak here of a mid-90s American movie I watched long ago. In one of the best climax sequences I’ve ever seen in a film, one of the suspects, the seemingly weakest of them all, is let off after much taunting by the investigators as they imagine he is of no use to their case. Even as he limps away teary-eyed, the investigators begin to receive a fax message with an image of the mastermind behind the heist. As the portrait emerges from the machine, there is a flurry of activity as they begin to pursue the weakling who just walked away. But he’s too smart for them and has already altered his gait and slipped into a waiting vehicle. And in one mind-blowing change of perception, you realise you’ve been hearing his version, albeit a corrupted one, of how the events had occurred.
Let me not spoil the movie for you by telling you which one it is, and on the other hand if you’ve seen it, you’ll know which film I’m talking about.
Heist movies are a dime-a dozen these days. We had the more light-hearted ‘Oceans’ series after that. And many more with subtle unpredictable twists and mind-boggling turns. And then we have our very own Indian versions.
Of these I really liked Johnny Gaddar (a little violent but quite entertaining) for it’s plot, but whatever else I’ve watched have been too contrived and westernised to be convincing.
And now the Malayalam version ‘Saptamashree Tatskara’. An Indian movie maker knows (just like an Indian author does) that he is at the risk of turning into a copy cat of his Western counterpart while handling certain genres, like fantasy or thrillers (crime or otherwise). A smart person will consciously avoid it. Excepting for the acrobat accomplice and the done-to-death decoy plot, I didn’t spot too many similarities in ‘Saptama…’and other movies I’ve watched.
Served with dollops of humour and a little pathos, the fun characters keep you engrossed from the word ‘go’. From the simpleton to the lunatic, the seven thieves do not have any outstanding back stories to tell and these ordinary stories makes for many a chortles and chuckles. That, and a lot of crap, literally, which caters to the recent need for sick humour. The moral is simple enough…digging your way through a criminal life, you may either hit a pot of s**t or you may end up at the pinnacle of hope and glory.
The movie is shot in Trichur and featured in crucial scenes are the Viyoor Jail and the famous Pulikali (Tiger dance) performed during the 10-day Onam celebrations only in this town. As one of the inmate puts it, the jail is full of ‘creatives’ who do what they are best at. [PS . The chapatis and chicken curry of Viyoor jail is very famous and I’m not joking when I say that I’ve seen people lining up in serpentine queues to pick up their order on Christmas eve.] And the Trichur dialect the characters use with it’s famous (and normally misused, thankfully not here) Trichur accent like the time the same inmate says in his confession to the priest “I was ‘nicely’ looting the temple donation box…”. That’s when he gets ‘nicely’ caught as well.
In fact the story of the film unravels as the confessions of the above-mentioned inmate who is bewildered enough by the turn of events to appear before the priest after seven…not days, not weeks, not even months, but years.
And for all the tightness (mostly) of script and riveting and fun story-telling, what of Prithviraj’s Krishnan Unni? Just like the six other accomplices who are stumped as to his motive, the audience are too. And what does the ending imply…that he is a well-to-do good Samaritan?
Or more likely, he is a good crook who likes to set things right, but being a crook, there are no straight paths. So where does that leave us? And do we expect a sequel (or even a prequel) ala ‘Oceans Eleven’?