One hundred and forty-five minutes are over and as I watch the end titles scroll on a mostly red screen, I am too tired to even ask the question, why. Why would anyone make a film like this and call it ‘love’ when all I could think was somebody up there hates me and everyone who had to sit through it on a Valentine’s Day. But Omar Lulu, the director, calls it Oru Adaar Love – one hell of a love story.
Omar knew there’d be an audience for the first show, the hype had been that much, ever since a girl’s wink had caught on like wildfire, fans and followers coming for a young woman before her first movie had even released. And sure enough, Omar appears to have edited one of the first scenes to introduce his lucky charm, Priya Varier, and her kohl-lined pair of eyes. With her, the boy who had received that famous wink and responds with his lifting of brow after brow, Roshan Abdul Rahoof. It is a new school year but it seems like college the way Class 11 and 12 is split into juniors and seniors and the ‘chettanmar’ rag the newcomers. It also seems like all the students who studied up to Class 10 in that school have disappeared and it is all a new bunch, coming newly to the school and making friends.
Roshan plays Roshan and Priya plays Priya in the film. The other characters are immediately introduced. Curly-haired Noorin Shereef plays the boys’ best friend Gadha. There is the mandatory gang of boys, including a plump one who has a crush on a girl wearing head scarf and walks slowly into that famous song ‘Manikya Malaraya’ (Shaan Rahman’s nice music wasted here) that made the wink and the brow so viral. There is also a really slim ‘Manavalan’ in the gang who has the inevitable crush on the teacher – played by Roshna Ann Roy. If at all you want to spot one credit for the movie, it is that these young people have all performed well – only that their characters and lines are so badly written that their performances are sadly wasted.
The film appears to be Omar Lulu’s way of saying that the “wrongs” that men do are not really all that wrong, but that there are justifications. So Roshan, at whom Priya winks, can safely assume she likes him and go ahead and kiss her, and it is not wrong at all. And because it is the way the script wants it, Priya would of course not react angrily to it. While it may be the most natural thing for two young people to kiss, what is wrong here is not the kiss itself but what leads to it – such as “I know you winked at me because you love me.”
From there, you stop trying to find logic in anything that’s said or enacted. Instead you get annoyed at the way the director continuously tries to “right the wrongs”. A bunch of porn photos gets shared on the class WhatsApp group “accidentally” and the principal suspends a boy for it. The next scene has a policeman (Siddique) rebuking the principal for suspending kids for something "so silly", suggesting that what makes a good teacher is a big mind that brushes off such small mischiefs. You are immediately reminded of the whole controversy involving the director who was found to be part of a Facebook group that had made racist, casteist and misogynist remarks on everyone from the late Kalabhavan Mani to the brutally killed tribal youth Madhu, and women. Omar himself was found making snide remarks on women actors he has worked with.
The misogyny does not even try to hide behind any “larger” story as it happens in some movies. It is all very crude – the boy who walks up to the girl who has just broken up with him and says ‘podi pulle’ (profanity), the boy who slaps the girl when she questions something – all glorified misogyny, all getting claps from the mostly male audience it was intended for.
It is after the interval that Omar perhaps remembered that the story can’t be just about the schooldays, the “relationships” – if you want to call it that, the friendships and the comical teachers (Aneesh G Menon, Althaf Salim, Hareesh Kanaran and others). So he brings in a couple of villainous characters – the crude looking ones who harass women – oh, not at all cliched! But while he might have been able to keep his predictable bunch of fans happy, even they would cringe at the totally senseless climax.
One can only hope that these young people who had to make their debut through this movie will find greener pastures ahead of them, and be saved from the terrible pits they have fallen into.