From 'Oru Adaar Love' to 'June', Malayalam cinema is going back to school

While the characters in some films have beautifully stepped into the shoes and robes of a teenager, some others have messed up royally.
From 'Oru Adaar Love' to 'June', Malayalam cinema is going back to school
From 'Oru Adaar Love' to 'June', Malayalam cinema is going back to school
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School uniforms, first crushes, cute romances, friends, fights, promises of a future – become ingredients, mixed and matched and tried and tested, for coming of age films. Now and then. But that’s never been a problem, novelty doesn't have to come with the ingredients – it can come with how the stories are told. Some films have managed to do that beautifully, stepping into the shoes and robes of a teenager, some others have messed up royally, making their world of new adulthood a sad mimicry of the grownups'.

In Malayalam, coming of age movies have come and gone through the decades – Daisy and Deshadanakili Karayarilla of the 1980s, Aranyakam and Nakakshathangal of the same period, Ennu Swantham Janakikutty of the 1990s, Notebook of the 2000s, Om Shanthi Oshana more recently have been some of the memorable ones.

Out of the blue, however, filmmakers and writers appear to have struck on the idea of going back to school stories, all at the same time. In recent months, at least four movies have come out with teens at the centre of their stories.

Oru Adaaar Love: The movie, directed by Omar Lulu, was a flop, but a much celebrated one way before its release, because of a wink and a song that went viral. Priya Prakash Varrier may have lured a bunch of wink-lovers to the theatre, but the movie itself failed miserably to keep them interested. It showed a school alright, and girls and boys walking to their new classes after summer. But the actions or the lines spoken by the young characters were silly, problematic, misogynistic (in case problematic doesn’t convey it), and absolutely cringey. This included a forced intimate kiss, slapping a girl, sending porn being justified as schoolboy stuff and every other line spoken by the characters.

June: Not entirely shot in school but it forms a good chunk of the film. It was, at the time of its release, a wonder that three men (Libin Varghese, Ahammed Khabeer – director too, Jeevan Baby Mathew) could write this story of a schoolgirl, on the verge of adulthood - how she thinks, how she acts and reacts. They have got it so very right. Rajisha Vijayan became the girl most women were at one point in their life – full of spirit, feelings, confusions – easily breakable and mendable.

Pathinettam Padi: The movie came with some promise, with Shanker Ramakrishnan, the writer of Urumi and Netholi Oru Cheriya Meenalla, directing it. It had some novelty in its subject – with an extra ingredient that we haven’t mentioned in the introduction of this article  – school rivalry. People of Thiruvananthapuram could relate to the schools featured here, the rich kids’ one and the average Joe’s government model. But the lines were often pretentious and the actions not relatable, so much so that you miss the voice of an actual teen behind any one of the many characters at the centre of the film.

Thanneer Mathan Dinangal: This is another film where you feel sure the director (Girish AD) and the writer (Girish and Dijoy Paulose) would have overheard many teenage conversations and put them down on paper. The lines exchanged between the kids are that original. Mathew and Anaswara, and all the new actors playing Mathew’s friends, are just wonderful, being their own selves, playing their own age in the film about the most common incidents of anyone’s school life – told beautifully.

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