Mohanlal’s early 90’s whodunit “Mukham’ directed by Mohan is one of my favorite movies, so is Mohan’s “Pakshe”. “Mukham” if I remember correctly was a flop, but nuances of the movie keep growing on you on repeated viewing. Though reception of the movie was lilliputian compared to K.Madhu’s “CBI diary kurippu”, “Mukham” trumps the Mammootty flick by tactfully meshing the two quintessential parts of a whodunit – the crime, and the mind of the investigating officer. B.Unnikrishnan’s “Grand Master” does just that, and is a movie worthy of repeated viewing. After all the idea of Sherlock Holmes is as much about the crime as about the cocaine.
Story: Mohanlal plays Chandrashekhar,a defeated IPS officer, who takes his personal briefcase of losses to work. He unlike Sherlock Holmes who uses cocaine, plays chess in office to keep his mind alert. Chess references abound in the movie, as a serial killer challenges Chandra to a game which combines crime and personal life. There is a trail of murdered women. Nothing is out of bounds, as Chandra accepts the challenge. Lalu Alex is the killer. (I’m kidding! he is not there in the film)
10,000 feet view of B.Unnikrishnan’s “Grand Master” comes down to three people – B.Unnikrishnan, Mohanlal, and Babu Antony.
B.Unnikrishnan – is an award winning script writer, and I have thoroughly enjoyed most of his movies. His attention to detail of the dialect in “Madambi” was remarkable, and his story “Aviramam” in Kerala Cafe was delightful. I have not watched “Jalamarmaram” but “Grand Master” is B. Unnikrishnan’s most intelligent script to date. There are ‘educated’ comments in forums which say it was adapted/loosely based etc on an Agatha Christie work, by people who I am sure haven’t read Agatha Christie nor watched “Grand Master”. It’s one of those “Chutiye tu retire ho ja , tera time khatam” moments of movie reviewing. B.Unnikrishnan skillfully weaves the crime and the mind of the investigating officer without loud, unending action scenes, or thank God! slow motion (which Shaji Kailas claims he invented). There are enough breadcrumbs in the movie to crack the case, and so unlike S.N.Swami, B.Unnikrishnan does not insult our intelligence. And not the least, it’s a relief in the age of “Inception” esque scripts to watch a good old rough on the edges whodunit, though it might take more than one viewing to catch some subtleties. I mean even after two decades, majority of the folks who enjoyed “Manichitrathazhu” haven’t yet started to think ‘why’ Ganga transforms to Nagavalli.
Mohanlal – is an award winning malayalam actor, and I have run into trouble before when I called Mammootty the undisputed number two actor in malayalam. But one has to admit, it’s true. Because when Mohanlal finds a character that resonates with the actor that he is, he delivers sheer onscreen magic. While “Grand Master” doesn’t compare to lets say “Bhramaram” (which I think is Mohanlal’s role of the decade), there is a sense of calm and ease with which the actor fits into the character of Chandrashekar. Mohanlal plays his age and his physical form, and is completely at ease as he carries the movie. Anoop Menon, Priyamani, Jagathy, and Narain support well, but this is a Mohanlal movie. It’s one of those movies like “Udhayananu Tharam” where after the intro scene you forget you are watching a Mohanlal movie. A well played performance which constantly dodges our attempts at getting into the head of Chandra to figure out how he is going to crack the case.
Babu Antony – is often called an actor by mistake, and is the most hilarious part of “Grand Master”. Now calling Babu Antony an actor is like calling Vinayan a film director. I will watch this movie again for comic relief to see Babu Antony play Babu Antony playing a psycho. It is so much fun to see one of the more limited actors (he stays exactly where he started in ‘Chilambu’) in the industry struggle to fit his eight feet four inch frame into an unstable psycho’s skin. Personally I am a big Babu Antony fan, but I haven’t seen a more funny psycho since Vineeth played one in “Maanathe Vellitheru”. Kudos to B.Unnikrishnan, next time try Kunchacko Boban.
Treatment & shoddy camera work – Great whodunits like “Ee Thanutha Veluppan Kalathu” mesmerize the audience with a heady mix of lighting, mood setting back ground score, and a camera that move like a cautious cat. The cats who made “Grand Master” while coming up with a good script entirely loses sight of the details. B.Unnikrishnan who carefully delivered “Madambi” & “Smart City” fails the viewers in this one, and prevents the movie from going to higher places in the pecking order of malayalam thrillers.
Verdict: It’s too early to say if Mohanlal has rediscovered himself like Bachchan did, but this a terrific start if he is trying. It is a highly watchable malayalam thriller without the noises, and thank god! slow motion (which Shaji Kailas claims he invented).