Director: Alphonse Puthren
Writer: Alphonse Puthren
Cast: Nivin Pauly, Krishna Shankar, Shabaressh Varma, Sai Pallavi
The life of a person going through various phases is the premise of the story. Infatuation, romance, first love, pain of separation etc are gone through in the life of George (Nivin Pauly), in the company of his two friends, as he moves from school to college and finally with him entering his thirties in 2014. So it is the quintessential millennial story with a heavy dose of nostalgia, which is essentially what Nivin Pauly has built his career on.
Film has been a huge success and its been extremely difficult to get tickets for it even on what is now the fifth day of its theatrical run. I am a big fan of director Alphonse Puthren's debut film, Neram, which also starred Nivin Pauly. That one stood out because of its stylish storytelling combined with slick editing and clever soundtrack and humor. Its running time of two hours, very short by Indian films standard, was just about right and I went into Premam with some premonition because of its 160 minutes running time. Film is a very entertaining watch but you do feel that it could have been easily made better with some tighter editing as the director do get very self-indulgent in some places. There are some four-five songs in it, all of which were not really needed, and it does go overboard with some of its film references. Renji Panicker has a cameo, again in his cliched new-gen father role, and that scene was just pure cringe.
There are three romances/infatuations in the film involving the protagonist with the first two done quite well and the last one feeling as if the director is not quite sure about how to end the film. The first half of the film goes like breeze while the second half have you looking at watch quite a number of times. The humor in the film is very much in the typical Nivin Pauly fashion, with him muttering things under his breath and his friends passing comments which can only be heard and not seen. This is a new technique in Malayalam films and I guess they do it to mask the inferior comedy writing/timing that these new artists possess. The supporting characters in the film are very well done and you don't have what is now the typical stupid friend (comedy relief character) of the protagonist, and on the contrary, stupidity is quite well spread across all the characters including the lead. It is quite difficult to describe what the film is other than as a Kerala millennial story done with extreme stylishness that you expect from the director.
I have seen some people comparing Nivin to Mohanlal and I am really not sure from where it is coming from. It is not really based on acting as it is his usual performance completely aware of his own strengths and weaknesses. He does have his mustache wound up (മീശ പിരിക്കൽ), which was a characteristic of quite a few forgettable Mohanlal films post 2000, but it is done with some deprecating self-awareness in this film. You do feel that the audience is kind of on their toes ready to boo if they indeed go overboard. Hopefully that will keep these guys from getting overconfident on the back of extreme success of these films. Malayalees have a tendency to bring people down if they exhibit any sort of what they perceive as arrogance and you need to only ask Sreeshanth or Prithviraj for that.
Overall it is very good watch whilst not achieving any sort of perfection like Neram did. Film is light on story but the atmosphere carries it through. It will never pass the Bechdel Test and that is not surprising since it is from the POV of its male lead and there is not much depth to any of the romances involved, which is also not a criticism since that can be said of the real life millennial ones. I wish they ended it on another romance failure note since that would have been keeping with the overall tone of the film. The director also appears in a cameo which is also surprisingly well done. Do watch it on big screen if you can manage to get tickets.