Neram is another one of those “new-gen” light-hearted movies which are pure fun to watch. Seemingly an “Indie movement” with lesser known actors, experimental themes, no drama, foot-tapping songs with meaningless lyrics, loads of fun and solid plots, “new generation” (as they are called) Malayalam movies whose attitude revolve around “realism” and style are making Malayalam cinema a treat to watch again. Most of these movies are the result of film makers experimenting with themes of alternate narration such which differ from the traditional way of Indian cinema storytelling. In Malayalam this trend started off with Traffic and Neram is the latest in the list.
We say bad luck befalls one whose time is not right, and good look follows one whose time has come. Neram tells the story of a jobless young man whose time (neram) is not right. The movie has been released in Malayalam and Tamil. Pistah Suma Kira Somaari Jama Kiraaya!!
NERAM: Brilliant Plot, Nicely Executed, Some Epic Performances, No Drama, Twisting Anti-Climax, Situational Comedy #WIN, Lots of Fun! 8/10
— vadakkus (@vadakkus) May 18, 2013
Neram – The Storyline
Mathew (Nivin Pauly) is a luckless and jobless Malayali software engineer residing in Chennai. He was laid off from the company he was working because the owner of the company in the US farted. (No, really). He also had taken a loan from a ruthless loan shark “Vatti Raja” (Simhaa) some months back to get his sister married. Then he lost is job the next day. After paying interest for two months, Mathew, out of money, defaulted and asked Raja time of two months to pay off the remaining interest and the principal which he was granted. Raja is known to do the damnest of things to defaulters. And when the day of payment arrives he does not have a single Rupee with him. And then Mathew has to entertain his brother-in-law who wants only to eat and wants the remainder of his dowry. Adding to this mess, Mathew also has a girlfriend named Jeena (Nazriya Nazim) whose dad Johnykutty (Lalu Alex) had agreed to their marriage but is now threatening to backtrack. So on this particular day when his time (neram) is not right, Mathew is out of a job, does not have 5 bucks with him, has to pay 50,000 bucks to a womanizer loan shark before sundown, has a girlfriend who wants to run away with him and also has to keep his brother-in law happy . Will his neram get better or worse? Watch it! A word more will spoil it the story :)
The movie teaches some very important life lessons as well:
- Someone farted on the other end of the World? You will pay for it if your time is bad.
- Be careful of falling in love while you are unemployed. Or not.
- Wonder why the girl you like and you ask out does not turn up all the time? Tough luck.
- Girls who were ugly in school grow up to blossom into beauty queens. (I can vouch for this)
Neram – How it Looks and Feels (Review)
Despite dealing with a serious theme, the movie is lots of fun and a laugh riot. Nivin Pauly feels easily at home playing the luckless Mathew. The lad will be a fine, accomplished character actor one day. Nazriya is very pretty, fresh as a daisy. However, the most memorable character in Neram is Simhaa’s “Vatti” Raja. He has a bright future in the Tamil film industry. Shammi Thilakan and Manoj K Jayan are at their comic best. However, the plot is the real hero of the movie. The movie is highly stylized with lightly sepia-toned brilliant photography, stylish slow-motion sequences and mind blowing Bass Guitar-and-Tabla background music which keeps the tempo of the film going. The songs are foot-tapping, light, fun and very koothu-ish. More than all, the screenplay gives each character time and space to develop in the short available time, and the movie wastes no time doing this as most sequences and backgrounds of characters are directly explained through third-party narration. The movie is direct and does not preach or beat around the bush and has no drama or unnecessary hangups or sentiments. It straightaway gets to the narration and takes off from there with lots of laughs thrown in. Simple. No theatrics or heroics. Cut-and-dry. And it is just 1 hour 57 minutes long!
Neram’s headlining title song “Pistah Suma Kira!” (Warning – it is very catchy!) (Lyrics)
The lyrics have no meaning and were written by the legend Jagathy Sreekumar himself! Actually this song is a reproduction of a classic comedy scene from the 1983 Malayalam movie “Kinnaram” where Jagathy in his own indomitable style “invents” this meaningless song pretending to be a World-Class music composer. View the original comedy clip that includes the song here.
Neram – The Simplicity of the Complexity
I know I risk sounding like Salim Kumar with the title above, but there are no better words to describe this movie. Neram has a complex story which is told in an exceptionally simple and fun way. The entire story takes place in a span of around 6 hours over some 5-6 locations around the Mandaveli neighborhood near Mylapore in Chennai. there are only 20 characters shown in the entirely of the movie and only half of them have more than a few sentences to speak. Every single character in the movie plays an equally important contribution in building up the plot of the movie. A character that says only a couple of words at the beginning of the movie and is forgotten plays a role in bringing about the biggest of twists at the end. The movie will keep you wondering “what will happen next?”, building up suspense until the end with more and more twists in the story. Just when you thought you had figured it out, the director changes the equation and the jaw-dropping climax which actually seems like an anti-climax will leave you spellbound. Though the settings and the characters are quite simple, the narrative is quite complex. It is just exhilarating how different non-linear situations with apparently no connection with each other come together to build up the plot of the movie!
Neram – Situational Comedy #WIN
I read somewhere that a critic did not like Neram because there was “an absence of comedy” in the movie. I would like to guess the critic is one of those fossils of the day who cannot let go of the formula of the hero-centric film universe where comedy is delivered by a standup comedian who will appear on screen at scheduled intervals to crack script-lined dialogues to provide what was called “comic relief”. Unfortunately, that genre has run its time. In everyday life do people pop up in front of you every 30 minutes and tell you jokes for you to laugh for “comic relief”? Why should movies be any different? No offense to those immensely talented comedy artistes, but the comedy that the audience demands today does not come out of dialogue or one-liners, but out of spontaneous, situational and expressive humor rightly backed up by dialogue and mannerisms. I had a lot of fun watching this movie especially for its comedy. Manikunju’s dialogues and mannerisms, Shammi Thilakan’s face expressions (and his name! ROFL HAHAHAHAAA), situational humor by Pauly, Manoj K Jayan, the henchmen and the band of thieves and so on kept the film alive. Humor arises spontaneously in the film without any extra effort put in by anyone.
Neram – Old Wine Recycled to Taste Great in a New Bottle
Neram’s story to be frank, is nothing new. In fact, it was quite the prevalent formula movie in the 1990s, when the Malayalam movie industry produced some huge hits with movies about stories of one or more young people who were highly educated but jobless trying to make ends meet and trying to disentangle themselves from messes they get themselves into. But quality of those movies fell dramatically resulting in a slew of films called “mimicry films” featuring all-out buffoonery in the name of comedy, ending the genre for good. This movie takes the same story, albeit in a different direction. The theme of “many people and situations coming together to play a part in everyone’s life” has been highly successfully implemented in Malayalam cinema with most of the “new-generation” movies taking this route of alternate narration such as as Non-Linear, Parallel and Multi-Narration. Neram uses Non-Linear Narration while the theme in Traffic was Multi-Linear Narration. I like these kinds of movies because of the surprises in offer and because of the fun involved in guessing how the different elements might come together.
Go watch! The movie is released both in Malayalam and in Tamil, directed by Alphonse Puthran.