After a long time, here is a story that was conceived in its entirety in a simple manner. Simplicity as a trait is something I have always aimed for as a writer in all my stories. The natural story should be able to stand on its own, portraying reality in a seamless manner and it should come alive in the mind of the reader. Simplicity appeals to me because it is missing from our lives. That was perhaps the most uplifting factor in this movie for me, in the times of noise, clutter, garishness, obscenity, jhatkas/matkas, punch dialogues, blood, gore, item numbers, using fists, malicious villains and glorifying getting even.
Premam is a movie I loved for its journey rather than destination. A simple premise, dotted by simple, natural and heart-warming scenes. It is one of those movies where the parts have gone on to make it a beautiful whole. A very realistic and restrained acting by Nivin Pauly (someone to watch out for) I must say. It is the story of George (played beautifully by Nivin Pauly) and his love at different stages of his life. How he goes through the motions of each stage with regard love and finds hope and courage, aided by his friends, to move on to the next stage forms the movie. His character grows to span 15 years.
Premam did come in for some criticism because one of George’s love interests is his teacher and for showcasing this very premise that is thought of as taboo there was some controversy. George is aware of the fact that it is his teacher he is attracted to and feels it is not an impediment. In fact he is proud of her as a teacher and Malar (the teacher – Sai Pallavi in an endearing role)does not seem to mind that he is the way he is and acknowledges what she feels in a very controlled manner. The director has played it safe though by touching upon the existence of the mutual pull but by not taking it further to its logical possible end, considering the fact that it is ultimately a teacher- student equation and society has its own rules. The seeming blossoming of love between a teacher and her student was possibly distasteful for some, but as a teacher I didn’t feel so because the attraction was so well contained, bordered by respect and the line was never crossed. The director, armed with unpretentiousness as his trump card, with due consideration to the fact that it is indeed natural to feel attraction to a teacher who teaches, clarifies, educates, imparts and smiles a lot it doesn’t really offend and it definitely is not his intention to do so.
I could relate to and thoroughly enjoyed the hero’s feelings of excitement and thrill of falling in love, his stolen glances, his conviction each time in his love and his reaction when he comes to term with his grief. That kind of love is a rarity and to see it in a movie is indeed a treat.
When you love something you tend to take in the minutiae and films are no exception. There were these details that I enjoyed. I loved the impish grin the hero lets out every time a girl knocks at his heart. Walking over the bridge to see his girlfriend Mary (played by Anupama Parameshwaran) signifies the symbolic crossing over to adulthood from adolescence. The hero is never able to fully cross thanks to numerous disturbances in the form of his girlfriend’s father and other prospective boyfriends. Mistakenly quoting that his girlfriend looks like sardines in his love letter to her because his mom calls out asking if he’d like sardines for lunch and how much he’d want when he was composing the letter was yet another scene that made me laugh.
Only in a Malayalam film do you see students going to college in a lungi and getting away with it. George and his friends are seen sauntering into college in a lungi, even drinking from a flask during class. It was possibly to establish the hero’s I-don’t-care-a-damn attitude. The fun and frolic and the bonhomie of friends is a continuous thread in Premam. The scene where the friends ask George what he saw in Mary and them pointing out that her hair looks like a bee-hive elicits spontaneous laughter. The movie also covertly spells out what an important role friends play in every stage of your life. They are always there urging you, supporting you and being there through your ups and downs. The director’s use of butterflies, sparrows and the scenic calming locales of Aluva, in Kerala to show relief between scenes are yet other refreshing aspects.
I loved George’s myriad reactions starting from setting eyes on his young teacher, Malar for the first time. Nivin Pauly’s face is suffused with all that he feels in that minute – his spontaneous attraction, his racing heart, his sense of surprise at someone so young and beautiful being his teacher and how he is supposed to relate to her. In that minute he is a changed man. The transition from a toughie to a softie is so effortlessly evident. Love does tend to change one. I also loved the way his friends chastise him for his choice by saying she is pimply and for that reason he ought not to chase her. His expression and those of his friends when they see Malar breaking the mould and belt out a breakdance cum dandanaka number is to die for. In fact the heroine Malar shines in the way she is able to strike a balance between being a teacher and coming down to their level to teach dance. The scene where she asks him to bring her Malli poo (Jasmine flowers) for her and George wondering why she’d want Coriander leaves (Malli in Malayalam means Coriander) and his friends educating him that she wanted Mulla poo which is Jasmine in Malayalam were original and makes you long for more of those. The fact that George is a changed man is depicted so beautifully in the way he weeps like a child at the realisation that Malar would never be his and that tugs at the heart.
What definitely deserve a mention here are other characters that add value to the narration. The actions of yet another teacher, Vinay, who is vying for the young teacher’s attention, in the way he tries to get her number or in the way he tries to learn dance steps from the PT teacher. His antics make you laugh and smile. George’s father who makes your eyebrows go up with his radical ways and Mary’s father who is constantly chasing away his daughter’s Romeos.
Finally George is seen being successful running his own Café, appropriately named Café Agape which in ancient Greek means love and ends up with Celine, (played sufficiently by Madonna Sebastian) who happens to be the kid sister of an ex-crush, Mary and walks into his café to not just eat his red-velvet cake but also steal his heart. The director ties it up beautifully in the end with a dialogue exchange that happened in the beginning of the story meshing the past and the present for a future. George as an adolescent is seen eating ice cream with Celine a young kid, to facilitate a favour for his then beloved Mary, where he asks Celine if she’d marry him and she shrugs innocently. The irony is in the end they end up together. There is also this scene in the end where the teacher Malar attends his wedding reception and is seen turning and giving him a knowing look at him with that familiar smile, indicative of many things that are left unsaid and feels open-ended to the viewer.
There is an enduring calmness about Premam and on the whole it tugs at you for its simplicity of characterisation and story-telling, its length notwithstanding. You left wanting more of that cloyingly sweet adolescence, the free-spiritedness of college, the sterile comfort in the familiarity of routine and the calmness of lush locales. One is left yearning for more of those simple joys. Here’s living in hope…..