Aashiq Abu’s ‘Neelavelicham’ (Tovino Thomas, Rima Kallingal) nails the retro look-and-feel, but lacks an emotional connect

Posted on April 20, 2023


Spoilers ahead…

The layers are beautifully worked out but there isn’t a single moment of surprise. We are left with an academic exercise rather than an affecting work of art.


Aashiq Abu’s Neelavelicham is based on the short story of the same name by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, which was made into a blockbuster film version named Bhargavi Nilayam in 1964. That’s the year the new film is set in, and if there is one image that sums up Neelavelicham, it’s that of a romance being depicted by two flowers, with a butterfly flitting between them. This romance is told in a flashback, a time when the only way to show intimacy on screen was through suggestive nature imagery. But there’s another exquisite layer here, which comes from a song in the older film that is recreated here: “Anuraga madhu chashakam“. The dancer is Bhargavi (Rima Kallingal), and she’s outfitted like a butterfly. (The lyrics, too, refer to her as a butterfly: njanoru madhumaasa shalabhamallo.) And flowers are an integral part of the film’s decor.

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