Forensic movie review: A twisted whodunnit mystery

Anju Devadas
Forensic review

Forensic features Tovino Thomas and Mamta Mohandas in prominent roles.

Forensic movie cast: Tovino Thomas, Mamta Mohandas, Renji Panicker and Reba Monica John
Forensic movie directors: Akhil Paul and Anas Khan
Forensic movie rating: 3 stars

Forensic, which marks the directorial debut of 7th Day screenwriters Akhil Paul and Anas Khan, is touted to be the first-ever Malayalam film based on the forensic department of the Kerala government. The film is a whodunnit psychological crime thriller that unravels the identity of a serial killer with the help of the forensic department.

Whodunits has never failed to pique the interest of the audience. The film blatantly declares the crux of the story in the opening captions, "Psychopaths don't have any motive. The crime itself is his motive." The story revolves around a series of child murders that happen in the capital city of Kerala, and the role of the investigation officer and the forensic department in solving the mystery. It also gives a glimpse into the psychological reasons and childhood trauma behind the formation of serial killers and psychopaths.

Forensic begins with the tragic tale of a disturbed six-year-old boy with an abusive father who collects insects, reptiles, and parts of dead animals to store in jars. The transformation of this troubled boy into a dangerous and vengeful youth who murders his father in cold blood sets the backdrop for the plot of this crime drama. The next sequence shows the disspearnce of a six-year-old girl from a dance school, followed by the search for the victim by police officers. Rithika Xavier, the investigating officer, makes her appearance, taking necessary action to find the abducted victim. When they discover the dead body of the child, Rithika calls to mind a similar crime that happened in the recent past. The abdominal stab wound below the rib cage made by a long single-edged weapon is the cause of death.

Samuel John Kaattookaran, a medico-legal advisor, is appointed as the forensic expert for the case. He employs his forensic skill and scientific knowledge to create breakthroughs in the case which has now become a serial killing case as further victims are added to the list. Shikha teams up with Samuel and they unveil evidence that might lead to the killer’s identity. The case takes a dramatic and unusual turn when the proof of a child committing these gruesome crimes gets released. The portrait of a devilish and brutal serial killer slowly forms before us, and the search ensues. But the child is just a puppet, and a means to an end. There is a mastermind who is roaming free and committing more crimes. The suspense burns at full steam as a series of plot twists appears before us. Who is the perpetrator and what is his intention forms the basic plotline of Forensic.

Malayalam cinema has witnessed several captivating crime thrillers, including the CBI investigation series featuring the cool Sethurama Iyer, played by Mammootty. But, in recent times, there has been a shift in the perspective as films have thrown light on other branches of the police department playing a vital role in solving crime. Forensic follows the example of Anjaam Paathira as it focuses on the efforts of a forensic officer and his scientific methods in providing assistance to solve a sensational case. The point of view of a forensic expert was an overlooked and rarely explored area in Malayalam cinema.

Directors Akhil Paul and Anas Khan have staged Forensic in a never-seen-before format of a forensic investigation. The forensic examination and the careful gathering of crime-related evidence look authentic to viewers. It shows in detail how investigators look at blood, fluid, fingerprints or residue to establish how a crime took place.

The movie introduces the concept of children committing serial murders giving the examples of Amarjeet Sada, who is known all over the world as "India's youngest serial killer". It also delves into the question of the motive of these serial crimes and the traumatic childhood and background of those who turn into serial killers. The movie portrays serial killers as survivors of early childhood trauma of some kind – physical, emotional, psychological abuse, family dysfunction and emotionally distant or absent parents. Trauma becomes the single recurring theme in the life of these children, which transforms them into notorious criminals.

Forensic features Tovino Thomas and Mamta Mohandas in prominent roles. Tovino plays a convincing forensic expert Samuel John Kaattookaran who utilises intelligence and analytical skills to solve the crime. Mamta plays the role of IPS officer and single mother, Rithika Xavier. The supporting cast includes Reba Monica John, Renji Panicker, Saiju Kurup, Prathap Pothen and Srikant Murali. The music of the movie is composed by Jakes Bejoy, though it does not feature any songs in the traditional format. Instead, it has incorporated some lyrics-supported music snippets to suit the situations. The background music is both terrifying and emotional.

Despite the freshness of the perspective, Forensic follows a commercial formula as witnessed in many other similar crime investigation narratives. While the hero steals the show with his courage and intelligence, the women are placed in an authoritative role in face value but with a sensitive and sentimental outlook. It is easy to draw parallels with recent crime thrillers like Anjaam Pathira and Ratsasan, and the film also follows some of the techniques of cult Hollywood crime thrillers.