There was this girl in school I used to be fond of. Many a times my heart would flutter when she would look back at me, especially if I could detect a trace of even half a smile. The closest I came to realizing she probably liked me was when I managed to have the guts to go and tell her one day that I didn’t really like her hairstyle that she had tried out on that particular day, not just that, I even went on to tell her which style really looked good on her. Luckily she did not get angry at all and even thanked me for my ‘feedback’ :). Emboldened by the same I tried visiting her home many a times, usually accompanied by my friends, but never had the courage to open the gate. But on occasions when she saw me from the balcony and smiled, that was more than enough for me to swoon. Around the same time we tried visiting another girl’s house a few times, just to make a dear friend happy. But we ended up having to beat a hasty retreat often, once even running away before realizing we had our bicycles with us, all thanks to the girl’s strict father :).
So have I lost it? Why am I getting nostalgic instead of sharing my thoughts on a film? Don’t worry but if you end up watching Alphonse Putharen’s Premam, there is no way that you can escape going back to your days in school, college and even beyond, most importantly remembering the various occasions when you probably were in ‘love’ in some form or the other. With his debut film Neram (based on his own short film of the same name) Alphonse Putharen had created quite a stir by making a fun entertainer which worked equally well both in Malayalam and Tamil. So when his second film Premam was announced with Nivin Pauly in the lead once again automatically the expectations were bound to be reasonably high. Nothing much was revealed about the film as such during the making. And later from the promos and songs that were unveiled we could only gather that it could be a fun film and that Nivin was playing the part of a teenager, nothing more than that. Considering that even in a film like 1983 Nivin had easily pulled off a role which saw him age gradually from 15 to 40 so wonderfully, this seemed to be quite in his zone indeed.
In a manner that might remind you of Jude Anthany Joseph’s Ohm Shanthi Oshaana Premam talks about various stages in the life of George David (Nivin Pauly). During the first stage we see him as a 16 year old pre-degree student eager to attract and win the attention and affection of Mary George (Anupama Parameshwaran). The segment is set in Aluva and we get to witness the simple ways in which George egged on by his friends Koya (Krishna Shankar) and Shambu (Shabareesh Varma) goes about trying to express his love to Mary. Since the year is 2000, a period in which life was still a lot simpler, we see the use of bicycles, STD booths, caller i.d’s on landline phones and a tea shop as the hub of all activities. George’s pursuit of Mary does not continue for long and hence we are then taken to the next big stage in George’s life.
It is now 2005 and George is in college along with his buddies Koya and Shambu and they are the typical back benchers, visible more outside the classroom than inside. Ever eager to get into a fight and move around carefree, things take a different turn for George the very moment he meets their new guest faculty member Malar (Sai Pallavi), who hails from Kodaikanal. George doesn’t try anything heroic in front of Malar; he is happy for a change to simply be seen around by Malar and slowly even she appears to be looking at him as more than just her student. Just when things were looking perfect, an unexpected disaster strikes, leaving George shattered. Time flies and now we quickly cut to the present where a 30 year old George is a successful entrepreneur, running a cafe in Fort Kochi. His friends are still around him, and his journey continues.
For those expecting something innovative in terms of the tale let me tell you that you may be in for some disappointment, but Alphonse Putharen has been very clear from the start, which is why the film even carries the caption ‘The second film in the history of world cinema with nothing fresh’ 🙂 . This is a tale that is relevant not just for George but also for so many of us who can identify with the proceedings in the film. Haven’t most of us experienced/been in love at various stages in our lives? How does it feel when you fall for a girl who belongs to a different state, so much so that you even end up learning or improving your knowledge of her language? Premam also pays tribute/uses references from various films like Thoovanathumbikal, Namakku Parkkan Munthiri Thoppukal, Guna etc. There is even a passing reference to Fahadh Faasil and Nazriya Nazim, all done humorously, without appearing forced into the narrative.
At a run time of nearly 165 minutes the film chugs along at a merry pace but thankfully Alphonse Putharen (who has also edited the film) manages to keep it engaging all the way, so that should not worry those with an aversion for lengthy films. Anand C.Chandran’s cinematography is first rate; similar to his work in Neram here too he presents to us shots which make excellent use of lighting, bringing alive various hues in their natural best. Also the 3 different periods (2000, 2005 & 2014) are conveyed quite well on screen. Without using too many props to distract us, Alphonse resorts to the use of minimal effects like songs and background which convey the different time periods effectively. With a film that is titled Premam and with George going through his journey of love, how can music not be an integral part of the film? Rajesh Murugesan who made his mark with Neram doesn’t disappoint here as well, the songs became popular long before the release of the film.
There is a lot of variety in the compositions, so if the mellifluous ‘Aluva Puzhayude Theerathu’ (lyrics by Shabareesh Varma and sung by Vineeth Sreenivasan) conveys the mood of first love very well, then ‘Scene Contra’ (written and sung by Shabareesh Varma) is a fun song which tells that you don’t need ‘her’ 🙂 . But the best song of the year, probably also the song of the year (so far) is ‘Malare’ sung incredibly by Vijay Yesudas.If these weren’t enough for variety wait, there is even a full on ‘kuthu’ pattu in Tamil,’Rockaankuthu’ (written by Pradeep Palar, sung by Anirudh Ravichander and Haricharan). In terms of casting choices and performances Premam doesn’t disappoint at all, making the film more or less a treat to watch. Renji Panicker as George’s dad appears in just once scene, but it’s a total crowd puller of a scene in every sense. Manianpilla Raju as the college principal doesn’t have much screen time, Vinay Forrt as the computer science lecturer and Soubin Sahir as the PT master leave quite an impression. Filmmakers Jude Anthany Joseph and even Alphonse Putharen himself feature in cameos. Krishna Shankar and Shabareesh Varma play George’s friends very well, and they also go through the 14 year transition quite effectively.
That brings us to the three ladies in the film, all of whom enter George’s life at different periods in time. While Anupama Parmeshwaran is effective as the school going Mary George who has all the boys in her neighbourhood vying for her attention, Madonna Sebastian (a popular singer) plays Celina with a lot of grace and charm. And then there’s Sai Pallavi who plays Malar so effectively that you cannot but feel happy seeing George falling head over heels in love with her. An acclaimed dancer herself, Alphonse Putharen makes use of her talent, weaving it into the plot in a very natural manner. Of the three it is Malar who leaves the best impression, both on George and the audience, remarkable for her debut film. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Anupama, Sai and Madonna being in demand from hereon, kudos to Alphonse Putharen for providing them with a base.
Premam is ample proof of two things; one that Nivin Pauly is a versatile performer with an special knack for comedy and the other being the fact that he is simply having a dream run at the box office, aided by a little bit of luck of course, but more importantly a knack of selecting the right kind of projects. Be it as a 16 year old nervous schoolboy, a 21 year old rebellious college student or a mature, independent professional at 30, Nivin plays George with utmost sincerity. Somewhere along we end up seeing ourselves in George, that just goes on to show it’s a victory for Nivin, Alphonse and even producer Anwar Rasheed. Go watch Premam and relive your days of love, all over again :).