A Flashback :: Nadan comes from Kamal who had a great beginning to 2013 with the movie Celluloid which was the biopic of J.C Daniel, the father of Malayalam Cinema. It received seven Kerala State Film Awards including the award for Best Film and Best Actor (Prithviraj Sukumaran) and the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam. Before that, his works included a very interesting take or rather a satire on the pride of a rich common man (Swapna Sanchari), a critically acclaimed work focusing on the fate of poor Indians in the middle east through the life of an immigrant Indian housemaid in Saudi Arabia (Gaddama) and my personal favourite revenge story plus a success at the box-office (Aagathan). So the expectations were going to be high about this one making this the obvious first choice in the absence of a Hollywood release and a good Bollywood release, especially as the other movie at the box-office, Visudhan has got some mixed to mostly negative reviews (the audience was less in number when I watched though).
What is Nadan? :: We have already had a movie based on theatre this year, in the form of Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus (check my review of God’s Own Cleetus), directed by Marthandan and starring Mammootty – It had achieved mostly mixed reviews, but I liked that one for sure, more than most of those who watched it. Who can forget Yavanika? But nothing matches Bharathan’s Chamayam when it comes to the movies set against the backdrop of theatre. There was pure brilliance from Manoj K. Jayan, Murali and also Sithara. The 1989 movie Ramji Rao Speaking (remade in Hindi as Hera Pheri) and its sequel Mannar Mathai Speaking (partially remade in Hindi as Bhagam Bhag) also had some drama elements added to their popularity in a comical way, but nothing serious. Nadan, translated as “actor” gets into this world of theatre with a seriousness like never before. In the current situation where it not really about actor, but about hero and the fan clubs, this movie tries to make an impact in a way which might not be unfamiliar to you, but still remains fresh.
What is it about? :: After a long list of special thanks in the beginning, the movie comes up with the story of Devadas Sargavedi (Jayaram) after telling the story of his grandfather and father who were big names in the Malayalam drama industry. He tries to follow the foot steps, but in the end, losses out due to bad response for the drama compared to mimicry, serial and cinema. As the big screen and the silver screen takes over, the drama losses out – at the venues of temple festivals and church programs, the place is taken by music troops and other similar programs. We know how much it had lost in front of comedy skits, cinematic dance and music programs from the way each cultural programs has been conducted. He losses his muse Jyothi Krishna (Remya Nambeesan) with the rise of cinema as a powerful medium as well as his wife (Sajitha Madathil) as weaknesses take over the artist in him and he falls for his muse. He is left with only a few old artists, an old tempo and no booking for his shows.
The defence of Nadan :: I can remember that I have watched one drama, and yet I can’t remember anything from it, may be because I was a kid. The movie takes us to three timelines, of the 1930s, 1950s and the 1970s – the last one continuing on. The movie takes a non-linear path to tell the story, as it starts from Devadas’ daughter updating her facebook account with the photos of her family, and it ends in the same period. The rest of the movie mostly goes through Devadas’ bad situations with occasional flashbacks. Kamal has successfully made that work. The story is a good experience as it raises nostalgia, and so does it make one think about the loss of dramatic works to the powerful medium which is cinema and the disgusting bore that is mega serial. There might be a question about why and how we have been missing our culture – the answer is the loss of drama, and instead of works which makes us think, we are after pathetic emotional nonsense and new generation nothingness – there comes the part to think for us.
The claws of flaw :: The movie wouldn’t come anywhere near Kamal’s earlier venture which was Celluloid. I would still hope that this one would get some recognition in the next Kerala Film Awards. There is also some fear that most of the new generation won’t accept it with its simple world and the recreation of the life in a way which is not at all an exaggeration. The songs could have been slightly better though, and even visually this can’t compete with Celluloid. There is also a certain amount of drag, especially in the second half. The character of Remya Nambeesan could have some more presence, and there could have been more scenes involving variety drama works and also rehearsals. Still, with whatever it has, the movie manages to connect, even if not in such a way Chamayam could. The beauty of drama is often restricted to the dialogues and the continuous praise that has been bestowed upon it. The climax could have been better. Even as there is a certain amount of sad feeling created in the minds of the viewers, the depth of Celluloid is missing, but it should be mostly due to Prithviraj’s character being a perfect gentleman without ego or flaws.
Performers of the soul :: This is one of those movies which deals with the drama and still the dramatist would seem to get more attention than the work of art – this movie is centered around the life of one dramatist, and yes, Jayaram has done a fantastic job. It would all have depended on how his character is taken, and one has to say that there is nothing lost with Devadas as a dramatist. Still, the movie could have concentrated a little more on drama as a spectacle of the contemporary world (it was good to see that they could touch the nonsense that has been hailed as drama these days, something which we did see a bit in Olipporu). Along with his powerful performance, Sajitha Madathil, Joy Mathew and K. P. A. C. Lalitha strongly contributes. Remya Nambeesan has a smaller role and less screen presence, but when she is there, she scores. One has to appreciate her selection of movies, as she didn’t start off that well, but has come up with her performances in some of the best movies like this one, Philips and the Monkey Pen, Arikil Oraal and Left Right Left, along with some good ones in between. Hareesh Peradi makes another clean strike after Left Right Left. The girl who played the daughter was very good too.
How it finishes :: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire hasn’t arrived here yet. Only God knows when Kick-Ass 2, Ender’s Game and Machete Kills releases here. With the much weaker other movies in the other languages around, Nadan should score good, even as its ability to connect with the newer generation and the entertainment lovers might be a little less. We can see that Nadan has impressed a good number of people, from their opinions. Now it is to be seen if it keeps that positive word of mouth which has been slightly going down, alive. The reviews haven’t been much positive. I would say that good nostalgic movies like Nadan has to be made more often. It is neither of the old generation not the new generation, as it creates its own group of viewers, a fine collection of people who loves movies as well as theatre. Despite its limited abilities and scope, Nadan rises, and that itself is a big positive compared to all those movies which destroy all the potential and go down the sewers or play the safe game and come up with quite an ordinary execution. The success of Nadan will only help the Malayalam movie industry to be innovative without going new generation – that should be great!
Release date: 22nd November 2013
Running time: 140 minutes (estimate)
Directed by: Kamal
Starring: Jayaram, Remya Nambeesan, Sajitha Madathil, Joy Mathew, K. P. A. C. Lalitha, P. Balachandran, Hareesh Peradi, M.Mukundan, Jayaraj Warrier, Shankar Ramakrishnan
@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.