Director Lal Jose’s Nee-Na is centered around two contrasting women – Neena and Nalini, who desire the same man.Several recent Malayalam releases – Chandrettan Evideya and Dolphins – dealt with a similar theme. But what makes Nee-Na stand apart is the characterisation of Neena, a tomboy – all smarts and style – who lives life on her own terms. The first half of the movie cheers Neena on for her tomboyishness; her overt lack of feminity is celebrated; unlike how Lal Jose’s Chanthupottu ridiculed Dileep for his effeminate nature.
On top of everything that she is, Neena is an alcoholic. Most of the second half of the film focuses on how she reclaims her life from alcohol. And in the last few minutes, the film unsuccessfully tries to establish itself as a soulful, eternal love story.
Nalini (Ann Augustine) and Vinay (Vijay Babu) are happily married. They have a son, Akhil. Vinay’s job takes them from Mumbai to Kochi, where he meets Neena (Deepthi Sathi), a creative director at his advertising company. Even before Neena’s leggy figure appears on screen, we get a vivid picture of her character, thanks to a gossipy conversation between Vinay and his new subordinates at the office. Neena is an alcoholic genius who respects nobody. And when she finally arrives on screen, all you see is a young girl who looks like a super-model and talks like a child. Drunk like a fish (she plunges into water), she readily accepts Vinay’s hand when he offers one. Where is the brashness we were told about?
Nalini, on the other hand, is an orthodox woman who tries to her best to be a perfect wife. Her character is structured as a perfect foil tothat of Neena. Her gentleness to Neena’s chutzpah; Her maturity to Neena’s impulsiveness; Her saree-claden figure to Neena’s tomboyish demeanour.
Neena’s best friend is a goon Jaljo (Chemban Vinod) who is nicknamed as Kari Oil (crude oil) for his complexion; and Nalini’s confidante is Nancy, who she visits salons with. Their most intimate conversations happen over spa sessions.
Nee-Na has several portions that belie reason. What makes Neena hate herself and her parents with such intensity? Why does she think it’s easier to live like a male? The sequences from her childhood don’t give a logical explanation.
Neena’s colleagues and clients, mostly men, envy her in secret, and some of them find themselves drawn towards her. Everyone agrees on her attractiveness; and it is hard to believe why Vinay, an ordinary family guy, is the first man in Neena’s life. And meanwhile, the relationship between Vinay and Nalini looks cold, thanks to the lifeless, textbook lines that Nalini mouths.
There are clichéd moments aplenty; lazy writing that relies too much on coincidences. Like how quickly Vinay pulls out a guitar from nowhere and sings a lullaby to comfort a hurting Neena. Like how many inmates at the rehab Neena finds herself in are youngsters sporting long hair (Like Kerala’s infamous ‘freakerz’); like how one of them is a guitar-strumming former rockstar. And how, just when Nalini is starting to worry about Vinay’s relationship with Neena, her maid enters and start crying about her husband’s illicit relationship.
Strangely enough, the interior of the government hospital in small-town Madikeri, where Neena is admitted into, resembles that of a plush private hospital.
*****Deepthi Sathi, a former Miss Kerala, has delivered a fine performance as Neena. But poor dialogue dubbing reduces much of the impact of her performance. Ann Augustine as Nalini is equally impressive. Vijay Babu has grown into a brilliant character actor; and another actor who makes a mark is Vinu Mohan, who, as Re-life Sunny Kutty, breathes life into a dull second half.
Nikhil J Menon’s music is fresh and very un-Lal Jose-isque. A special shout out to the soulful ‘I remember you’, sung by Shakthisree Gopalan, beautifully picturised by cinematographer Jomon T John.
What mars Nee-Na is the writing. The unrealistic dialogues penned by R Venugopal ; and a confuseds screenplay. And that is primarly why Nee-Na lacks the authenticity that characterized Lal Jose’s past films like Classmates and Meesa Madhavan.
The Nee-Na review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.