Tovino Thomas’ Nadikar is an elaborate acting class on staying grounded

Tovino Thomas’ Nadikar is an elaborate acting class on staying grounded

Bhavana is a breath of fresh air, handling her bit like a pro and coolly pulling off the female star persona who is in tune with the times.
Nadikar (Malayalam)(2 / 5)

Walking up to a middle-aged man sitting at a bar counter, superstar David Padikkal has to show on his face all the suppressed emotion of a man meeting his long lost father. This is a shot that Tovino Thomas, as David, has to enact twice in Nadikar – at the beginning and climax of the film. The transformation that David, introduced as a superstar who is going through a series of flops, undergoes between these two shots is what Jean Paul Lal or Lal Jr’s Nadikar is about. Only, one is at a loss to understand what exactly changed. The transformation, as the movie tries to say, must have happened within. For in short, without risking spoilers, you can say the film is an elaborate acting class that also includes lessons on staying grounded and being human.

This is a nice bit of advice given by Soubin Shahir’s character, an acting coach not remotely reminiscent of Jagathy Sreekumar’s Pachalam Bhasi in Udayananu Tharam, but still brings to mind the role. Ironically the film does not always seem to follow its own advice. There are several shots of directors and others within the film calling a performance overdone or underdone, bluntly humiliating actors. Yet, there is no one to call ‘cuts’ when Nadikar’s own script slips, the performances turn – to use the lingo of the times – cringy, and the background music all but swallows the lines in sync sound.

There is a nice touch in the opening credits of the film when the title cards flash by the screen with the font and music of bygone times, each new pattern a nod to the changing ways of cinema. A byte of yesteryear superstar Prem Nazir, talking about the struggle and hard work in becoming a superstar, is also a sweet intro into what the film is about. Unfortunately the script fails to capture the essence of it all, David’s journey embedded with a weak back story and often disconnected life-moments. We are not given a reason for his rise or fall, except that all the fame must have gone to his head and that had cost him everything. 

Suvin S Somasekharan’s script turns preachy by the minute and David’s private life becomes the stereotype of textbook stardom – binge drinking, random hook-ups, and drugs. Bhavana plays the part of a colleague he had success with, and with whom he had a history, but there aren't many scenes for the two together. She has little to do other than aid David’s character but is still a breath of fresh air, handling her bit like a pro and coolly pulling off the female star persona who is in tune with the times. 

It is interesting that the film appears to look critically at the practices of new-age filmmaking, having Soubin’s character ridicule the unequal treatments in the set and with Nazir’s byte about how a superstar should behave grounded. But in the middle of sending the message across, the script misses having a solid ground to connect to the audience with. David’s character, that the whole script centres around, lacks depth, even though some effort has been spent in building it. The rhythmic music accompanying his early scenes – work of composers Yakzan and Neha – adds a nice touch to his reckless ways. His little coterie is also carefully cast – Lenin (Balu Varghese) and Paily (Suresh Krishna) are always there in good and bad times. Suresh Krishna proves once again that he can adapt pretty well to comedy, after his hilarious act in Thrishanku

The film has some parallels with the recently released Varshangalkku Shesham, in which too we briefly watch a film within a film, and the viewer is gently prompted to appreciate the older ways of filmmaking. If Dhyan Sreenivasan from Varshangalkku Shesham met Koshy (a senior director) in Nadikar, he would have told him about the impropriety of insulting an actor in public. Incidentally Dhyan in Nadikar too plays a director, tired of a superstar’s ego. Both films have a superstar going through flops and trying to regain success. Maybe this is a common fear that actors have. But making a preachy film about it is definitely not the way out. If Nadikar was not trying so hard to play the role of a school principal chiding the students on what they are doing wrong, it might have been a fun film.

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 producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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