How The 2015 Hit Film Premam Affected My Life

Eight tall men walk into a shopping mall through the main entrance. At first glance, you would think they have vandalism in their minds, but if you look closely, you will realize all of them are sporting an unusually similar look. Wearing stark black shirts with sleeves rolled up elegantly through mid-arm over white mundus (waist cloths) with black border lining, and sporting fake Ray-Ban aviators with deadpan expressions on heavily bearded faces – you know they are all succeeding in imitating the loverboy of a protagonist of the 2015 smash hit Malayalam film, Premam.

This particular trend of imitating Nivin Pauly’s character from the film has spread like a wildfire in the nooks and corners of Kerala. While that sounds justified as far as the southern Indian state is considered, what should one deduce from a phenomenon where a budding Electronics Engineer like me who was born and brought up in the island city of Mumbai and who has always been repulsed by the very idea of visiting Kerala starts experiencing a fondness for everything Malayalam?

You may call it “the Premam effect” similar to “the Narasimham effect” which engulfed Malayalis all over the globe (and chiefly in Gulf countries) in 2000 when Malayalam film superstar Mohanlal hypnotized his audience with his charming moves and a piercing moustache in the film with the same name. Honestly, the film is a big fat 7 (out of 10) for me as I watched it first day first show with my mother in a Mumbai theatre (Cinepolis). The hall was houseful, which is an unusual occurrence when it comes to Malayalam films in Mumbai theatres. Just to put that into perspective, the time when I watched the critically acclaimed 2014 film North 24 Kaatham by debutante Anil Radhakrishnan Menon in a Navi Mumbai theatre (INOX), there were a total of 8 people in the hall, including the two redundant ushers. I have been reviewing Malayalam films since 2012, but the sheer magical experience that I shared with my fellow audience that day has left me in awe. And now whenever the beautifully sung love-song ‘Malare’ by Vijay Yesudas plays on TV, I lapse into a state of total entrance.

Three months after I watched the film and three weeks after the apprehension of those little lover pirates who shared a preview copy of the film over the web, the so-called “Premam effect” has not winded down. It is chiefly because of the elements used by maverick director Alphonse Putharen in his second feature (after Neram (2013)); the pure native elements of a Kerala district that any malayali can relate with. The protagonist’s journey from being a teenager who is head over heels in love with his petite classmate to his fascination with the beautiful guest lecturer in college to finally end up in the arms of an unsuspecting dame is captured in the most appropriate and stylistic way. This is absolutely how real life love stories occur, and if you were to ask any shuffling adolescent at the Kaladi junction or at the Kochi pier or at Lulu Mall to describe about their love life, you will now most obviously be shot with the title of the film as an answer, which translates to “love” in the English language.

The unofficial political activism rampant in the by-lanes of colleges, teacher-student love affairs, and unsolicited hotheadedness are all marks of the modern adolescent who will take to Facebook to ask that girl out rather than asking her in person. What “Premam” manages to capture is the intricate details of such a person’s daily life – how it affects his life partially, and how friendship plays a significant role in it.

That is why when I was talking to an old friend of mine about why I now want to often visit Kerala as opposed to my random, infrequent visits, and get more exposed to Malayalam cinema, understand Santosh Pandit’s psychology and philosophy (if any), get married to a girl who is a born-Malayali and in whose arms I would lay and watch the film Premam again for the umpteenth time, he replied, “This is exactly what I have been thinking of lately. The effect is huge.” And this friend was also born and brought up in Mumbai.

Moreover, if a Malayali who was born somewhere outside Kerala and is not much exposed to the essence of Malayali soil, “the Premam effect” will make sure that he starts respecting his roots. There are a lot of people who talk negative about being a Malayali, and smirk at the thought of being counted among them. However, even the most righteous prig will stop and wonder how charming his roots are once he watches it. The film’s photography will make him weak, the songs will make him swoon, and the Kerala exoticism will eventually break him into submission.

In future, when someone asks me what my story is, to keep it dramatic and filmy, I know I would answer that my adolescent life can be divided into two parts – pre-Premam and post-Premam. That is the solid effect of the film which is arguably one of the best Malayalam films of 2015 and one of the best Indian films of the decade so far.

Have you watched it yet?


25 thoughts on “How The 2015 Hit Film Premam Affected My Life”

  1. Best Malayalam film of 2015 till date? hell yes… has been a particularly poor year for malayalam cinema. Premam certainly deserves all the praise accorded to it.
    But of the best in indian cinema this decade? that is a stretch.. the allure of premam is much more in resonance with malayali guys..especially in the 15-30 age group.. unfortunately not much beyond that.. a non malayali wont be able to grasp those inside jokes that take us back to our premam days.
    a direct counterpart would be something like Raanjhna for a guy from Varanasi.. or 500days of summer for ..well.. any naive romantic guy ..anywhere..

