Neerali : Get A Grip, You Will Not.

Everyone’s in danger these days. You, me, everyone we know are potential lynch victims at the mercy of a share button. In such times, what would it take to make a decent thriller movie, I mean one that would actually make the viewer push his own fears back and edge closer to the edge of the seat by the minute, much like the fate of the character portrayed by Mohanlal in his latest, Neerali. In his first outing on the big screen since the much publicised makeover to play a younger version of himself in the upcoming Odiyan,  which saw him losing some weight and undergoing a purported botox treatment, Mohanlal plays a gemologist who for no fault of his own finds himself between a rock and free space, so to speak. The movie was hit by a barrage of negative responses online right from the day of it’s release which was quite surprising given the huge army of fans the actor has at his disposal on the social media. The producer quickly came out in defence and the movie which was initially marketed as a thriller turned a family entertainer over the weekend in the ads. Now, I am not blaming anyone here, it was entirely a personal decision which had me watching the movie. It was one of those cases where you were told something was so bad that you actually wanted to know for yourself how bad it actually was.

Mohanlal himself had vouched that he said yes to the movie because it was something that was never attempted in Malayalam Cinema. Now that I am done watching the film, I can say for a fact the nothing like this has been attempted in World Cinema. The director has to have a thing for Probability Theory and Murphy’s Law. I mean what are the odds of a gemologist who chills with his colleagues on the steppes of Mongolia, taking a trip to Cochin from Bangalore to meet his wife who is in labor, in a run down pickup truck with his company driver ? Probable ? Okay, I’ll give you that. From then on, everything just goes wrong not just for the characters, but the viewer too. Murphy’s law on speed indeed. When they’re not shown dangling between life and death in the pickup perched precariously at the edge of a cliff, Mohanlal’s Sunny and Suraaj Venjaramood’s driver Veerappa are seen singing songs, sharing personal anecdotes, consoling each other and cracking jokes. We are also fed regular doses of nostalgia in terms of songs and scenes from yesteryear to drive home the fact that Mohanal and Nadia Moidu are being paired after eons. Every woman in Sunny’s life has a crush on him because he’s played by Mohanlal and Sunny being Sunny gives us and Veerappa a brief lecture on the psychological disorder that possessivenes is. Another intriguing character in the film is a suicidal monkey who haunts the viewer long after he has left the movie hall. Notable was the scene where Mohanlal tries to hypnotise the monkey which actually holds a mirror not just to the state of the minds of the characters but the audience too at that point. The director was definitely trying to say something there, which reminds me of another creature, a beetle that makes ominous appearances in the movie, more than once.There is also a parallel storyline involving a bunch of young aspiring criminals who are on the trail of Sunny and Veerappa. But halfway down the movie the director and the writer seems to have deciced that it’s a story for another day and another film.

The “new” Mohanlal looked visibily uncomfortable early on and something was clearly amiss. This was most evident in the scene where the mandatory M.G Sreekumar song came on. Any Malaylai worth his mundu and meesha would recognise the fact that their favorite actor is not all there. Being a self confessed fan I have a fan theory of my own about this new look.Mohanal is a known practioner of Ayurveda and has been known to go on retreats from time to time. More than the fans, the man himself must be having a hard time to come to terms with the botox injected cheeks and it shows on screen too. Maybe we will get used to this, like we did with the change in his voice in the mid 90s. The Veerappa character of Suraaj is a Tamilian which is to give credibity to his back story where his inter caste marriage left his wife dead and him disabled at the hands of his wife’s family. That’s overreaching considering the recent developments in our own state.But to be fair to the writer, I guess the honor killing in our own backyard maybe wasn’t yet news when he put pen to paper.Honestly these thoughts are irrelevant in a film thats so ridden with potholes that the audience just gives up their sense of logic and surrenders entirely to the whims of the director early on. But the one question still haunts me, why monkey why?

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