The one-liner description of the first Disney+ Hotstar Malayalam web series Kerala Crime Files is fascinating. A murder happens in a lodge, and the only clue the police have is a fake address. But barring the cinematography that uses colors and lensing to create a visual impact, the overall packaging of this web series from June and Madhuram fame Ahammed Kabeer felt pretty flat and unexciting. Since the duration of each episode is below 30 minutes, the experience was never tiring.
A murder of a sex worker happens in Kochi’s Grand Tourist Home Lodge. SI Manoj and his team are doing the investigation under CI Kurian. The man who came with the woman, the suspect, was Shiju. But on inspection, the police found out that the address he gave was fake. With no clues helping them to find out this Shiju, the police are in a spot of bother. We see how they found him by checking all possibilities and with the help of coincidences in Kerala Crime Files – Shiju, Parayil Veedu, Neendakara.
As I already said, the duration of every episode in this series is below 30 minutes. And there are only 6 episodes. But the progress of the case feels a lot more convenient than complicated. A major issue I had with the writing of the series was how it tried to empathize with the police. When the subplots complement the central story of the series, it adds depth to the whole thing. There is a scene in the series where the newlywed SI Manoj’s father-in-law meets him at Coffee House. Even though it is a casual scene that talks about the personal life of a police officer, they have given a purpose to that deviation. But the other detours from the case to show the family life of police officers simply don’t blend well with the investigation story.
Ahammed Kabeer and his frequent collaborator Jithin Stanislaus gave a visual aesthetic to the series that really tries to elevate the drama that was very less in Aashiq Aimar’s writing. The OTT-friendly aspect ratio and the depth-inducing lensing help the series a lot in being engaging. I also felt that the characterization of the antagonist was very fragile. Through several anecdotes about that person from many people, they have built the image of an impulsive remorseless person with a born criminal mentality. But what we see at the end is a man who doesn’t match the image the series assigned to him. At times, the placement of the loud background score felt totally unwanted as it was mostly trying to increase the drama in bland reaction shots.
As this newlywed rookie police officer with a little bit of naivety, the decision to cast Aju Varghese seems correct. But the intricacy increases as the series progresses, and SI Manoj has to show some evolvement. The attitude Aju Varghese was made to show in that scene where the police raid a house in Trivandrum looked pretty artificially cool, and I almost felt like asking any police officer whether that’s the way they operate. As CI Kurian, Lal felt like an insignificant addition to the story as his character was only there to give approval and, of course, to present the lack of family life for police. Zhinz Shan and Navas Vallikkunnu were fine in their respective roles as police officers. Sanju Sanichen’s performance was a bit too overenthusiastic, even on a writing level. The female characters were important for the story, but the scope to perform was minuscule.
When I finished watching the series, I felt that it would have been a lot more compelling if it had been conceived as a 2 hour-long film, which would focus only on the case. Kerala Crime Files is a stretched-out, flat thriller that tries to redeem itself through its visuals.
When I finished watching the series, I felt that it would have been a lot more compelling if it had been conceived as a 2 hour-long film, which would focus only on the case.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended