When Malayalam cinema got shifted from rural to urban stories there was a repetitive feel to most of the stories set in the village backdrop. There were textures and nuances in all those vintage movies which made us love the characters and landscapes. Premasoothram directed by Jiju Ashokan who made an impression with the movie Urumbukal Urangarilla gives me a hope that this director could well bring back that vintage feel in his movies. Having said that, Premasoothram is a movie far from perfect.
The story is set in the radio era. Preman was madly in love with his classmate Ammu from 5th standard onwards. Panchayat President’s son Suku was also behind her. As they all grew up, this love also grew and along with that grew the hatred between Preman and Suku. During their 10th standard, a man whom they called VKP came to the village and he was an expert in reading the minds of women. The movie Premasoothram tells us what happens to the love story of Preman after the arrival of VKP.
I liked the milieu of this story. The village and the characters are well etched out. Even the character arcs have that engaging factor to keep us invested in the movie. The problem is with the politics of the movie. The contradictions the movie has with its own statements will make you wonder about what exactly is the side of the film maker. Jiju Ashokan is praising love at one time and then lust gets glorified. At one point the movie is telling us that the life of women is miserable and they are the brave ones and after a few scenes Jiju Ashokan shows us the opportunist in them. All these contradictions along with the Kamadeva philosophy and love worshipping make the movie a bit of a confusing experience. . The clash is similar to how some people call stalking as persistence and vice versa.
From small comparisons made in the dialogues to the way each character has been constructed, Jiju Ashokan does impress you with the kind of detailing and nuances he adds to the story. His making is a bit old school and this time he includes the fantasy factor in to the narrative. It does keep you occupied with the film by making you curious about how it will all culminate. But the ultimate culmination becomes a guessable one without the desired level of conviction. VKP’s final definition of love makes us wonder why he never told Preman about that in the first instance. Even if the intention was to make him learn something, this much of elaboration feels unnecessary. The cinematography captures the beauty of village with simplicity. Gopi Sunder impresses us with his tunes.
Chemban Vinod Jose has the grace to be the doctor love VKP of Premasoothram. He delivers his lines with utmost conviction and confidence to make us believe what VKP says about love. Balu Varghese plays the role of the desperate Prakashan neatly. I don’t know the name of the actor who portrayed the role of Prakashan’s friend in the movie, but he was indeed a good choice. Vishnu Govindan might have got a role that could get him better characters in the future. Lijo Mol was fine as Ammukkutti. Vettukili Prakash, Bitto Davis, Anu Mol, Dharmajan, Chetan, Vijilesh, Sreejith Ravi, Sudheer Karamana etc. are also there in small roles.
It’s interesting how less importance is there for female characters in a movie about love. The folklore type nature of the story of Premasoothram still has the scope to have multiple interpretations about characters. But I don’t think the feel it finally imparts about romance is that eternal.
The folklore type nature of the story of Premasoothram still has the scope to have multiple interpretations about characters.