Filmi 'experts' would say that 'Premam' is too silly to be the name of a malayalam movie, it is too short and bland, and the word might sound a little negative as well (compared to its nobler sister 'Sneham'). Had this movie been released a decade earlier, it would not have worked, the story is too simple, there are no established actors, no superstar, and the entire crew comprises of people unknown of. But it works, and what makes it click is it's simplicity. A simple story of a malayalee boy, his two best friends, and the three loves of his life. The movie is proof that even the simplest idea can work, if executed properly, with perseverance and passion.
I saw this movie today in Bangalore, about a week after its release, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Again, the movie fights convention, they never released the trailer, the only publicity was one of the songs, and some posters. So when people walked into theatres, they had no idea what to expect. The story is of our mallu hero George, growing up in a village in Aluva, Kerala in 2000, and how he tries to woo the love of his life at that point. Nivin Pauly excels in a role tailor made for him. He has two best buddies, always to advice & rescue him. Shambu is the more pessimistic of the lot, and Koya, the little more practical minded one. Its nice to see a Hindu, Christian and Muslim trio of friendship here. And the three friends persist through life, they are together all the way through college, and even after that. Anyway, George faces a lot of competition from other 'roosters' in his neighbourhood and ultimately rejection, and has to move on. The movies skips to his final year in college, when George is now the brash student everyone hates , and where he unexpectedly starts to fall for his teacher, a guest lecturer in his college. But their mutual love goes unrealized as she faces an accident and loses her memory (this amnesia part is the only stereotype of this movie). The third act of the movie is in modern times, our times. George has mended he brash ways and actually runs his own coffee shop. This time, love comes calling his name again. George has to go through what we see as a third rejection again, but good things , it seems , come to those who wait. We see our hero getting married, its a happy ending and all is well.
You see the problem here ? The above condensation of the story does not do justice to the movie. At all. What stands out is the execution. Everything from the cinematography, costumes and dialogues to the awesome background music and editing, is a class apart. The cast is perfect, everybody has a role to play, and they all play believable, everyday characters. No over-the-top or artificial characters here. And the visuals, of rain and sun and flowers…oooh..too much nostalgia ! The background music complements the visuals beautifully. I could point out numerous things which the set department got right: the kids of 2000 use the trusty-rusty cycle to get around, and have to use landlines to call each other. They hang out at the local tea stall, and drink lime soda with kuskus. George uses a hero pen and actually writes down a love letter, and makes spelling mistakes too. He has to tear up everything and start from scratch again. There was no cell phone or sms back then. No internet or facebook. Kids of today would find living in those times really frustrating. And in the college timeline, which runs in 2005, there is a hint of technology. SMS over cellphones was the simplest way to get a message around. And in modern times ,the characters spend a lot of time on their smartphones. This kind of attention to detail sets this movie apart, nothing is out of place.
The makeup deserves a special mention, because we see the lead characters growing and aging through the movie, believably. The trio of actors who play the +2 school kids is the very same who play the 30+ characters at the end. And the actors too change their mannerisms to suit the age: the school characters are naive and shy, while at the other end we see them mature and confident (and stoned too, for too long). But the surprise offering of the movie is the role of Malar, the tamil guest lecturer played by the debutante tamil actress. Nobody could have seen this one coming. She does a fantastic job at playing her role convincingly, its hard to digest that it was her first (and possibly last) movie. I also like Vinay Fort's character of Vimal sir, the bumbling mumbling teacher of the college. This character is gonna live forever.
The story is an amalgamation of the love stories of many , many young couple from that period. Everybody will be able to relate to some aspect of the storyline. And the movie itself can be considered a sort of rebellion, against various stereotypes of the industry. This is a new breed of film makes who excel in in telling stories using beautiful visuals, accompanied by perfect music. Who would have thought that such a simple story played by inexperienced actors could set the box office ringing ? And if this is the vision of things to come, and things are doing in the right direction. Expecting more from this crew of youngsters.
Update(01-Jul): Looks like the dream run of this movie at the theatres will be cut short abruptly, a copy of the movie given to the censor board has been leaked online. But on the flip side, they already made a lot of money. And Nivin has got rave reviews for his acting, the people have anointed him the new superstar of Malayalam movies. Some are calling him the next Mohanlal, as his acting reminded them of Mohanlal's early career. But he is cautiously playing down the hype and maintaining that he still has a lot to learn. He pointed out that he is now 25 movies old , in just 5 years !