Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu review: Bhavanas comeback film is a breezy love story

Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu review: Bhavana's comeback film is a breezy love story

A beautifully shot, sensibly written, and superbly portrayed movie is always a pleasure to watch

Film: Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu (My big brother had a love affair)
Genre: Romantic drama
Language: Malayalam
Director: Adhil Maimoonath Ashraf
Producers: Renish Abdul Khader, Rajesh Krishna
Starring: Bhavana, Sharaf U Dheen, Ashokan, Anarkali, Shebin Benson

It is indeed a stunning comeback — by Bhavana, the charismatic and courageous actress returning to her native language in a spectacular style after six long years through Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu.

Kerala is widely considered the aesthetic hub of Indian cinema. Though the Malayalam film industry is not as big as the Tamil, Telugu or Hindi, movies from Kerala are being widely appreciated by film buffs across the country. Be it exploring new genres, unique storytelling, technical perfection or the crop of artistes, the industry has become the toast.

Most of these ‘new-generation’ films were celebrated for their novel ideas. Unique crimes, village feuds, survivor tales, gender empowerment, caste-religious abuse, and domestic violence were all portrayed in those films. Though there were a few romantic films, such as Premam and Thallumala, the entertainment value of these films was primarily based on brotherhood bonds, bachelor-den lives, or altercation over the male ego, with romance serving just as a backdrop of the hero-oriented narrative.

Also read: Bhavana on her comeback in Malayalam cinema: ‘It’s an overwhelming feeling’

Fundamentally a love story

Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu is fundamentally a colourful, musical, love drama. The plot has a Hindu-Muslim angle, but the writer-director decided not to pursue that angle. There is a central Kerala locality, too, but they decided not to explore it either, even though Malayalam movies today are well-known for their sub-culture narratives. Domestic violence and the single-mother burden are also important factors in the story, but they are not central to the narrative. Adhil Maimunath Ashraf simply decided to stick with a love story for his debut film. And that is why the film stands apart.

The primary storyteller of the movie is a 10-year-girl, Mariam. She has two ikkakkas (big brothers) — Mikkakka Milkha and Jikkakka Jimmy. Why do they have such weird names? Because their father, Abdul Khader (a fabulous Ashokan), is a failed sportsman who wanted to win medals for India but ended up as a school PT teacher. He longed for his boys to fulfil those dreams for him. But Milkha and Jimmy eventually failed and ended up in the “Gulf,” like a lot of other Malayalis. With their sons far away, Abdul Khader and wife Khadeeja (Merlin Reena) become slightly more “romantic,” resulting in Mariam, who arrives much after her ikkakkas.

Mariam and her Jikkakka are thick as thieves. And she knows a secret about Jikkakka that no one else knows. That’s the story — her big brother had a love affair.

Jimmy — possibly named after legendary Indian volleyball player Jimmy Gorge — is a car enthusiast. He loves classic cars and wants to run a business around them. He is over 30 and the entire family is worried about his single status. Sharaf U Dheen’s outstanding performance as Jimmy is the highlight of the film. We have seen Sharaf’s stunning performances in Varathan, Aarkkariyam, and Rorschach, among others. But this is different. There is a deep melancholy under Jimmy’s charming, loving outer layer. Sharaf has gracefully captured that undertone of the character.

Also read: It’s very homely in Malayalam film industry: Marathi-Hindi actor Girish Kulkarni

Nithya (Bhavana) is a strong woman. She had been in love with Jimmy since her school days. But one day, everything goes south and ends up marrying a stranger. Years pass in silent suffering until she decides enough is enough. Now she just desires to be in peace. She can fight for sure, but she doesn’t want to. She wants her freedom and life — her life as a school teacher, as the mother of an eight-year-old boy, and as the daughter of her loving parents. But one day, she meets Jimmy after a very long time and there begins chapter two.

Extraordinary in its ordinariness

In every promotional event of the film, the artists and makers have repeatedly said that the film is just an ordinary one. They have warned us not to expect surprises or exciting twists and turns. Even Bhavana has made it clear that she didn’t want to make any statement on reel. And now we know that her decision was perfect. And her choice, Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu, was the best on that account. Nithya is not a superwoman, but she is strong, independent, and intelligent — just like Bhavana.

A romantic movie needs lots of clichés for sure. But there is one particular scene — even if it was clichéd in many respects — that stands out. A blue saree-clad, stunning Nithya comes out of a car and moves in slow motion through an all-male crowd — except for little Mariyam — like a zephyr. Mariam and Jimmy are the only happy people in her presence. But their delight defines a lot. That scene is overwhelming and has many more layers.

Drawbacks? Probably, the selection of artistes in supporting roles. Bhavana, Sharaf, Ashokan, Shebin, and Anarkali are superb. Even the writing for the character of Fida (Anarkali) is brilliant. That’s one character other than Nithya, Jimmy, and Maria that remains with viewers even after the curtains come down.

But some really killed the fun.

Also read: Vaathi review: Dhanush’s one-man show, with an important message

Malayalam cinema is now luxurious with exceptional artists. We can see them in movie after movie. A bit more pre-production planning and screen tests could have done the trick. A paradigm shift that happened in Malayalam cinema is that, unlike in yesteryear movies, we now care about the extra artists too. Only, the girl who portrayed the teenage Nithya is a wonderful artiste. She is cool, charming, and natural.

We haven’t seen lots of musical movies lately. Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu will end that wait. There are songs, dances, and romance. And a beautifully shot, sensibly written, and superbly portrayed movie is always a pleasure to watch. Thanks to the makers of Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu, you won’t denounce the classic Basheerian title.

(Ntikkakkakkoru Premandaarnnu rhymes with legendary Malayalam writer Vaikom Muhammed Basheer’s famous novel’s title Ntuppappakkoru Anendaarnnu [My grandfather had an elephant].)

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