Salute – directed by Rosshan Andrrews, written by Bobby and Sanjay – does not adhere to the conventions of the Malayalam film-verse. It is neither loud nor flashy as commercial cop films from this industry often are. It is not preoccupied with the hero’s swag, which is particularly commendable because that hero is played by the producer. It is also not about dirty cops alone nor about a clean-as-a-whistle Robin Hood, but revolves around an individual who falls in the sizeable space in between.
Rosshan Andrrews’s Salute, which features Dulquer Salmaan in the role of a cop trying to crack a case gone cold, joins the long list of impressive cop thrillers from the industry and makes for a riveting watch. The film, which doesn’t quite rely on shocking twists, majorly works due to its focused storytelling, and in spite of being slow-paced, it still manages to keep one engaged till the end.
Dulquer plays Sub-Inspector (SI) Aravind Karunakaran, whose role model to join the force is his own brother Ajith Karunakaran, the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) played by Manoj K Jayan. Aravind looks up to his brother and takes pride in working under him. Ajith leads a team that’s after a faceless killer. The police nab the guy who they believe is responsible for the double murders, but there is not enough evidence to prove it. However, the real criminal turns out to be someone else and the police, upon learning of their goof up, decide to just let it all resolve on its own. Aravind’s conscience doesn’t let him be at peace. To nab the real killer, Aravind goes on long leave and starts to investigate on his own, earning the wrath of his own brother and his team.
The film offers enough meat about Aravind’s investigation to keep that part of the plot absorbing, and spends a fair amount of time developing a couple of the policemen played by Manoj K Jayan and Alencier Ley Lopez who are Aravind’s combatants. This, and the moral questions raised in Salute, keep the first half engrossing. In the portions where the action moves away from Aravind’s involvement with these men, it dips because it is too focused on Aravind, and as it happens, this is also where the narrative is needlessly expanded.
It seems like a familiar story, but it is done in a gripping enough manner to keep us intensely engaged. Things get heated up when Aravind turns renegade in the group and doesn’t want to be part of a corrupted investigation and attempts to come clean to higher authorities. It is a situation that could prove catastrophic for the police, so it becomes a high-stakes game within the team to save their position, come what may. Here Bobby-Sanjay are in their element in using one tense situation on top of another to get us emotionally heated about the corruption in the system.
What really works in the film’s favour is the narrative style. Unlike most cop thrillers, Salute isn’t in a hurry to make the hero catch the criminal. This isn’t one of those films where the twists blow you away. In fact, the film rarely relies on any major twists and rather spends its time on letting the hero be haunted by his own conscience and a faceless villain. Every time we feel like the hero is very close to nabbing the killer, the story takes a detour and Aravind hits a roadblock. Here, we don’t get a hero who’s invincible but someone who is as vulnerable as anyone. The fact that the film never tries to glorify Dulquer’s cop character is a major highlight for the film.
One reason why Salute works even through its missteps is the atmosphere the director manages to build with the aid of Jakes Bejoy’s music and DoP Aslam K Purayil’s frames that smoothly shift from the personal to the panoramic and back when the need arises. The other is Dulquer Salmaan himself who remains thoroughly invested in his character’s dilemmas from beginning to end. His expressive face conveys Aravind’s inner conflicts as he finds himself being drawn into appalling police practices, shocked at the heartlessness of a loved one and subsequently when he realises that his reparation will cause great damage to that person.
Salute is worth a watch and will be particularly appreciated by Dulquer Salmaan fans.
Review by rahul000994