‘Jailer’ Malayalam movie review: Dhyan Sreenivasan’s bleak film hardly gets anything right

‘Jailer’ seems to have been made with the intention of never giving the audience anything to cheer for... it does succeed in that endeavour

Updated - August 18, 2023 05:35 pm IST

Published - August 18, 2023 05:34 pm IST

A still from ‘Jailer’

A still from ‘Jailer’

When a movie makes news for all the wrong reasons before its release, it is a clear warning sign. More often than not, it is a hint for lack of content that could make news after the release. In the case of Sakkir Madathil’s Jailer, the controversy was over its title being exactly same as Rajinikanth’s blockbuster released last week. The Malayalam movie could certainly lay claim to the title, for the entire movie is about a jailer and his experiments with a set of hardcore criminals.

Young jailer Shantaram (Dhyan Sreenivasan) gets a brainwave about reforming criminals and makes a grand suggestion to the government. He decides to take along a set of hardcore criminals to an interior village and live with them, as part of an experimental programme to reform them. This set of five include people convicted for violent crimes, including murder of children. For his experiment to succeed, they will have to renounce all kinds of violence, even when faced with life-threatening attacks. It is a condition which leads to unintentionally hilarious scenes, despite the morbid tone that pervades the film.

Director: Sakkir Madathil
Cast: Dhyan Sreenivasan, Divya Pillai, Manoj K.Jayan, Navas Vallikkunnu, Binu Adimali
Duration: 124 minutes
Storyline: A young jailer takes along a set of hardcore criminals to a village as part of an experimental programme to reform them

One of the mysteries of the film is its period setting, somewhere in the mid-1950s, because it would not have made much of a difference even if the story was set post-millennium. The only possible explanation is perhaps the needed presence of a feudal lord, who controls the trade in the village market, where the jailer (and the criminals on the path to reformation) goes to sell the farm produce. Shantaram’s idea of correcting them and re-integrating them back into the community involves mostly making them do back-breaking work in the farm.

Whenever the criminals show their past tendencies, he sulks and extends their work hour by one more hour. The criminals too indulge in some competitive sulking when their demand for their family members also to be brought to the village is denied. Shantaram is obsessed with the success of his idea that he goes to great lengths for this purpose, including getting into a fight with a bull, which he loses gloriously. Divya Pillai’s character, speaking a highly distorted version of Tamil and having hardly anything to do in the story, almost feels like a revenge against the Tamil film Jailer.

As if to spice up the bleak proceedings, four songs too pop up out of nowhere, further dragging down the narrative which never once in the 120 minutes of duration shows signs of life. Jailer seems to have been made with the intention of never giving the audience anything to cheer for... it does succeed in that endeavour.

Jailer is currently running in theatres

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