A confession to start off with… I very rarely watch new Malayalam movies, so kindly take that into consideration while reading this review. My shrink says that this is my body’s way of coping following an irreversible psychological trauma after watching a flick titled “Mr.Butler”. Yep, that was the time folks that I knew that something was going on around me and I was not being let into the secret. The audience was laughing mad at Dileep & co's antics and double meaning dialogues and all I could do was squirm in my seat. Hell, by the time that movie was over, I had sworn off new mallu movies for good. I am not an art film lover. Just a good movie lover. I can see “In Harihar Nagar” and “Nadodikattu” a 100 times and still laugh. I can see “Onnu muthal poojyam vare”,”Unnikale oru katha parayam” and still cry. Hey I am not biased towards Moahanlal, ok? :) I don’t demand too much from movies, either it should be entertaining or should make you think or do both, which is rare. I had that rare opportunity recently while watching Nandanam.
There was an article in “The Hindu” which commented that Nandanam was different and good. Now if “The Hindu” says something is good, it usually turns out to be great!! Those guys are real miserly with their praises. Anyway so here I was in an “A.C” theatre in the capital of God’s own country. Sree Vishakh it was, and if the theatre is Sree Visakh, you can bet your life there won’t be any aircon. Only a handful of theatres Kalabhavan, New (same management as Visakh!!), Kripa, etc put their coolers on for that matter.
Right from frame one, the movie had me hooked. The story is set in an old Nair tharavadu and centers on the love between the maid of the house with the dude of the house, who incidentally is going to the US of A in short time. The city lad had just come down to be with his grand mom before heading West.Balamani(affectinately called Bala by Manu), the maid falls in love with Manu, our hero at first sight. So what’s new, u ask? Titanic reversed?? Well, as we all know, all the stories have been told but it’s the way it’s told that counts. So it is with Nandanam.Ranjith, the director of Devasuram, Ravanaprabhu fame really surprised me with the sensitive handling of the plot. And for once in a mallu movie the casting is impeccable, right down to the house servants. I can’t imagine anyone else other than Prithviraj and Navya playing the leads.
This film is about simplicity. Simple story, Simple sets, straightforward characters, no dishum dishum, no rape, no handicapped dudes (Thank God!!), etc. And it’s immensely difficult to critique a film when it’s simple and not pretensious. The director talks straight from the heart with minimum commercial compulsions. Any wonder then that the film was in the cans since Vishu with no distributors willing to touch it? I am not going into the plot coz knowing the story in any degree kills this film. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed it immensely being totally ignorant of the plot when i went to see it.
Prithviraj, son of yesteryear “dialogue veeran” Sukumaran ,fits the role of Manu like a T.His dad would have been proud of him. This guy has talent and spunk. He’s a natural. Although the role doesn’t demand much from him, he perfoms well within the limitations of his role.
Nandanam begins and ends with Navya Nair. I haven’t seen any of her previous films but she blew me away with this one. You can’t but fall in love with Bala..She emotes beautifully and looks absolutely fabulous as a village belle. Check out her mannerisms and how shy she’s around Manu in the beginning of their relationship and you’ll know.Yep Bala is a member of the now nearly extinct group of mallu girls immortalised by the song "Sundari,nin thumbu keety itta churulmudiyil..." from Salini ente koottukkari.Yep this dasmel brings out the protective fatherly nature in any full blooded mallu guy..lol. I was surprised that Ranjith took the risk of shooting a woman (girl) oriented film. I’m more amazed by the fact that he got it to work too.
Kaviyoor Ponnamma plays her role to perfection, nothing less to be expected from a veteran. Revathi, a permanent Ranjith fixture, still looks and acts wow. Hmm, this woman ages like wine. Unni, played by newcomer Aravind, dazzled. His first screen shot was received with howls from the audience, maybe coz of his unconventional looks and physique? Anyway, within a short time he had them eating out of his hand. Talented chap!!The movie's got loads of "natural" humour too with Innocent and Jagathy leading the way.However the one scene involving Kalabhavan mani was a bit over the top.The casting (no of characters) is huge but not cumbersome.
The songs are a class in itself. Raveendran conjures up soul stirring music, and this is the best I’ve heard in years coming from a mallu movie. All the songs without exception are great. Yesudas shows who’s the boss rendering “gopikey” and “sreelavasantham” with that consummate ease of his. Sreekumar renders a fast peppy number in “Manasil midhuna”. The duet by Jayachandran and Sujatha “Aarum” is the most popular song so far. For trivia buffs, Yesudas makes a screen appearance after 25 years. Watch out for Chitra’s “Kaarmukil Varnante”, my pick in the album.
Is this a perfect movie,then? Well to me, the last song by Chitra was great but the picturisation left something to be desired what with the entire family trooping in. You’ll know when you see the movie, he he... Apart from that I can’t think of anything major to squabble about. Nandanam is one movie you can take your grand mom along with, knowing you won’t live to regret it..
So is it going to be a hit? Well my personal pessimistic opinion is NO. Frankly, I feel, Nandanam is too good for the Mallu public now. Heck, if this movie was released in the 70s or 80s it would have been a tornado. But judging by the current tastes of the malayali, Nandanam will be lucky to get its money back. A big thank you for Siddique, the producer for making it possible to see this film at last.
Well all good things don’t come to an end folks…Latest I heard was that the Tamil and Telugu rights for remaking the movie has been sold even before the movie’s release in Malayalam! First time something like this happening in Malayalam film industry, I’m told. Anyway ppl, if you want something meaningful and different to watch ,give Nandanam a dekho…