As the title cards of Alphonse Puthren's 'Premam' came up, I couldn't stop thinking of those butterflies - the swallow tails and the cabbage whites, the blue bottles and the bird wings - that once flitted around with fragrant memories of an entire generation's childhood laden on their pretty wings. They seem to have wholly vanished and are no longer seen fluttering around these alley ways ridden with smoke and dust and have perhaps moved on to greener meadows where the sparkle of an unsullied dew drop awaits.
It is this perfumed whiff of reminiscences that the film rakes up with its very first scene that makes 'Premam' one of the best films that I have watched till now this year; one that it maintains till the very last scene that comes almost after three hours. Bursting with hopefulness and loaded with resilience, 'Premam' is a stunning cinematic piece that talks of the process of falling in love, breaking a heart, nurturing a stinging memory or two for the rest of your life and above all, letting go and moving on.
'Premam' follows its protagonist George (Nivin Pauly) and the three women who walk into his life - Mary (Anupama Parameswaran), his first love during those baffling pre-degree days, Malar (Sai Pallavi), his new teacher at college who surprisingly reciprocates his feelings and Celin (Madonna Sebastian) who finally lays down an anchor to his otherwise bobbling life.
As much as it insists that it's all about love, 'Premam' is infinitely more than that, and brings in scores of characters, to fill up its enormous canvas with life, and even more of it. The amity and companionship that the trio of friends share - George, Koya (Krishna Shankar) and Shambhu (Shabareesh Verma) - is one that stands the tests of time, and they stick together doggedly, through thick and thin, through sunshine and dark downpours.
And then there is love itself, and the different shades that the oldest of human emotions brings in its fray. It does take a few years for George to get over the dejection that his first love had brought along with, and when Malar grabs his hand and walks forward life sprouts flowers all around. It's when these petals had long wilted and withered by, that Celin arrives accentuating once and for all that fresh shoots are bound to spring up after the heavy rains.
There are other seemingly smaller characters who occupy the outskirts of this portrait, like Justin (Justin) and his gang - the rival group at college - whom George and his team often rub shoulders against. Years later, when pettiness has given way to mellowness, Justin rings up George to invite him over to his bachelor's party. Hostility or what seemed like it once darts away leaving a few embarrassed souls in its wake.
There is also the young lecturer Vimal (Vinay Fort) who develops an instant attraction towards Malar, and the Physical Education lecturer (Soubin Shahir) who offers him all support in his romantic adventure. Of the several scenes that are really hilarious, one belongs to Vimal and his lecture on Java, and his side-splitting explanation as to how simple Java truly is.
'Premam' adopts a juicily unmarked conversational tone for the most part, and the audience draws in a few chairs and sits along with George and his pals as they plan and replan his life. It's no shocker then that his joys become ours as much as his grief does; his exultation and desolation are all ours to share as well.
'Premam' spellbinds you with some real awesome performances from a group of young actors who seem to have thrown caution to the winds and who have gone at their respective roles - long or short - with a vengeance. The casting director of the film merits a bow, for there is not one actor in it who looks out of place.
Nivin Pauly as George is tremendously remarkable, and comes up with one of his best performances till date. As he breaks down and walks away from the real love of his life, he manages to throw an entire cinema hall into silence with his tears, as much as he had driven them into irrepressible fits of mirth not much earlier.
The three girls are equally extraordinary, but it's Sai Pallavi who wins the show hands down, with a bravura feat as the guest lecturer Malar who wins over George's heart. She lights up the screen with her fabulous screen presence, and with the most precise of expressions underlines that she is here to stay. Madonna Sebastian with her curious Bambi-esque eyes and agreeable smile breezes in while Anupama Parameshwaran retains the youthful charm that is required of Mary to the hilt.
There has to be a mention of the supporting cast here as well, be it Krishna Shankar, Shabareesh Verma or Siju Wilson, who play it up exceptionally well to the galleries. Vinay Fort and Soubin Shahir turn out to be rock stars! I stayed put till the end credits came up to find out who that amazing actor who played Girirajan Kozhi in the film was, and it turns out be Sharafudeen. Hats off!
It's impossible to think of 'Premam' without that dazzling musical score by Rajesh Murugesan, with many a hummable number forming a part of the highly notable soundtrack. 'Premam' almost qualifies for a musical, and a decent one at that, since this is one film where you really do not mind those songs gushing into the narrative unapologetically; where the music camouflages itself and remains an indiscernible part of the account.
Equally arresting is the cinematography by Anand C Chandran, who throws in an assortment of splendid visuals that capture the essence of the film to the core. His camera is unhesitant and ventures as much to the corner of an aisle to catch an incessantly chirping sparrow in action or on to the placid waters of a pool where a wayward frog has landed himself in. The verdant greenness that pervades his indoor and outdoor frames is stimulating and this ocular wizardry that Anand throws in contributes much to the stellar film that 'Premam' evolves into.
'Premam' elevates Alphonse Puthren onto a pedestal of sharp film makers who have figured out the actual potential of the medium that cinema is. And in their competent hands long-standing tales assume ground-breaking forms and enthuse the viewers in ways and manners never seen before. Much more than an unabashed crowd-pleaser, which it surely is, 'Premam' is a bracingly alive film where almost everything, seems to have fallen right into place.
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