'Djinn' movie review: Soubin Shahir delivers the goods

Sidharth Bharathan’s films are never a complete waste of time because you are bound to find at least a few thought-provoking ideas in them

Published: 10th January 2023 08:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 10th January 2023 08:44 AM   |  A+A-

Soubin Shahir

Soubin Shahir

Express News Service

Watching Sidharth Bharathan’s Djinn is akin to watching three movies in different genres. I don’t mean to say that this approach negatively affects the movie, but pulling off something of this variety without any jarring tonal shifts is a tricky proposition. And Djinn has these shifts happening in a few places, and on account of this, it runs the risk of taking you out of the movie, particularly in the early portions. 

The other reason it occasionally struggles to sustain our interest is the less number of characters, not all of them interesting. Soubin Shahir, of course, is the most well-written of all the principal players. The rest are mostly stock, except for a few supporting ones with a sense of individuality. That said, I liked most of the film’s ideas.  This is why I look forward to Sidharth’s films because even with a few flaws here and there, he is at least trying to do something different. Djinn is no exception. 

Soubin plays Lalappan, an oddball who is... not all there. The film’s opening scene perfectly illustrates his condition. Djinn has sounds playing a key role, considering how they act as triggers for Lalappan to take on the demeanour of someone who has passed away. The locals interpret these episodes as a case of possession by a ‘djinn’ (spirit). Whether that really is the case or the after-effects of some unresolved past trauma get resolved only in the climax. And when the idea of a doppelganger is introduced, Djinn turns into a film way different from the one we assumed it would be when the trailer was released. 

The idea of the main character in a movie assuming a different ‘character’ is amusing to me because I got a ‘movie within a movie’ vibe from it. And Soubin rises to the challenge. This idea gets a major extension when one of Lalappan’s friends decides to utilise him to make a quick buck. Enter Aneez, a chauvinist drug dealer, also played by Soubin. This development reminds you of Don (the Amitabh and SRK movies), but it’s not the same story. Sidharth and team bring their own refreshing twist to the good doppelganger-bad doppelganger concept. (Let’s also remember Padmarajan’s brilliant Aparan.) There also seems to be a nod to Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown here—when we meet Aneez’s air hostess girlfriend (Leona Lishoy), who smuggles gold for him.

After some moderately yawn-inducing early portions, I was relieved to see the film’s energy pick up as it inched closer to the interval to clarify an intriguing development set up previously. This development suddenly causes Djinn to behave like another movie. I’m still in two minds about this multi-tone approach because the more I think about it, I feel it could be a deliberate writing choice to reflect the shifty nature of the protagonist’s mind regardless of whether or not it worked for me. 

The film is most engaging when its focus is solely on Soubin’s shapeshifting act. After the excesses of Irul, CBI 5, and Bro Daddy, it’s great to see the actor return to form in films like Djinn and Ela Veezha Poonchira. The actor shows a lot of restraint here, especially in the Aneez segments, where the character’s unpredictability, quirks, and violent nature make for a potent and occasionally hilarious combination. A Rajinikanth reference before he bumps off an integral character cracked me up. 

What I didn’t expect to be surprised by, though, was the film’s emotional payoff. Santhy Balachandran and Nishant Sagar deserve special mention in that regard. The film’s two most poignant moments involve a petrol pump scene that recalls Kadhalum Kadanthu Pokum, but with a minor twist. In the other, one man extends a helping hand to his ‘adopted’ brother, seemingly to assuage a feeling of guilt caused by something he failed to do.   

Djinn may not be a flawless film, but it at least confirms my belief that Soubin delivers his best with the right directors. Besides, as I said earlier, Sidharth’s films are never a complete waste of time because you are bound to find at least a few thought-provoking ideas in them.

Film: Djinn
Director: Sidharth Bharathan
Cast: Soubin Shahir, Sharafudheen, Shine Tom Chacko, Sabumon Abdusamad, Leona Lishoy, Santhy Balachandran, Nishant Sagar
Rating: 3/5


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