Good or bad, vengeance has a quality and character in itself. So does a person who harbours it. A fisherman, bus conductor, washerman or a beggar, all have a distinct character. How a piece of art - be it a painting, story or play- depicts it, shows its merit. The way of presenting it can vary with the passage of time. But senses? It never changes. And cinema still is a form of art that appeals to the senses. Ashiq Abu seems to have quite forgotten this precept before he dished out a macabre mesh of frames which he titled 'Gangster.'
The director should have set his purpose clear, before setting out for such a venture. Should it thrill, arrest the senses, rave, or horrify? He should have decided. Else, it must be concluded as unbearable arrogance on the part of the maker. It can't be ignorance, for Abu has already grown into a figure who is looked upon with a lot of expectations thanks to his short but proven track record.
It's the story of revenge of Akbar Ali, an underworld lord, who relocates his base to Mangalapuram from Mumbai and makes truce with other two mafia dons- Uncle Sam (John Paul) and Mani Menon (Kunchan) - and keeps the city in peace. But the cocaine sniffing, sadistic and wacky nephew of Uncle Sam, Anto (Sekhar Menon), is a nerd, never ready to be tamed. He has his own schemes to wrest the control of a port from Akbar. Anto refuses to pay heed to his uncle's caveats against locking horns with Akbar and maneuvers a bomb blast which nearly misses Akbar but takes the life of Akbar's newly wed wife, Sana Ibrahim (Nyla Usha). The revenge begins.
It's okay if story has nothing new. But of course one can put some new beads on the thread and make it look interesting because the audience is under no compulsion to watch the movie. Or are they? The tattoo on the back of Anto's head seems to imply the diktat - 'Obey'. Yes, the audience obeyed the tedious and long drawn out commentary on Akbar's past, the crude cartoon graphics, the dumb and boxed protagonists (the writer could have penned a few more lines for the characters to give the feel of a talkie). While much gray matter was wasted on cost-cutting measures related to dubbing (there could be only a couple of pages of dialogues), scripting, characterization and so on, a lot was splurged on lavish locations and visual effects. Above all, a gangster must obviously have, at the least, the quality of a gangster. Instead, Akbar Ali (Mammootty) is a 'moving mannequin' of sorts with a stiff jaw and a straight face, moving through various locations.
Yet, in the midst off all the bullets, bodies and grime, one cannot overlook certain aspects which carried Ashiq Abu's signature. The background score by Deepak Dev and the camera work by Alby has been stupendous. Especially, the title cast with vibrant musical blitzkrieg is a treat. But they all drained away through the vent left by the absence of coherent story line. However, Mammootty has been captured in the best ever form and backdrop that he can preserve as a priceless album. Some of the unusual frames were exceedingly magnificent.
Kunchan has underwent a dramatic makeover as a don, but he too fails to hit the nail on its head for want of enough substance. The only character who hits somewhere around the head was Sekhar Menon who kept the element of curiosity to a certain level. We can say, he lived the character, a little bit. Another character worth mentioning is Vithura (Dileesh Pothan), the cop who has connections with the mafia. T G Ravi, as Hajikka, is also made to look different beyond recognition. Yet, he has nothing much to offer though he survives the test of drudgery. Nyla Usha and Aparna Gopinath could have easily done away with their dip in the mess as their absence could have made no difference to the movie at all.
If you say it's a new-age film, which gives a damn to conventions, you're mistaken. Did we notice Lilly (Aparna Gopinath) in a fix, then with blood from the corner of her mouth, then without it again, in one go? Is it an editing mistake or our inefficiency to register it as part of the new age features? Don't know.
As the story enters the labyrinths of Russian mafia's den towards the end, the action sequences, instead of stunning us, take a toll on the senses and lay bare the hollowness of the film. With all its thunderous background score, dramatic slow motions, white-skinned cons, wowing locations, flamboyant frames and sleek cars, the film never fails from disappointing you to the core. While real gansgters out there will have the last laugh we receive the blow, before leaving the theater, with the message that is imprinted on the bottom of Akbar's cup. If you dare to watch the movie take a long time to recover.