Director: Ajoy Varma
Cast: Mohanlal, Nadia Moidu, Suraj Venjarammood
Music: Stephen Devassy
In Ajoy Varma’s Neerali, Sunny (Mohanlal), a senior gemologist working for a high-profile Bengaluru company, has to travel to Kozhikode to be with his heavily pregnant wife, who is already in hospital and about to deliver. Anyone of his social stature would naturally opt for a flight, but guess what our man does – he hops into an old pickup that is carrying some furniture to Kerala, and sets out on an eight-hour drive through a forest route, laden with risks.
The film, a survival drama, bases its premise on this whimsical choice of the protagonist. On route, the pickup meets with an accident, ending up precariously on the edge of a cliff, far away from human contact. Having lost their cellphones, Sunny and his driver, Veerappa (Suraj Venjarammood) have no means to communicate their plight to the world. Veerappa becomes unconscious, and Sunny has to start making efforts to get out alive. Death isn’t really far away – a tiny movement could result in them falling into the abyss.
To complicate the situation a little more, the film uses another irrational choice. We come to know that Sunny’s boss, the founder of the gem company, has entrusted Veerappa – a cash-strapped man – with Rs 5-crore worth of gems in a little box to be taken to a store in Kerala. A group of goons (led by Dileesh Pothan whose presence in the film could only be explained by a hefty paycheck) are after the box.
The basic premise is rather tense, but bad writing and directionless narration ensure that you don’t feel the stress even slightly. The film crisscrosses between the cliff-hanging present to several scenes from the duo’s journey from Bengaluru, which involves Sunny imparting his wisdom on matters ranging from women – how clingy (extramarital) girlfriends can be – to the health sector, to India’s contribution to the world other than zero. The talkathon doesn’t help the audience grow any closer to this man, the film’s protagonist, whose characterization is shoddier than Mohanlal’s post-cosmetic surgery get-up.
We are told that Sunny is a ladies’ man, the blue-eyed boy of the women staff at the gem company he works for. He flirts with them, yet adheres to a “line of control” because he is also a family man, now with a pregnant wife, Molly Kutty (Nadia Moithu). He has distanced himself from his half-girlfriend (there is no better word), Naina (Parvathy Nair) as she had become a little too possessive of late. On the way, he gets a call from an angry Naina. “Don’t you remember the moonlit night in Mongolia when you sang for me,” she asks him, and he plays the fool. “Oh, did I even sing that day?!” Every now and then, he gets calls from Molly, who cribs to him about the loud women in the hospital ward. He consoles her, pretends that he cares about her small talk, and then shares a wink with Veerappa. “These women, I tell you!”
And this is all the film tells us of Sunny, the man who is present in every single scene in the film. Would you like being around this man who is too self conscious, who takes excessive pride in his alpha-male-masculinity? Does the accident and what follows have anything to do with this quality of his? Where is the crisis that should back an ideal survival drama? Where are the subplots and backstories that should bring the audience closer to the characters? Neerali has none of these; what it has are some lacklustre visuals and a tone-deaf background score. It overuses freeze-frames, and clumsily toys with colour palettes. The music is so loud and endless that you hardly feel how fierce the jungle can be at night.
Neerali has references to the filmography and real-life persona of its lead actor, Mohanlal, who enjoys one of the biggest fan followings in south India. Sunny’s ringtone is ‘Kavilinayil’, the iconic song from Mohanlal’s Vandanam. His scenes with Nadia are designed as a tribute to their first film together – Nokketha Doorathu Kannum Nattu. It is funny that the makers thought such references could save Neerali from sinking, because even Mohanlal doesn’t resemble Mohanlal in this film. The actor appears stiffer than ever, and his face, as made-up as a humanoid.
One of the few interesting scenes from the film is where a monkey shows up near the cliff-hanging truck. Sunny looks at it and says, “Isn’t it unfortunate that I am dying on the same day my children are being born?” Let’s pretend that this is a nod to the origin of human beings when several species of archaic humans killed each other, and the fittest one, the homo sapiens survived. There is nothing else you could take home from this movie, which is as hollow as the character it centered itself around.
The Neerali 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 any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.