Premam is probably now in its sixth week – blasting past all past records in the box office, romping away to be a cult movie now. I saw the movie late – yesterday. And I say this with no hesitation.
Nivin Pauly is a star.
A natural and consummate actor who makes you roll around in splits at his goofy earthiness, at his earnest attempts at writing a love-letter, then gets you pumped up and cheering wildly as he lights up the cigarette and walks out in the pouring rain to bash up the baddies and then gets you to cry and bawl your lungs at his brilliant portrayal of a broken-hearted man. He is the full package and he gets his due in Premam, a coming-of-age romantic comedy that sees him play George – who falls in love, breaks his heart, holds those stinging broken shards of sweet romance close and then finally learns to let go and find an anchor for his wayward life. Three girls, three love-stories. Each bitter-sweet and reminiscent of stages we’ve all gone through. This nostalgia packed in with some brilliant performances by all the actors – combined with skilful direction and editing by Alphonse Puthren ( of Neram fame), mesmerising cinematography by Anand C Chandran, soul-stirring and foot-tapping music by Rajesh Murugesan – it’s no wonder Premam is going to be one of the best Malayalam movies in recent times.
Drenched in copious sepia-tinted nostalgic moments, the story starts off in George’s ( the lead character played by Nivin) bumbling pre-degree days – smitten by this queen bee in school, Mary (Played by debutante Anupama Parameswaran) he follows her home every evening back from the school till the bridge leading to her house – wanting to propose his undying love to her. The hesitant, faltering doubt-riddled romance of the teenager riding high on hormonal over-drive is essayed with full aplomb by the two leading actors – Nivin trying hard to be a fresh faced cleanly scrubbed 16-year old while Anupama turns in a pretty decent performance for her first movie. But what strikes you right from the first frame is the camera work. Immersive and alive. The shot of the fried items and eatables in the tea-shop as characters chatter in the backdrop building the hype around this queen bee whom every guy in the area wants to romance – it pulls you in to the movie like nothing else. The wide angle shot of a guy standing under the bridge while the three friends scramble up the steps lugging their cycles to catch up with their best friends’ heart throb. It sets the tone for the movie. You know you’re in for something special.
The best part of the movie for me (and so for a lot of others I presume) was the second romance. We find George in 2005 in college final year – Full beard, lit cigarette and an over-load of smouldering machismo attitude while the rock-fused “Kallipu” plays in the background making for a brilliant entrance. ( I know I probably sound more like a fan boy!) [And as the lyrics go, the drum beats are going mad in your chest, your legs are spasming and hands itching and jack-knifing up and down to get down and get bloody!] Sai Pallavi, playing Nivin’s teacher at the college is a breath of fresh air to the Malayalam cinema. She effortlessly essays the role of Malar – with whom George falls madly in love at first sight. Their romance is natural and builds up pretty well – the best song in the movie [“Malare” sung full throated by Vijay Yesudas is a beautiful ballad of love] setting up things. Sai Pallavi with her underplayed expressions brings the scene alive in one particular scene as she breaks into an impromptu “koothu” dance while choreographing for George and friends. Their romance is short changed though – [ And am not spoiling things for you here!] and Nivin Pauly’s amazing broken-hearted act at the end of this stage alone should get him nominated for an award this year. [ if not for the bankability in terms of box-office returns!]
We meet George again in late 2014 running his own café – mature, mustachioed and looking his age. And while the memories of his last heart break still haunts him, when Celin a girl much younger than him ( Played by Madonna Sebastian, she of the beautiful bambi-eyes and coy-smile) approaches him one late night to buy a cake, things take wing. There are issues with this romance, yes. Too short and maybe not fully played out. But it underlines the movie message that love, the oldest of human emotions is effervescent. Like fresh shoots springing up after the last torrents of the rain to replace the wilted flowers of last season.
A word about the cast of actors. Take a bow! Young actors, all of them are absolutely brilliant in their side roles and live it up fully to the hilt. Be it Krishna Shankar & Shabareesh Verma ( Koya and Shambu, best friends with George as they stick with him through the different stages of his life without question offering their opinions and backing him up fully) or be it Siju Wilson ( Jijo), George’s side kick. And there's this 2-bit cameo by Sharafuddin that will have you in splits. A special word about Vinay Fort. This guy has a comic timing that is unbeatable. A rhythm like a beatbox dancer when it comes to his dialog delivery. The scene where he is explaining how simple is Java to his students or plotting with George’s friends on how to impress Malar by claiming he’s got 900 acres of Pears in his Ooty farm are hilarious. So is Soubin Shahir playing his sidekick, the PT master with his never-ending supply of ideas.
Anand’s wizardry with the camera focussing on the flitting sparrow or the submerged frog in the pool and the ever-green verdant luxurious plains of Kerala during the monsoon are just absolutely master-class. And the music is an effortless part of the narrative, Rajesh scoring well again after the success of Neram. Malaree, Aluva Puzha and Rockankoothu will be hummed for a long time afterwards.
All in all, Premam as a movie works like nothing else because of its treatment of the subject. Love – we’ve all had our flings – the unspoken unrequited infatuation of our teenage, the mad reckless dangerous love of our young adult days and then the quiet calming mature love that endures and sees us through. It’s a movie without any pretences – a natural, extremely sensibly handled movie about love and friendship, Premam is the toast of the new age Malayalam movies that are coming out with brilliant sensible scripts these days. Alphonse Puthren announced himself with Neram and then clearly makes a grab for the throne with this. He truly hits the ball out of the park.
And Nivin Pauly’s golden touch at the box office continues.
Premam could well be the inflection point for this actor. ( Someone say, Chitram for Mohanlal?) He is pure gold. Thattathin Marayathu, 1983, Om Shanthi Oshana, Bangalore Days, Oru Vadakan Selfie and now Premam tops the golden chalice that he is drinking from. It’s only the start of great things for our man and I know he is rising steadily to become one of Mollywood’s best actors in recent times. God Speed and Good luck, Mr. Pauly.