Love Action Drama movie review: Nayanthara is a mere aside in an immature Nivin Pauly dramedy
Love Action Drama is a romance in which it is impossible to figure out from start to finish why the central couple are into each other or whether they are into each other at all.
castNivin Pauly, Nayanthara, Aju Varghese, Sreenivasan, Mallika Sukumaran, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Renji Panicker
Language: Malayalam and Tamil
Rating: 1.5 (out of 5 stars)
"Just name one quality of Dinesh that has caused you to like him," Shoba's worried father quietly beseeches her. His beautiful daughter has nothing to say in response. The fact that she is supposedly in love with the Dinesh in question and this scene comes well into the second half of Love Action Drama speaks volumes about their relationship. An answer is nowhere in sight even when the end credits roll around, which speaks volumes too about the vapid writing of this film.
It takes a special effort to cast Malayalam cinema's sweetheart Nivin Pauly and Tamil-Telugu megastar Nayanthara in the same project yet somehow end up with a flat, man-centric, immature dramedy. Actor turned directorial debutant Dhyan Sreenivasan manages that feat. You might imagine that Dhyan would be getting reams of advice at home - he is, after all, the son of the venerable veteran actor-writer Sreenivasan and younger sibling of the supremely successful actor-director-singer Vineeth Sreenivasan. His connections, genes and the star power of his lead cast are no match though for the shallow writing of this film.
Love Action Drama is a romance in which it is impossible to figure out from start to finish why the central couple are into each other or whether they are into each other at all. They say they are in love so we are forced to believe it but the writing of the bond between them is sterile. The misplaced priorities in Dhyan's screenplay are entirely to blame. The characterisation of Shoba is sketchy at best. More time has evidently been spent styling her than writing her. The result is that Nayanthara looks stunning (although it would have helped to go easy on the oil or lotion or whatever it is that her team used to shine her arms to distraction in her introductory scene), but there is little we get to know about Shoba beyond that she is a Chennai-based Malayali who runs some sort of business, and as one man early in the film confides in another, she is that terrible F word. You know, feminist. Hawww.
Dhyan treats the female of the species like an alien race in the way a person might if he has lived in a segregated society all his life and never had solid friendships with women. In contrast, the writing of Dinesh is detailed. So is his relationship with his friend Sagar (Aju Varghese).
Shoba and Dinesh meet when she visits Kerala for her friend's wedding. He is an alcoholic, chain smoker and layabout, in mourning since he fancies himself to be in love with the bride who is his cousin. His feelings clearly do not run very deep, considering that by the end of the wedding he has transferred his giggly affections to Shoba.
Like George from Premam - Pauly's 2015 blockbuster - Dinesh too is an immature guy from the beginning to the end of this journey. A film may very well be centred around a kiddish adult, the problem arises here because the film itself is kiddish. Love Action Drama is no different from Premam in the way it casually applies the word "love" to a man who saw a woman and found her hot.
Besides, Dhyan lets slip some really deep-seated prejudices masked in comedy in his film. At three places, casual remarks by his characters reveal that he believes it is a given that dark skin is ugly. And what is with Malayalam cinema's insistence on depicting little children in serious romantic relationships? Not funny at all, please.
The use of language in Love Action Drama calls for a discussion. The manner in which conversations shift from Malayalam to Tamil and back is smooth and natural because of the milieu and the backgrounds of the characters. But the Hindi words "beta" (son) and "acchha" (okay) written into lines spoken by Renji Panicker's character do not trip lightly off the actor's tongue and end up coming across as a forced, somewhat tacky effort to offer evidence that he is Mumbai based.
Like many Malayalam music directors these days, Shaan Rahman really needs to get over his apparent belief that injecting Hindi or English songs and lines into a film's soundtrack somehow ups its cool quotient. It is hard to understand this practice. Is it that these artists think Malayalam is not cool enough? Or do they see Hindi and English as the only possible indicators of modernity and an urban Indian setting? By all means, mix languages, brother, if you can come up with something special and it fits. What though is the point you hope to make when, in a Malayalam-Tamil film set in Kerala and TN, you kick off the narrative with a Hindi-English number titled 'Raathein' (Nights), a word that you cannot even get your singer Narayani Gopan to pronounce correctly, which your lyricist Preeti Nambiar then follows up with amateurish lines like "setting me afire / whatever we desire / come a little closer to me" and "all I want tonight / touching you and feeling you and loving yooooouuuu"? What is the purpose of the uninventive, heard-before refrain "mere khayaalo ki malika tu" (woman, you rule my thoughts) in 'Varavaayi'? The song that does manage a flow in its English-Malayalam blend is Kudukku possibly because lyricist Manu Manjith does not sound strained and because the amazing Vineeth Sreenivasan imbues "On the floor baby / hit it hard baby / rock the party baby / pattoolangi podi (if you can't, then go to hell, woman)" with an intentionally over-done comedic tone that complements and therefore acknowledges the unapologetic silliness of it all, though I do worry about the simmering animosity towards the woman in these lines.
Love Action Drama works in parts when Dinesh and Sagar are hanging out together and making an ass of themselves. The effectiveness of some - not all - these scenes comes from the chemistry between Nivin Pauly and Aju Varghese, and their natural comic abilities. Varghese is of course cast incessantly as a comedian, Pauly's filmography has offered him more variety. What makes him the star that he is is his ability to be as grave as his characters in films like Action Hero Biju and Kayamkulam Kochunni have required him to be, innocent and earnest as the chap he played in Bangalore Days and the silly fellow he was in Premam.
Love Action Drama taps his versatility with a narrative that repeatedly breaks its own mood by jumping from extreme intensity to extreme frivolity without warning often within the same scene. The switches are fun at first because they signal the writer-director's keenness that we not take his film too seriously. Fair enough. The technique wears thin though as Love Action Drama's lack of substance becomes increasingly obvious and it wanders about aimlessly, wanders again, then wanders some more.
Late in the film some twists are set up as obstacles in the Shoba-Dinesh relationship. As it happens, they do come as interesting surprises, but their impact is greatly diluted by the absence of conviction in the first place in the relationship that is sought to be destroyed. After having misbehaved terribly with Shobha, at one point when Dinesh begs her to take him back, she says: "Convince my father." Convince yourselves first, ya.