Serial killer movies have been the fad this year so far especially in the south. Anjaam Paathira, Forensic, Psycho and Ponmagal Vandhaal have stirred up the imagination of filmmakers and viewers have embraced them, whether it is in cinemas next to you or OTT platforms – in case of Ponmagal Vandhaal. Karthik Subbaraj-backed Penguin is the latest addition to the psycho genre.
Penguin starts with an old statue of ‘Mother of Nature’ and it sums up the movie's holistic theme in that first frame itself -- Motherhood.
Rhythm, played by Keerthy Suresh, starts by telling her son the story of a penguin mom and her child. Rhythm’s wait to be able to tell her son the rest of the story has been intertwined with our wait to see how the movie unfolds.
Keerthy Suresh’s acting prowess was clearly evident in Mahanati and director Eashvar Karthic is spot on in offering her the role of a mother, who would go to any extent to take care of her children. Though the movie was touted as a pregnant mother’s search for her son, it is much more than that.
After losing her son, Rhythm miraculously gets him back six years later. But she soon realises that her son is as good as lost and probably in danger too if she doesn’t find the answers to the many unanswered questions on his disappearance.
If you have seen the Hollywood horror film IT, you cannot help draw parallels. The villain with a Charlie Chaplain mask and umbrella appearing from mist seems to be inspired by the clown with his balloons in IT. While the background score does give the horror movie feel, the story line doesn’t live up to it.
There are also plenty of scenes where you feel Rhythm is taking rather stupid steps to risk not only her own life but also the child inside her. The first half of the movie centres around the pain of a mother losing her child and sometimes becomes a bit drab by overdoing it.
But, the thrill gains momentum in the second half when your doubts from the early scenes are addressed. The story is carefully scripted to doubt every other character to be the culprit so that the suspense is safeguarded till the end.
We are used to seeing male centric movies were women are merely placed as a prop. Of late, this trend has been changing and for good. Some great women centric movies have come out recently.
Penguin pushes the genre a bit further with men being placed merely as props in the movie. Whether it is the men in uniform or Rhythm’s two husbands, when it comes to saving her child she is on her own.
Rhythm’s current husband and ex-husbands played by Madhampatty Rangaraj and Linga respectively are showing two different persona. While one is calm and supportive the other is aggressive. Men are conspicuous by their absence at crucial times. In one scene, Rhythm is attacked by the Chaplain face inside her home, while her calm husband is sleeping next door.
It seems like Rhythm is the only person trying to solve the mystery. But this is not to say that Keerthy Suresh’s character is some sort of a superhero mom capable of doing anything and everything. In fact, the real hero and best actor in the movie is Cyrus, the dog.
Right from the beginning of the movie till the end, the black Labrador comes up with the right emotions and expressions and also drives the film.
Without Cyrus, Rhythm would have failed miserably in her mission to solve the mystery. Adwaith, as Rhythm’s son Ajay, is brilliant, subtly conveying emotions with with his silence and eyes.
Motherhood is worshipped in the film. When asked about her condition and the risks Rythm makes a profound response: “I am just pregnant, not brain damaged.”
There is also another quip where she says, “Motherhood is not just a relationship, it’s an attitude.” An extraordinary camera work offers a treat as it captures mother nature’s beauty despite the plot keeping us tense.
The Tamil-Telugu bilingual is a one-time watch, especially the pregnant mom's laborious efforts to unveil the white masked villain.