Sidharth Bharathan's 'Nidra' could very well qualify as a complicated mood piece that is passionately charged with raw emotions. It tells a daymare of a story in which the viewer is forced to indulge in a free fall plunge into a world where madness and mayhem collaborate with the most central of all human emotions - love.
When Aswathy (Rima Kallingal) decides to marry her childhood friend Raju (Sidharth Bharathan) much against her mother's wishes, she barely has an idea as to what lies in store. Raju has had a history of mental unsteadiness, and though it seems all serene to her initially, the inevitable collapse into doom soon sets in.
It isn't an effortless job sitting through a film like 'Nidra', since a film that tracks the eventual loss of sanity of a man who hopes to live a life on his own terms, simply cannot be an easy watch. The narrative is punctuated with several scenes that methodically leads to the dappled realm of insanity, and the descent of this young couple into the obscure world of mental instability is as much haunting as it is appalling.
Peripherally Nidra appears to be a treatise on how a disease could rip apart lives in a hurry, sometimes in ways in which they can never be restored again. Its on a much deeper level that it probes into questions related to sanity, or the lack of it, and reminds us of the flimsiness of the conservative definitions that we have always made use of to describe the terms. Any discerning viewer I'm sure, would soon become much concerned about the role of opinion in defining terms as 'normalcy' and 'sanity'.
Nidra also has one of the most poignant scenes that I have seen in years in Malayalam films, and as much as it might prove to be a spoiler, this review wouldn't be complete without it. Aswathy, having finally realized that Raju has walked away into a land of no return, perches him on a bicycle before her and pedals away for a final journey. It's a harrowing scene that carries deep within, an almost elegiac message on one of the most dreaded ailments of all time.
The idyllic land, where Raju dreams of rearing his child is more of an allegory of a world where nature exists in remarkable concord with man, and more importantly where man himself feels safe from the judgmental stares of a thousand eyes around him. It's a long voyage across the lake to this paradise, and one has to leave behind the 'normal world' to set foot on the shore of peace.
This is the best of Rima that I have seen till now, and for the first time in her career, she shakes off every remnant of sophistication that you would associate with her as a person otherwise, and lives the role of a middle class girl whose life is shredded to pieces on account of the choices that she makes, to perfection. Vimmy's voice has made a whole lot of difference for sure, and Rima delivers the best as yet in her career with great aplomb! She's simply wow in the film, and there aren't two questions about it.
Sidharth is an actor-director to reckon with for sure, and as the performer, he brings in a very special vulnerability to the intricate role that he essays, and never for a moment goes over the top. And as a director, I'm all in appreciation of this young man who opted for a dark film as Nidra for his directorial debut, in place of a conventional entertainer that could have made a huge lot of a difference professionally.
Insanity isn't easy to be captured on camera, but Sameer Thahir has always surprised us with what he can do with the lens. An out-of-the-world shot as Raju and Aswathy row their boat across the lake for the first time post-marriage, swings upside down in no time, and you realize with a shudder that its no different from the world that they are about to enter into; one that would appear disturbingly tranquil on the outside, but which would in reality be toppled down in no time. There are any number of such visceral conclusions that the camera helps us arrive at in Nidra, thanks to its cinematographer.
The triggering of those sporadic bouts of sanity loss almost become unbearable for the viewer as well, with Prasanth Pillai's remarkable background score that is disquieting in tone. The frequent relapses of the protagonist into insanity find a blazing musical expression through out the film that is blatantly aggressive in nature.
They say some stories stand the test of time. 'Nidra' is one such film that even after a few decades since it was originally made still holds ground, since it steers clear of the stereotypes that one normally associates with films that deal with insanity. As a tribute, this remake is perhaps the best that a son can offer to his legendary filmmaker dad! Bharathan, I'm sure would have been proud.
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