Kerala Crime Files, As Hotstar’s first Malayalam thriller web series, I held high hopes. And I was happy to see that Disney Hotstar managed to meet my expectations in terms of production quality.
The series, set in 2011, showed a clear investment in recreating that era’s technological and ambient milieu. The craftsmanship on display was remarkable.
Penned by Aashiq Imar and directed by Ahammed Khabeer (known for ‘Madhuram’ and ‘June’), I had a feeling that the narrative might have fared far better as a standalone OTT movie instead of a web series.
A Case of Too Long a Tale
The plot, at its core, is simple. Sub-Inspector Manoj and his team of four are on the heels of a sex worker’s murderer. Their leads? A fake address: Shiju Parayil Veedu, Neendakara, and a witness who claims the suspect has squinted eyes. They are solving the case within six days (6 Episodes).
It sounds gripping, doesn’t it?
However, as the story opened up, my interest began to wane. The narrative felt like a wafer-thin premise stretched far too thin; it’s pretty evident that the writer didn’t spend much time with the characters or the events. If it were a 100-minute movie, this writing might work well, but I am not sure about a crime-thriller web series.
The series takes off slowly, with the first two episodes feeling like they could have been compressed into one. The narrative regains momentum in the third episode, establishing a robust motive for the lead character (S.I. Manoj) to track down the killer. But after that, the excitement ebbs again, only to return in the fifth episode.
Although the choice to depict six days across six episodes lends realism, the thrill factor takes a hit, perhaps a side effect of my steady diet of thrillers.
Written Poor, but Executed Well
The characters, whether the killer or the police officers, lack depth and layers. The addition of officers’ personal lives seemed a ploy to stretch the runtime, lacking subtlety or layers. The writer tried to build an image of the murderer with the first five episodes, and when it was finally revealed, I found a mismatch between the buildup and reality. That’s where I felt the writer should have spent much more time with the scripting.
In the climax, the explanation of the motto felt artificial. The victim character did not pull it off well enough to make it convincing. However, I really enjoyed the villain and his subtle cues.
The series showcases commendable performances from Aju Varghese in the lead role, supported by Navaz Vallikunnu, Zhinz Shaan, and Devika Rajendran. Zhinz Shaan’s constable “Pradeep” deserves a special mention for his steadfast character arc. His obstinate and narrow-minded approach distinguishes him from his colleagues. Another noteworthy performance is that of Lal in the role of CI Kurian.
Lower the Expectations and Enjoy this Thriller
To sum it up, lower your expectations, and you may find ‘Kerala Crime Files’ enjoyable. While it manages to retain your attention, it falls short of being a nail-biting thriller. The expectations set by the trailer didn’t fully translate into the series, and it spoiled my experience with this thriller.
My Opinion: A Promising Start, but Does It Deliver? Doubtful