Remember those movies from the early 90s, where the typical boy gang of Malayalam cinema (read Mukesh and co.) would send you into convulsing fits of laughter during the first half, and then in the second half would be staring in the face of a more serious state of affairs? Vineeth Sreenivasan's story endeavours to get just there.
Umesh (Nivin Pauly), is a wilder version of Vinod from Thattathin Marayathu' (Written and directed by Vineeth Sreenivasan). The prodigal son of a stringent father (Vijayaraghavan), who has the mother always batting on his side. Betrothed to the 42 supplementary papers that he has to write up to be an engineer, he tries to wriggle out of the situation by claiming to be interested in cinema. Friends Shaji (Aju Varghese) and Thankamma aka Thankaprasad (Neeraj Madhav) encourage him to make a short film; he swiftly decides on it by the imaginary powers vested in him by the movies of Gautham Vasudeva Menon, and other Korean flicks that are easily 'translatable'. (He does a blink-and-stare act at Kim Ki-duk's Moebius, flirting with the idea of a remake, before commenting it hardly makes sense!)
The first half moves along these slightly predictable lines and a predilection for humour, with the main protagonist seemingly directionless. And then lands Daisy (Manjima Mohan), right at the neighbouring doorstep. It’s her little tryst with something mysterious that the boys (Umesh and Shaji) find themselves entangled in, and which they try to unfold, aided by Jack Tracker (Vineeth Sreenivasan), a private detective (Suddenly, titles like Nancy Drew and the curious case of someone/something missing comes to mind).
Alright, so mystery it is; we venture from samovar shops from Thalassery, to the nostalgic temple town of Madurai in the process of it. There’s the trademark subtle mockery and pulling of references that are part of a Vineeth Sreenivasan flick employed here as well. Only, if they were a little more unpredictable, it would have been quite a riot. Like when Vineeth Sreenivasan tries to pull off a Tom Cruise in Jerry Mc Guire with a “Show me the money”, or when Nivin makes that fateful call back home from Madurai in the midnight.
Even when the first and second sessions are worlds apart, they get linked together, keeping the friction going, interspersed with timely humour. Like in the middle of a turning point, Nivin and Vineeth getting into a comical scuffle. One might think it could be distracting, but surprisingly, not so much!
The biggest thumbs up for the movie is its knock-out team. And that could be the issue too. We’ve seen the Aju-Nivin-Vineeth combo in both Thattathin marayathu and Om Shanthi Oshana, and they bring along the 'great expectations' tag plastered onto their forehead. The jokes and jibes come off as a little practiced from their previous outings, some of them are preconceived even before they’re attempted. However, the second half makes up for it, where the actors seem more spontaneous.
Shaan Rahman seems to have had his fun with the BGM and songs, although the first half had songs shoved into it, and the second half was bereft of songs. Jomon T. John’s cinematography works the drama well, especially the shots on the road and those in Madurai.
Ask why Nivin Pauly had to be a completely delusional roadside romeo for most of the first half, and I am forced to say, I don’t know! But from there, he picks up bytes of realities along the way, and by the end of the movie, we have a suave young man in the making.
Oru Vadakkan Selfie is an effort in recollecting an older trend (again, think 90s boys) with the right people in hand, as well as a recalling of faces that are now part of the new wave lashing against the shores of both Malayalam and Tamil cinema. (You'll see familiar faces from the movies—short and long ones—of Alphonse Putharan of 'Neram' fame, Nalan Kumarasamy, and Karthik Subbaraj).
The last frame of the movie is both delightful and a tad incomplete, but that’s the surprise! Then again, only people who are familiar with some of the directors and movies aforementioned will get the fun in it. For now, let’s just say, one of the most coveted award winners of this season makes an appearance in the last shot. (No, no fun is spoiled!) So hail the new 'lost boys' of Malayalam cinema, for they seem to have got it.