Bullet-point Report: “Premam”

Posted on June 25, 2015


  • I’m sorry, I know a lot of you hate this format, but I like it. I think it’s great for putting forth… impressions on films you don’t always want to write detailed reviews about. Anyway, I’m bringing it back.
  • I’m also bringing back comments about Premam from earlier threads, so it’s all nicely consolidated here. (See first comment below.)
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  • What can I say? I really liked it. Did it have to go on for nearly three hours? Probably not. But as with Bangalore Days, those three hours are so well-acted and pass by so beautifully, I didn’t really mind. It must be something in the water that makes Malayalam filmmakers such good storytellers – and more importantly, filmmakers. They draw us in and make us feel we want to spend more time with the people on screen. That sense of “hanging out” – these filmmakers capture that marvellously, with offhand moments like a plate of fried fish being carried by a waiter (the camera follows the plate) in a restaurant even as the conversation happens elsewhere.
  • I cannot recall the last “regular” Tamil film that made me feel this. But then, we really don’t have too many directors. Anjali Menon (who made Bangalore Days) and Alphonse Putharen (Premam), on the other hand, are real directors. A lot of people I know dismissed Premam as “just another Autograph,” but that means you’re the kind of person who goes to a film just for the plot. Show me one scene… no, one shot from Autograph that announces this-director-has-it-in-his-DNA and I’ll eat my hat. I don’t actually wear hats, but you know what I mean.
  • So it’s a very unremarkable stages-of-love story, which doesn’t matter. The “story” is the least important thing, usually, unless you’re making a Drishyam, which is all about plot.
  • How brilliantly staged these films are – the editing choices; the cinematography that takes in the surroundings the way you’d register what’s around you from a corner of the eye, i.e. without making a hue-and-cry of a production about it; and the writing, which (even if I lost a lot of the casual humour, due to my dependence on subtitles) recognises that all of this is a giant cliché (there’s even an amnesia subplot) and labours mightily to make things seem… less clichéd.
  • Take the scene where this other suitor (a comic figure) decides to sing Ennavale to the woman Nivin Pauly is in love with. He has a terrible voice, so you expect eggs, tomatoes, hoots, whistles – what you don’t expect is electrocution. Sometimes, in a mainstream movie, this is all one wants. Take us someplace familiar, and yet show us new sights.
  • And no, as Pranesh says (see comment below), I don’t think the general trend is to “praise anything Malayalam.” I didn’t care for 100 Days of Love, for instance. It bored the hell out of me. But in the mainstream space, I find that Malayalam cinema – among the cinemas I get to see here – is the most cinematic. Premam maybe be lightweight, but at least it’s not just a script masquerading as a movie. It’s real cinema.

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