'Partners' movie review: Keeps you engaged despite the rough edges

Directed by Naveen John, who earlier scripted Ira (2018), 'Partners' is a financial fraud-based thriller, inspired by real incidents.
'Partners' movie review: Keeps you engaged despite the rough edges

Lately, Dhyan Sreenivasan has been on a mission to have at least one weekly release. While it is inspiring to see someone working tirelessly, the harsh reality is that most of these films have been failing miserably, struggling even to cross the first weekend. In a welcome change from his dismal streak, the actor’s latest release, Partners, is largely engaging, which works despite all its rough edges.

Directed by Naveen John, who earlier scripted Ira (2018), Partners is a financial fraud-based thriller, inspired by real incidents. Income Tax Commissioner Parthasaradhi (Kalabhavan Shajohn) is investigating a scam centered around a low-key private bank and one of its branches in rural Kasaragod. In a flashback that takes us six months back, we see five new employees being recruited and their efforts to win the trust of the locals.

While Sanju Sivaram plays the branch manager Krishna Kumar, Dhyan Sreenivasan essays the role of cashier Vishnu Govindan. Devaki Rajendran, Aneesh Gopal, and Dinesh Kollappally play the other three employees. Their character sketches are mostly basic, letting the actors sleepwalk through their performances.

Much like Maheshinte Prathikaaram (2016) and Angamaly Diaries (2017), Partners attempts to capture Kasaragod’s life and culture with an opening song. The Kasaragod setting is crucial for this film for multiple reasons. Firstly, Kasaragod, unlike other parts of Kerala, is sleepy and crawling in development. In this film, set in 2005, we see the locals getting excited about a bank being opened for the first time in their village.

Naturally, it helps portray them as naive. Surrounded by sea, Kasaragod is also an ideal destination for smuggling activities—another crucial plot point in the film. The writers Naveen John, Hariprasad, and Prasanth K V also pay attention to fleetingly mention Endosulfan and the tragedy it wreaked in the locality. These are minute details that help paint a vivid picture of the milieu.

Except for a forced romantic track involving Dhyan and the female lead Satna Titus, Partners is a mostly focussed film trying to present a scam being devised and the desperate attempts by those trapped in it to escape. After a rather laidback first half where the story world, characters, their equations, and the ‘twisted’ conflict are established, the film picks up pace in the second half with the characters trying to outsmart each other.

It becomes something like a cat-and-mouse game with multiple cats and mice involved. Though the film bombards us with a series of twists towards the end, not all of them are convincingly fleshed out and the rushed ending clearly exposes the lack of clarity. The execution of the all-important heist portions also demanded better production values and technical prowess.

Despite Partners being that rare film brimming with potential, among his recent string of duds, Dhyan’s performance here lacked a sense of purpose. Just around the halfway point, it is revealed that his character Vishnu has a criminal background. A better performance could have made the narrative more interesting by letting the shadows of suspicion fall on the character. This is exactly where Alexander Prasanth excels as he holds the cards close to his chest till the very end. A la Kevin Spacey from a famous film about ‘suspects’.

Film: Partners

Director: Naveen John

Cast: Dhyan Sreenivasan, Sanju Sivaram, Devaki Rajendran, Kalabhavan Shajohn, Alexander Prasanth

Rating : 2.5/5 stars

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