Shyamaprasad's Hey Jude is a sweet romance between a man who cannot understand emotions and a woman who swings between the extremes of them. I dread going for films where the characters are described as "oddball" because many a time, the filmmaker gets so carried away with establishing the "weirdness" that that's all the story becomes about. But that's why I liked Hey Jude – it isn't interested in turning the characters' oddities as a crutch, it makes us look beyond the eccentricities, to see them as regular people.
Nivin Pauly plays Jude, a young man with a neurological condition (if you're a Lisbeth Salander fan, you'd make the diagnosis within minutes) that makes him...well, strange. He's very particular about the crispiness of his dosa, just how much his bread must be toasted and hugs a giant Nemo stuffed toy when he's upset.
We've seen Fahadh Faasil play a role similar to this in North 24 Kaatham and comparisons are inevitable. However, the two films are different in what they want to achieve. While Fahadh's Harikrishnan goes on a journey that helps him loosen up so as to speak, Jude's "journey" is about accepting that he's different and most importantly, getting the people around him to acknowledge this.
Jude is a sea away from the swashbuckling characters Nivin has played in the past (kudos to the make-up artist and stylist). As the overweight, vulnerable Jude who is stymied by the world around him, the actor manages to amuse us while drawing empathy. He's the sort of guy who mentally calculates the BMI of a woman and declares, "Yes, you're fat", when she's asking him the dreaded, "Do you think I'm fat?" question.
Trisha, as Crystal, comes as a revelation. Here's an actor who's mostly done "mass" mainstream films where she's been relegated to dancing with the hero. The few opportunities she has had to break away from formula films, she has delivered. But never has she been as convincing as she is in Hey Jude.
Crystal, at first glance, appears to be one of those angelic women characters who emotionally rescue the damaged man, but there's more to her. It took me a while to get used to her new voice (dubbing by Sayanora Philip) but once that's settled, Trisha pulls off a very believable and likable Crystal.
The bond between Jude and Crystal veers from little adorable moments to darker inner struggles – the staging of these scenes is done organically, without losing the lightness in tone (and the tone is unexpected in a Shyamaprasad film). The scene when Crystal tells Jude that he has nice eyes, for instance, has both actors at the top of their game. The shy blush that spreads on Jude's face and the bemused expression that Crystal wears can put a smile on the most cynical of us.
The supporting cast – Siddique, Neena Kurup, Vijay Menon – is excellent. Vijay Menon as Dr Sebastian, especially, is a joy to watch. The battles between Siddique, who plays Jude's money-minded father, and his son, are hilarious. The former characterises all mental health issues as either "vattu" (madness) or "madi" (laziness) – so typical of Indian parents – and yet, the director manages to make us understand him without giving us an unrealistic change of heart. Aju Varghese appears in a lone scene and manages to make us howl with laughter.
Much of the film is set in Goa. The languid pace in which the plot progresses might bother some but as a regular on Goa's sublime beaches, I liked the unhurried way in which Shyamaprasad tells his little story. Girish Gangadharan's camera captures Goa, the long stretches of the coast and the city, and turns the place into a quiet character in the film. When Jude enters and leaves Goa, or is exploring the city, the camera zooms out and shows us a panoramic view, breaking the narrative into episodes and plotting Jude's personal growth.
There's a lot of music and singing in Hey Jude. The title itself comes from a Beatles song and the cafe Crystal runs, called 'The Beatles' cafe, has a band which plays songs regularly. The music, however, blends in and doesn't come in the way of getting on with the story.
Hey Jude is a pleasant, well-told story that brings us closer to understanding differences, across the universe, without the tone ever turning preachy. What's not to like?
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film's producers or any other members of its cast and crew.