Cold Case (Malayalam film on Amazon Prime Video); Cast: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Aditi Balan, Athmiya Rajan, Suchitra Pillai, Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli; Direction: Tanu Balak; Rating: * * and 1/2 (two and a half stars)
BY VINAYAK CHAKRAVORTY
The catchword in this case is ‘Cold’. In the history of horror thrillers, if a refrigerator ever played a pivotal role, this is it. We’ll stop short there, to avoid spoilers.
“Cold Case” re-hauls tested cliches that horror as a genre has forever peddled, but the film never quite seems interested in adding any sort of a fresh spin to the stereotypes. Familiar tropes used to set up the tale include the dead returning to avenge a wrong and the dead using the living to communicate. From cop hero to journalist, from psychic to sidekick, every character in this story sticks to familiar template.
Rather, the novelty lies in storytelling approach. Sreenath V. Nath’s writing draws up parallel narratives while trying to deconstruct a killing using logic on one hand and paranormal explanation on the other.
The story starts off with a fisherman stumbling upon a skull in a garbage bag and ACP Sathyajith (Prithviraj) being summoned to investigate the case. Forensic tests show the death occurred about a year ago. Further probe reveals the victim’s identity as Eva Maria (Athmiya Rajan), who had inherited a fortune.
While Sathyajith follows police protocol, investigating the deceased’s relatives, including her husband, a journalist named Medha (Aditi Balan) gets involved in the case in a different manner. Medha helms a television show about the paranormal, but her ratings at the moment are not good enough. She has a troubled personal life, too. She is going through a divorce and her younger sister committed suicide a while back.
The story takes a supernatural turn when Medha senses a spirit trying to reach out to her. She approaches a psychic named Zara (Suchitra Pillai), who informs Medha the spirit’s identity as Eva Maria. The journalist starts investigating the death.
You could spot plenty of loopholes in the writing, but debutant director Tanu Balak does an adequate job balancing the two contradictory approaches of investigation to the same crime. For a while, it seems interesting, too. The problem begins after Sathyajith and Medha discover they have been probing the same death, especially as the climax unfolds. The ending somehow cannot convincingly convey the notion that what seems plausible to Medha within the purview of paranormal beliefs should merely be counted as an accident by logic by Sathyajith.
Technically, the editing (Shameer Muhammed) could seem patchy in parts and overall, for a film coming from a director who started out as a cinematographer, the camera work (Cinematography Gireesh Gangadharan and Jomon T. John) is average. In an era when horror/thriller films are pushing the envelope on polish, technical mediocrity is definitely a setback.
The acting would seem devoid of variation in most parts. It could be because of weak characterisation, but you sorely miss the fabulous form Prithviraj showed only a while back in “Ayyappanum Koshiyum” or the impact that Aditi Balan left in “Aruvi”, her debut as a lead star in 2017.
Overall, “Cold Case” has an engaging concept at its core, attempting to brainstorm over the logical and the illogical. More assured storytelling would have led to a surefire winner.