That’s allowed, right? A second review of a movie I have already written about, just because I watched it a second time? Although, how would you really stop me? It is my blog, I am all powerful in this small little universe.
(if you want to read my first reaction, that review is here)
My very first reaction the first time I saw Premam was “eh”. It was okay, I guessed, enjoyable enough, fine. But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it over the next few days, and I ended up buying it on DVD, and writing whole review about it.
And then a couple of days ago I watched it again, straight through, with my sister. And it was like a whole new movie! Partly because I was watching it with someone else, partly because I was watching it after having seen soooooooooooooo many other Malayalam films, and partly because I was just paying a little more attention this time!
That sounds bad. Okay, I was paying attention the first time, I just didn’t know which bits would end up being important, so I wasn’t paying AS MUCH attention. But this time I was! And here’s what I picked up.
First, our hero is supposed to be kind of an idiot, right? Not just young and foolish, but straight up foolish. He goes after Mary really hard in the first half, and yet never quite manages to talk to her. All the other boys either don’t care as much, or are better able to handle it by, like, actually talking to her. Our hero is the only one with the perfect combination of really really caring, and being really really dumb about it.
And then in college, sure, he is cool and the leader of a gang and all that. But he is also steadily failing his way through school, and he has to stop talking and check with his friends before he can answer a question as simple as “what did you have for dinner?” It’s kind of a miracle she is even interested in him.
In my last review, I talked about how maybe it was a happy ending that she ended up with someone else, because he wasn’t really ready for marriage. Watching it this time, oh man was he ever not ready for marriage!!! Ready for a serious relationship, sure. Ready to date and fall in love and be romantic, absolutely! Ready to actually plan more than 2 days ahead and think through the consequences of his actions? Nooooooooooooo! The boy is an idiot!
When I watched Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, I talked about the particular agony of being ready and mature and in love and wanting to be married, and being forced to wait because of circumstances. The hero and heroine were in love, they were committed, they were at the right time in their life and the right age. But he was working crazy hours and living with his parents or on the road, and her family would never approve, and despite their maturity and independence, they would be literally homeless if they ran off together. The same agony was a minor plot point in Kireedam and even in Kammatipaadam.
That is not the agony here. Nivin is a loooooooooooong way from being ready to be married. It’s not just that he is still in school, it’s that he can’t come up with a viable plan for their future life together, or even come up with a viable plan for the school talent show. Malar, though, she is ready. Maybe she is enjoying their little love story at school, but she is also confident and in control, with a job, living away from home, and, I strongly suspect, NOT having her first serious relationship. She is doing most of the directing of the relationship, and maybe she would have directed it towards marriage eventually, but it didn’t feel like anything she was in a rush for.
And then we have the third story, where Nivin is still kind of an idiot. Sweet, but dumb. Yes, he has his own cafe now. Yes, it seems fairly successful and he manages it well. But, when he sees a pretty girl, he falls in love just as fast as before. And he bellyflops just like before.
In my last review, I talked about how the first romance was a total fantasy, he couldn’t even imagine talking to her in reality, he just wanted to gaze on her. And then the second romance was reciprocated, it was about the two of them together in their little bubble. But the third romance was an adult romance, no more time for fantasy and dreaming, straight to the engagement.
But he still doesn’t think it through. Yes, it was a good instinct to ask her first before approaching her parents. But he could have taken just a little bit longer, asked around town, and found out she was engaged already before he talked to her. He could also have stayed and talked with her a bit after finding out instead of just impulsively storming off.
On the first watch, it felt like the reason he was still unmarried years later, even after all his friends had already made matches, was because he had that heartbreak in his past and hadn’t quite gotten over it. On a later watch, now it just kind of feels like he was too dumb to pull it off in the intervening time.
I should clarify, when I say “dumb”, I don’t mean, like, unintelligent. I just mean he tends to get caught up in the fantasy and not really think things through. I also don’t think he was really meant for school, definitely seems to lack the focus and patience necessary. But I find it believable that he is running a successful business and is a great baker. And he is probably a pretty good friend as well. We don’t see it, but I assume in the 6 years between Malar and Celine, he helped everyone else he knew get married and settled and was wonderfully warm and supportive. But then a pretty girl smiles at him, and all his brains leak out his ears and his instincts fail, and it all goes wrong again.
At the very very end, there is a tossed off line by one of his friends that he knew Celine was the girl for Nivin, because the note she left for him was just as poorly written and confusing as the love notes he used to write. The first time, I just heard it as a kind of funny line from a friend, but this time it hit me a different way. What if Celine had the same kind of unlucky/dumb in love fate as Nivin? What if this is a miracle for both of them?
I think it kind of works! Go all the way back to tag at the very end, when you see Celine as a little girl chatting with Nivin, and talking about how if he doesn’t find anyone better, when she grows up, she will marry him. What if that is Celine’s movie? That she had a crush on the guy who liked her cousin when she was a little girl. And years later she let her parents convince her to get married, and then bumped into the guy right when it was too late. What if she had her own group of friends telling her to stop going for the guy she’s been dreaming about for years because she is engaged and it is stupid? Or maybe her friends were the ones telling her to go after Nivin even harder, not just leave it all half-explained and open-ended?
I mean, look at what Celine does! She falls in love with stupid teenage Nivin when she is a little girl. She kind of flirts with him a little, maybe without even realizing what she is doing, even though she is engaged to someone else. She calls him at the absolute last minute before the engagement, instead of talking to him sooner and more calmly. And at the same time, she isn’t brave enough and quick enough to say why she is really calling, that she would rather be with him. Even after her engagement is broken, why wait until Christmas to come by the bakery? Why not run over immediately and tell him, and ask if he is still interested? They really are 2 of a kind, both quick to fall in love and slow to figure out what to do about it. That’s why she is the one he ends up with, even though she doesn’t enter the film until the very end. Because she is the one who is most like him, the one whose life and romantic abilities are just as messed up as his.