Those who closely watched international football in the 1980s may be aware of the goalkeeping skills of Rene Higuita, the Colombian goalkeeper who was known for his unusual skills on the field. But for those who didn't, it would be N S Madhavan's Higuita and the tale of the brave, sympathetic priest who rescues a girl from prostituition, that introduced him to the Malayali audience.
Debutant director Hemanth G Nair's decision to do a film in the same name, thus, courted a lot of controversy. The director even insisted that the film didn't have resemblance to Madhavan's story and he decided to use the title as it was apt for the film's character.
On watching the film, the director's argument seems correct.
For one, the film is purely political. It is set against the backdrop of Kannur, where political rivalry is common place. A naive, quite ignorant policeman Ayyappa Das ( Dhyan Sreenivasan) is inducted as the gunman of a political kingmaker Pannayannur Mukundan ( Suraj Venjaramoodu). He is new to the place and politics and is visibly unsettled by the incidents taking place around him. An attempt on Mukundan's life alters everything.
The enemies are real and Ayyappa Das (Dhyan) needs to look over his shoulders to ensure his and Mukundan's lives are safe. In the meantime, Mukundan's rivals approach Das to finish off the political leader. The 'will he do it, or will he not do it' situation keeps the viewer engaged till the end. The haunting background score escalates the situation.
The intriguing second second half saves 'Higuita' from falling into the category of usual political thrillers.
The film does not have any hero-heroine segment, neither does it have the emotional drama usually associated with political thrillers like Sibi Malayil's recent film 'Kothu'. Rather, it is an out-and-out political film. The violence is evident, but not savage, which is a relief.
The film also makes some very bold political statements. When a party worker tells Ayyappa Das that the party will not get involved in something that does not guarantee them results, it is an indirect dig at the dirty politics that leave the common man helpless. The film manages to address both right wing and left wing politics and in the process is critical of both. 'Higuita' may be hard to digest for some, especially if they have strong political views.
The dialogues are thought-provoking, impactful and takes a dig at political opportunism. I particularly liked how Mukundan's wife tells him that he is willing to take risks for the party only because he worships himself too much.
The performances by Suraj Venjaramoodu is controlled and impressive, though he sometimes lacks the aura of a menacing politician. Dhyan does a good job too and so do the other artistes. Screenwriter Jayaprakash Kuloor excels in his role as a right-wing political leader.