Kurup review: Dulquer Salmaan’s crime drama suffers from half measures

Story: Dulquer Salmaan steps into the shoes of criminal Sukumara Kurup whose fugitive status spanning almost 4 decades have turned him into something of an urban legend.

Review: Kurup is inspired by a crime and one of India’s longest manhunts, which has captured the imagination of a state. Dulquer Salmaan steps into the shoes of Sukumara Kurup who has evaded capture for almost 4 decades, becoming something of an urban legend in the process. This is not the first time that a movie has been made on the murderer —  Malayalam films NH 47 (1984) and Pinneyum (2016) and Hindi film Moh Maya Money (2016) have already tackled the subject. But given the star power of Dulquer, the 37-year-old murder case has got a fresh audience in a new generation.

The makers of Kurup have faced criticism from a section of people for ‘glamourising’ a cold-blooded murder for the sake of big-screen entertainment. Now, that is a debate for another day. But, the filmmakers for some reason thought it was worth braving all the criticism for this film, as they must have found something of higher value in it than an elusive criminal.

In 1984, Kurup was accused of murdering a man named Chacko and using the corpse to fake his own death to claim insurance money. While his accomplices were arrested, Kurup was never found by Kerala Police. And director Srinath Rajendran and his team of writers have tried to capture how one of the most wanted fugitives in Kerala has evolved into something of a myth in popular memory. The question is how well they have managed to translate all the nuances? I am afraid the movie leaves a lot to be desired.

Gopi Krishna Kurup (Dulquer Salmaan) is a habitual offender, who is naturally inclined to play fast and loose with the rules. After being unable to pass Class 12, he tries his luck with the Indian Air Force. After multiple attempts, he manages to secure a position in the training camp. He is not above exploiting the benefits reserved for servicemen to make a quick buck. Kurup even steals some weapons belonging to the country in the aftermath of the India-Pakistan war in 1971.

And when his ambition gets bigger, he fakes his own death to escape from his duties to the IAF. He assumes a new identity, Sudhakara Kurup, and flies off to the Gulf where he makes a fortune. Kurup could have simply thanked his stars and lived happily ever after with his wife, children and newfound wealth. But, greed drives him to push his luck further.

Kurup returns to Kerala with a plan to fake his death again and claim Rs 8 lakh insurance money. He enlists help of three more people, including his brother-in-law Bhasi Pillai, played by an in-form Shine Tom Chacko. Shine’s performance as a lousy and reckless drunkard leaves you impressed despite his brief appearance. On one of the drunken nights, out of sheer frustration and impatience, Bhasi and his accomplices kill a hitchhiker in cold-blood to help Kurup’s plot.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort and probing from DYSP Krishnadas (Indrajith Sukumaran) before the conspiracy unravels itself. And that’s one of the biggest drawbacks of this film. For some reason, the filmmakers are in a hurry to go past the murder and investigation phase and cut to chasing Kurup. And that’s when the film lost me.

The filmmakers are not interested in drawing the audience into the narration or exploring the human toll of the crime. We are not given an insight into the mind of the cop who becomes so obsessed with the case that he loses himself. Indrajith as the investigative officer hardly shows any zeal, grit and urge to capture Kurup. He ramp walks into investigative scenes and refuses to run even in chase sequences. He never breaks a sweat working up the case, so we never feel his anger or frustration about being unable to catch Kurup.

Either the screenwriters wrote a weak cop character or director Srinath Rajendran was not brave enough to ask for more takes from Indrajith. Either way, the filmmakers bungled at this juncture, greatly undercutting the impact of the drama.

At first, we learn about Kurup through the fleeting memory of his family and friends. He is a criminal, yes. But, he is shown to be more than that. He is a best friend to Sunny Wayne’s Peter and a caring and loyal lover to Sobhita Dhulipala’s Sharada. The filmmakers’ obsession with the form of the narration has blinded them to the fact that they are not telling the story as engrossingly as possible.

It is criminal that the filmmakers have tucked away a compelling idea about a larger-than-life wicked phantom in the footnote of the movie. Towards the end, Kurup takes the shape of an urban mythical character. It is baffling that the filmmakers failed to recognise and explore such a goldmine of material, instead of half-heartedly re-telling the information about Kurup and his crime that is readily available to the public.