Amal Neerad’s latest directorial venture is sure to evoke mixed/divisive reactions. However, I feel I’m a bit positively inclined towards the technique Neerad uses to cover up those large holes in the plot (with the collective energy that drives the film forward in entertaining fashion). After a lacklustre intro sequence (ripped off ‘No Church in the Wild’, a song by Jay-Z & Kanye; due credits given though for ‘desi’-fying it!) for its protagonist Aji Mathew (played by DQ) that even reminds you a bit of Mohanlal’s entry in Run Baby Run (the entry is designated as ‘mass’ but in actuality the impact it leaves is minimal!), the story proceeds to shed light on his daily activities as a member of the Communist Party and his incessant battle with the police force of the state. The title credits though (which comes after the supposed mass entry) are extremely well-done. There’s a pulsating anthem playing in the background (“Kerala Manninayi” is superbly rendered by Gopi Sunder!), there’s break-neck editing style, slo-mo is used well and the shots are crafted beautifully.
There’s really no novelty to boast about in terms of synopsis. The first half is breezy, the dialogues are catchy and relatable. The comedy quotient is amped up via Dileesh Pothan, Soubin Shahir n’ co. The depth in the writing helps stage some of the scenes quite well. The friendly banter between Aji and the stalwarts of Communism (Che, Marx, Lenin) doesn’t come across as over-cooked (although we’ve already been through similar treatment with St. Francis and Lord Krishna in Malayalam cinema earlier!). There are a few more ‘mass scenes‘ (one that involves a slickly choreographed fight sequence at a bus-station à la Tamil/Telugu movie style.. ANL Arasu – the name says a lot!) that reinstate the fact that DQ is here to stay. “Kannil Kannil” is another delectably-shot melody. Aji’s love-life is cut-short when his lover flees (or is forced to flee) to the U.S of A. So, our hero is left with no choice but to travel to the States on short notice, before judgment day (i.e. her wedding day) strikes. There arises the issue of securing a visa. The screenplay is ready to embrace a few delicious twists. Great interval block, to be honest!
Can’t really say that the movie went downhill from here, but the fact that the movie all of a sudden put on a serious face was somewhat difficult to assimilate. The viewer is educated about the difficulties faced by illegal immigrants (at times resulting in unquestionable death!). Unlike the interesting character arcs in the first half, the ones that take centerfold in the second suffer from being underwritten (including Arul and Pallavi, played by John Vijay and Chandini respectively). The proceedings don’t leave the intended jolts. But hey, this is commercial cinema. Not every bit is debatable. However, the climactic finale is a definite crowd-pleaser (replete with folding of the mundu, slo-mo walk and breakbeat BGM!).
That said, the real star of CIA isn’t Dulquer Salmaan. If there’s an actor who has left a sure-shot impression on your mind by the time the end credits roll, its Siddique. The man is the ‘DAD of all DADs’ in the flick. He gets to mouth the best (politically subversive) dialogues, emotes well and cracks the coolest jokes. The Kerala-Congress bit mentioned by him at the climax is just one of the many hip(pest) instances. Shibin Francis adds himself to the list of fairly-exciting screenplay writers to watch out for, in the future. Cinematography by Renadive warrants special mention (the shots are exquisite and rich, whether it be the lush greens of Kerala or the thorny landscape of South America!). Overall, it is safe to say that Amal Neerad has packaged CIA with enough commercial flavor to justify a visit to the cinema halls this summer (if you choose to overlook the screenplay-contrivances and reasonably large plot-holes i.e.)!
Watch the teaser here: