With a lot riding on its producer’s pedigree, Karthik Subbaraj’s Penguin written and directed by debutant Eashvar Karthic dropped directly on Amazon Prime Video with great expectations. Rhythm (Keerthy Suresh) is haunted by her nightmarish past in which her firstborn child Ajay was snatched away by a dangerous psychopath. 6 years later following a divorce, a remarriage and a new baby on the way, she finds a physically and psychologically abused Ajay on a desolate road while the search for another missing child in underway. With only a Chaplin-like umbrella-wielding image of the maniacal antagonist, Rhythm sets out to avenge her child.
The shoddy screenplay mars the plot
The rudiments of a crime thriller are its ability to envision a suspenseful progression from one scene to another. Penguin starts promisingly with ominous imagery from the protagonist’s mind space but unfortunately suffers from an incohesive screenplay. The non-linear narrative lacks the gravitas that the situation warrants and fails to pack a punch. In whodunnits of this nature, the devil is in the details as the saying goes. Unfortunately here, the details hang from a rather loose thread that struggles to tie a coherent knot. The red herrings thrown in make neither an impact nor enhance the final reveal which is disappointingly underwhelming. The film is further impaired by amateurish dialogues that trivialise the actual horror of the experiences thereby diluting the intended intensity of the situations. The glacial pace of the unfolding tale does not justify the urgency of the crisis and only serves to deter rather than enhance.
Characters have gone awry
As a young mother galvanised into searching for justice, Keerthy Suresh does a competent job in what can be termed as a grossly underwritten role for a publicised female-centric lead. In a character who could have delivered much through her personal unsettling experiences, the writer reduces her to a superficial and one-dimensional caricature. In addition, the film’s biggest folly is its supporting cast who have precious little to contribute. Ajay played by Master Advaith is not given time for his character to develop in spite of being the fulcrum of the plot. Furthermore, the unimaginative picturisation of the psychopath does little to instil fear.
Lenswork and BGM to the rescue
Penguin benefits from the cinematography by Kharthick Phalani who brings out the sweeping landscapes of the Nilgiris to good effect. The misty milieus and hilly terrains portend the impending gloom that surrounds the plot. The background score by Santhosh Narayan has an urgency that has the potential to amplify the tension of the story. Yet both are unable to intensify the wafer-thin plot that is rife with glaring loopholes.
WATCH OR NOT
The premise of Penguin holds promise but takes suspension of disbelief a bit too far through its insipid and extraneous writing. Watch it once if you are a Keerthy Suresh fan but prepare to be disappointed if you are a connoisseur of crime. It is a dish that could have been delectable but is sadly missing many key ingredients.
Director: Eashvar Karthic
Writer: Eashvar Karthic
Cast: Keerthy Suresh, Lingaa, Master Advaith, Madhdmpatty Rangaraj
Music: Santhosh Narayanan
Streaming on: Amazon Prime