‘Salute’ movie review: Dulquer Salmaan scores with his restrained performance as a cop

The latest Rosshan Andrrews offering is a slow burn, investigative film that builds towards an unexpected climax

The latest Rosshan Andrrews offering is a slow burn, investigative film that builds towards an unexpected climax

One of the scenes in Salute has two cops, Aravind Karunakaran (Dulquer Salmaan) and Marar (Alencier), planting evidence to ‘solve’ a murder case. As the action progresses, the suspect is picked up, beaten and drops of his blood placed at the crime scene. It seems too improbable to be happening, but the possibility of it reels one in. 

Salute, streaming on Sony Liv, is a slow-burn as far as investigative films go, but well worth the time spent. The denouement is leisurely arrived at, and the few loose ends are tied up and explained neatly. Director Rosshan Andrrews collaborates with scenarists Bobby-Sanjay again for the film, that is produced by Dulquer Salmaan.   

The film pivots on the murder of a couple, its investigation, the pressure from politicians on the cops to ‘close’ the case as soon as possible, and what happens in the aftermath.

Dulquer Salmaan as sub-inspector Aravind Karunakaran is a riveting watch and impresses as the cop on the tail of an elusive criminal while trying to beat a ‘system’ that places roadblocks. His restrained take as the newly-commissioned policeman reluctantly pulled into a conspiracy by senior cops, including his older brother Ajith Karunakaran (Manoj K Jayan), to frame an innocent man is a diametrical opposite of his flamboyant character in Kurup.

Cops turning on each other is a familiar theme, but the presentation has one torn between wanting to condemn them and empathising with them. 

The action unravels after the ‘murderer’ Murali is framed and subsequently arrested. The five policemen, including the Karunakaran brothers, involved in ‘solving’ the case are faced with the fact that the actual killer is out there. Their concern is not the man they framed.

The cops are at a point of no return; their lives, careers and pensions are at stake. They have to look out for themselves and each other, even if it means destroying evidence and not letting a colleague do his job. It boils down to self-preservation and a potential whistleblower will not be tolerated.   

The ‘system’ — politicians, political parties and ministers — is invoked many times during the course of the film. A guilt-ridden Aravind goes on a long leave unable to tolerate this system, but returns and cracks the case with help from the same system. 

The non-linear narrative works well for the straightforward story. The director takes his time with it, and the twist in the tale is unexpected given the build-up. The script ensures that there are no distractions from the main story, and themes such as identity theft figure only to circle back to the case at hand. That said, certain scenes such as the one where Aravind returns home with his girlfriend Dia (Diana Penty) and leaves the family wondering about their relationship seem superfluous. 

Manoj K Jayan and Dulquer being cast as brothers is unexpected, but works well. The supporting cast includes veterans such as Indrans, Alencier, Sudheer Karamana, Saikumar in tiny roles, but they deliver what is required, as do the younger lot like Binu Pappu, Vinod Sagar, and Shaheen Siddique. However, one can’t help but wonder about what Diana Penty, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy and Saniya Iyyappan are doing in the film. 

There are plenty of opportunities to dramatise and exaggerate, but thankfully, Rosshan Andrrews does not indulge. A police procedure film is always an interesting watch, especially when done realistically, and Salute scores.  

Salute is currently streaming on SonyLIV   

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