Kurup is a film set in a stunningly evoked Indian past. But it can also be viewed as a mad ride into the dreams of an ultra criminal. Obviously a tightrope walk for its makers for many reasons. First being Dulquer Salmaan cast as the protagonist, hence the aspect of glorifying a criminal. Also, almost everyone in Kerala is aware of this case. There have even been films made on it before, even so, a good script with a unique cinematic style makes Kurup stand a shade taller than most others in the crime/conman genre of films made. Kurup stops a whisper short of glorifying the criminal, and here it could also be attributed to the on-point portrayal by Dulquer Salmaan.
The first half of Kurup will leave you a bit dissatisfied and you’d be forgiven if at interval, you feel that you could give the scriptwriters a lesson or two on closing gaps. But the cheeky second half will convince you why Jithin K Jose, Daniell Sayooj Nair and KS Aravind got the job. The film picks up speed and blazes on, bridging all the gaps, doubts and unanswered points the viewer had.
Kurup chronicles the life of conman turned fugitive Sudhakara Kurup, and Kerala police’s unending chase to find him. It's based on the real life case of Sukumara Kurup, who is till today untraceable after strangling and burning to death KJ Chacko in an effort to stage his own death.
Kurup is director Srinath Rajendran’s version of how he sees the case and what happened. The names of all characters have been changed, yet the narrative has stuck to the facts of the case which are in the public domain. Kurup’s version of the truth is where the director takes his creative license. The entire film has an air of authenticity that must be applauded.
The brilliant music and background score by Sushin Shyam, the limber camerawork and nostalgic charm of Nimish Ravi’s cinematography, the stellar character parts played, the unusual, interesting style of cinema… all add up to a fantastic theatrical experience.
Kurup though belongs to Dulquer. His rangy swagger, undisputed star power and lopsided grin was tailor-made to play a larger-than-life conman. He tiptoes around playing Kurup as a selfish villain and someone who becomes a victim of circumstance. The audience I saw the film with were waiting for his slightest gesture to cheer him on… not really his fault if his onscreen charisma kind of overshadowed the criminality of the character he played. Without giving away much, there’s a particular scene where his aunt wonders aloud how he could actually murder anyone, his deft answer will have you believing his lie too.
Shine Tom Chacko as the perennially inebriated lout about town does well too. Though his introduction scene was one clumsy mess - a bit drawn out and forced, yet, it’s easily one of his best performances yet.
Indrajith as Krishnadas effortlessly plays the cop who is focused on hunting down a man with the zeal of a bloodhound. Sunny Wayne is pretty good too. Kurup has some surprising cameo appearances as well, designed to thrill the audience.
The film though could have done with a tighter first half. Most of the problems lay there. The long drawn sequences at the Air Force dragged the pace down. Also, when will we start playing anti-heroes without making them chain smokers?
Yet another major drawback is how unidimensional all the characters are. Kurup himself is never explored. Why is he who he is? Why is he so audaciously criminal? Did he feel guilty about what he’s put people through? His wife, though ably essayed by Sobhita Dhulipala, has virtually no reason to be in the film. Does she know and approve of his criminality? We get to know nothing. If it was just a mad caper that the makers intended, it seems adequate, but the film in its entirety didn’t seem to be just that.
According to leading man Dulquer Salmaan, the makers said no to an OTT deal worth crores because they passionately believed this film was made for the big screen - and this is most certainly true. The crowds outside the theatre (in Bangalore) and the audience's response inside to this slow-burn thriller prove it was a good call.
Kurup is a good effort at interesting cinema using facts and weaving possibilities to create a taut thrill of a ride for the audience. It will make you wonder where Kurup could have disappeared, could the film’s version be plausible? You could have theories of your own using the facts. Lots of maybes. My guess though is considering how he smoked in the film, he died a rasping lung cancer death unknown and miserable somewhere. Karma. However, judging by the film’s end, I’d bet Team Kurup is itching for a sequel.
Rating: 3.5 Quints out of 5
(Sangita Nambiar is a writer, active theatre person and deep sea diving enthusiast you can connect with on Twitter @Sanginamby)