Oozham (Turn) is a crime-thriller without a secret. In the first half itself, the crime, criminal, and the motive have all been revealed. What keeps the intrigue alive? Jeethu Joseph, the man knows how to tell stories. He builds the film around a cat-and-mouse game – between the protagonist (the victim) and the criminal.
The film’s storyline is reminiscent of Malayalam films like Superman (1997) and Robinhood (2009). The lead man, Surya (Prithviraj), hides behind a veil and turns the tables on a powerful industrialist, Wilfred Marquez (Jayaprakash), who had killed his family. Jeethu Joseph lets Surya have his revenge, slowly and sweetly; lets him watch Marquez writhe in fear and pain.
Like Sylvester Stallone’s Captain Ray in the Hollywood movie The Specialist (1994), Surya is an explosives expert. The latter’s modus operandi of revenge is eerily similar to the former’s.
The narrative is non-linear, and held together from the first scene to the climax by a laboriously stretched out action sequence. And in the climax, Jeethu employs a technique he had used in his masterpiece, Drishyam.
Jeethu uses novel, impressive techniques to tell his story. Surya’s last glimpse of his father is through a rear-view mirror. He witnesses his family’s murder on a webcam. Mundane situations to build tension. Just like the scene in Drishyam, when Georgekutty frantically runs to cover his panicked daughter from a policeman.
But, Oozham falters far more than is usual for a Jeethu Joseph thriller.
It isn’t just that Joseph’s story is decades old. The non-linear narrative often backfires. For instance, in the first five minutes itself, we have a glimpse of the villain: He sits alone on a lawn in front of his majestic residence. This is the only scene in which he appears as a solitary figure, without being flanked by sons, goons, and confidantes. Is it hard to connect the dots and guess what happened to them, and see where the game is headed?
The overt predictability of the story isn’t the only issue. The plot is ridden with loopholes and loose-ends. How does a nondescript health inspector unearth a huge drug business, when all his information comes from newspapers and magazines? Even the top-secret data he hides in his email account turns out to be newspaper cuttings. Why would a senior police officer take up a murder mission himself, and not assign a henchman to do the job? And there’s no real reason for the villain to annihilate the health inspector’s family, when he could have finished him off in a road accident.
There are also logistical problems. Who thought Prithviraj could hide his towering figure and prominent features with a fake beard, spectacles, and a cap? His disguised appearance is not only unconvincing, but unintentionally funny as well.
The dialogues, especially in the family scenes, are careless. The characters frequently state the obvious and establish facts. Similar dialogues were there in Drishyam, but not so often. Just so we know that Georgekutty is an orphan, Neeraj Madhav says, “Isn’t he right in calling you a bastard? Aren’t you an orphan?”
In Oozham, Jeethu uses this method extensively. When Surya returns from the US, his mother says, “Your father just doesn’t have time for anything. Don’t you know he is a dedicated health inspector?” Similarly, when asked about his vacation plans, Surya tells his mother, “I am here to attend my sister’s wedding.” And the sister tells the mother, “Why is dad so cold? Doesn’t he know that bro has come home after two years?”
There are few interesting characters. Surya’s sister is a machine of enthusiasm – a cliché that Malayalam cinema has used since its inception. A soon-to-be-married woman, she laughs and talks like a child. Surya’s fiancé, Gayathri (Divya Pillai) meekly assists Surya with his plan. Otherwise, she has little room to express herself. Jayaprakash’s character is too under-developed to be a real match for the hero. Supposedly an exceptionally intelligent scientist, he does nothing that would validate such a description.
Neeraj Madhav as Aju/Ajmal, Krishnamoorthy (Surya’s father)’s adopted son, is the only character whose scenes are refreshing to watch. Aju is too cool to be worried about the past, tragic or not. The young actor is a natural, and outshines his co-stars with body language and dialogue delivery, especially in the initial scenes.
Mediocre VFX in a Jeethu Joseph movie is no surprise. In Oozham, the redundant and random use of close-ups is equally striking. In a scene around a breakfast table, most of the characters are shot in close-up for no real reason.
However, it would be unjustified to dismiss Oozham as a bad film. It is by far the weakest script Joseph has worked with. After all, this is the director of hits like Memories, My Boss, and Drishyam, all of which had tight, flawless scripts. Yet, there are moments that keep the audience on the edge, even when we know how the scene will end. The pace is impressive, and there isn’t a single misplaced joke or romantic moment.
This may be Jeethu Joseph’s weakest film, but it’s not weak altogether.
The Oozham review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.