Vijay Superum Pournamiyum movie review: Aishwarya Lekshmi's dynamism pairs well with Asif Ali's Everyman persona
Vijay Superum Pournamiyum establishes its unconventional sensibilities early on.
castAishwarya Lekshmi, Asif Ali, Shanthi Krishna, Renji Panicker, Siddique, K.p.a.c. Lalitha, Anish Kuruvilla, Darshana Rajendran
Rating: 3.25 (out of 5 stars)
Two films with the same story yet worlds apart in quality - you might assume that the difference lies in the contrasting skills of their respective directors, but you would be assuming wrong. Malayalam cinema's Vijay Superum Pournamiyum is a remake of the Telugu hit Pelli Choopulu. I have not seen the Telugu original, but last year it was my misfortune to watch its Hindi remake Mitron which, despite its alluringly realistic writing by Sharib Hashmi combined with Nitin Kakkar's assured direction, could not overcome its one glaring handicap: the casting of Jackky Bhagnani as the leading man.
Like Mitron's Kritika Kamra, Vijay Superum Pournamiyum's female lead Aishwarya Lekshmi is fire and ice, sugar and spice, and everything you could hope for in a heroine. Playing the hero in the Malayalam film is Asif Ali who may not have the most earth-shattering screen presence on the planet, but by God is head and shoulders and stratospheric levels above Mr Bhagnani!
Truth be told, I can imagine Nivin Pauly or Fahadh Faasil might have elevated this film further than what it is. If stars of their stature were not available, and if Tovino Thomas was considered too much of a repetition after his team-up with Lekshmi in the spectacular Mayaanadhi, how about Neeraj Madhav who proved with 2017's Paipin Chuvattile Pranayam that he hundred per cent is solo hero material?
Still, Ali's natural Everyman-ness is a fit for this role and pairs well with Lekshmi's dynamism in writer-director Jis Joy's Vijay Superum Pournamiyum, the story of a young couple who meet by accident when he lands up at the wrong house while out to meet a prospective bride. Pournami's father was disappointed at her birth, since he was hoping for a son. Now she is fiercely committed to making something of herself professionally, but is subjected to meetings with potential grooms she has no intention of marrying. Vijay, who needs to yell the words "Vijay super aanu" into a mirror to build self-belief (hence the title) loves cooking but does not have the guts or the drive to convince his conservative father that cheffing is a suitable profession for boys. So, he forces himself through engineering college, and is currently stuck in a job for which he has zero passion.
Unlike Pournami, Vijay is anxious to be married because he measures his worth only in terms of the dowry he could get that would help his family overcome their financial constraints.
Vijay Superum Pournamiyum establishes its unconventional sensibilities early on. The gender role reversal, for one - in the matter of marriage and career - is striking yet not rubbed in our faces with sermons. This is its defining characteristic.
Pournami is hard-working and level headed. Vijay is a no-hoper who is extremely irresponsible except with the one thing he loves. Though she rejects him as a groom, they bond over their frustrations and she ultimately asks him to partner her in a project that would meet her entrepreneurial goals and tap his talent in the kitchen.
The storyline is not burdened with any of the clichés recycled ad nauseam in so many so-called youth films, and neither of the two central characters is a stereotype. The impossibly bubbly young woman, the man whose stalkerish ways she falls for - none of that crap is to be found here. It is particularly a relief to see that ambition is not treated as a dirty word for a woman.
Vijay Superum Pournamiyum is a believable tale about what could happen if families accept their children as they are and allow them to be who they want to be. The film's sense of humour, like its running commentary on life, is underplayed. It is narrated in such an undramatised style that much of it does not feel like cinema. Its most endearing quality is that it almost feels like two people called Pournami and Vijay transcribed lines they spoke in real life, and handed them to Lekshmi and Ali to say before the camera.
Except for an energetic song titled 'Pournami Superalle 'played out to a choreographed group dance, the soundtrack too merges entirely with the rest of the proceedings.
Jis Joy's previous collaboration with Asif Ali, 2017's Sunday Holiday, was similar in directorial tone but ended up being somewhat bland without the benefit of equally powerful writing. Vijay Superum Pournamiyum has more flesh and character. Ali is nice enough here. The leads are surrounded by beloved veterans Renji Panicker, Siddique and K.P.A.C. Lalitha who fill out their well-written parts well. It is sad though to see Shanthi Krishna delivering yet another generic performance as a generic mother - she has already done too many of these since her return to films in 2017 with Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela in which, coincidentally, Aishwarya Lekshmi made her debut.
In just her fourth screen venture, Ms Lekshmi proves that she has the acting chops and the presence to pull off a film in which she plays a/the central character. She is so good that she almost makes you want to ask the producer to rename this one Superlative Pournamiyum Vijay Superum.
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