Nandanam

Time to catch up on reviewing the numerous mallu movies that I managed to see over the last six months. Here goes !
A Ranjith film, with a debutant Prithviraj as the loveable Manu and a brilliant Navya Nair as the delicious and sweet Balamani (what an apt name, reminding one of lovely mangoes in the summer). An incredibly simple and simplistic story, a sort of an Indianized Cinderella we can say with none other than Krishna, the blue hued darling of Yashodha, the love of the gopikas, the butter thief, as the fairy godmother. And it works, and how !

The wide eyed Navya Nair portrays Balamani, a pretty, young bright servant maid with a sense of humour and taste in the house of Unni Amma (the eternal huggable grandmother figure, Kaviyoor Ponnama, what a soothing presence in the movie!).  In the words of a kindly uncle in the film “Nalla asalukuty, Balamani”

It is Balamani’s greatest desire to visit the Guruvayoor temple and see her Krishna, something which hasn’t been possible at all. To say she is a devotee of Krishna is rather tame, the relationship is deeper and more personal. She talks to him as if he is an exasperating but dear friend. He is the patient listener to her rants and occasional tantrums and is the only observer of her rare tears. Until Manu turns up. As the about to go to the US, loving grandson of Unni Amma, making the customary trip to his grandmother’s place before he leaves the country, what a debut by Prithviraj !

The chemistry between these two characters, the charm and innocence which the actors bring to Balamani and Manu is beautiful. Indian cinema has exploited love in all its forms for ever so long, that more often than not, watching it on screen becomes a tedious affair. You fidget in your seat waiting for the stares to get over, the stammers, the rants, the sighs. But then comes a movie like Nandanam, that you forget you are watching a movie. Young love, unhampered by negativity, untouched by cynicism, blossoms and blooms in all its glory as the youthful couple reach out to each other. The romantic sequences, for me, make this movie what it is.

However, for a movie to progress, there must be conflicts, which comes in the form of Revathi, Manu’s widowed mother, a strong woman who has faced the world bravely and raised her family alone and well after her huge personal loss. An amicable and kind hearted woman and revered and respected by her son and her aged mother. Unaware of her son’s new found love, she proceeds with a marriage proposal for him with a well-to-do friend’s daughter, which is disastrous news to both Balamani and Manu and also to Revathi herself when she comes to know of her son’s wishes and hopes.

Manu is more than visibly upset and Balamani is heartbroken and cries for help to her Krishna who remains impassive. The only solace she gets is from her neighbour’s son who is an optimist and tries to make her believe that the arranged marriage will not go through. He laughs at her but manages to cheer her up, and Balamani returns to a calmer state of mind, prepared for the worst with the calm that comes with resignation and the loss of hope.

Our lives are mostly ordinary with not all that much scope for drama. Wishes that go unfulfilled are mostly due to our own unwillingness to make a decision, to take a stand, to face some unpleasant comments, and we end up consoling ourselves that everything is for the best. Both Revathi and Unni Amma realize that to separate Balamani and Manu would be the ruin of their young lives, but unable to bear the burden of facing their malicious sharp tongued relatives, they bow to social pressure. Well, until the very end, when Unni Amma puts her foot down and gets the young couple married. It is interesting that despite Revathi being a strong woman who has faced the world alone, it is her mother who has the innate strength to face taunts about family ties,  status and prestige

Balamani rushes to meet her friend, the neighbour’s son, to give him the happy news. She sees a stranger there, felicitating her and Manu and to her shock discovers that the man is the actual neighbour’s son. In disbelief, she searches for her friend until the truth dawns on her. She drags Manu to the Guruvayoor temple which is sealed off to the general public because of a VIP visit (sigh) and desperately tries to get a glimpse of the lord. Finally the couple give up, close their eyes and silently pray. Manu, after a loving glance at his Balamani turns back and starts to go out of the temple, and Balamani follows suit. But something compels her to steal a last glance at the temple, when she sees her friend, smilingly waving at her and disappearing into the temple. The film ends with a teary Balamani telling Manu “Nyaan kandu, nyaan maathrame kandu”.

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