In Kurup, Dulquer played an elusive killer; in Salute, he chases a similarly shadowy figure. But is the whereabouts and identity of the antagonist more important than doing the right thing? The film looks for answers to both while leaning more towards the latter problem. This idea — of a cop bothered by his conscience becoming a threat to his fellow officers — was a staple of two great Sidney Lumet films, Serpico and Prince of the City.
For a good while, Salutetraverses the same territory. In the past, Aravind Karunakaran (Dulquer Salmaan) had to go along with a disagreeable evidence-planting exercise executed by his seniors. What makes things more complicated is his elder brother Ajith Karunakaran (Manoj K Jayan) being part of them. They have reasons to justify their actions. In one scene, Ajith tells Aravind that they once had to see a genuine culprit go scot-free due to insufficient evidence.
They don’t want to repeat the same thing. Years of service have taught them that it’s best to do things their way, something an idealistic Aravind can’t digest. But he is forced to swallow the bitter pill whose side effects worsen years later. Finding this mysterious man is necessary for Aravind because the suffering of an innocent man and his solitary sister keeps clawing at him. Aravind is like that student who got poor marks in his internals but wants to ace the finals with a distinction. Salute uses Aravind’s dilemma and his fellow officers’ concerns to generate a sufficient amount of menace, with ample assistance from Jakes Bejoy’s ominous score.
One reason why Salute works even through its missteps is the atmosphere the director manages to build with the aid of Jakes Bejoy’s music and DoP Aslam K Purayil’s frames that smoothly shift from the personal to the panoramic and back when the need arises. The other is Salmaan himself who remains thoroughly invested in his character’s dilemmas from beginning to end. His expressive face conveys Aravind’s inner conflicts as he finds himself being drawn into appalling police practices, shocked at the heartlessness of a loved one, and subsequently when he realizes that his reparation will cause great damage to that person.
Overall Salute is a fairly decent investigative drama with a strong conflict. The muddled and dialogue-heavy narrative is an issue, but the mystery provides the intrigue. The ending leaves one divided depending on which side one falls. If you like thrillers despite slow pace give it a try.