Mollywood has a long legacy of police movies. From Prem Nazir to Prithviraj, the stars of then and now have successfully donned the khaki cap. However, the portrayal of cops in movies has also been instrumental in creating a bad image in the minds of the common man. Not all films depict all aspects of the professional endeavours of our police officers in the right manner. They try to depict what is real and sometimes overdo it. The early 90s witnessed an array of police investigation movies, which had at least two or three cops with negative traits. Still, cult classics like Yavanika, released in 1982, stood out for the realistic portrayal of how an officer runs investigation.
Since the beginning of the new wave in Mollywood, filmmakers like Dileesh Pothan and writers like Sajeev Pazhoor have tried to make the men in khaki as realistic as it can get, neither as a hero nor as a villain, but very realistic.
So, were cops being harmed by Mollywood’s depictions of them?
One may wonder if it is entertainment or it just happens that is the end game of people who create such ludicrous caricatures of police officers. You might also wonder if the constant portrayals of police officers as badge-heavy, racist, uncaring, psychopathic brutes have encouraged some people to believe them. Have these portrayals affected police recruiting?
Award-winning scriptwriter Sajeev Pazhoor, who penned one of the most realistic depictions of Kerala police in Thondimuthalum.., says sometimes movies do give the police a misleading image among the audience. “The audience sometimes generalise the situation. Instead of the good deeds that they have done, people tend to remember only the negative traits that they have seen in movies, and are afraid of police officers. In Thondimuthalum…. I tried to be realistic. I never planned to glorify police force or show them in a bad light. I just wrote the character traits according to the situation and what the story demanded. People have given the uniform a certain kind of respect. For the layman, cops doing something bad is unthinkable and unacceptable. So, once they see a negative role from a police officer, it will make an impact on his mind. We need to understand that they are also normal human beings. And most importantly, cinema portrays only a certain area of their lives. Even in Thondimuthalum, there are officers with negative and positive traits,” shares Sajeev, who is working on a new project titled Sathyam Paranjaa Viswasikuvo.
Sibi Thomas, the police officer-turned-actor who played the Circle Inspector in Thondimuthalum.., says the way Malayalam films portray police officers has been very much misleading, though there are a very few exceptions. “Films like Action Hero Biju, Thondimuthalum.. and Joseph broke the stereotypical portrayal of the force. For us, that was a good thing. When I joined the force, I could understand the difference between fiction and reality. I agree with the fact there are a few officers who are rude, but most of us are normal people.”
Shahi Kabir, the writer of acclaimed movie Joseph, says early Malayalam cinema followed the footsteps of characters like Laurel and Hardy of Hollywood. “Laurel and Hardy were two patrolling officers whose traits were pure comedy. In the early 70s, Malayalam cinema followed their footsteps, but went too far by making the police senseless and laughingstocks. So, we have had an era where the police officers were portrayed as comic characters, not as heroes or villains. Then came films that showed the officers with negative shade and it really affected a generation of audience, especially young ones, to have a fearful or ‘not-so-friendly’ image about them.” Shahi, who himself is a police officer, was the assistant director of the movie Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum. He believes cinema actually has the power to make or break. “Audience love to hear a joke about the police. People tend to generalise the whole police department in a negative way. There are good and bad officers in the force. Majority of them are nice people just like any other common man, but by watching a police constable or a commissioner who follows a life in an illicit way, majority of the audience tend to consider the entire force like that. Every police officer has to go through a lot of emotional trauma, every day, at work. Films like Action Hero Biju were good examples which showed the day of a police officer. You can see how stressful it is. That shows we are also humans. Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum was another realistic movie that chronicled the story of theft. The officers were portrayed as neither heroes nor villains in it.” When quizzed about the preparation for the scripting of Joseph, he says, “I don’t think Joseph was a full-on police story, but I have been getting a lot of comments that way. I tried to make it believable.”
It is evident that gone are the days of ‘heroic Commissioners’ and ‘moustache-twirling Inspector Balrams’. And we have definitely come a long way from ‘Constable Kuttan Pillais’, who used third-degree measures during questioning. It is the time for movies to portray the men in kakhi the way they are, because, the reality is stranger and stronger than fiction....