Neram: A day in the life – The Hindu
neram by alphonse putharen begins with an unusual dedication, a thank you to the director’s “ex-girlfriends (especially the last one)”. what would a Freudian think of this, given that the heroine, here, is kidnapped, bound and gagged, and thrown into the boot of a black ambassador? the opening scene is even less conventional, a riff on the butterfly effect, where a plutocrat, in the us. USA, suffers an episode of flatulence, resulting in Vetri (Nivin Pauly), in Chennai, receiving the Pink Sheet.
After soodhu kavvum and neram, is it too soon to say that we are slowly starting to say goodbye to the only movie for family audiences? ? maybe yes. but at least, it feels like we’re opening up to cinematography that’s more than just brightly lit master shots: there’s texture, grit, mood in these frames. and it seems that we are welcoming heroines who seem to belong to this universe and who speak the language. a cautiously optimistic wolf hiss may be in order.
neram lives up to its title from the opening credits, which roll over a variety of time-indicating devices. in other places there are also signs of time. it is three weeks before veni (nazriya nazim) accepts vetri’s proposal. And then, when her father agrees to their marriage, Vetri asks for time to look for a new job. months go by. Meanwhile, she needs money for her sister’s wedding. So he goes to a jewel-loving loan shark named ‘Vatti’ Raja (Simhaa), who threatens him with dire consequences if repayments don’t arrive on time.
and the time frame of the events in the movie? one day: the day an installment is due. neram so it’s a clockwork thriller that hinges on whether vetri will settle ‘vatti’ raja’s dues within a specific period of time, but there’s a more fuzzy aspect of time that the director sets out to explore: its ability to herald fortune and misfortune. (In other words, nalla neram , ketta neram .) no one can accuse putharen of a lack of ambition.
or attitude. A defining characteristic of these films is tongue firmly in cheek, and we have, like ‘Vatti’ Raja’s henchmen, Karuppu and Vellai, who, between them, occupy the extreme ends of the complexion spectrum. then we have the world cinema instructor referring to bicycle thieves, apparently made by a filmmaker named victoria d’silva. (it’s fantastic how this joke is introduced without regard to whether the “common man” will understand it).
and how can we forget manick? his name is actually manickam, but the abbreviation points to his anglicization: he prefers to speak in english. the scenes with thambi ramaiah (as veni’s dyspeptic father) and john vijay (as a sub-inspector with a printable name who may know less about carnatic music than he thinks) are gems, crafted not with silly one-liners but with deep humor eccentric. even the songs are one-of-a-kind, employed not as brakes to stop the film periodically for five minutes, but to infuse jolts of electricity into dynamically shot chase sequences. (The background, at other times, turns variations on Beethoven’s ‘für elise’.)
The leads are great together, and the supporting characters circle around them (and each other and the town of mandaiveli) beautifully, appearing just enough to remind us of their existence, never staying longer than welcome. almost everything is perfect on paper. but something is lost on the screen. we feel that we should laugh more and that there are too many flat passages.
the conveniently plotted (and depressingly tension-free) final portions don’t live up to the promise of the beginning, and when nasser comes across as a big shot with a penchant for using the word “awesome” (his version reads “aa -sum”) and break into song in hospitals, I wish, under these touches of humor, there would have been more meat. I wasn’t rooting for anyone in particular at the end, although you can rightly say that the point of these modest productions is not emotional investment but entertainment. and what we get… most of the time.