Have you seen the posters of Campus Diary? Even though the movie is sans big stars, the posters give us hopes as they are filled up with some skilled, award-winning actors – from Sudev Nair to Thalaivasal Vijay to Suraj Venjaramoodu to Mamukkoya to Sunil Sukhada and many more whom we have comfortably put in a bracket of good actors.
And then comes this moment that we find hard to digest when we realize that the only bright spot of the film is when Marxist veteran V.S. Achuthanandan makes an entry; the aforementioned actors are not to be blamed here, but script-writer Vinish Palayad and director Jeevan Das are to be faulted.
Campus Diary kicks off from the campus of KMS College. A few dry laughs thrown over and we're introduced to our hero – Nikhil (Sudev Nair), a new admission for MA Malayalam in the college. He finished his course in IIT Madras and was offered a job abroad, but didn't take it up and instead chose to continue the Malayalam course he had dropped earlier. You don't want to know why he did that. But a girl in the class is sure to ask him that. Nikhil answers her: “Campus is like a garden. We can find a job later too, but we won't get our campus life back.” Are you writing this down? You might need a 200-page notebook as such dialogues are aplenty in the film.
Impressed by his introduction speech, his class accepts him into their fold with this remark - “Welcome to this campus ruled by Hitlers, Mussolinis and Tughlaq.” No, no, what are you saying bro? “Not Hitler and Mussolini, we should be admiring Gandhiji and Bhagat Singh,” Nikhil corrects them (Patriotism – checked). Arey waah! Can someone give the dialogue-writer an award already?
I can't now help but narrate a couple of more incidents from Campus Diary so that you know how mundane the writing is.
The very next day, Nikhil is picked for a prestigious youth icon award – for the work he did during his IIT days (Social responsibility - checked). The entire college is elated and his new buddies lift him up on their shoulders cheering after Jayashankar Mash's (Joy Mathew) 'you-all-should-follow-Nikhil' speech to the students. Now, how can Krishnapriya (Gauthami Nair), the pretty girl in the campus, not fall for him? From his friends' shoulders, Nikhil lands straight onto a duet with Krishnapriya.
Right after the song, Nikhil is shown the door of his class by a lecturer, for sitting next to Krishnapriya. The teacher does not want girls and boys sitting together in his class, but Nikhil is pumped up to fight the menace of gender discrimination (Checked). Come on, he's our hero, who else would do it? The teacher storms out of the class, makes a fuss in the staff room, Jayashankar takes the side of students in a PTA meeting where new college rules are introduced (Moral policing - checked).
The students are then split into two. Both the groups come up with wall posters and we've a lavish 5 minutes of video tutorial there – 'how to stick posters on walls using glue'. The posters are torn in the next days and when students are on the verge of a clash, principal intervenes and assures them that posters will not be torn off anymore. He patrols the campus in the night and finds the culprit – a cow. The animal is introduced to the students the next day and principal announces, “Now that all the problems are solved, I am calling off Nikhil's suspension order.” Aha, sir, why was Nikhil suspended?
That's hardly 20 minutes of the film you just read. Campus Diary has more in store for the audience – drug abuse, water scarcity, corporate world's exploitation of natural resources, bootlegging and more. The writer also gives Nikhil credit for renowned scholar Ismail Serageldin's famous line as the character says: “The next world war will be fought over water, mark my words.”
Apart from the earlier names, several other familiar faces up fill up the screen - Sunil Sukhada, Nandu, RJ Mathukutty, Musthafa, Kottayam Nazeer, Anu Sithara, Lakshmi Priya, S.P. Sreekumar and they all fail to make a mark, thanks to the poor writing; it is V.S. Achuthanandan who lights up the screen as he plays himself.
Quite annoyingly, there's not even one scene that is devoid of background score in the film, and surprisingly, National Award-winning composer Bijibal disappoints.
Campus Diary is a huge let-down and is avoidable.
Onmanorama rating: 1/5