Neeraja, the new Malayalam film from Rajesh K Raman, has noble intentions for sure, and it bravely addresses a theme that most creative people ignore due to the moralistic grey shade in that topic. But the Shruti Ramachandran starrer feels more like a lecture with loud characters. The discourse about the sexual desire of a woman is essential considering the times we live in. But it remains basic here, and the excessive melodrama somewhere stands as a roadblock in empathizing with the central character.
Neeraja works in an IT firm, and she was married to Alex, who died 2 years ago in an accident. Their love story was so deep that even after two years, Neeraja was emotionally attached to Alex, and she even kept their living room the way Alex would have maintained it. The mental block that restricts her from moving on and her physical needs start to put her in a morally conflicted space. What we see in the film is this emotionally testing phase of Neeraja.
The idea of true love, loyalty, etc., in a relationship, are closely intertwined with physical relationships in our society. That thought is so deeply engraved in our minds that some women even feel guilty for having sexual desires. Rajesh K Raman wants to shed light on this stigma that has been created by years of conditioning. But the writing doesn’t have the finesse to present it with grace. When Neeraja decides to try a dating app, or later when she decides to go for the direct approach, the writing seems more confused and less researched than the character. The pertinence of the topic and the cheesiness of certain dialogues do not complement each other.
Shruti Ramachandran uses her expressive eyes very extensively to show the various emotional states of Neeraja. The dialogues written by the director are occasionally stiff and overtly theatrical. But Shruti was able to cover it up to an extent. Jinu Joseph, as Arun, gets a character who is confusing to understand. First, they show him as an uninterested persona. Then he gets this shade of an opportunist. Then his old-school morality is exposed, and eventually, he gets the wake-up call. More than Jinu’s performance, the writing struggled to establish that character’s transition. The sluggishness in his dialogue delivery was also a bit of a problem in certain areas. Govind Padmasoorya has this extended cameo-like role as Neeraja’s late husband. Hridayam fame Kalesh Ramanand has a very small role in the film. Srindaa has an important role in the movie, but again the writing is so sloppy that it is hard to feel bad for that character. Having Guru Somasundaram in some capacity seems like a ritual in Malayalam cinema these days.
Rajesh K Raman, who has previously written movies like Shakespeare MA Malayalam and Saaradhi, opts for a more sensitive and serious subject for his debut directorial. But when it comes to writing, he is confused about which audience category to cater to. Most of the time, it goes way too basic, and he exaggerates characters way too much. The characters played by Srindaa and Santosh Keezhattoor are examples of such overdoing. Even the realization part that happens in the climax is vague and somewhat restrained by morality concepts.
Neeraja has clarity about what it wants to address. But in addressing the audience, it is kind of all over the place. Subtlety and empathy would have been two features that would have added life to this story. But by being overtly philosophical and creating certain characters that are borderline caricatures, Neeraja ends up being one of those movies that use the theme as an excuse for lack of craft.
But by being overtly philosophical and creating certain characters that are borderline caricatures, Neeraja ends up being one of those movies that use the theme as an excuse for lack of craft.
Green: Recommended Content
Orange: The In-Between Ones
Red: Not Recommended