Neerparavai Movie Review– Flies high and handsome

‘Neerparavai’ is the third directorial venture of critically acclaimed filmmaker Seenu Ramasamy. The director has been successful in getting the backing of a big banner this time(‘Red Giant Movies’) and one must really appreciate Udhyanidhi Stalin for not only backing such a promising director but also going the whole hog by giving the movie a wide release and a great publicity campaign. But the key question is, does the movie justify all the hype surrounding Seenu Ramasamy’ talent and does it finally offer him a movie which attains critical mass in terms of qualitative and commercial appeal.

‘Neerparavai’ uses the story of Arulappasamy (Vishnu) as its core to weave a saga set in the fishing community of Rameshwaram. The story, narrated in a flashback mode by Esther (Nandita Das), has as its central character, Arul, the irresponsible and unmanageable alcoholic son of Lourthusamy (Ram) and his wife (played by Saranya Ponvannan). Arul does nothing much other than find creative ways to grab money from people around him and head straight to the toddy shop run by Ebenezer(Vadivukkarasi). His partners in crime are his close friend (Paandi) and an alcoholic Tamil teacher (Thambi Ramiah). His life slowly starts turning for the better after he comes in contact with Esther (Sunaina in the younger version) and has some romantic and some embarrassing encounters with her. But even after he reforms, he has a new set of challenges to face in getting the village to believe him, working around restrictions in being allowed to fish for a living and of course in winning the hand of Esther. The rest of the movie is about how he overcomes these challenges and what eventually happens in his life.

The biggest success of the movie is doing so many things at once and yet avoiding a lot of risky traps. It could have so easily wasted much more time than it did in comedy and not end up conveying much, it is well poised to be a sentimental tearjerker or even end up as one of those countless message machines dedicated to espousing the cause of the fishermen. But the brilliance of the screenplay is in doing a bit of all of these in the right proportions but not falling into any of these traps. And this cause is also largely helped by a six sigma casting setup which leaves you awed on multiple occasions. This is definitely Vishnu’s career defining role and he will be made or broken based on how he follows this outing. His graph right from ruthlessly irresponsible to a responsible but helpless guy to a confident youngster is the kind of stuff a young actor can only dream of and kudos to him for totally living the part. Sunaina’s first tryst with meaningful cinema doesn’t disappoint. Paandi and Thambi Ramiah could on a bad day seriously annoy to death but this one isn’t that. Be it with hilarious dialogues (best one being the one on only ulcer or love being the possible cures for alcoholism) or their serious scenes, they keep you rooted to their character all the time. Saranya might have played the cine’Maa’ more times than Rakhee Gulzar or Kiron Kher or Jaya Bachan put together, but she has become more dependable than Rahul Dravid in this department. Be it comedy, pain or pride she kills it every time. Samuthirakani as Usman Gani provides immense dignity to a short but tricky role and gets some of the best scenes in the movie. Vadivukkarasi doesn’t disappoint in a role which you cannot visualize anyone else playing.

When analyzing the best sequences in this movie, it would be hard to separate the scenes from the sequences or even just pieces where there is only the BGM with great camera angles. That in itself is testimony to the level of synchronized poetry created on celluloid. Be it the beautiful way in which Arul’s gradual transformation is shown, the subtle way of depicting the importance of the church in the daily affairs of a fishing hamlet, the romantic tension between the lead couple or the natural way in which the fishermen fight over the pettiest of things only to later go around town as if nothing ever happened, these are all genuine cinematic triumphs. The movie is also intelligent to a large extent in covering up its weaknesses. The violins of the ‘Para para’ song are used so beautifully in the BGM that they take almost take up a character by themselves. They are there when Arul struggles, when he loves, when he fights back or even in the potentially tricky part of the screenplay when he vanishes. Same can be said of the majestic shot of the open sea.

Technically, the film is brilliant in most aspects. The cinematography, with water, sand and sky appearing almost in every frame, still leaves you wanting for more. Watch out, especially for the few twilight shots in the movie. Pure bliss. Music by Raghunanthan is totally in sync with the setting. ‘Meenukku’ and ‘Devan Magale’ are very pleasant, but ‘Para Para’ is clearly the Tamil film song of the year. Even after the normal and sad versions of the song and a good deal of footage in the BGM you still want more of it. Dialogues are very efficient. The gyan on fishermen thankfully doesn’t sound preachy because care has been added to add a lot of lesser known facts and detail in them. It also doesn’t hurt that a very dignified Samudrakani mouths most of them. Thambi Ramiah’s one liners are a scream.

There are definitely a few flaws to pick at. The choice of Sunanina and Nandita Das to play different ages of the same character is very difficult to fathom and however esteemed an actor Nandita is, her weird expression in the court in the climax was inexplicable. Similarly given the great build up to Arul’s ending, the final happenings seem a bit underwhelming. But thankfully, these blemishes amount for very limited screen time and given the way the movie is handled you fall in love with the journey and care less about the outcome.

In summary, ‘Neerparavai’ is emotional yet breezy and entertaining yet involving. It deserves a viewing in the cinemas for the sincerity invested and uncomplicated entertainment delivered. It’s a heartening case of arguably the year’s best film being a totally plot-driven outing of a serious filmmaker(with the solid backing of one of the biggest production houses) involving no big stars and shot largely in a single fishing village. 4 generous stars with a greedy desire of seeing this phenomenon being frequently repeated.


  1. Sethumadhavan says:

    So looks like this is the Vaagai Sooda Vaa/Kalavani of this year. Good to know this especially since there haven’t been too many genuinely good Tamil films this year.Well written Badri….


    1. badri says:

      Yes sethu. In addition to being all that it all succeeds in creating great and apt production values even with a tight budget. esp watch out for the rich score, great cinematography and fantastic costume detailing


  2. Swati Chavda says:

    Very valid points. I haven’t watched the movie, but I hear you about excessive fights between lead characters in a romantic movie. It is one of the reasons why I’ve stopped watching romantic movies altogether (the other reason being excessive and syrupy sweetness – the other extreme).

    Almost every romantic movie one sees these days contains these typical scenes: heroine showing too much of saucy attitude and the hero showing too much of corny attitude early to mid-film. Then the sauciness and corniness collide, resulting in shrill fights that would drive the hordes of Genghis Khan away. Why, oh why?


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