While it's magical to see the '90s stars share screen space with the younger duo of Dulquer and Kalyani, the script doesn't quite keep up.

Flix Review Friday, February 14, 2020 - 17:19
Timepass

Watching Shobana busily chop a carrot on the kitchen counter, sit at the edge of an autorickshaw and glance carelessly at the sky or simply look hurt, you realise how much you have missed watching the actor on screen. Director Anoop Sathyan’s debut film brings a lot of expected nostalgia with it. With three stars of the 1990s – Shobana, Suresh Gopi and Urvashi -- casually walking in and out of the scenes like they never left Malayalam cinema for years on stretch. But while the film tries to bring back the old world charm that Malayalam movie lovers keep lamenting about, it forgot a key ingredient – a script that could match the charm.

The basics are almost right. It is a simple enough tale surrounding a handful of people who could slowly become dear to you in the gap of two hours. An apartment building in Chennai is where they all come together. Carrot-chopping, French-speaking Neena (Shobana) and her bank-working daughter Nikki, very keen to arrange a marriage for herself (Kalyani Priyadarshan), are in one apartment. Newly moving into the lower floor are hair-falling-on-forehead Bipish K aka Fraud (Dulquer Salmaan) and his much younger brother Karthik fighting each other like 12-year-olds (which one of them is), and their older kin Akashavani (KPAC Lalitha). Another man who's newly moved in is a former army major who has an anger problem (Suresh Gopi, who else).

On the surface, it is a charming setup that you think you can relax in your chair and watch in peace. But the writing loses the smoothness you assume it would have from the very first scenes. Forced humour, lines that seldom fail to connect or touch, back-stories lacking depth all shake the script too much for it to be a joy ride. What's also a little disappointing is to not hear Shobana’s speak her lines and the film relying on the familiar voice of Bhagyalakshmi who has often dubbed for the actor in the past.

Suresh Gopi is a surprise. The actor appears to have heavily toned down his usually loud and sharp dialogue delivery to suit the character of the army man who is shy of women. Kalyani, making her debut in Malayalam, easily carries off her role as the young woman who is obsessed with arranging her marriage and not falling in love. Interestingly, she is the more conventional one between the mother and daughter. Neena, the mother, is described as a romantic who had fallen in love several times before her marriage that ended in a divorce. Nikki looks down on romance and when someone asks her about it, she says it is not for her, “I am decent.” The exchanges between mother and daughter are not too many but in the few heart-to-hearts, they don’t appear to be a really close pair like Urvashi and Meera Jasmine did in Achuvinte Amma, incidentally a movie made by Anoop’s filmmaker dad Sathyan Anthikad.  

Urvashi has a shorter role in the film. A salwar-wearing rich-looking dentist, who is the mother of a man from whom Nikki has a proposal. The actor, who appears on and off in Malayalam cinema, has been throwing one surprise after another, proving she can handle humour as well as do a serious character, or like in this film, a practical woman who can be awfully loving. With so many actors on board, the screen time among them is neatly divided, so you don’t think any single person hogs the screen. Dulquer perhaps gets the least of the screen time and the actor appreciably does his little part well and lets the seniors take over. It would have been nice, however, to see the various combinations work on screen – more of Dulquer-Suresh Gopi exchanges or Shobana-Dulquer scenes, more of Kalyani-Suresh Gopi scenes.

Johny Antony provides the comic relief and Major Ravi plays the role of an army man’s friend. All the elements are there for a soothing film which will not suddenly throw any nasty surprises on you or shake you out of your chair. Even the songs – by Alphons Joseph – pass by unobtrusively. If only the writing had been better and the actors offered better lines and deeper roles to play, Varane Avashyamundu would have become that movie you could relax and watch in peace without finding fault. 

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.