In Malayalam cinema, if Mohanlal’s Drishyam franchise endeared itself to the millennial generation, for the Doordarshan generation, it is Mammootty’s “CBI” Franchise. What started way back in 1988 with ‘Oru CBI Diary Kurippu’, the first in the series, has now got into the 5th sequel with the latest release – CBI 5: The Brain. This in itself is commendable for a franchise to sustain this much interest straddling across generations. It is always a huge challenge to maintain interest levels of the audience in sequels after a successful 1st outing. CBI Series so far has managed to do that. So, how does this 5th one in the series fare?
Those who have watched the earlier films in this series must now be familiar with the template. A murder or a series of murders take place. The local police are either not able to crack the case or don’t crack due to vested interests. The case is then handed over to the CBI for investigation much to the displeasure of the local police. A CBI team led by Sethurama Iyer, the main protagonist played by Mammootty all along, gets cracking. The investigation takes the team and us to many leads which turn out to be decoys or dead ends initially. In the end, Iyer singularly with his intelligence comes up with a theory that takes to the actual accused whom we would not have ever imagined. CBI 5 follows this time-tested template in cracking what is being called in the film as “basket killings”.
Director K. Madhu and writer S.N.Swamy the duo who have been behind all the CBI films till date, set up the film well in the first half. This part of the film is quite engaging when the CBI team try to follow the process of elimination in looking at the accused. In the second half, the process of elimination continues further, and this is where it gets a bit tiresome. Towards the end, when the cause of the murders and the killer comes to light, it is all the more a let-down. CBI 5 tries to bring in the element of technology and a tech savvy murderer in tune with the times, but the technique used seems bizarre. After nailing the murderer, the team also nails the main conspirator behind all these which is the final surprise element like in all CBI films. But the motive turns about to be a huge anti-climax!
Keeping the logic aside, I would still say that the film is engaging but may be not as cogent or fast paced as the earlier films. In trying to mislead us, the arrow of suspicion is thrown at many people the loops of which are not closed in the end. Most of the time, we are shown Iyer and team discussing theories and possibilities and trying to come to conclusions without depending upon even basic forensic or inquest process.
The film is held together of course by Mammootty as Sethurama Iyer in a more mellowed down and astute avatar. The CBI series whips up a lot of nostalgia among film goers in Malayalam and this one tries a lot to tap into that nostalgia bit. To bring in actor Jegathy Sreekumar playing Vikram, a popular character from the earlier series for a few minutes for an important scene when he is actually ailing because of an accident, is one example. The tweaked signature background score is another example. The makers get away this time but just whipping up nostalgia alone will not be enough to sustain viewers’ interest in the next one in this franchise. Since the 1st film in this series, Malayalam films have come up with some great investigative thrillers. So, it is also important to be one step ahead of these for CBI 6.
Apart from the 1st one, some how the makers have never got the title right, in my opinion. Even in this, it would have been better if it was just CBI 5! Overall, CBI 5: The Brain is a one-time watch just for old time sake and Mammootty. Brain be damned. It is now streaming on Netflix.
P.S: This is my 101st film review after I started doing reviews in my blog since 2017. Thanks a lot for reading and encouraging me all the while.