• Release Date: 16/03/2022
  • Platform: SonyLiv
  • Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Manoj K. Jayan, Diana Penty
  • Director: Roshan Andrews

Police procedurals have been one of my favourite genres in films but it has been a long time since I experienced a grounded, gritty and realistic realisation of it in Indian cinema. One must also take into account the fact that police procedurals are not the same as investigative whodunit thrillers and can very quickly transform into something uninspiring due to the nature of the content and the creative decisions that the makers must take to keep it rooted in realism. One of the key factors for the success of a police procedural and almost every other genre is whether or not the audiences are able to connect with the many characters and understand their conflicts and actions.

In his film, Salute, Roshan Andrews introduces us to a group of police officers who are trying to apprehend a murderer who has recently killed an elderly couple who had significant political clout in the area. The murders have resulted in the said political party mobilizing its men to hold demonstrations and even violent protests across the town. Owing to all this, the police are in a precarious predicament. They need instant results and are willing to do anything to apprehend the murderer. Sadly, the murderer proves to be elusive and they instead get what can be called some inconclusive evidence based on hunches against a man who appears to be innocent from the very beginning.

A snap from Salute

DYSP Ajith Karunakaran (Manoj K. Jayan) leads the team of police officers in the film that also includes his brother Arvind (Dulquer Salmaan). While Ajith’s team zeroes in on the suspect and plants incriminating evidence against him to frame him and close the case, Arvind is not convinced by the gross injustice that is being meted out to the suspect even though he was a part of the team and was instrumental in incriminating the man. Arvind’s faith in the innocence of the suspect is reinforced by certain developments that force him to rile up the courage to go against his own brother and the team. He decides to look for evidence to prove that the suspect was innocent and that there was a serial killer/con-man on the loose who had committed the murders. What follows is an engrossing drama that held on to my attention and senses for the duration of its runtime.

Dulquer Salmaan delivers yet another sensational performance that is nuanced, heartfelt and so realistic that after the first few scenes you completely forget that you are watching a film. Arvind’s story keeps changing its facets every fifteen-twenty minutes and this helps keep the narrative fresh and intriguing. He starts off as a dedicated bother and police officer. He aids in framing the man but is evidently conflicted by a sense of guilt. He goes all guns blazing against his own brother and the department but is subdued by the department. He takes a long leave and moves on in life. After years, he gets back in the same milieu and a chance encounter forces him to go after his older pursuit once again but this time with renewed vigour and intelligence. All these twists in the tale come with different shades for the character to portray in terms of mannerisms, dialogue delivery, and expressions. Salmaan is at the top of his game in rendering these different aspects with ease and organic realism. It is his character through which the audiences find their voices and eyes in the film and he more than justifies his character with a nuanced, thoughtful, and thought-provoking performance.

Manoj K. Jayan as DYSP Ajit is brilliant. It is made evident that he loves his brother, Arvind but when Arvind starts his own investigation into the killings, Ajit is forced to do everything in his power to throw Arvind’s investigation in disarray. He is forced to do so to protect not only his own skin but also that of all the other officers involved in the case. I just loved the expressions that Jayan brought to the scenes that he shared with Salmaan. While the first few scenes were warm and had a sense of camaraderie, the later ones were laced with a sense of disillusionment and anger characterizing Ajit’s disbelief at his brother’s persistent efforts to destroy his professional and personal life. Jayan’s depiction and extraction of a range of emotions make his character memorable and an odd mix of white, grey and black. His portrayal goes on to document how conflicted and torn the life of a policeman can be when he is under unnecessary duress from the politics and masses of the country.

The screenplay of the film is a character in itself. While it has very little in terms of action and over-the-top thrills, the story and the screenplay are consistently engaging and move along at a decent pace. The writing is judicious and there isn’t a single scene that is not absolutely necessary to the narrative. The film builds up to a crescendo with every scene and the last half an hour of it will definitely make your heartbeats rise. There will be many who will be put off by the odd end of the film. There will also be people like me who will love the director for having the courage to culminate his film in such an odd manner. I watched the film twice and thought about it a lot but couldn’t think of a better finale than what Roshan Andrews came up with.

A still from Salute

As is always the case with Malayalam films, the technicalities are strongly in place. Be it the cinematography, the editing, or the background score and music, Salute leaves no room for any complaints. Each of these factors plays an important role in ensuring that the mood and feel of the narrative are conveyed to the audiences in a manner that enables them to connect with the story not only at an emotional level but also at an aesthetic level. By doing that, Roshan Andrews ensures that the film can be watched for different reasons thereby elevating its repeat viewing experience. That is something that you don’t see too often in films of this genre.

Salute is one of those rare films that have the power to appeal to a higher sense of understanding and visual storytelling than most other films are afraid to try owing to fears of not catering to the mass audiences and in the process losing business. This is the kind of film that should have been released in theatres. That way it would have aided the cerebral nature of the content that it has on offer. On OTT, the film has lost a little shine owing to the many distractions that are associated with the format. However, watching it at night with all lights shut, on a full HD TV with a decent enough sound system can help the cause immensely. I urge all my readers to watch this film at least once to honour the makers for the phenomenal work that they have done with the story and the genre.

Rating: 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)

Also read | Review: ‘Attack’ is a rarity in Bollywood and a step in the right direction

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