Nivin Pauly is at a crucial juncture in his career. As a mainstream hero, he is struggling to find a balance between what he is good at doing and things he is expected to do so that he stays a commercially viable hero.
He made a career in the Malayalam film industry doing romantic films since Thattathin Marayathu (2012). Now, he is putting in a lot of efforts to shed his ‘chocolate boy’ tag and assume the status of an action hero. The 34-year-old actor seems to think he may be getting too old for playing a romantic hero oozing with his trademark boy-next-door charm. His last film, Mikhael, was an attempt to further this agenda. And, it did not work.
Nivin Pauly seems to have had some time to introspect after Mikhael. Because his new film is Love Action Drama, which marks his return to home turf — romantic comedy. The film is the directorial debut of Dhyan Sreenivasan, brother of actor-director Vineeth Sreenivasan who gave Nivin his first major break with Thattathin Marayathu.
Dhyan must have been observing Nivin’s latest career moves while writing the character for him in Love Action Drama. In the trailer, Nivin says that “I am gonna work out some jaada moves, man.” Aju Varghese responds to him by saying, “Ulakka Chakka Cha”, which was Nivin’s background score in Mikhael. It is Dhyan’s way of trolling Nivin for doing a migraine-inducing film.
More than Nivin’s “jaada moves”, the trailer of Love Action Drama emanates a Premam vibe. The 2015 romantic comedy thrived on all three: love, action and drama. It was a dreamy memory piece by filmmaker Alphonse Puthren. His tongue firmly in cheek, the director had said that only a 31-year-old virgin can make Premam in other languages better than him.
“You can make Premam perfectly and make it look richer than the original. The beauty of Premam is that the film is not perfect like me. So whoever buys or translates my feature film on screen, please keep in mind to avoid perfect shots (sic),” Alphonse had said in a Facebook post in 2017 when he was approached by multiple Bollywood production studios for the remake rights of Premam.
And Alphonse Puthren was correct. Director Chandoo Mondeti could not create the same magic of the original Malayalam film when he remade the film in Telugu with Naga Chaitanya in the lead role.
“The specialty and uniqueness of the film ‘Premam’ is that I was a virgin till my marriage. If anyone who is a virgin for more than 31 years or more, I believe they can do Premam much more better than me. In short, I believe only a small kid like me can do Premam …not masters or great drivers (sic),” Alphonse had written in the same Facebook post.
The main emotion that drives Premam is not its romance, humour or the content. It is the memories of Alphonse Puthren. His experience with loneliness and his constant struggle to find love is what makes this movie special. And, characters, especially female ones, feel very real and close. Take, for example, Anupama Parameswaran’s Mary George. She plays a school-going girl living in a small town. Her eyebrows are unkempt and somewhat bushy, and hair is not perfect either. In the Telugu remake, these little “imperfections” had been removed from her appearance.
Alphonse further challenged the notion of beauty by letting his cameras embrace Sai Pallavi’s natural skin. He did not airbrush her pimples and propagate an unrealistic image of a woman worthy of the hero’s attention and love. Presenting an un-airbrushed version of Sai Pallavi, he also relieved many women from the undue pressure exerted upon them by the culture of popular art.
In the Telugu remake, however, we get a glossy-looking Shruti Haasan with flawless skin. It seems only a 31-year-old virgin can understand Alphonse Puthren’s vision of Premam.
Alphonse also keeps it real and simple while writing his male characters. A teenage George David is in for a rude shock when Mary, the girl he is crushing on, puts him in the friendzone and asks his help to speak with her boyfriend whose first name is also George. It is such a recipe for melodrama but the director does something better with the situation. He doesn’t make his protagonist stalk her, plot revenge on her or curse her. Instead, George, heavy-heartedly, accepts her request and practically becomes her wingman. In doing so, he shows that he respects Mary’s decision even as it does not benefit him.
George shows the same decency and maturity when he faces a devastating setback in his relationship with Malar. Again, he understands her predicament and decides not to make her life more difficult than it already was. And he quietly bows out of her life.
George attends college under the influence of alcohol, sets off a bomb at a college fest and relentlessly shows an inclination for a street fight, but he, indeed, knows how to treat a woman.
Premam is a byproduct of an honest expression of a progressive and eloquent filmmaker. Like fine wine, this film will only get better with age.
Premam is available on Hotstar.