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Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla Movie Review: Of Metaphors and Life Beyond the Ordinary

By now anyone who’s been following Malayalam Cinema reasonably enough is aware of filmmaker V.K.Prakash’s proficiency. A prolific ad filmmaker who started off his feature film innings in a not so remarkable fashion initially, it’s only in the recent 2-3 years that he has really found his true space in Malayalam Cinema. V.K.Prakash is also known to dig back into his own films as reference material for his films as seen in case of his recent film, Poppins which is a remake of his Kannada movie, Aidu Ondla Aidu (2010). Incidentally Poppins happens to be his only film in the recent past which failed to create any ripples either among the audience or among critics.

At this juncture let me take a pause and tell you all what I feel about the current state of Malayalam Cinema. While I do agree that it’s too early to compare the current lot of films with those of the 80’s and early 90’s, it’s also imperative to note that there are many good films being made. Filmmakers are showing the urge to push the boundaries and chart unexplored territories. And surprisingly it’s not just the bunch of new and young filmmakers alone who are responsible for the same. There are also cases of some of the older lot surprising us in between with films relevant to current trends and engaging with us. But on another note it’s also painful to observe many filmmakers trying implausible stuff in the name of new age cinema and making painful films, attempts which should never get encouraged.

And why am I talking about all this over here? Oh! Let me explain the reason carefully my friends. With Trivandrum Lodge there was a certain section among the media who did complain a lot about the film pandering to the lowest common denominator and having an overdose of sexual overtone. But personally I found it to be a quirky and a cheeky film which was alright with me. But then came along Poppins which universally was dumbed a disaster and somehow there were doubts on people’s minds if V.K.P (as a lot of people call him) is also just desperate to make films which are different and pass off as new wave Malayalam films. Hence right from the time his latest film, Natholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla (NOCM from hereon) was announced I was quite curious to check it out. After all the title sounded intriguing ( it means Anchovy is not a small fish) and V.K.P was working with the current sensation Fahadh Faasil for the first time. Added to all this were rumours floating around that NOCM was nothing but a rehash of V.K.P’s own Hindi film, Freaky Chakra. And I was more than keen to check out the result for myself.

NOCM starts off with Preman (Fahadh Faasil) taking us quickly through his backstory and we learn that he is his mother’s only solace and also someone she is worried about. Eventually Preman takes up a job of a caretaker in an apartment building in Kochi and shifts there a bit unwillingly from his small town. But he encourages himself saying that maybe the budding writer in him can now flourish in a big city and probably also find it easier to make it to the dream World of films. But what he faces at work is not something he had ever bargained for. Almost all the occupants of the building treat him with scant respect, especially Prabha (Kamalinee Mukherjee), who works for an adventure tourism firm and has a fiery temper. She gets upset with people easily and Preman often bears the brunt of her anger.In fact no one really calls him by his name as he is mocked as Natholi (Anchovy) by all. The only two people with whom he feels reasonably comfortable are Retd.Capt. Geetha Krishnan (Sathar) and the watchman Vasu (Mukundhan). One fine day things get terribly wrong and Preman nearly decides to quit his job and go back home.

That’s when the author in Preman decides to have some fun and turn around things in his favour. He now decides to make life miserable for Prabha by introducing a new character in her life, Narendran (Fahadh again). And now things get interesting; a bit too interesting indeed. What happens from thereon? Does Preman succeed in teaching Prabha a lesson; does Narendran fulfil what Preman expects out of him? What happens to all of them later on? All these and more are what the rest of the film is all about. To be honest it takes some time to get in line with the proceedings of NOCM. The film establishes the fact very early on that Preman will have a multi-dimensional perspective in the film. On one hand he is the lead character Preman, an aspiring writer but having a mundane day job and on the other he can also portray a whole new range of emotions through his own character born out of his writing. To top it all he is also the narrator of sorts in the film.

V.K.P seems to have got a great ally in the form of his writer, Shankar Ramakrishnan who has skilfully sprinkled the narrative with tributes and references to people with relevant objective. Manjil Virinja Pookal is not just a landmark film but it also shares a close connect with NOCM in many ways. For one Manjil Virinja Pookal was Fahadh’s father Fazil’s debut film and a very popular film at that too. Then we see’s Preman’s story and literally NOCM’s beginning, happening in front of a screening of Manjil Virinja Pookal and of course the lead characters in NOCM are named after the lead characters of Manjil Virinja Pookal, i.e Preman, Narendran and Prabha. This is definitely not a coincidence of course but very deliberately and smartly woven into the narrative. Also check out references to people like Sameer Tahir and Aashiq Abu and incidentally even VKP (towards the end of the film) and you can’t help but smiling at the way they’ve been thought about and written.

For those who’d like to know whether NOCM is a remake of Freaky Chakra let me tell you that it certainly isn’t so. However the film does pay tribute to it in its own characteristic way. For example Ranvir Sheorey is the narrator who introduces the other characters in Freaky Chakra and here in NOCM, Preman does the same in his own way. Abhijith Shylanath’s songs are of the hummable variety but not of the everlasting kind though. Mahesh Narayanan is fast emerging as an editor in demand and here his contribution in keeping the proceedings tight enough cannot be undermined enough. Arun James brings alive the scenes in the apartment complex especially those in Preman’s care taker room convincingly.

Fahadh more than justice to his multi-dimensional role and brings out the contrast between Preman and Narendran convincingly. He is the life of NOCM and it’s tough to think of the movie without him in the hot seat. Towards the latter half of the film the writer in Preman is startled to find his own characters ‘defying’ him and trying to chart their own course of action. Helplessness, despair, selfishness and much more needs to be depicted then and he pulls it off quite well. Kamalinee Mukherjee plays second fiddle admirably and does more than justice to her role of the fiery Prabha who also has a soft side to her, something which Narendran is able to bring out in her. Rima Kallingal’s character is almost borderline mythical and she brings in a short and sweet portrayal. Aishwarya, Jayan Cherthala, Sathar carry out their characters quite effectively.

Which now brings me finally to the captain of the ship i.e VKP and I must start off by making it clear that this is no half-hearted attempt to make a film which looks ‘different’ and is definitely not desperate to be considered as a new age film. It takes guts, plenty of it in fact of it to make a film which is absolutely moving against conventions and standing honest in its efforts. In fact the strength of the film is also the weakness, as it’s virtually very difficult to envision people warming up to it en mass. If it happens, it’s nothing less than a victory for VKP and the entire team of NOCM. It’s heartening to see producers (Aji Medayil,Joe Kaithamattam, Christi Kaithamattam) backing a film like NOCM, we need more such people.As I mentioned earlier the film takes its own sweet time to hook you in and when you are in then there’s no looking back. This may not emerge as the best film of the year but it will surely be among the better films of the year and that by itself is no mean achievement.

For now do give NOCM a chance, after all this is not a small fish at all  :)




By: Sethumadhavan
Posted: February 22, 2013, 11:45 am


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