Purusha Pretham 2023: Crime drama with strong performances

Purusha Pretham is a surprising and refreshing film that shows the humor in the grim lives of people from various strata of society and in terrible situations of life. It is a humorous look at the absurd nature of human behavior and life. It is both a procedural drama and a comedy.

'Super' Sebastian, played by Prasanth Alexander, is a cop who pretends to be a superhero with his exaggerated stories and tricks. Dileep, played by Jagadhish, is one of Sebastian's closest subordinates.

After fishing the body of a 50-year-old man out of a lake, they bury him three days later in the local cemetery, as is the protocol for unidentified bodies. However, Susanna, played by Darshana Rajendran, soon arrives and claims that it is her husband's body. 

What happens next is the heart of the film. There is a romantic subplot that stands out for its grounding in reality, between Sebastian and a single mother, Sujatha, played by Devaki Rajendran.

Purusha Pretham 2023: Crime drama with strong performances

The film could have been a bit shorter, but that's not a problem because Sebastian is an engaging character who is entertaining on his own. The only negative that stands out is the poor use of Darshana Rajendran and the little screen time she gets. For a character like her, a little more build-up would have been interesting.

Manu Thodupuzha's solid story, Ajith Haridas' excellent screenplay and Krishand's knack for getting the best out of the film make it a visual treat. Suhail Backer's editing deserves a special mention.

Purusha Pretham A gritty procedural with a balanced mix of the comic and the morbid.

The living and the dead have become unpredictable," says a character in Purusha Pretham (Male Ghost). In Aavasavyuham, it was a living being that caused the chaos. In Purusha Pretham, it's a corpse that does it. In his new film on SonyLIV, Krishand depicts a group of characters trapped in perpetual anxiety.

This, of course, leads to absurd situations like in Aavasavyuham. This time, however, Krishand's treatment is significantly different from that film, even though the two share similar visual styles. It is a strange beast that takes some time to get used to. 

Given the title, which refers to a male corpse in police jargon, and the fact that the entire film revolves around one incident, the discovery of an unidentified corpse, one should expect a fairly lengthy, but understandable, preoccupation with the morbid. Naturally, this is not an ideal film to watch in the morning - or when you're not in the mood.

At some points, it feels like the conversations aren't very captivating and drag on unnecessarily. But don't worry. Krishand doesn't mess around with extracting humor from the most mundane conversations. There's a whole gag in which the police serve lemonade to guests and others.

Another gag involves a superior who holds an orientation session in which all the kids ask questions just to look "studious". I cracked up at the scene where a question about a vitamin D deficiency causes a police officer to be transferred to traffic, hoping that he will get "enough sunshine."

Purusha Pretham Official Trailer

One of the remarkable things about Krishand's work is that people don't react the way you expect them to. The same is true for Purusha Pretham. For example, the mother of a suspect asks Sebastian to "teach her a lesson" instead of overreacting and begging him to release her son.

Krishand's humor manifests itself this time in an inventive way. It is not always loud or evasive. Take the situation where a group of cops hope the corpse has floated to the other side, because the reverse would mean they are under their jurisdiction. It's a job they'd rather avoid if they had the chance, but strangely enough, some cops think it's better to be confronted with the stench of corpses than to be in town doing something more complicated like, say, a lathi charge.

The film opens and closes with the same shot: a scene from a TV soap opera featuring a policeman (Zhinz Shan from Aavasavyuham) moonlighting as an actor. Of course, he plays a different character in both cases. He is Purusha Pretham's other character who imagines himself in a movie, but at least he is acting in something, unlike Sebastian. 

He too becomes anxious, but it's more because of his acting career than his position in the police force. In a heated conversation with Sebastian, he blames him for losing his beard. "My fans are mad because I lost my beard," he exclaims. One would think that Sebastian and his superior, a serial actor, joined the police force after watching too many movies.

Despite its experimental nature, Purusha Pretham too boasts an "epic" scale, in that Krishand populates its frames with multiple characters, each with their distinct idiosyncrasies. Rahul Rajagopal, the lead actor in Aavasavyuham, appears from time to time in the role of a fellow police officer. So does actor and filmmaker Jeo Baby (The Great Indian Kitchen), who plays one of the funniest roles in the film, that of one of Sebastian's superiors, with a remarkable sense of sarcasm. 

A subplot involving Susanna, played by Darshana Rajendran, her missing husband, her brother and her involved lawyer (James Eliya) is of great interest. It is difficult to pin down Susanna, and Darshana adjusts her demeanor in a way that keeps her arc mysterious until the end. Susanna is essentially Krishand's version of the femme fatale, a staple of most noir novels.

Jagadish features heavily as a bumbling, frustrated cop who creates enough of a mess to make everyone's head spin, including Sebastian's. As if that weren't enough, Sebastian must care for his ailing mother, who happens to be unbearably rude. Single, Sebastian is also juggling a clandestine relationship with a woman (Devaki Rajendran), which brings its own complications.

Purusha Pretham 2023 Review

The inability to find the people who can perform the exhumation and the fact that someone forgot the location of the original burial site only make the situation worse. Meanwhile, Sebastian is firmly convinced that the corpse is not Susanna's husband, and the rest of the film tries to determine whether or not his assumption is correct.

For most of the film, Prashanth Alexander moves around as if he's waiting for his big Suresh Gopi moment in a Shaji Kailas crime film. (Sebastian's ringtone is the theme from Shaji Kailas's Commissioner.) But here's the conundrum: he's in a Krishand film. So he can only make do with what he has. He has to imagine himself in extraordinary circumstances - that is, invent grandiose versions of his ordinary escapades - because he is often rendered helpless by the gravity of the situations in which he is plunged. 

This is Prashanth's best role, well deserved for an actor often relegated to supporting roles. As a vulnerable character trying to take at least some semblance of control over an exasperating life, Sebastian is so well portrayed - body language, mannerisms, dialogue - that I forgot that this is not the first time he has played a flawed cop.

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