Nimir: Udhayanidhi Stalin's Tamil remake of Maheshinte Prathikaaram falls prey to regional divide

Karthik Keramalu

Feb,01 2018 11:38:14 IST

What happens when a jolly-hearted Malayalam film like Maheshinte Prathikaaram turns into a Tamil film?The answer is pretty simple. It becomes a masala film (sans the usual masala – the sort where one kick from the hero sends a rowdy into the air).

A still from Nimir/Image from YouTube.

A still from Nimir/Image from YouTube.

Nimir, the Tamil remake starring Udhayanidhi Stalin in the lead, takes the story of the Malayalam original and puts it in a new box. And that is where the problem exactly is. The makers may be of the opinion that the box is totally a new one with a sweet-as-honey thought in it, but in reality, it is just a repainted box.

For instance, take the opening song. Maheshinte Prathikaaram presents “Idukki”, a montage of the things you see in and around Idukki, and how they are connected with the people living there; whereas Nimir’s first song, “Poovukku”, focuses on the small town the film is set in and more importantly, on the woman dancing without a saree.

Yes, the navel-gazing aspect of Tamil cinema is brought into the fold here. A woman dancing in the countryside with a bunch of extras is definitely not how Maheshinte Prathikaaram won the National Award for the Best Original Screenplay. The presence of an 'item song', in what is supposed to be a realistic film, is uncalled for. If you think I am nitpicking, wait for it, there is more.

Selvam’s (Udhay) first girlfriend, played by Parvatii Nair, is a cardboard character in the movie. Nimir takes steps to show how much of a money minded-person she is. When Valli’s (Nair) grandfather passes away, she feels hesitant to take a few days off from her work to attend the funeral as her absence – at her workplace – would affect her salary. In one of the previous scenes, we are slyly told that she has demanded a diamond ring from Selvam.

All these situations point to only thing – Valli is a gold-digger. The charade does not end there. The characters’ behaviors are over-explained in certain places. None of this can be found in the Malayalam film. In fact, the first time we ever get a whiff of this girlfriend’s mindset is when she battles the yesses and noes in her head after her father brings her a proposal. Her thoughts, until then, are not made public.

Maheshinte Prathikaaram’s remake seems to ask, “What does subtlety mean?”, and goes on to pull off a silly gag involving the money-minded Valli’s husband till the final scene (the husband has a sob-infested story to share with Udhay about his wife’s high-handedness).

Priyadarshan – the director of Nimir, who’s also credited for the screenplay – in a recent interview, has stated, “Whenever I made remakes, they flopped. Most of them have failed because of the regional divide. I know for a fact that Tamil audiences don’t have as much patience as Malayalam audiences. In the North, it’s worse.”

In the same interview, there is another statement that kind of acts like a justification for the added elements, “I wanted the audience to see a Tamil film, not a Malayalam remake.”

That brings me to the question: Does the difference between a Tamil film and a Malayalam remake lie in the changes made? 

Priyadarshan’s fear of losing Nimir to the demon of regional divide again may have made him infuse his Tamil film with a little more humor and drama. However, the problem goes beyond that since Udhay headlines this movie.

Great talent and courage are needed to step into the shoes of Fahadh Faasil, who played the lead in the Malayalam film. Fahadh is an actor who communicates with his eyes. When he is beaten up in the middle of the road for trying to separate a few warring parties, the hurt and humiliation he brings to his face are hard to miss. And as a result, the challenge he throws (of not wearing footwear till he gets his revenge) appears convincing and heart-tugging.

Udhay has not yet reached that stage as an actor in his career. So the most crucial scene of the movie fails to make an impact on the viewer. And that is one of the foremost reasons why Nimir falls apart.

Fifteen months ago, the Telugu remake of the Malayalam blockbuster Premam, starring Nivin Pauly, was released. Though, the Telugu version did not attract as many eyeballs, or break new ground, as the original did, the remake earned a sizeable number of fans. The cameos played by the lead star’s (Naga Chaitanya) uncle (Venkatesh) and dad (Nagarjuna) helped the movie make it a family entertainer (pun intended).

Pacing definitely needs to be taken into account when remaking a film for the language and the market it is going to be made in. After all, that is the art of repackaging. Isn’t it? While Premam got it right, Nimir did not.

Updated Date: Feb 01, 2018 11:38 AM