Monday Malayalam: Neram, Not Bad

Well, that was okay.  Definitely an okay movie, not a great movie, or even a terribly interesting one.  But it was available to rent on googleplay, and it had Nivin and Nazriya, so a fair enough timepass.  But I would still have enjoyed re-watching Ohm Shanti Oshaana for the thousandth time more.

The thing that appeals to me about Malayalam films, and I think to most people coming to them from a different film background (whether that is Hollywood or Hindi) is the way they tell little human stories and make it interesting.  Not dramatic, but interesting.  Gossip in the village, someone buying vegetables at a store, it’s all handled in such a way that the audience gets sucked in in spite of themselves.

This movie, not so much.  It’s not a little human story, it’s a big story, the kind of story that anyone could make into a film.  And it isn’t even that well done of a big story, the “action” moments and drama and suspense don’t quite land right.

And I’m not sure what the point of it all is?  Something about fate and coincidence and having faith in it all working out or something?  But it feels like mostly it was just a bunch of disconnected half stories that kind of connected in the end.

The connections were done pretty well, I guess.  There were lots of little moments that tied into big moments.  And the really brilliant thing is right at the end, our hero admits that he will probably never fully understand how it all worked out, but that doesn’t matter, he is just glad that it did.

Let’s see, what else?  Nivin is looking good, like the beard.  It’s not the most challenging role, he just has to stand there and look kind of confused and worried most of the time.  Nazriya is also looking good, but she always does.  And she has way less to do even than Nivin.  She also just looks confused and worried, but only for like 15 minutes of screentime.

(they even deleted one of her songs!)

It’s the side characters that have the fun bits, and are the best reason to watch this film.  With the interconnected sort of story, you can have someone show up for a few minutes to be the greedy brother-in-law, or the confused new police inspector, and they don’t have to do anything besides be amusing for a little while.  No need to build a character or anything like that.  So the actors just kind of have fun with it.  More fun than our leads who are stuck being the relatable every man types.

Okay, I guess that’s as much as I can say without SPOILERS, so here I go SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

 

 

 

 

 

We open with Nivin borrowing the money from the loan shark.  He uses it for his sister’s wedding, everything is fine.  But then, as he explains it, someone in America got a divorce, which made him re-examine his life, which made him sell off assets and start traveling the world, which made the company he worked for in India on shakey financial ground, which meant he lost his job.  And, slowly, things got worse.  He paid off the capital and interest on time at first.  And then he started ignoring calls from the loan shark and getting threats.

In the same slow way, his relationship got into trouble.  Nazriya was his friend since 6th grade.  He proposed to her and then met her every day for 3 weeks waiting for an answer, until she pointed out that the fact she came to see him every day was enough of an answer.  They went to her father, formalized the engagement, and then he lost his job.

I guess that’s what makes the film interesting, the title is “time”, and the focus is on this one day where everything happens to him.  But in a larger sense, this is the culmination of a slow slow series of things.  Going all the way back to 6th grade when he became friends with Nazriya only because he was held back two years and landed in her same class.  Those two years of bad things, gave him a good thing.  And now there are the months of struggle to raise money, the weeks of struggle to finalize the engagement, all these slow slow things, that can be changed in just a day.

On the same day, Nazriya leaves her home to go to Nivin because her father wants to break the engagement.  And Nivin has to give the final payment to the loan shark.  And then it keeps piling up.  His brother-in-law comes to town expecting a loan.  Nazriya’s father gets the police involved, who give him another deadline, come to the police station by 5pm with Nazriya to prove she went of her own free will, or he will be arrested.

Nivin has all of these bad things happen to him, but they all come out of good things in this case.  He refused to accept Nazriya’s father’s breaking of the engagement, because it was a promise he gave Nazriya and she gave him and her father has nothing to do with it-Good!  He borrowed money for his sister’s wedding and conscientiously paid it back as long as he could-Good!

In contrast, there are our other characters, who did things with bad intentions.  The chain snatchers and pickpocket gang, the loan shark himself, even Nazriya’s father.  They start the day off well, but it is their “time” too, their time to get their punishment for their actions.

And then there are the neutral characters.  The rich kid who borrowed money just because he was afraid to ask his brother for it, who flaunts his wealth.  He didn’t do anything super “wrong”, but he didn’t do anything very right either.  So he ends up in the hospital with minor injuries.  Slightly worse off than before.

The police inspector is the most interesting character.  Pretty sure I didn’t get everything that was going on with him because of language stuff I wouldn’t catch.  But what I did get is that, over the course of the film, we see him built up into a police inspector.  The first time we see the station, it is still under construction, and so is he, not fully wearing the uniform or familiar with the location or the cases.  By the end of the film, he is fully uniformed and ready for action.  He starts out the day as nothing, and by the end has found his place as a hero.  Or, at least, a voice of authority.

