Directed by: Alphonse Putharen || Produced by: Koral Viswanathan
Screenplay by: Alphonse Putharen || Starring: Nivin Pauly, Nazriaya Nazim, Bobby Simha, Lalu Alex, Manoj K. Jayan, Shammi Thilakan, Anju Kurian Willson Joseph, Ramesh Thilak, Joju George
Music by: Rajesh Murugesan || Cinematography: Anand C. Chandran || Edited by: Alphonse Putharen || Country: India || Language: Malayalam, Tamil
Running Time: 110 minutes
Alphonse Putharen’s Neram is a scrappy little comedy that takes an un-special situation and puts a creative spin on it. The film runs on the theme that good times can turn a man into a prince and bad times can turn him into a pauper. Efficiency, I love it! At the beginning of the movie, bad times have befallen Nivin Pauly’s average schmuck protagonist, who must contend not only with his asinine in-laws, but also violent criminals out to get him in one of those no good, very bad days that so often befalls hapless main characters. You have your standard South Asian setup: The young man has to pay for his sister’s wedding (remember, the bride’s family always pays the dowry) but can’t afford it as he’s lost his job, so he has to borrow money from a loan shark. He’s also trying to marry his longtime girlfriend, but is unable to, because her asshole father rejects his offer due to the aforementioned lack of employment. The guy has to pay for things he shouldn’t, status and money problems hound him, and he wants to marry his sweetheart but obstacles are thrown in the way — same old shit.
What makes Neram fun is that it works in animated sequences, slow-motion shots, a great background soundtrack, and funky new wave-style cinematography to highlight the emotions of its characters and explain their backstories. It’s the first low-budget, non-Hindi Indian film I’ve watched that pairs the inventive, non-traditional editing and camerawork typically associated with independent productions along with the scrappy filmmaking tone of a small budgeted feature. In other words, Neram has cleverness to match its cheapness.
The story is nothing new or surprising as I said, but all the characters are likable or memorable in some way, and all play important parts in the story. The narrative feels much tighter and the writing as a whole much better edited than most South Asian productions. The filmmakers keep things simple and tell a short, sweet, and fun romp about a poor guy just trying to keep his hectic life from getting out of hand. The premise and execution of the story are similar to many low-budget American comedies, although I would say Neram’s cinematography is a good deal better than most. Many of the gags are based on awkward slapstick and goofy moped chases, and most of it works. The film rarely misses a comedic beat.
The only thing I’d fault the movie on is its somewhat rushed pace and the way the story feels abbreviated at the end. No joke, the ending is abrupt, and I actually wish this film (an Indian one, mind you) took more time to develop its story. At less than two hours, Neram feels very, very quick for a movie made in South Asia, and even more surprisingly, it’s short to a fault.
There’s not much else to say about Neram. It’s a reliable indie-ish comedy that has smart direction paired with a solid script. It’s story and characters aren’t particularly thought-provoking, nor does it have spectacular, flashy musical numbers, but that doesn’t matter because all the storytelling and cinematographic basics are so consistent. There aren’t many great expectations with a film like this, but then again, there’s plenty of intelligent fun to be had and few letdowns.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Neram keeps it simple and tells an effective, funny story with a main character we can root for, supporting characters who are interesting and integral to the story, and a bad-guy who’s threatening and effective (and damned funny) as an antagonist. The gags and awkward slapstick work for the most part, and the inventive, new-wave cinematography doesn’t hurt the movie’s aesthetics.
— However… the story is a little too rushed. The villain is killed off too early and anticlimactically.
? Matthew, just tell your brother-in-law to take his honeymoon and shove it up his ass.