Directed By: Alphonse Puthren
Written By: Alphonse Puthren
Nivin Pauly – George David
Krishna Shankar – Koya
Shabareesh Varma – Shambu
Sai Pallavi – Malar
Madonna Sebastian – Celine
Anupama Parameshwaran – Mary George
Wilson Joseph – Jojo
Vinay Forrt – Vimal sir
Alphonse Putharen – Roney Varghese
Language: Malayalam Genre: Romance
Alphonse Puthren’s Premam follows the story of George (Nivin Pauly). It explores his friendship with Koya (Krishna Shankar), Shambu (Shabareesh Varma) and Jojo (Wilson Joseph) from roughly 16 years of age. It does seem, however, that they have known each other for possibly longer.
Premam traces the stories of love associated with George – the three women he falls deeply and irrevocably in love with and how that impacts his life. It shows an innocent first love, the vulnerable love of the self-assured youth and finally the adult who has seen too much; is aloof and may awake to the idea of new love.
While the film is not a flashback narrative, the manner in which the director presents it, means that he is seeing everything from a later point in time which is why the sad scenes are not sad enough. So instead of pulling at our heartstrings as it should, we are grinning and are aware that yes, this is a temporary sentiment.
Even the popular song Scene Contra seems to break the fourth wall. It is either the characters are aware they are characters or that they address the audience directly revealing that someone has been stage-managing their existence.
All the songs in the film are a narrative, to give us another shade to the characters or their experience. It moulds our understanding of who they are and it gives us the philosophy of the film. Ithu Puthen Kaalam (this new age) for instance tells us not to take things too seriously. That surprises will come when we least expect it. The changes that we undergo as people may not have been what we envisioned for ourselves such as George probably never saw himself as the alpha male who is violent/destructive but he probably became like that after what transpired with his first love.
The film uses the constant metaphor of the butterfly – right in the opening credits flitting from one flower to another, then around Mary (Anupama Parameshwaran) when she is being pursued by many suitors, later with Malar (Sai Pallavi) when she is with George and it is oddly missing from the last part.
The thing is, unlike the usual cliché that men are like butterflies flitting from one woman to another frivolously – the butterfly actually moves very purposefully towards a flower and may get rejected by the flower. Either because it lacks the necessary nectar or has an unpleasant odour. So George is then a dedicated butterfly that seeks his flower through the three stories.
However what is problematic is the contrived nature of the storytelling which takes away the poignancy of the second part and this makes it hard for a viewer to sympathise. Also the length of the narratives – too much time was spent on the first and second story without actually telling much and the final story was too rushed, leaving the viewer rather let down.
What I personally liked was how it showed that falling in love does not require much fanfare and it could happen suddenly and after barely any time. We are conditioned to associate true love with a long drawn out process of being together, courtship and then the realisation that this might be love. This somehow makes love seem a cautious exercise when it isn’t supposed to be so.
Premam uses everyday cadences of speech and is as much a coming of age story of a boy as it is a story about friendships. The constant factor in the film is the presence of Koya, Shambu and Jojo even when George’s romantic interests change. This is why the song Scene Contra expresses Shambu’s frustrations at George’s inability to learn from past experiences. This is especially when his past comes calling.
The film’s popularity owes itself probably to Nivin Pauly’s portrayal of George. Either the authenticity with which he presented him or the fact that the character comes across as this wounded hero and women (whatever be their personal ideologies) are particularly susceptible to the idea of the damaged man. Plus, when people have been hurt in love, they will have realistic expectations of romance as opposed to the fantastical views we hold about love before we actually experience it.
It is a well-edited film that makes a viewer question reality and imagination. After all, they merge in our minds and what we have imagined may not have been part of the experience, but becomes so once you believe in it. So it is about the little desires we hold and how influenced we are by the fantastical narratives of Indian cinema – where the real and the imagined exist fruitfully together.