Veteran actor-filmmaker Sreenivasan’s Vadakkunokkiyanthram (1989) followed the inner struggles of a highly insecure man. Besides writing and directing, Sreenivasan had also essayed the lead role of Thalathil Dineshan, an overprotective husband who struggles to come to terms with the fact that he has managed to marry a beautiful woman. Dineshan is relentlessly haunted by the thought that he is simply not good enough for his wife who is taller and fairer than him.
Arguably, no other film since Vadakkunokkiyanthram has been so successful in closely studying an otherwise well-settled and decent man descending into madness as he burdens himself with insecurities and doubts.
30 years later, Sreenivasan’s son Dhyan has made a film to tell a variation of that tale set in the present times. He has even retained the names of the lead couple, Dhinesh and Sobha, from his father’s classic. While Vadakkunokkiyanthram had just one insecure man, Dhyan’s film is replete with similar personalities. The film suggests that insecurity is a social malaise across generation, particularly prevalent among men.
Between Vadakkunokkiyanthram and Love Action Drama, the world has undergone a massive change. But, the one thing that hasn’t changed is the battle of the sexes. Most of the men, at least not all, still seem to grapple with one challenge: how to control women and her desires. Women, still, can’t help but pick wrong guys and assume the responsibility of making a better version of them.
Dineshan (Nivin Pauly) is obsessed with his one relative since childhood. Marrying her is his life’s only goal. But, she has different ideas. She is ambitious and has no time to invest in relationships. And she grows up to be a beautiful girl who is elegant and successful. She is about to get married to the man of her wishes. Meanwhile, Dineshan is still pinning for her and guzzling alcohol in the process. In short, he has no life.
At the wedding of his romantic interest, Dineshan runs into Shobha (Nayanthara), another beautiful and successful woman. She develops a soft corner for him. Because she thinks he is “innocent.” Than’s enough for Dineshan to change his obsession from his childhood sweetheart to Shobha. They both hit off instantly and so it begins.
Unlike Dineshan of Vadakkunokkiyanthram, Dineshan of Love Action Drama is not insecure about his looks. He knows that he looks dashing enough to get a woman’s phone number. But, what he lacks is a personality that would inform him as to how to treat women in his life. An unnamed man, who can’t rival Dineshan in terms of looks, sends Dineshan on a downward spiral by simply suggesting that he may have dated Sobha before him. Another short fellow, Suman (Vineeth Sreenivasan), makes Dineshan feel so defeated that he ends it with Sobha.
Dhyan believes that unlike back in the day, today the causes of insecurity in men doesn’t only stem from their physical appearance. A man can be good-looking and timid at the same time. Or a short-man with a beer-belly can be as confident as a rockstar. The source of insecurity among today’s generation is ignorance and joblessness.
Love Action Drama is no Vadakkunokkiyanthram, but it still works, thanks to the energy that the actors bring to the screen. And, editor Vivek Harshan’s cuts and Dhyan’s non-linear screenplay keep us engaged. Some of the screenwriting techniques of his father has rubbed off on Dhyan. Sreenivasan makes a brief appearance in the film. He is Sobha’s father. And the first thing he asks Dineshan is whether there is any doubt as to how he has managed to father a beautiful girl like Sobha? No, he is not joking. He is serious. He further adds that Sobha takes after his beautiful wife. It is an effective way to suggest that this film is a continuation of Vadakkunokkiyanthram and put the entire narration into a particular context.
Dhyan smartly weaves some effective observations on the battle of the sexes into an entertaining romantic comedy, which feels more like pop-corn blockbuster than a comment on the complexity of today’s relationships.
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