Malayalam Reviews

Oru Yamandan Prema Katha Review: Dulquer Salman Takes The Plunge Into Self-Aware Tomfoolery

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Director: B.C Noufal

Cast: Dulquer Salmaan, Nikhila Vimal, Salim Kumar, Vishnu Unnikrishnan, Samyukta Menon, Renji Panikker

Composer: Nadirsha

Renji Panikker must keep a log of films where he has to pace up and down the corridor outside a hospital labor room, awaiting the birth of his child who will, in a short span of time, grow up to be the film’s protagonist. Oru Yamandan Prema Katha is the latest entrant to that not-so-short list. Panikker plays a wealthy lawyer whose son, Lallu (Dulquer Salmaan) grows up to be a misfit in the family and class he was born into. The boy rejects all the etiquette and discipline his father tries to cultivate in him. He hangs out with the kids from a lowly residential colony in the neighborhood. As a young man, he refuses to join the white-collar work force, and earns a living as a house painter. One day, his father reprimands him for eating and socializing at a local tea stall. “That’s not healthy,” he warns the young man who laughs that signature ‘DQ laugh’ and replies, “Food poison is the stuff of five-star restaurants, father… Low class eateries never deceive your belly!”

Directed by BS Naufal, Oru Yamandan Prema Katha belongs to an informal genre of self-aware, goofy films set in a lower middle class milieu. Thanks to their mass-appeal, these films are instrumental in creating superstars out of nice young actors. The film plays to the gallery by romanticizing poverty, and pointing out the dichotomy between the sophisticated class and what it assumes as its target audience – the masses. Elaborate sequences are drawn out to say that the upper-class community, despite their material wealth, sophistication and education, are leading meaningless lives while the poor and the unsophisticated are happier, and in spite of their seemingly chaotic outer selves, have more fulfilling inner lives.

Ironically, the tool that Oru Yamandan Prema Katha employs to etch out this contrast is Dulquer, an actor who has largely played urbane characters in his career, and is looked up to by a humongous fan community for his salon-perfect looks, refined mannerisms and a polished accent. He puts on a colloquial Kochi tongue, wears shirts that are as colourful as a Holi day, and makes efforts to look like a happy-go-lucky house painter who adorns his room walls with pictures of Balarama heroes. But his real self hangs heavily in the air.

The gravest problem, though, is the unimaginative writing. The plot points, especially the ones in the climactic part, are utterly predictable and lazy. The narrative structure is tone-deaf, haywire. Salim Kumar delivers a moral spiel to his young daughter whom he earlier spotted hanging out with her boyfriend. “Girls shouldn’t forget the dreams their parents have for them,” he tears up. This is immediately followed by a goofy scene where Lallu seeks his help to get into a ladies hostel to find out about his crush, a young woman who is unaware of his existence. The antagonist is a perennially angry young man who seems to be in a relationship with his car. The love story at the heart of the film unfolds like a bad joke, sans sensitivity or any reasoning.

Lallu exists somewhere between the flamboyant Charlie of Charlie and the self-absorbed Aji of CIA. The film opens to the scene of his birth which is staged like cosmic phenomenon. Clues are tossed in (Bible verses, shots of a church and a statue of Christ) to suggest that the baby is an extraordinary one on whose life the universe has a heavy grip. But the film doesn’t come up with an intelligent sequence to support this. Lallu’s extra-ordinariness is limited to his handsomeness. He grew up as an eye-candy – a stud who had to ward off flirty girls right from kindergarten. His much-celebrated rebelliousness is, evidently, an eyewash.

But Oru Yamandan Prema Katha isn’t entirely a dull watch. Some of the comic scenes, in spite of looking like a television comic skit, are rib-tickling. Namely an evening wedding party in the neighborhood where the villagers pull off hilarious Tik-Tok performances. A lot of comic instances in the film are built around one of its main characters, a blind young man (Vishnu Unnikrishnan) who believes he can sing. The jokes tread a fine sensitive line between genial and offensive, which is a rarity. Unnikrishnan plays the role with a great restraint, lending the character a lovable, sunny side. In a movie starring Dulquer Salmaan, it is this young actor-writer who stands out and redeems the film, to some extent, from falling apart altogether.

*****

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