Does speaking to butterflies and elephants before taking their pictures or having long winding sequences without any consequence make for sensible cinema? That is the question on one's mind while watching Ranjan Pramod's directorial debut, Photographer. It is not as if we are questioning the sensibility of one of the most successful writers in Malayalam cinema today. But here he has lost it, trying to do too many things at once.
We were well aware of the film's storyline and its maker's credentials. What we didn't expect was the treatment or, to put it precisely, the undecided approach.
It was supposed to be based on the real-life incident of an atrocious act of police shooting on tribal demonstrators in Muthanga and how an internationally renowned photographer got entangled in the issue. So, we were expecting something out of the ordinary. What we got, however, was shocking.
Dino John (Mohanlal) is the photographer whose work appears in no less a product than National Geographic. The snail-paced narration establishes that he is proficient in his work, a wanderer by nature, and a caring householder with a socially progressive mindset.
Now, we move to the intended story. Dino is witness to the police brutality against adivasis in the forest region while on work; he takes a few incriminating pictures, rescues the child who used to act as his guide in the jungle and rushes straight to the Forest Minister (Biju Menon) who was once his college mate. The Minister requests Dino to keep quiet for a while as the evidence in his possession has the potential to topple the Government. From here, the purpose of this endeavour is completely lost on us. There are political manoeuvrings, killings, veiled threats, disappearances (first the tribal child, then Dino himself) and a whole lot of other things.
In this day and age, when the media is always ready to pounce on anything remotely newsworthy, a photographer of international repute waging a lone battle like this seems unimaginable.
It is difficult to keep track of the narrative as it keeps swinging from one end to another. In between all of this, an identical sibling of Dino pops up, further deepening the confusion. Film and confusion go on unendingly. There are three or four occasions where we feel the climax may be near, but it goes on and on. It's like watching the director's cut of a film where nothing shot is left out or snipped at the editing table.
Poor Mohanlal cannot do much to salvage this project. He looks sincere and intense in the beginning, but his performance loses steam as the film heads nowhere. Even the second role offers him nothing substantial.
All seen and suffered, we can only say that this film showed a lot of potential but fails to deliver.