In the 1989 film Vadakkunokkiyanthram, Dineshan is an insecure man who perpetually suspects his beautiful wife Shobha of infidelity. He is dark-skinned and short, unable to believe that Shobha can actually love him for who he is. By plotting his increasing absurdity, descent into complete mayhem and the effect this has on his family, the 1989 film painted a very convincing portrait of marital discord while managing to be entertaining all through.
Love Action Drama comes 30 years later, written and directed by Dhyan Sreenivasan, the son of the man who created Vadakkunokkiyanthram and also played its unflattering lead role. This too, is a story about Dineshan and Shoba, played by Nivin Pauly and Nayanthara respectively. And here too, Dineshan is riddled with insecurities but of the First World kind. He has too much money to throw around and too little intellect. All he does is drink, drink some more and squabble with his best friend Sagar (Aju Varghese).
Shobha gets an upgrade from the 1989 film â€“ sheâ€™s supposedly a feminist who runs several unspecified businesses and a charity. Nayanthara looks lovely and gets some in-jokes that justify her superstar status. When she speaks in Tamil to Renji Panickerâ€™s character, he asks her if she has forgotten her mother tongue Malayalam â€“ an allusion to the actorâ€™s foray into Tamil and Telugu industries, with her doing only the rare Malayalam film. Several lines in LAD, in fact, are in Tamil, perhaps to ensure that it does well in both states.
The first half is fairly entertaining, with Dineshan and Sagar performing Dumb and Dumber. After playing two larger than life characters in Kayamkulam Kochunni and Mikhael, Nivin is back to doing what he does best â€“ put on that beard and turn on the charm. Dineshan is a certified ass and Nivin does not pull back from underlining this. Whatâ€™s surprising though is that Shobha falls for him. The script doesnâ€™t think it necessary to provide any reason for this. All he does is make her cry but Shobhaâ€™s No.1 and only justification for wanting this man-child is â€śAvan enna paathupaanâ€ť. Maybe when the film identified her as a feminist, they actually meant masochist?
Conflicts are thrown into the script and deflated without a sufficient build-up. Itâ€™s a rinse repeat routine of Dineshan messing up, Shobha weeping, and Dineshan and Sagar drinking alcohol and abusing Shobha and the whole of womankind. Thereâ€™s also time for a few homophobic jokes while theyâ€™re at it, and a few peppy songs from Shaan Rahman. It gets old quickly and you keep waiting for something to happen. Maybe Dineshan will lose all his money; maybe Shobha is a gold-digger after all; maybe someone will get an exotic disease, preferably Sagar. But LAD is like a stuck record, playing the one line story of the film over and over again.
Whenever Dhyan runs out of ideas, he borrows from Premam, Nivinâ€™s phenomenal blockbuster. The dĂ©jĂ vu may bring cheers from the audience but it does little to improve LAD. The film begins with Dineshan repeatedly stabbing Shobhaâ€™s photograph, cutefies his toxic behaviour all through (heâ€™s the boyfriend from Uyare but we're meant to think he's nice) and then forces a happy ending upon the audience with a cheesy explanation that marriage is about two imperfect people coming together.
30 years earlier, Vadakkunokkiyanthram had Shobha returning to her â€śreformedâ€ť husband, but the film ended on a note that suggested that Dineshan still hadnâ€™t changed. In the year 2019, youâ€™d think Shobha would have more options but LAD will have you believe otherwise. Dineshan even tells her that sheâ€™s partly to be blamed for the conflicts between them becauseâ€¦she stood up for a friend who was in a violent marriage. Yay.
Thereâ€™s not much of love, action or drama in LAD. But Shobha can be assured of dealing with Dineshanâ€™s Liver problems, Acidity, and Diabetes in the coming years.
Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.