wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?) - It’ll make for a good TV/DVD watch as well, but true thrills are best enjoyed in the theatre
Smart for the most part, Grandmaster holds some genuine thrills because of a nicely paced script and an effortless performance from Mohanlal, one that packs a wallop just when it needs to. In spite of some weak character performances, Grandmaster manages to engage you throughout.Read more
Filmmakers looking to avoid flak for screenplay should usually stay clear of the thriller genre, because it is virtually impossible to have a water-tight screenplay and still make a successfully thrilling mystery that hooks the audience from start to end. While I must confess that I least expected it to, Mohanlal-starrer Grandmaster, produced by UTV, actually manages to avoid some of the pitfalls of a serial-killer-murder-mystery story.
Powered by a surprisingly sharp script and a master-class in underplaying a lead character, Grandmaster, directed by Unnikrishnan B, makes for an intriguing watch. Yes, it has its share of flaws in the writing, but the pace of the film rarely lets you dwell on them, diverting attention instead to the mental game of chess that the protagonist is playing, more with himself than with the antagonist.
Chandra Sekhar, played by Mohanlal, is a top cop who is past his prime, more because of a personal problem than anything else. He is now heading the newly-formed Metro Crime Stopper Cell, aimed at preventing crime – a department that is underperforming because of Chandra Sekhar’s weak leadership. A former National-level chess player, Chandra Sekhar’s is jolted out of his mental inertia when the writer of a mysterious letter proclaims that she or he intends to play a deadly game with Chandra Sekhar, one that is intricately tied with Chandra Sekhar’s personal life.
Thus begins a series of murders, embellished with tantalizing clues and mysterious taunts. With each murder, Chandra Sekhar is sucked in further, as he matches his wits with a faceless opponent in what could be the most important game of chess in his life – one where a checkmate could be fatal.
What works the most for Grandmaster is the character of Chandra Sekhar. A man who was once the toast of the police department, now broken and lonely, spurred into action because of a maniacal serial killer. Add to that, a man named Mohanlal.
There aren’t many actors who use their eyes the way Mohanlal does. Perhaps not blessed with as much natural screen presence as some of his superstar contemporaries, his eyes separate his craft from the rest of the pack. They rove about the screen slowly, partaking in the journey towards the resolution that a cinematic character must invariably be rewarded (or punished) with.
Mohanlal plays Chandra Sekhar so subtly and competently that it would be easy to mistake this performance as just one amongst the hundreds that he has given. But look closer and you see just why he is considered one of the finest actors in the country, and why he is my personal favourite Indian actor by some distance. He slips into the character, walking, talking, thinking and fighting the way a wounded tiger forced to protect his domain would.
As mentioned earlier, the film has its share of flaws, primarily in the writing and then in the performances. There are plot holes that could have been avoided, and some situations in the screenplay are a tad farfetched. Also, while the beautiful Priyamani, playing Mohanlal’s ex-wife, is a competent actor, some important side characters are quite weak, crossing over to plain overacting - a huge problem that is compounded because of how subtly Mohanlal has played his character.
It then boils down to just the simple fact that Grandmaster has you on the idiomatic edge of your seat throughout. The film is paced just right, the twists in the screenplay don’t really jar, and the climactic revelation really worked for me, though I must confess I’m not sure how many people would agree with me on that. Nonetheless, for those who like being hooked to a thriller, Grandmaster makes for a decent watch. And to truly savour it, pay special attention to Mohanlal’s eyes.
This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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Recommended, because of a series of murders.