As for the actual plot, Nivin is on the way to deliver the money when it is stolen.  He chases the thief, fights him, but the thief calls his friends, and Nivin loses.  He now has until 5 to pay off the loan shark.  Plus, Nazriya is waiting for him.  He goes around town trying to get the money, is interrupted in the middle by his brother-in-law who insists on a free lunch and asks for a loan by 5pm.  Nivin’s friend is now angry with him, because he is being threatened at work at the film school where he teaches (hilariously, we get to see a bit of an Indian style film class.  Okay, it was hilarious to me because it was so different from the film classes I took while still teaching similar content. You probably don’t care).

Meanwhile, Nazriya is stuck waiting on the same corner all day, and she left her phone at home so she has to go into the phone booth any time she wants to call Nivin.  She borrows a cell phone from a young man to make a call to Nivin, the young man chases her and flirts with her, she ignores him.  But, the loan shark sees this and assumes she is his girlfriend.  This young man is the rich kid who owes them money, so they kidnap Nazriya to pressure the rich kid.  Who ignores the pressure since he doesn’t even know who Nazriya is and what they are talking about.

Nivin finally decides he has no other option but to turn thief himself and tries to steal a gold chain from a passer by, coincidentally this same rich kid.  But he ends up grabbing him just as he is stepping into traffic, and the result is that he saves him from being hit by a car.  The rich kid’s brother, in gratitude, offers Nivin a job.  All his problems would be solved, if it weren’t already past 5.

But this is where fate comes in, and the plot loses itself a bit.  The loan shark is dead!!!!  Those pickpockets from the beginning, the same ones who stole Nivin’s money, came up with a plan to steal even more money from the loan shark.  The loan shark chased them, and was hit by a taxi during the chase.  His own taxi, and he had previously ordered the driver not to stop for pedestrians.  Okay, that’s cool, this one throw away line from ages back coming around to haunt him.  But mostly it feels like they didn’t know how else to end it happily, so they just killed the loan shark.

And, similarly, Nivin coincidentally sees and recognizes one of the men who stole his money, chases them, beats them up, and only then notices a sound from the trunk of the car they were driving and finds Nazriya.  Why?  Who knows!  It’s fate!  And two hours into the movie so they wanted to end it somehow!

I can say that it is about virtue rewarded, about being in the right time at the right place, about continuing to try even when you have given up, but it isn’t really about any of those things, I don’t think, or about anything in particular.  It’s just a movie with a kind of interesting plot and a lot of fun little character roles.

(And a very fun end credits song)

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12 thoughts on “Monday Malayalam: Neram, Not Bad

  1. I liked this film. It was a gud entertainer. It was a small film released with less hype.Nivin n nazriya were not big stars then.All others involved in the film were new comers(director,music director,dop etc..) generally received positive response from critics n public and film was a hit In both kerala n Tamilnadu(it was a bilingual film). Later the same team made premam

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    • Oh, I didn’t realize it was a first film for a lot of people working on it. In that case, it’s perfect. Well-made, simple, not terrible ambitious. I good “practice” kind of film.

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      • “Neram” was initially a 10 minute short film the director made to impress some producer.

        Eventually, somebody liked it so much that they decided to make a full length film out of this.

        A strange kind of movie this… I enjoyed it, appreciate it (better than average for me). So does many other guys from other industries. It was remade in Marathi & Telugu. There were talks of a remake in Hindi as well. Infact, Karan Johar in one of the interviews mentioned that he loved it.
        But the remakes didn’t do good. Basically proves that, there are more haters than lovers…

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    • Aw man! I’m that close to the end? Thank goodness he is supposed to have like 3 new movies coming out at some point in the next year.

      On Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 10:08 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Nivin’s Onam release is getting excellent reviews – “Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela” ( An Interval in the Land of Crabs). He produced it as well…

    So that’ll be one more to the list 🙂

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    • Oh goodie! And the Hindi releases look really dull for the next few weeks, so it shouldn’t be hard to schedule seeing that one instead of a Hindi whenever it finally arrives in the US.

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  3. Pingback: Wednesday Watching Post, What Are You Reading and Watching and Thinking This Week? With a Question For You! | dontcallitbollywood

  4. I saw the Telugu remake and I thought it was just okay. I was originally gonna watch Neram a while ago just for Nazriya but I ended up watching the remake. Now I don’t feel like it’ll be worth watching since her part isn’t big at all.

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    • Yeah, don’t bother for Nazriya. I am really hoping she comes back some day, I feel like there is so much more there that we never got to see.

      On Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 12:00 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  5. Neram is a movie that does not have a huge actor lineup, direction or even a story that grips you to your seat. Its a simple movie concentrated on a day in the lives of many people simulatanrously. Its an okay movie. Like you said there was nothing that made it feel exceptional. But the music and humour did take it further up.

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