If Krishand's new film had been an Agatha Christie or Perry Mason mystery, it might be called "The Case of the Unidentified Corpse." A dead man shows up in a river, by a post that demarcates a zonal difference. (His face and features are mangled by river creatures, which is why he is unidentifiable.) If the corpse floats down this side of the post, then the case will go to the cops on this side of the river. So these cops hope and pray that the tide carries the corpse away to the other side, so that the case is no longer their headache. But a cheerful man – a grinning idiot – takes it upon himself to steer the body to this side, and adds to the troubles faced by SI Sebastian (a superb Prasanth Alexander, who plays the comedy at the perfectly dry pitch this film needs).
In his last film, Aavasavyuham, Krishand created an eco-drama that was a brilliant subversion of both form and content. It was a revenge story that played like a mockumentary. Purusha Pretham has a similarly surreal feel – you feel utterly unprepared for whatever is going to happen next. The film is both a murder mystery and an absurdist comedy, with a touch of domestic abuse and the sight of Darshana Rajendran with streaks of grey in her hair. Even the caption that opens the film – from the Swedish author duo whose pseudonym is Lars Kepler – seems a bit like a joke: "The dead teach the living." Is the director winking at us, making us expect a "serious" film that opens with a "serious" quote? In other words, is he doing that mockumentary thing again?
Purusha Pretham is designed beautifully, with frames of several faces packed in the same space – like some kind of human art installation. But as a comedy, it just does not have the power to last a two-and-a-half hour running time. The actors are fine. The characters are colourful, like a mother who keeps hurling abuses or a female cop who insists on using the correct words to describe a situation. But an orange juice /lime juice gag goes stale by the third time it appears, and that is the case with most of the movie. Krishand has such an original voice and his set-ups are so eccentric (in a good way) that you keep wanting the jokes to land, or the big twist to result in more confusion. But the set-ups are all we get. There's no punch in the landing. There are, to be sure, some big laughs, but overall, this premise doesn't fulfil its promise.