When I was a kid, my sole ambition was to be a police officer and the main reason for that was my introduction to the 90’s Malayalam thriller directed by Shaji Kailas called Commissioner in which Suresh Gopi played the titular character – a firebrand city police commissioner working in the city of Kozhikode, Kerala. Since then, I’ve been obsessed with cop movies, that is until I got to my early teens and found my interest in that profession slowly dwindling. That’s because I was not a naïve kid anymore. I was finally aware of the seriousness, realities and risk of a profession such as this. And naturally, I stopped caring for these fairly unrealistic thrillers too.
Well, in addition to the aforementioned reason, they weren’t making exciting cop movies just like Commissioner anymore. I – and I’m sure many others feel the same – was finally bored of this genre. Everything that came out since then was a cheap rehash of what came before. Even Shaji Kailas was doing it. And I’ve held on to that opinion for a long time until I came across Abrid Shine’s Action Hero Biju. I wasn’t expecting another Commissioner and I didn’t want to see another Commissioner. What I wanted to see was a cop film that was realistic and didn’t insult the audience’s intelligence. Action Hero Biju delivered exactly that. There is no one story in this but several – episodes, rather.
The whole film is a string of several cases that the protagonist, Biju Paulose (Nivin Pauly) has to handle and resolve every day. The picture the audience gets to see is completely different from the cop movies that we were so accustomed to watching when we were kids. Gone are the loud and “mass” action sequences and the fiery speeches that demonstrate the hero’s – and the screenwriter’s – excellent command of English in front of corrupt politicians and higher-ups. What we see is an ordinary police officer who is far from the superhero that can beat up twenty goons at the same time. Some of the cases he takes on are extremely difficult cases – suicide cases, drug-pushing teens and domestic issues that he has to deal with the combined skills of an efficient counselor and a shrewd lawman. He has quite a big ego and at times, he can be irreverent, politically incorrect and possibly homophobic.
The only relief he gets is in the form of the conversations he has with his fiance to whom he is engaged. Occasionally he gets some entertainment in the form of suspects who got involved in petty cases. But make no mistake – this is a job he badly wanted and he is determined to do it well. At one point, he tells a corrupt politician that he is a former lecturer who decided to be a cop. Most of the cases that are thrown on his table are not very exciting and he is constantly on the lookout for his “Suresh Gopi” moment which he doesn’t find very often. But when he does find it, he tries hard to be the new Suresh Gopi and he doesn’t always succeed. Some viewers have criticized Nivin Pauly for trying to be the next Suresh Gopi and that his “fiery” lines come off as contrived. But I’m guessing this was deliberate and, perhaps, Shine was showing us a character who grew up on a steady diet of Suresh Gopi movies.
Despite these few scenes, I found this to be Nivin’s best performance till date. The way he carried himself in the rest of the film is very impressive. I never considered myself a huge Nivin fan until now. This movie has now made a fan out of me. I felt like that old urge I had to become a cop is finally coming back, regardless of what I was seeing him deal with on the screen. Surprisingly, in the middle of few of these serious and bleak moments, Shine has smartly managed to include several comical situations that are guaranteed to induce a big laughter or two. And I would be remiss if I did not mention the short cameo by Suraj Venjaramoodu, whose deeply moving performance caught me by surprise. He was a revelation, despite the short amount of time he was on screen. I had a small issue initially with the “mass” action sequence in the end but I became satisfied when the filmmakers justified the inclusion of that scene through a voiceover.