Boban Samuel’s Vikatakumaran is centered around a small-time criminal lawyer, Benny (Vishnu Unnikrishnan) who barely has any professional accomplishments. His petty life turns upside down when he lands himself a high-profile hit and run case that snowballs into a much bigger murder case. The accused is a cold-blooded businessman (Jinu Joseph) who believes his money can buy him anything. The legal battle that ensues is critical for Benny who has his personal integrity and professional success at stake.
There haven’t been many courtroom dramas in Malayalam cinema, and even fewer movies that discuss the concept of justice and judiciary. At least half of the legal dramas in Malayalam depends heavily on coincidences rather than legal points and loopholes. They are stories of underdogs going all out against big shot lawyers and insanely powerful criminals.
Vikatakumaran is loosely inspired from the critically acclaimed Bollywood comedy, Jolly LLB (2013). It might also remind one of the controversial Sobha City murder case in which a filthy rich tycoon rammed his SUV into a security guard, killing him. However, the movie falls flat when it comes to weaving together a smart thriller-drama together because it overtly depends on coincidences to give the case a closure. And it mixes religious texts with law books. While it isn’t certainly wrong to do that, it becomes awfully easy to brush aside all the crucial logical flaws in a legal drama when you have a divine interference to cite.
The film opens to the visual of a giant idol of a local deity in a Tamil village where a heinous crime is about to happen. The sequence is shot as though the deity is witnessing everything. In a later scene, Benny is worried because he is unable to solve the case, then one of the victims appear is his vision, dressed up like an angel. And the next moment, he bumps into the right person who would help him find a way out. The film ends with the first-class magistrate of the court where Benny practices, reciting a verse from the Bhagwad Gita, hinting that in every criminal case, there is a hand of God that works towards meting out justice.
The magistrate (Raffi Mecartin) runs the court like a close-knit family, pulling the advocates by their ears when they goof up. He is a small-town man who leads a modest life, with a firm belief in the power of judiciary. The casualness of his courtroom is fun to watch. Vishnu Unnikrishnan does a neat job as a young man hungry to make a mark in his profession. But the actor who steals the show is Baiju whose terrific comic timing and body-language make for some rib-tickling instances.
It’s curious to see how potboilers in Malayalam always end up using glaringly loud background music that, instead of becoming a support mechanism to story-telling, ends up as an irksome distraction. It runs throughout the film sans a respite, dictating to the audience what to feel in a scene. It is no different in Vikatakumaran.
If nothing else, Vikatakumaran is a harmless holiday film that breaks no new grounds, but fares neatly well as an old-school comedy-entertainer.