For some reason or the other when it comes to thinking about a career as a Policeman one is quite likely to have varied opinions. For some it might give you the image of a fearless cop who is all out to protect the people and who is more than capable of beating the shit out of any bad guy. Or else you could think of a corrupt cop, who is happy to keep himself/herself happy at the cost of everything else, even law and order and crime. If you happen to be falling into either the first category of people or the second, then needless to say that you are in the majority. After all we are all used to hearing tales of or watching movies which either feature a fearless dashing cop, or have witnessed enough and more tales of cops who are corrupt and/or who harass ordinary people, often without any rhyme or reason.
Have we at any point of time bothered to think of how a cop’s life would be in real life? Whether people working in the police force also have the regular set of problems to handle at work and otherwise, just like anyone else? Well on watching Abrid Shine’s Action Hero Biju which features Nivin Pauly in the lead it is but natural to think on all these lines and perhaps more. Abrid Shine left a mark with his very first Malayalam film, 1983 which again featured Nivin Pauly in the lead. A cricket film unlike any other that’s been seen so far, the film wonderfully juxtaposed the life of the male lead with that of the fortunes of the Indian cricket team and Sachin Tendulkar in particular. Following the mega success of Premam and being his first release post the same after 8 months; it was but natural that Action Hero Biju would be keenly awaited. That Nivin had gone on to also make his entry into production as well with this film made the prospects of Action Hero Biju even more exciting.
Released widely across Kerala on 4th February and a day later in the rest of the Country, Action Hero Biju is a cop story with a difference. And why is that? Well let me come to that shortly. The film is a peak into one month in the life of Sub Inspector Biju Paulose (Nivin Pauly), the Town SI at Ernakulam. Reporting to Circle Inspector Manoj (Saiju Kurup), SI Biju leads his team of cops in his characteristic style, as he handles the mundane, the not so mundane as well as the exciting cases with conviction. Biju is a well-qualified individual who had left behind his teaching job at a college to join the police force voluntarily. He is engaged to Benita Dominic (Anu Emmanuel), a fine arts graduate and his wedding is due in a few weeks’ time. And we see Biju and his team handle a variety of cases which span a wide range of categories from simple cases of public nuisance, traffic violations, employee grievances etc to more complicated things like drug abuse by youngsters and catching criminals involved in various shady activities.
You don’t need to wait till the interval to realize that this is a slightly unconventional cop subject for a film. There is no elaborate plot per se, what we get to see are vignettes from Biju’s routine instead and quite elaborate ones at that. With a title like Action Hero Biju and being a cop tale one would definitely expect an explosive action entertainer, but this is a film where the hero doesn’t even have an adversary. Now how often do we come across a film like this? Needless to say this is precisely also the reason as to why certain members among the audience could walk away disappointed, as they probably might feel that the film doesn’t really have anything to talk about. That’s just one way and the easy way to look at a film like Action Hero Biju if you ask me. This is actually a smartly conceived film, a film which is as slice of life as it could be but at the same time held together thanks to the amazing screen presence of the leading man.
Abrid Shine and co-writer Muhammad Shafeeq certainly need to be commended for the way they have woven in situations, giving the audience enough and more scope to see that the daily routine of a cop is not always heroic or extraordinary. Characterization is given key importance in the film as we see a plethora of characters, some portrayed by regular actors and some by totally unknown faces, lending a touch of realism to the proceedings overall. With the number of characters that keep flowing through the film it is easy to lose focus but that’s where Abrid Shine shows his control over the craft, as he maintains a tight leash over the proceedings. There is a good amount of detailing that has gone into the film, for example we see Biju start the day by signing the log books and vouchers of his team members and asking what their focus plan for the day is. Another good example is the part where a constable in Biju’s team (Joju George) misplaces his walkie-talkie, and the way it is finally retraced, all of it shown in a humorous manner.
Talking of humour there is plenty of it visible throughout the film, like when Biju questions a couple of suspicious looking guys with unruly hair who have been riding bikes without number plates, or when a toothless man picked up for causing public nuisance goes on to bring some cheer inside the police station by breaking into a song (Muthu Ponne Pinangalle) all of a sudden. These are just a few examples, there are more such moments that make us grin from time to time. There are also some segments which leave a strong impact on you and one such is the part where a man (Suraj Venjaramoodu) files a complaint to get his estranged wife and daughter back together. This is a portion which reminds us of the fact that there is more to Suraj than the usual comedy roles. Similarly in the scene when Biju is admonishing three teenage boys for falling prey to drugs, the mother (Devi Ajith) of one of the boys conveys her anguish as well as anger with such a wonderful impact.
One might feel a little odd that the police are shown only in a positive light throughout the film, but then there’s nothing wrong with that. After all there is nothing exceptionally heroic that is shown per se in the film, also when there are so many films which present the department in poor light well then it’s only fair to also accept a film which thinks otherwise too. The film also benefits from Rajesh Murugesan’s background score which suitably complements the mood and flow of the tale. The songs by veteran Jerry Amaldev remind us of his past days of glory and the “Pookkal Panineer” (lyrics by Santhosh Varma and vocals by K.J.Yesudas and Vani Jayaram) number brings sheer joy to the ears. Alex J.Pulickal’s cinematography works well and the way the climax portion has been shot reminds me of Mysskin’s Anjathey in a way. The film is more or less evenly paced, save for the bit of emotional drama towards the end which features a woman (Rohini) being arrested in front of her family on charges of theft, followed by the fight at the end.
As far as performances are concerned it is important to note that most of the characters have only limited presence in the film, as they probably appear in certain episodes in the life of SI Biju Paulose. However his subordinates are present throughout the film with him out of whom Joju George as constable Minimon gets noticed. Major Ravi and Saiju Kurup are effective while director Jude Anthany Joseph is seen in a cameo once again after Premam. It will be nice if Suraj Venjramoodu gets more such roles like the one in this film, hopefully Action Hero Biju will help him on that front. Anu Emmanuel as the Benita Dominic, the fiancée of Biju, hardly gets any scope in the film. All she is seen doing is speaking to Biju over the phone as he juggles his work and his communication with her.Eventually Action Hero Biju comes across as a well-planned and crafted film by Abrid Shine and supported wonderfully by Nivin Pauly both as a producer and as the protagonist. I also liked the way by which a common name like Biju is used for the hero, instead of something very flashy as is the norm usually for a film based on a cop.
It’s not easy to keep the audience engaged without having a well-defined plot and depending instead on a string of incidents in the life of a cop. But full credit to Abrid Shine as the film manages this feat and manages this convincingly, but then it could never have been possible without Nivin Pauly’s presence. There is enough to showcase the tough cop in him but then he is also shown to be a simple man at heart and does have his emotional moments as well. He is also shown as someone who is people friendly and enjoys a good sense of humour. Nivin has come a long way over the last few years and Action Hero Biju will stand testimony to the fact that he is here to stay and can handle mass roles as well. Action Hero Biju is a fun ride with a police officer and deserves to be seen for it is indeed a cop story with a difference.
P.S-Action Hero Biju is playing with English subtitles in select screens outside Kerala.