Salute is a bit like a sandwich where the bread’s gone stale but the filling’s great and you didn’t know it until you’d taken a bite and you’re mad at the people who made it and ruined what should have been a real tasty meal for you. And watching a Malayalam movie and speaking your mind on it these days is a bit like getting married, the arranged marriage way, in Kerala. Apparently it’s all about setting your expectations right, for starters. If you air your honest opinion you’re probably going to end up being schooled and gaslighted by everyone from your family and friends to the neighbor’s child’s mother in-law’s in-laws. People are peddling lessons on social media on how a movie should be watched and why and by whom. Or to put a spin on that line from The Dark Knight, you’re the viewer Malayalam cinema deserves, but not the one that it needs right now. Dulquer Salman films are not there yet maybe, but yeah soon. So I think it’s safe to talk about Salute just yet, or is it? Guess I’m finding out soon.
The title had me wondering early on, I mean why was it called Salute and then a few minutes into it, there’s everyone in the frame saluting DQ and later he gets his share of some pretty cool saluting to do too. In fact he gets to respond to some dialogues with a salute. That’s one box checked already and there’s one content movie buff and pretty creative writing too. The film did take me into a weird zone mentally. I kept getting vibes of a number of films, it was almost Deja Vu. Now, don’t get me wrong here, I can explain 🖐.
The elite cop family, the brothers who are working the same case in their own ways reminded me of the Jayaram – Indrajit starrer, Fingerprint. Here too the cop is someone who has the luxury of hopping at whim between college, jobs and could always go back to farming on his inherited land. This is one cop who hasn’t watched any of those Tamil films about the plight of farmers. But that’s what it takes to be an honest cop, immense wealth and apparently character and integrity are bound to it in the Bobby- Sanjay multi-verse, where politicians are the root of all evil, except for Kadakkal Chandran. It’s a recurring simplistic worldview and you almost want to pull the cheeks of the writers and make noises people make when they’re around babies.
Policemen are helpless souls here who are forced to manufacture evidence and frame the innocent because they just don’t know any better. Maybe they should do binge watch parties of CSI? Hell, they looked pretty skilled when it came to planting evidence, problem is only in finding it I guess. Then of course, the Kurup Deja Vu, replete with the looks. I couldn’t help thinking that maybe Dulqeur had a hard time choosing between two screenplays about an elusive criminal and then decided to do both anyway, with different perspectives of course.
All things said and layers peeled off, it is still a decent watch. I’m no expert on editing and I’ve no idea how hard it’s to edit a 24fps frame so I’ll just limit my opinion to the writing department here when I say that I wish that they’d done away with the regular tropes and had focused on the core narrative. Roshan Andrews like his contemporary Blessy spent a long part of their careers assisting some past masters and when they went independent the language and geography of Malayalam Cinema changed beyond recognition. The movie strangely works best when it’s an old school police procedural. It’s also one of those films that leave a nagging feeling behind because there’s no real closure for the viewer but that’s part of the fun too. And what is a good Malayalam thriller worth without a coincidence, and here you have a bunch too, just in case you were bored with one. Personally I thought that the character the average viewer would relate to most is that of Diana Penty’s. She appears out of the blue and she’s there and then she’s not. She looks interested and involved one moment and she’s gone in the next. Salute is good thrills being sunk by bad drama but hey you’re going to watch it anyway too.