There are a fair few virtues one can ascribe to director Priyadarshan; but subtlety is not one of them. Which is why it’s a bit of a letdown for Tamil audiences that the veteran comedy director takes the helm on the remake of a film as delicately endearing as Maheshinte Prathikaram. The result is Nimir, starring Udayanidhi Stalin, which tries faithfully to capture the magic of the Malayalam original, but clumsily falls short.
For those who came in late, Maheshinte Prathikaram deliciously overturned the standard revenge drama with the lesson that despite all the slights and hurts we gather, life still does go on. At the heart of the story is the humiliating beating that a small-town photographer suffers. He vows that he will not wear slippers again until he has returned an equal beating to his aggressor. Around this small incident run stories of love, laughter and tears involving a diverse set of wonderfully written characters. Walking a fine line, director Dileesh Pothan took a gently mocking look at the daily dramas that absorb us completely, but have little impact on the world around us. In the process, he also showed us the beauty and grace of everyday life in small-town Idukki.
It’s clear that Priyadarshan recognises the winning formula he has on hand, that he simply has to reproduce. But from the opening scenes, it is clearly visible that the director can’t resist trying to bring in some big screen drama. So, while both movies start with similar sequences of the protagonist bathing in the river, Priyadarshan can’t resist giving us a hero shot of Udayanidhi heroically raising his slippers out of the river (Yes, the scene is as incongruous as it sounds!). And while the Malayalam film then slips into a gentle ode to the beauty of Idukki, Nimir’s opening song turns into a bit of an item number with a group of midriff-bearing women dancers.
Time and again, Priyadarshan struggles with this problem of overplaying his hand. So sometimes characters speak four dialogues where they might have said more with just one. Or, as in a crucial scene where Udayanidhi clicks a photograph of Namitha Pramod, both actors leap about and ruin the simple effect that the original created with stillness and subtle gestures. And there are many moments when the camera gets too close to the protagonists’ faces, when it might have given us more by capturing the scene quietly from the background.
The most spectacular failure comes in the last scene, a typically Priyadarshan addition that plays out the familiar trope of the henpecked husband beset by a dominant wife. Rarely has a scene more unashamedly played to the gallery, and stuck out so badly in a film. Much of this is not the fault of the cast. Indeed, Udayanidhi is appreciably more measured in his performance than expected, though he lacks that impish charm that makes Fahadh Faasil so loveable in the original.
The rest of the cast are not slackers either. From MS Bhaskar and Karunakaran as Udayanidhi’s constant companions in the tale to Mahendran as his father and Parvatii Nair and Namitha Pramod as the female leads, everyone delivers. But there is still the feeling of something lacking.
The heart of the problem is that Nimir fails to understand that it is precisely the lack of drama that makes Maheshinte Prathikaram such a rousing success. So, ironically, every attempt to give this small and modest tale filled with the lightness of being a big screen turn actually deflates it further. If this is the first time you’re seeing this story unfold on screen, Nimir will definitely strike a chord or two. But for a truly great cinematic experience, it’s best to stick to the original.
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.