After the much impressive 'Celluloid', it's on a rutted ride down a hilly slope that Kamal takes us on, in 'Nadan'. It's not just the ride that tires you to bits, but the sights and spectacles that pass by have a recognizable feel that brings about tedium in no time.
Devadas (Jayaram) is an accomplished actor from the theatre, who has seen better days. He helms the theatre group called Sargavedi, and basks in a rich tradition that has been shaped by his predecessors. By the late 90's, he's on the verge of bankruptcy, is jobless, has ruined his familial life beyond repair and is all set to go insane.
'Nadan' narrates the decline of an art form that has almost submissively, given way to more assertive forms of entertainment as the mimics show and the cinematic dance. It also attempts to trace the lives of a few hapless individuals who over the years, had lost the ability to distinguish between life and theatre, with both having blended into one.
There is a shift in focus from the professional life of the actor on to his personal life, and when Jyothi (Remya Nambeesan) walks in as the new lead actress of the troupe, Devadas rediscovers his passion for the art. In no time, he turns into an obsessive lover, that has his disgruntled wife (Sajitha Madathil), walk out with their two kids in tow.
'Nadan' does make some genuine efforts to capture the reality of life's struggles, and yet it manages to do so only peripherally. The tears are shed, and the air remains pungent with heavy sighs, and yet if we fail to identify with several of those characters on screen, it's simply because, it tries to be excessively high on mood.
Perhaps the most disappointing part of 'Nadan' is its stretched out climax, that takes melodrama on to higher levels. Almost dragging Devadas out of the murky misery that he had resigned himself to, the filmmaker adds on an almost synthetic feel that appears all out of place.
It's heartening to see Jayaram in a role that requires him to be someone more than a customary husband that we quite often get to see him as. And he does grab this opportunity with a vengeance, and comes up with a brilliant performance. Remya Nambeesan and Sajitha Madathil establish their presence without much of an effort.
The real performer of 'Nadan' is of course KPAC Lalitha, who excels as a theater artist trying hard to make both ends meet, at the dusk of her life. There isn't perhaps another actress who could have brought out the anguish, gloom and desolation that Radhechi goes through, as convincingly as Lalitha does in the film.
'Nadan', at times even looks like a hysterical expression of distress that gets its modulation a bit too wrong. The wails of despair appear a bit too loud, which makes it a hit and miss affair that only fleetingly touches our hearts.