It is hard to believe that the man who made Drishyam and Papanasam made this film too.
Oozham – It’s Just A Matter of Time is directed by Jeethu Joseph who has been the toast of the national film circuit since the release of Drishyam starring Mohanlal in 2013. That film was so finely crafted, well-written, well-acted and entertaining that it was appreciated by both audiences and reviewers, including those who criticised Joseph for not acknowledging what they believed was his inspiration, the Japanese novel The Devotion of Suspect X. The Malayalam Drishyam was remade in four Indian languages, and Joseph himself helmed the Tamil remake Papanasam with Kamal Haasan, arguably an even better film than the first. How do you go from that to this? How do you go from Drishyam to Oozham in a span of just three years? How?
Everything about this one is embarrassingly shoddy, from the shallow script that would look bad on a junior school kid’s CV to the heavy-handed dialogues, the dreadful acting by some of the supporting cast and indifferent production quality. Prithviraj is no doubt sincere in his effort to lend believability to his role as an anguished son and brother out to avenge an injustice, but it is hard to forgive him for not having sensed a non-starter while reading the script.
Oozham’s screenplay saddles the actors with the most absurdly gauche lines ever written in English for a Malayalam film – lines so bad that they immediately reminded me of another Mollywood disaster from recent months, Uday Ananthan’s White starring Mammootty and Huma Qureshi. It is hard to believe that someone has actually matched Mammukka’s Prakash Roy telling the heroine of White on her birthday, “I never wanted to be the first person to wish you, neither the last. But I wanted to be a person to wish you.”
The conversations in Oozham are conducted in a mix of Malayalam, Tamil and bombastic, grammatically poor English. The corrupt industrialist Wilfred Marquez (Jayaprakash Vittal), for instance, glares at a hired hand and bellows, “How dare!” at him, because I suppose the pronoun “you” at the end of that sentence would have required too much of an effort. He does this twice, not once – yes, I counted.
Now excuse me while I fall off my chair laughing at the mere memory of these absurdities.
(Pause, while the writer picks herself off the floor.)
Okay, so where was I? Oh yes, Oozham. Surya Krishnamoorthy (Prithviraj Sukumaran) is home on a break from his job in the US to spend time with his family – his father Krishnamoorthy (Balachandra Menon) who is a health department official in Tamil Nadu, his mother Subbahlakshmy and sister Aiswarya. Soon after, tragedy strikes them and the family of Krishnamoorthy’s friend, the honest top cop SP Parthasarthy (Kishore Sathya).
Investigations by Surya, his friend/adoptive brother Ajmal Mohammed (Neeraj Madhav) and Parthasarthy’s sister Gayathri (Divya Pillai) lead them to the corrupt industrialist Wilfred Marquez. This sets them off on a trail of revenge which they execute with equal parts professionalism and idiocy. The trio’s foolishness matters not, since Wilfred, his sons Edward and Andrew, the explosives expert they hire for their security (Anand Chathuranga a.k.a. Captain played by Pasupathy), the entire staff of their Rs 5,000 crore company and the Police are all even more foolish.
Surya is adept at bomb making and heads the operation. Ajmal/Aju is a cyber specialist. And Gayathri is a specialist in squeezing herself into a short tight skirt and tight sleeveless top to attract the playboy Andrew. Because you cannot expect a girl to know about bombs and cyberspace, I guess?
As an American crime show junkie, this film made me want to scream in exasperation at the tackiness of the proceedings and Team Oozham’s lack of even a skeletal knowledge of criminal investigations and procedures. Forget that, this film lacks an understanding of simple questions relating to computers and the social media. These days I am watching Season 13 of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) starring Mariska Hargitay – one of my all-time favourites – and I would like to apologise to the makers because I grumbled to a friend this week that the quality of the writing in SVU has declined since Season 1. I apologise because SVU exists on the same planet as Oozham and I was still finicky enough to fuss about it.
Now excuse me while I bow my head in contrition.
(Pause, while the writer observes a moment of silence.)
It is hard to believe that the man who made Drishyam and Papanasam could come up with this tripe. In one scene, a senior cop stares at a laptop trying to figure out how to get past the screen saver. I kid you not, he does not seem to know that clicking a key could make it disappear.
Okay, let us put that down to poor police training with new technology. After all, women victims of cyber crimes in the far more moneyed West have reported being asked pre-kindergarten-level questions by police personnel in their local precinct.
But can someone explain how a supposed tech wiz like Captain is not aware of the basics of a digital search? In one unintentionally comical scene, Captain sees the hero’s name written as “Surya Krishna Moorthy” in a file. He searches for “Soorya Krishnamoorthy” on Facebook, finds no one – of course, since a misspelt name on this social networking site will not throw up the person you are looking for – and immediately gives up.
Why, Jeethu Joseph, why?
Now excuse me while I go off to weep in solitude over this sorry moment in Malayalam cinema.