Everything about Premam is musical and full of grace, from the fluttering butterflies, men with swag in veshtis and lush beards to the decadent red velvet cake. The year 2015 marked the release of Alphonse Puthren’s Premam, and the Nivin Pauly-starrer became popular, not just in Kerala but also in Tamil Nadu (it ran for more than 250 days!), Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, running for several months.
Produced by Anwar Rasheed on a budget of Rs 4 crore, Premam went on to collect almost Rs 60 crores at the Kerala box office. Premam was the highest grossing Malayalam film of 2015.
Five years later, the film continues to make people smile. The blockbuster introduced a new generation of actors and technicians, but also a new storytelling technique where the camera lingered on, and nostalgia washed over the screen. The film is a musical journey through the life of a teenager from boyhood to adulthood, and, eventually, marriage. The film tracks his crushes, his first love, friends, and ups and downs in life before a lady eating the said red velvet cake enters the picture.
These things sound normal. So, what makes Premam special? Is it Nivin Pauly’s portrayal of George, with his precisely-crafted look, a dark shirt, white mundu (veshti), black sunglasses and beard, which became all the rage among the college-going crowd of Kerala? Is it Sai Pallavi’s Malar, the oh-so-lovely teacher who was grace personified on screen? Anupama Parameshwaram’s Mary George, the innocent first crush? Or, Madonna Sebastian as the cool, confident Celine, who finally ends up with George?
All of the above, and then the special magic that washes over some movies. Traditionally, in a multi-heroine project, the importance of all the actresses shrinks. But, in Premam, each one shone, and received the importance that the story arc demanded. Their characters were realistically written and each of them emerged as a woman with a personality of her own.
Following the film’s unimaginable success, Nivin Pauly shot to fame as Kerala’s emerging superstar. Though he was known as a youngster with potential, Premam laid out the red carpet for him. The music by Rajesh Murugesan helped too. The album had nine chart-toppers, and the music went on to bag all major Malayalam film awards that year. The dreamy Malare has over 50 million views and counting on YouTube. The song, sung by Vijay Yesudas, was penned by actor Shabareesh Varma (Shambu), and gifted Vijay a whole lot of awards.
Now, for the special something that made Premam work the way it did, and continues to. It does not make excuses for the behaviour of its characters. It gently lets you know that irrespective of language or culture, love conquers all. It celebrates friendship; tells you that if you had friends such as Shambu and Koya, you could be George and overcome anything.
Premam also showed us something else very important on screen. That you can rejoice and tear up in love, even if were never to work out, hold your chin up and handle what life gives you. It also showed us that a sari-clad lecturer could dance the kuthu like she owned the floor. And yes, it was also a tutorial on eating red velvet cake.