Naga Chaitanya's Premam is a throwback to Naa Autograph rather than Nivin Pauly's original
Let’s go back by a few weeks when the song Evare from the Telugu version of Premam first released.
I wrote it off, as not being a patch on the original Malayalam film featuring Nivin Pauly.
Then I wondered if we all needed to cut Naga Chaitanya and Shruti Haasan (who star in the Telugu remake) some slack: After all, one song was too little to judge an entire project by.
Just as the Malayalam original won over audiences, perhaps this Telugu remake too would win us over.
Nivin Pauly was definitely on my mind as I sat down to watch Naga Chaitanya in the Telugu Premam (bonus points to him for bringing this much-loved film to Telugu cinema). Even though I have watched the Malayalam original, viewing a film in one’s own language is always interesting — at least for me.
Premam begins with a high school student (Vikram) following a girl (Mary, played by Anupamma Parameshwaran) who is his first love. It sets the tone for the film: We know that it is going to be about this young man’s experiences with love and the relationships that will go on to form the major experiences of his life. From a lanky teenager, Vikram transforms into a macho college student (Naga Chaitanya). He then meets Sithara Ma'am (Shruti Haasan) during his time, and the two hit it off. The film then brings us into the present, where Vikram is a successful entrepreneur and meets Sindhu (Madonna Sebastian), a childhood friend. Which of these women will Vikram go on to have his happily ever after with, if at all?
Some of this journey makes for surprisingly pleasant viewing.
Premam, at its heart, is a simple romantic comedy that portrays different kinds of relationships: From teenage crushes to a more mature emotion. The story is very relatable, as is the message about the importance of support from your close friends.
That’s the good stuff.
Now, here’s the rub:
Within just a few minutes of Premam you’ll find yourself thinking about Ravi Teja’s 2004 film, Naa Autograph. The storyline there too, was familiar: A protagonist who faces obstacles and experiences love in different phases of his life, until finally marrying ‘the one’. Naa Autograph , which was a remake of a Tamil movie, offered the complete package and had an emotional depth that’s very evident when compared with Premam. Though Premam represents the younger generation, it does not quite have the grip Naa Autograph had.
More than Nivin Pauly’s original Malayalam Premam, most Telugu audiences are sure to draw a comparison with the 2004 Ravi Teja hit, which scored with its powerful story telling.
Be that as it may, comparisons with the Malayalam Premam are unavoidable. So how does it score in that regard?
Chandoo Mondeti, the director and co-writer of the film, pretty much picks up every instance from the original, keeping it almost exactly the same. The Telugu version, however, moves faster than the Malayalam version (which, though good, tended to drag in parts). Naga Chaitanya’s Premam, on the other hand, is quick moving, cutting off a few scenes and mostly showing only what is necessary.
While it is interesting to see how the filmmakers retained the style of direction and screenplay (of the original), we expected a little of the Telugu touch. The background music, slow panning during intense scenes and breaks were all very similar to the original and something different for the Telugu audience. But nothing new. The humor and comic timing however, were very much Telugu and made me crack up.
While most of the movie is about Naga Chaitanya and the various girls he meets, the other characters also put in a decent effort.
Coming to the chemistry between the lead actors: Naga Chaitanya and Shruti Haasan don’t have much of it.
The pair that actually captures our interest is that of Vikram and Sindhu’s. In the original, Madonna Sebastian's role is done away with almost immediately after her introduction, because of which the impact is very flat. However, Sindhu as played by Madonna is given much more screen time in this version and there are some very lovely moments between her and Naga Chaitanya.
As for Naga Chaitanya himself, his performance is better and more mature than his previous release. He could, however, improve on shedding those tears, especially in this remake where the pressure of comparison is already so high!
Frankly, this Premam is not a bad watch after all. It plays safe by sticking to the original while connecting with the Telugu audience because of its cast.
Ah, but Nivin Pauly and Sai Pallavi — we couldn’t help but miss you!