#Premam- My take on the movie

This movie is proof that #Alphonseputhren knows how to harness the visual media to weave sheer magic on screen. He was well complimented by all his cast and the crew especially the cinematographer Anend Chandran and Rajesh Murugesan with music. I have translated 5 songs here and was awestruck by the quality of composition. Rajesh Murugesan, you should give us more of your creative best in Malayalam movies and hopefully other languages


There are many things which appealed to me in the movie and that is not the entire scope of this post. So will restrict to only few scenes which reveals more about the man behind the camera, than the visuals seem to convey-

The camera positioned on top of the tea shappu as if mildly lunging from shoulders to inform us that Koya is looking for his friend in the first instance and then after few languishing flirtations with the tea shappu again takes us to inform that Shambu too is eagerly looking for George’s arrival!

The other being the Lemon Juice being made by the deft hands of the vendor, while the conversation is happening in the background as if to suggest that life offers more interesting snapshots than the adolescent banter of young boys about their crushes!

One more scene which again shows a similar visual narrative technique is that of a a fried fish being the focus of camera, while one could sense the hustle and bustle of a college canteen away from it. Absolutely brilliant. I am reminded about #Mysskkin who has this uncanny ability to design scenes by his unique camera positions and populating it with themes filled with ironies. But for many discerning viewers, one gets an impression that he is trying hard to prove to his admirers and detractors alike, about his craftsmanship, which sometimes puts you off. Till now that sort of “shouting through the visuals” is not seen from Puthren which places him slightly above Mysskin

In twitter there were commentators who thought Autograph of Cheran said this story long ago. Might be storywise, but i fail to recollect even a single scene vividly, where he took that extra effort and inventiveness by exploiting the rich canvas of film roll that can unleash to create something like what Puthren could do with Premam. The one scene which i remember though from Autograph, is his ode to Tamil language, when Gopika shares an apple with him, he  imagines both of them as Adam and Eve in his thoughts, where he responds in Tamil, while she replies in gibberish! This was clever, as he alludes to the fact that Tamil precedes even the times of Bible! Apart from such cinematic contrivances, visually it was not remotely appealing as much as Premam.

Which now brings me to my beef (not Beep) of Premam, which deeply shares the male lovers’pain and angst at couple of attempts at romance. Understandable indeed, but could have also conveyed to us why the women in his life were like the way they were shown. Mary’s character was particularly disappointing and suffers the Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya (VTV) syndrome which afflicted Jessie’s character in that movie. She never tells us, if not convey, why she has soft corner to the George of Sacred Heart school, but can’t fall for him even at the cost of bees populating her curled locks, as hives!

The caste universe of Malayalam movies are so exclusive that beyond the rich, middle class,upper caste Syrian Catholics and Nairs/Menons, a typical Malayalee family does not exist. I mean Koya marrying a Hindu girl was brave, only to reveal to us that she is from Nair community, a recurring “coincidence” of Malayalam films, as if to convey that the match is from a “respectable Hindu family”. George’s failures with romance seems to suggest that inter religious, inter state alliances are destined to fail-a sad commentary on the damning statistics of such alliances in India. In general such matrimony hovers around 11% with Kerala faring slightly better at 20%

On religious lines – Hindu (55%), Muslim (27%), Christian (18%) Hindus on caste lines – Ezhava (23%), Nair (13%), SC & ST (10%), Other Hindu (9%)

So approximately, from an identity standpoint, Muslim (27%) + Ezhava (23%) = 50% SC & ST and Other OBC = 18% Christian = 18% (12%-6% Forward-Backward divide) Nair = 13% Other Forward Caste Hindus = 2%

The caricature of an young duffer lecturer, evoking few guffaws, nonetheless also had mild transphobic references about him. Like, while discussing about his crush on Malar with George and Co, he is egged on to inflate his imaginary land holdings to “900 acres” with the friends of George, including himself hiding their laughter at that suggestion. One can’t miss this very subtle insult about his “seemingly effeminate” nature.

To conclude, beyond the visual brilliance of the scenes imagined by Alphonse, a movie lover can’t miss the many prejudices and biases of the director, giving away despite his attempts to keep the proceedings light. Alas, an opportunity to break the stereotypes which plagues Malayalam movies ever so often, barring few exceptions, continues to seep in to this movie’s narrative as well.


5 thoughts on “#Premam- My take on the movie

  1. Agree with the male point of view, but had it been more inclusive of the other genders perspective, I think the movie might have shaped in a different way and be slightly less palpapble. Regarding the caste prejudice, its a very subtle one and you are spot on. But I must say compared to many other industry, Malayalam movies are far more representative of the minorities and fringes over the course of its existence. But yes, there is certainly an overtone if you consider the vast majority of films.

    I’m not sure if i did get your angle from the 900 joke. I’m not aware if calling somone “ombodu” is to poke fun at the effeminate nature of the person or that its usage is that popular in central kerala (We use terms like Kundan, Attu etc.). Instead, I found it more in reference to the usage “Kaakkathollayiram” which means an unmeasurable unit in any context often used by kids when playing:)

    Enjoyed reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written POV post. The similarity of story comparison with Autograph can’t be avoided. And it is so in my opinion. But the screenplay and cinematography elevates the movie to different level. Being a Tamil guy, while watching the movie I couldn’t pickup the Kerala specific prejudices and biases you have explained.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some have commented that more than Autograph, one needs to compare this movie with Attakathi, which i have not seen unfortunately to comment upon, that’s why i picked up autograph which i watched. Regarding your reference about christian characters shown as protagonists, it is not uncommon in Kerala, maybe a reflection to the fact that Christians like upper caste hindus are dominant in socio cultural and political space of Kerala. Quite unlike in Kerala, where in recent times Raja Rani was the only one which showed the life of a non Hindu lead pair and still could make a mark at the box office.
      In fact Pa Ranjith had said in one of his opinion pieces that in Attakathi he had to show the hero eating beef biriyani to identify his caste location! This is no different in rest of the movie industry, where most of the lead characters are from dominant community

      Liked by 2 people

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