Malayalam Reviews

Love Action Drama Review: Dhyan Sreenivasan’s Directorial Debut Is An Absurd Spoof Of A Rom-Com

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Director: Dhyan Sreenivasan

Music: Shaan Rahman

Cinematography: Jomon T John, Roby Raj

Cast: Nayanthara, Nivin Pauly, Aju Varghese

Love Action Drama operates in a little meta-verse. Towards its climactic end, a character enters and starts to speak for the audience. “You think this is a love story? Rubbish!” he screams, supposedly at the makers of the film and whoever thought it was a good idea to call this trainwreck a romantic-action-comedy.

Dhyan Sreenivasan, the younger son of veteran actor-writer Sreenivasan and the brother of actor-director Vineeth Srinivasan, has dabbled in multiple roles in films – he acted in Thira, Kunji Ramayanam and Adi Kapyare Koottamani, attempted screenwriting in Goodalochana, and finally made a film with two of the most bankable stars in South Indian cinema, Nayanthara and Nivin Pauly. All this with absolute indifference to the importance of a reasonable screenplay.

Love Action Drama borrows from Dhyan’s father’s 1989 black-comedy, Vadakkunokkiyanthram. Both films talk about the crisis of masculinity, in dramatically different ways. If Vadakkunokkiyanthram was an interesting critique of society, Love Action Drama is a colourful, meaningless circus. Nayanthara empties her make-up kit to perfect that unreal manic-pixie dream girl look. Nivin Pauly, now far from the boy-next-door he once was, does a painful imitation of his former self. The goofiness that he brings on board is more plastic than the fairy-like smile of his co-star. Aju Varghese, also the co-producer of the film, does hyperbole comedy that ranges from hopping around like a monkey to hitting his best friend’s bottom for homophobic jokes. The cinematographers, Jomon T John, and Roby Raj, and music composer Shaan Rahman try to fill the film’s emotional emptiness, adding an undue amount of gloss to the narrative. Yet, nothing quite hides the aggressive ugliness of the film.

Sobha (Nayanthara), a successful businessperson who lives in Chennai, meets Dineshan (Nivin Pauly), an unemployable and undateable loser, at a friend’s wedding in Kerala. When she first sights him, he is preparing to vandalise the wedding because the bride, at some point in her childhood, promised to marry him. On the night prior to the wedding, he drinks like a whale, hurts Sobha in a mix-up and lands her on a hospital bed, and flaunts his ability to lie through his teeth. Nevertheless, she falls for his non-existent charm and takes up the task of turning him into a better human being, as if he is her little project.

The non-linear narrative is spread over a period of six months during which we see glimpses of their tumultuous relationship. The overwhelming childishness in these scenes ensures that at no point do the audience feel that these two are in love or anything that remotely resembles love. You never get a scene where the two adults sit down and have a meaningful conversation, or an instance of deliberation. There is a lot of noise and little sense. Dineshan secretly moves to Chennai and stalks Sobha digitally to find the jogger’s park she frequents. She pretends to not know his motives when he appears and fakes a surprise. At a friendly get-together, he uses a fake accent and lies about doing an MBA and earning millions in the stock market. When his best friend exposes him, he gets into an utterly preposterous tussle in public. Sobha frowns a little but forgives him in no time. When her father tries to talk her out of this relationship, Sobha smiles divinely and says she won’t find a better partner than Dineshan. They pose for Instagram pictures on Marina beach, exchange shy glances and go on a date to Forum Mall. When they briefly part ways, he lets out a sigh and makes a statement about true love. She sheds tears, careful enough to not ruin her makeup.

The film’s tone, portrayal of a loser and its pointedly male gaze is eerily similar to that of an M Rajesh film. Love Action Drama repeatedly contrasts Sobha’s fair-complexion, which makes her an object of desire, with the male characters’ lack of it. The bromance between Dineshan and Sagar (Aju Varghese) and the homophobia is straight out of the world of Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga.

It isn’t just the writing that’s responsible for the making of this debacle. Dhyan evidently has a poor sense of staging scenes. The initial wedding scene has the aesthetics of jewellery or textile commercials, with random slow-motion and beauty shots. The sequence is fragmented and tonally inconsistent. The two timelines of the film are connected using similar-looking longshots of an apartment complex. Since Dhyan leaves no space in the narrative for any serious thought or a slightly deep moment, quotes on the characters’ t-shirts act as subtext. Dineshan’s driver who delivers a sermon on feminism has “Stay Single For Life” on his t-shirt. After a tense moment between Dineshan and Sobha, we are ushered into a scene where Aju Varghese’s t-shirt screams, “Say Cheers!”

Love Action Drama is essentially a product that arrives in the market in a festival season, which is not to be watched as a full-fledged movie but as a television skit, a behind-the-scenes footage of a mainstream entertainer, or like a badly-cut trailer of a better rom-com starring two good-looking stars.

***

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