Jailer, the new Malayalam film that has Dhyan Sreenivasan in the title role, is one of the most outdated treatments of a melodramatic concept that will feel like a decent film if your benchmark of quality is based on those daily soaps in mainstream TV channels. With a miscast Dhyan Sreenivasan uttering lines very stiffly, Sakkir Madathil’s Jailer would have been a good film if it had been released the same year the story was set in.
Jailer Shantaram is our central character. The story happens 8 years after independence. Shantaram submitted this proposal to the government to correct some inmates by taking them to an isolated place and helping them live a normal life by doing agriculture under his supervision. The government agrees to this proposal, and the failure would cost a great deal for Shantaram. He chose five criminals, Shankaran, Madhavan, Kammaran, Keshavan, and Damu, who all had been sentenced for murder charges. What happens to Shantaram’s experiment is what we see in Jailer.
SPOILER ALERT! The rest of the review will have major spoilers, as it is kind of essential to explain the level of melodrama. If I have to describe the idea in simpler words, I would say Jailer is like Chak De India but with prisoners. Just like how Kabir Khan decides to take up the challenge of winning the world cup with a hopeless hockey team, Shantaram is trying to prove his correction theory using these criminals who don’t believe in themselves. The template is pretty simple. They will disobey and will create problems, but after a point, they will reconcile and work towards success. There is nothing wrong with having this structure in your script. But how you create moments around these predictable moments is what matters, and it is precisely where this movie falters.
Dhyan Sreenivasan as Shantaram is an odd casting choice. For some reason, he doesn’t act like he was in 1955. And the stiff dialogue delivery that felt like he mugged up all the lines was making it even more strange. Sreejith Ravi, Binu Adimali, Unni Raja, and Navas Vallikkunnu try their best to add life to the stage drama-like dialogues, and they rarely tasted success. Divya Pillai’s character is straight out of a ’70s movie. And the character’s main purpose was to sing songs in fluent Malayalam while her character spoke broken Malayalam. Manoj K Jayan is there in an extended cameo-like role as the senior officer who challenges Shantaram.
Sakkir Madathil’s concept itself is something that requires enormous conviction as it involves some bizarre methods in which a jailer is trying to give a life to people who have murdered fellow human beings. Even if you buy that concept, the making and the scripting pattern follow the styles that we mock or avoid nowadays in modern-day movies as it was either too loud or unreal. At the end of the film, when these 5 prisoners fondly remember the Jailer, an imaginary Shantaram appears on one side of the field with a halo around him and says, Jai Jawan, to which all our prisoners turned farmers reply, Jai Kisan. If you still get excited about such a dream sequence climax, this movie is indeed for you.
The movie’s production design and sound design have taken considerable effort to give the film an overall production quality. But with an inconsistent DI and severely outdated writing style, Sakkir Madathil’s Jailer is one of those movies where you will keep looking at your watch.
With an inconsistent DI and severely outdated writing style, Sakkir Madathil's Jailer is one of those movies where you will keep looking at your watch.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended