Salute movie review: Dulquer Salmaan shines in absorbing investigative drama

Dulquer Salmaan delivers a convincing performance as a police officer who sides with the truth even when the system crashes around him.Corrupt police officers and how they subvert the process of law for their political masters has been fodder that fed cinema for a long time. So much so, it has become something of a trope. 

A few films, however, stand out as they called out the men in khaki who used their power for all the wrong reasons. Visaranai, directed by Vetrimaran, and Anand Mahadevan’s Mai Ghat, which was based on custodial death of Udayakumar in 2005, are two such examples. Salute, written by Bobby Sanjay and directed by Rosshan Andrrews with Dulquer Salmaan in the lead, again puts policemen under the scanner.

The movie doesn’t waste time in introducing its hero. The first scene shows Dulquer Salmaan’s character walking into a police station and asking about the details of a murder case that happened three years back. Dulquer plays Aravind Karunakaran, a police officer who is on a long leave; he has returned to unearth the layers surrounding a murder case.

The movie doesn’t follow a linear narrative and we are befuddled by cops planting evidence in the wilderness. As the movie progresses, we realise an investigative team lead by DySP Ajith Karunakaran — who is also the elder brother of Aravind — is handling a murder case and is under severe pressure from ruling party to solve the case within a short deadline. The movies shows how the investigative team frames an innocent man named Murali.

Even though Aravind defies his elder brother to side with the truth, he is isolated by the department. Unable to handle the unethical system, Aravind takes a long leave and distances himself from his brother and family. The movie then returns to the present when Aravind, who is still unsettled by the guilt of sending an innocent man to jail , tries to reopen the old case.

The movie is narrated in a realistic style without dramatising the events and stays focused on the core subject of the movie. The movie has no dramatic twists and neither does it deviate into unwanted emotional scenes. Instead Salute stays focused on the guilt-ridden Aravind who is determined to make sure the innocent Murali gets his freedom.

Salute also shows the professional pressure faced by police officers who have to deviate from ethical means of investigation in order to safeguard their jobs. Salute is a class apart from the kind of investigative thrillers we have seen in Malayalam cinema so far. The climax sequences where Aravind comes close to capturing the real murderer are stand-out.

Dulquer Salmaan delivers a convincing performance as a man who cannot handle the lies around him. He maintains a sense of calm even when he is helpless in front of the hierarchical structure of the police force. Mano J Jayan also does justice to his character. Bollywood actor Diana Penty doesn’t have much to do in the film.

The ending of the film reminded me of Sean Penn’s The Pledge, the same tantalising feeling that the big reveal is just around the corner, only to have it snatched away. A well-made, mostly interesting film that could have been better if it had managed to make the viewer warm up to the characters more.

The film is now streaming on SonyLiv.