Review of 2013 Tamil Film ‘Neram’ A Debut Effort by Alphonse Putharen, and Starring Nivin Pauly

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Neram is like watching an enthusiastic but amateur dancer appear on a professional dance competition; it has spark and some skill but lacks finesse. Its concept is clear yet the design is patchy; every character in Neram has the quality of being memorable but not the essence. You would be less interested in a match between two low-ranked players, irrespective of their improvement on court, than a battle between two top seeders. Neram sometimes feels stodgy and heavy-handed but you do admire its efforts nevertheless. But you want more, you want something delicious, something you can relish like sinful dark chocolate but what Neram provides you is Milky Bar. Nice, no doubt, but not to make you go ‘Bow Chicka Wah Wah!’ Axe style.

My intention wasn’t to watch Neram at all when I entered Mayajaal theater hall in Chennai. As there wasn’t any other movie playing at that time (well I did have options but it was either this or the animated film Epic or worse, a long three hour wait for the rest of the films), I chose to go for Neram, only because I was pleased by the efforts current Tamil directors were putting in their films unlike many of their Bollywood counterparts. When I entered the hall, the movie had not ‘kindly stopped for me’ (couldn’t resist using the Emily Dickinson phrase!) so I can’t exactly tell how it began. My version began with the scene where Vatti Raja, a small-time money-lender cum thug berates someone for not repaying the loan as others, including our protagonist Vetri and his friend look on unnerved. The scene ends with Vetri’s friend farting and I thought immediately ‘Was that necessary?’. A number of such embellishments weren’t needed, but Neram retained them, making the film feel like an over-decorated Christmas tree. Like after this very scene when Vetri begins telling about his love life and we are taken back to his school days when he met his future fianc√© Jeena the first time in the sixth grade I think; the scene is cute until the film also decides to add an entire song sequence with Vetri and Jeena performing the predictable ‘park foreplay’ (with bubble-blowing, this time) and the sappiest audience goes ‘Ah! What I cute couple!’. I was unmoved.

Later, when Neram gives rest to silly romance, it works as a Tarantino-like comedy. Vitri frets about the consequences of not repaying his debt to Vatti Raja, while trouble also brews up when Jeena’s father objects to their relationship on learning that Vetri is unemployed. Jeena plans to elope with Vetri but that’s when chain gets stolen; interestingly, one of the members from the same gang of chain-snatchers robs Vetri’s money, which he had taken from his friend (I think; am an unreliable narrator here, not having watched Neram from the beginning). A parallel storyline involves a guy (don’t ask me the character’s name nor the actor who’s playing him. Wish Wikipedia could update its character bios in Neram) who keeps a ‘cool’ nickname for himself, likes ogling at girls a lot (another idiotic scene at hospital when we hear his inner voice saying ‘Oh, lady’s voice!’ as a nurse enters the room during an otherwise engaging scene) and also, like many others in the film, owes some money to Vatti Raja. The manner in which their lives intertwine is interesting because most of the characters don’t know, even after they meet, how actually similar their problems are. All this happens post interval, and so many things seem to be a work of sheer chance or fate that I wondered why the film wasn’t titled ‘Chance’ or ‘Faith’, the Tamil word for them.

Neram plays out like a simple comedy, although it attempts to emulate a Tarantino film. While Tarantino’s dialogs are so mesmerizing and mystifying that monologues which would be considered ramblings if heard elsewhere sound monumentally profound, Neram simply kids around with quirky characters; its non-linear narrative has to be given credit though. The actors play in accordance with their script; they are less irritating when the script wakes up but not even one would remain with you after the film. And who took the decision of giving the role of Vatti Raja to Simhaa, who is in no way intimidating? I understand this is a comedy but I should at least feel even a little of what the characters feel towards another to get more involved with the film. Even a little more dexterity in editing would’ve helped a great deal; take the scene when Vetri’s friend’s boss rebukes him for shaving off his beard. He then goes inside and screams at another employee but later apologizes when it turns out to be a girl; the second part happens off-screen and we could only hear the gag. Based on the audience response, very few caught the gag because I heard little reaction from the audience; the gag (a little silly, of course) isn’t treated well, with not enough sound so audience members could hear it and a sloppy editing treatment which cut off the gag quickly. I guess the film wanted to pack as many punch-lines as possible in little time but timed a few of them wrong. Well, maybe I’ll see a better output from its director Alphonse Putharen another time.


Source by Sashank Krishna Kini

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