Sunday, June 24, 2018


Release date:
Kerala: June 16, Delhi: June 22, 2018
Shaji Padoor

Mammootty, Anson Paul, Renji Panicker, Kanika, Siddique, Yog Japee, Kalabhavan Shajon, Suresh Krishna, Tarushi, Sudev Nair, Shyamaprasad

To review a Mammootty film these days, you can either analyse it in the context of the rest of Malayalam cinema, or you could acknowledge that Mammukka appears to occupy a separate universe in his mind and in the minds of his die-hard fans. Option 2 will result in less heartache if you erase the legend’s iconic performances from your mind and stick strictly to his works in the last decade. Option 1 is, of course, inviting heartbreak since it requires you to accept that he has been confining himself to the tried and tested and boring, unlike his young contemporaries like Nivin Pauly and Fahadh Faasil who are redefining what constitutes mainstream or even Prithviraj Sukumaran and Mammukka’s own son Dulquer Salmaan who are conventional in comparison with those two yet push the boundaries of commercial cinema.

I am going with Option 2 for this write-up. Abrahaminte Santhathikal (Children of Abraham) directed by debutant Shaji Padoor is better than most Mammootty films of the past couple of years, but nothing compared to his best. It is not horribly misogynistic like Kasaba (2016) and last year’s The Great Father and Masterpiece, nor is the camera as entirely enslaved by its star as it was in these films. On the Mammootty spectrum of Malayalam cinema, it lies in the vicinity of Shamdat Sainudeen’s Street Lights which was released this January: a suspense thriller with a somewhat engaging storyline that could have been more than it turns out to be if it were not so fixated on underlining its hero’s coolth, yet is not so obsessed with him as to be nauseating. 

Abrahaminte Santhathikal requires Mammootty to play a policeman for the nth time in his career. Here he is ASP Derick Abraham, investigating a spate of serial killings when we first meet him. Not long after we are led to believe that the case has been concluded, he is caught up in another. Derick is not very well liked in the force because he is such a stickler for rules that he has refused to bend or skirt them when his own colleagues have been in a tight spot. Adding to his fleet of enemies is Public Prosecutor Diana Joseph (Kanika) who has not forgiven him for an old romantic relationship gone sour.

Derick has the support of SP Shahul Hameed (Renji Panicker), but several senior cops (played by Siddique, Yog Japee and Suresh Krishna) have for long been waiting for a day when their bête noir becomes personally vulnerable. Their moment comes when Derick’s brother gets caught up in a heinous crime.

The nice thing about Abrahaminte Santhathikal is that Mammootty allows himself to be made up and styled to look older than he usually does in his films. Just when you think there is hope yet and start celebrating that baby step forward in his evolution, you realise that at 66-going-on-67 he has as his younger sibling Anson Paul who, the Net tells me, is 29-going-on-30. Okay then. This is as funny as Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai playing brother and sister in the 2002 Bollywood film Hum Kisise Kum Nahin.

So the cases Derick is called to investigate turn out to be not what they appear to be. They are reasonably enjoyable and would have been more so if so much time was not being wasted on DoP Alby giving Mammootty slow motion shots and fancy-schmancy camera angles to highlight his height, build and striking personality.

Even the usually excellent Mahesh Narayanan makes a couple of questionable editing decisions while presenting the timeline of the second case in Abrahaminte Santhathikal, I guess on the instructions of a director intent on scaling up the epic feel of his film. The shaky shift from the first to the second case is a jump that should be blamed not on him though, but on the writing.   

That said, Haneef Adeni’s story of the mystery involving Derick and his brother is not half bad and does throw up some surprises. This is the kind of narrative that would have been enhanced by greater zip and zing. But no siree, instead let us drag back the pace to let that moving vehicle gradually glide on to the screen, then for the door to open at a snail’s pace, then for one stylish shoe to be placed on the ground and then the next before the camera rises to reveal … OMG, you will never guess who!

Well at least there is not as much of this nonsense going on in Abrahaminte Santhathikal as there was in Masterpiece, White (2016) and their ilk which have, over the years, ODed on close-ups of The Big M’s sunglasses, bracelets, footwear and profile in addition to slow-mo shots of him sauntering towards the camera. At least Mammootty’s swag is not offensive here, as it was in The Great Father where the central plot – a serial rapist killing the hero’s daughter – was sidelined as the hero strutted about in leather jackets.

What do I know though? Mammootty fans in the hall where I watched Abrahaminte Santhathikal went hysterical with happiness during that introductory scene, cheered wildly in anticipation of a sighting, and at the appearance of the star’s first shoe began yelling, “Mammukkaaaa, Mammukkaaaa!”

For the record, the film’s title is a clever play on words because it implies a lofty reference to Abraham in the Old Testament of the Bible, which is in keeping with the ominous tenor of Derick’s opening case, but you later realise that santhathi is being used here not simply to literally mean children or offspring but also in its disparaging avatar. Like I said, the story of this film is not half bad. On the weighing scale of its pluses and minuses in the Mammoottyverse, Abrahaminte Santhathikal counts as passable fare.

Rating (out of five stars): *1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
131 minutes

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

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