    1. Agreed, but when I talk about Premam from a national point of view, I am focusing on its story and the protag’s journey from his high school love days to his adult love life, which is narrated in a manner that is highly accurate, IMO. But maybe, just maybe, now that I look back on this article, dubbing Premam to be one of the best Indian films of the decade maybe a stretch. Can we settle for one of the best Indian films of 2015? Yes? Anyways, thanks for your comment.

  2. Defenitely the film makes me smile on the whole time ,its not worth for seeing a second time,it makes very very boring to rewatch ,i dont know why.(i hope i had a better experiences in real college life than that,and i really missed my 1990;s and early 200*’s)..still an overrated film.

    1. Maybe. But, it’s an artistically and visually stunning film which can enthral its viewers everytime they watch it. Watching it back-to-back might have been the reason you got bored. But hey, even I was not that excited to watch it a third time.

  3. I have to say this. Your thoughts in this blog is exactly what any group of non residential malayalees would be talking about.
    Yes it did really affect us all.

  4. Hey Tejas I second your thought. I loved the movie like crazy. And your reviews in imdb are pretty cool and honest. Keep up the good work.

  5. A very honest review…to me being a lover of cinema, no amount of re-watch will put me off, if the director has put lot of thoughts and subtlety into a film. I have shared my points about the movie here;
    To me it is a layered movie with lots of small and little nuances thrown all around which requires lot of watching to get a grasp…the different hues of the moths and butterflies coinciding with the protagonists moods, picturisation of Celine eating elegantly the red velvet cake, unique camera positions speak their own grammar, or as the end credits roll, you can see butterflies fly by as George hits a branch shows how meticulous Alphonse has been in framing each shot! It did have its sore points which any malayalam movie suffers which if interested you can read in my thoughts in the link given above.

    I experienced a similar cinematic orgasm while watching “Onayum attukuttiyum” by Mysskkin a noirish movie spanning a single day. The vulnerabilities of the character, the constant struggle to find the moral bearings of their self, the visual metaphors and paradoxes (like a gunman having a Bible in his sling bag!). Quite a remarkable attempt for a tamil movie that it did not have heroine and songs! And even more remarkable was that this movie ran and was critically acclaimed!!

  6. Premam is a wonderful melange of style and substance. I’m still in awe of the cinematography and the sheer amount of creativity that most of the Malayali films seems to possess. After watching Premam and Charlie, watching a Telugu movie now feels like going back to the 80’s. Anyway, I did not know of this “Premam effect” so was good to read this 🙂 Apparently, this and even Bangalore Days are going to be remade in Telugu though I’m highly suspicious whether the same quality would be achieved.

  7. […] After Y2K, while the general movie-going audience shifted their attention to other life-changing elements like the internet and personal computers, the effect and perception of films as a source of entertainment slowly started to falter. This not only affected the Malayalam film industry, but also challenged filmmakers in the neighbouring Bollywood and elsewhere around the globe. Which is why ‘best films lists’ around the web currently cherish the 90s and then the 2010s, altogether skipping the 2000s decade. Of course, there very few exceptions, but majority releases in the 1o-year span were turkeys. Even in the case of Jayaram, films like Mayilattam (2004), Sarkar Dada (2005), Anchil Oral Arjunan (2007), and Parthan Kanda Paralokam (2008) failed at the box office so gloriously that directors and writers started approaching other actors. But, by then, the new generation wave had already reached the Kerala coast and would quickly encapsulate the industry. […]

  8. I went to watch Premam quite late by that time it had already become a superhit and everyone around me was raving about it. I was a huge fan of Pauly even before Premam so it was great to see one of his greatest avatars on screen.
    I do have to say however that the first part with Mary and the gang was interesting but very drawn out while the Celin bit was hurried and kind of uninteresting. For me the film came alive only when Sai Pallavi walked on and Malar miss met George. God their chemistry! The visuals! The Malare song! It was pure magic that could not be replicated at any other part of the movie. A part of me died in the climax when she just walked away…

    1. Yes, I agree with you when you say they rushed the final part. But, as a Malayali who has not grown up in Kerala, this was the perfect coming-of-age film. I enjoyed it the first time I watched and I watch it quite often when it runs on TV. If there is one true Malayali film in the current decade which is not mindless, then it is Premam. I would request you to watch it once more. I’m sure you will find something new and refreshing…

  9. You’re joking right. I have watched this movie a million times! I love the film for its cinematography, music, acting, everything. Especially Pauly. I didn’t grow up in Kerala either so it was kind of interesting to see a Malayali coming of age – not too different from the rest of us really. Its just that two parts of the movie weren’t as interesting as the college part (for me, totally personal opinion). The first and third parts were like, watch it for George because nothing else much happens. The middle part moved beyond George because its the first time he makes a meaningful connection…the charm and freshness of that couldn’t be captured afterwards so I felt like the Celine bit was a letdown. There George was a mature individual making a mature choice in life. Great movie though, I think I’ll go watch it again and drool over Nivin…

    1. I see. I am glad that the film as a whole still works for you. Good luck and try watching Nivin Pauly in Thattathin Marayathu (2012) if you haven’t yet.

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