Cast: Shobana, Suresh Gopi, Dulquer Salmaan, Kalyani Priyadarshan, Johny Anthony
Director: Anoop Sathyan
Early on in Anoop Sathyan’s Varane Aavashyamund (Groom Wanted), Neena (Shobana), a former school teacher, is appointed as a French tutor at Alliance Francaise. The camera follows her on her way back home, exhilarated as a child and elegant enough to draw the admiring eyes of strangers. She stops at a supermarket to buy a lunchbox for her new job, later stops again to watch a group of children dance at a courtyard, and walks unhurriedly to her apartment meeting and greeting people on the way.
In the universe where this film is set, an apartment complex in an affluent Chennai neighbourhood, everyone is always in a good-mood or open to the idea of being in one. Life is orderly and desirable. The women are independent and beautiful, men are kind and good-humoured, and the senior citizens aren’t grumpy or judgmental about the choices that the younger generation make.
Most of the characters are extroverts who can strike up a conversation with any stranger. They are nice enough to be friends with their security guard, pizza delivery guy and the old man at the tea shop. This is a universe where everyone waves and smiles at each other, with the spirit of a little village and the infrastructure and sophistication of a metro.
Varane Aavashyamund, like Pelli Choopulu, belongs to the sub-genre of romantic dramas where the protagonists are allowed to function within the purview of their social class, break the rules or bend them a little and yet not be unloved by the people around them.
These films have a photoshopped quality, like the polished interiors of an ad film set. Like its Telugu inspiration, Pelli Choopulu; while the Telugu film was a covert advertisement for the concept of modern-day arranged marriage, where couples go on dates under the watchful eyes of their parents.
Varane Aavashyamund also takes story-telling lessons from brand commercials. The product being sold is a certain kind of happiness that is exclusive. Instead of a strong narrative, Anoop Sathyan weaves together several micro-narratives or vignettes. There are easily recognisable instances, like strangers reaching out to each other on a rainy evening and young couple sharing a tea on the terrace while chatting about life. Like pieces finding each other to complete the jigsaw puzzle, the lead characters usher one another into their lives and become one big family.
But the film is closer in spirit to Salt N Pepper than to Vijay Superum Pournamiyum, the official Malayalam remake of Pelli Choopulu, which drowned in its own saccharine effluence. Anoop’s writing is joyous, especially the dialogues that exude warmth and organicness.
The best-written of the characters is Major Unnikrishnan (Suresh Gopi), a former soldier and mountaineer, whose introversion stops him from fitting into the apartment commune. He has anger issues and depression that might stem from his violent past which he narrates from a psychiatrist’s room in an excellently staged and cut sequence.
Anoop seems to be a good director of actors. For one, he puts to good use Johny Antony’s talent in playing loud characters with no sense of shame. Instead of showing the flashbacks, he lets his actors narrate them.
The monologues of Shobana, Suresh Gopi and Dulquer, of their characters recounting the tragic incidents that shaped their life, are backed by excellent writing ﹣they resemble three evocative short stories ﹣and fine performances. If Dulquer’s innate boyish charm keeps him slightly detached from the gloomy story he narrates, Suresh Gopi internalises Unnikrishnan, a man of a tough demeanour and broken psyche.
The romance between Unnikrishnan and Neena develops quietly and almost invisibly. The audience isn’t privy to the exact point where the couple recognise their interest in each other. There are instances that might look insignificant from the outside but bear immense weight ﹣like the scene where Neena takes a peek into Unnikrishnan’s living room through his door ajar on hearing “Anuraga Lola Rathri” (an amusing meta-reference) playing on his music system.
On the exterior, the scene is about their contrasting personalities ﹣ her extroversion and his reclusiveness. But it is also about the common ground they share, as old-school romantics stranded in a modern world.
Nikki (Kalyani Priyadarshan), Neena’s daughter, is a believable character. She possesses brazen confidence that is so urbane and modern, yet she is more traditionalist than her small-towner mother who asks her to loosen up a little and give love a chance. Her fears about letting people into her intimate social circle is communicated with graceful subtlety. The actress lends her character a generous touch of her off-screen persona, the one she flaunts in her interviews and Instagram page.
Time and again in the film, Anoop congratulates himself for the casting coup he has pulled off. There are meta-references aplenty to play to the gallery of the lovers of vintage Shobana and Suresh Gopi. The name “Neena” and Lalu Alex’s brief appearance as her brother are not-so-subtle nods to Minnaram.
A flash of Vaisakha Sandhye acts as a shorthand to express Neena’s growing intimacy to Unnikrishnan. These hat-tips aren’t overdone to make the viewers cringe. They compensate for the lack of time invested in developing the couple’s love story.
Dulquer Salmaan doubles up as a producer and supporting actor here, and it’s a prudent choice. The actor had been absent from Malayalam cinema for a long time, barring an uninspiring comedy that released last year. In this comeback, he plays his strongest game, as a boy-next-door who could also make a charming boyfriend. Nicknamed Mr Fraud, he exists outside the core plot as a diluter of tension.
Varane Aavashyamund doesn’t take itself so seriously when it concludes that happiness is always around the corner. The narrative is focused on being smooth and spirited ﹣to give the audience a good laugh and a few lazy lessons on how to live their life﹣rather than on being deep and introspective. Sure, the film is flaky in parts, but the smoothness in storytelling isn’t easily achievable.
The Varane Aavashyamund review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.