Neelavelicham is a Malayalam movie released in cinemas. It is directed by Aashiq Abu and stars Tovino Thomas, Rima Kallingal, Shine Tom Chacko.
Remakes are a dime-a-dozen in a multilingual country like India. A veritable hit in one language spawns myriad versions in another. But Bollywood triggered another remake — a reimagination of an older hit in the same language. It started with the 1978 Amitabh Bachchan blockbuster Don. Its 2006 doppelganger had Shah Rukh Khan in the lead. The reprised version turned out to be a big winner. And a trend was set. Many popular movies of the past were quickly recooked — some successfully, some disastrously.
This fad, however, did not pick steam in Malayalam. But now Neelavelicham, a remake of the 1964 hit Bhargavi Nilayam, has arrived. The film’s plot is based on a short story of the same name by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. (For the record, Basheer himself wrote the screenplay for the film, which had Prem Nazir, Madhu and Vijaya Nirmala in the cast).
When it was released, it was touted as Malayalam cinema’s first horror-romantic-investigative thriller. However, the horror part is open to interpretation. The allotropic modifications of the story have also been done to death in many other movies. So, why remake a thriller when the story and its ending are well-known? This is a question that inevitably hovers over Neelavelicham.
The film also sedulously sticks to the original — even the songs are tweaked versions of the original. But what is different — remarkably at that — is that the director Aashiq Abu has reimagined the older film in a new visual idiom that is stunning and stellar. And that gives the remake its raison d’etre.
The original, which was directed by A Vincent who was one of the top cameramen of his time, was no less visually pleasing — P Bhaskar Rao cranked it. But Bhargavi Nilayam was in black and white, and the hues adding layers to the story were unavailable. But in the remake, Aashiq Abu, and his trusted ally cameraman Girish Gangadharan, use the various shades to great effect. Especially blue stands out. They bathe the frames with various tints of the beguiling blue, and thereby magnificently justifying the title of Neelavelicham (blue light).
The story is simple. A novelist rents a house in a village. And, as it happens, the house is believed to be haunted by a woman ghost. The novelist becomes ‘friendly’, if that’s the word, with the ghost. And slowly, he gets to part as to why she died.
There is a typical love story behind her demise. She, a dancer, is in love with a poet/singer, but a villainous man, who covets her, is a stumbling block. He murders the poet and also inadvertently kills her in a scuffle of sorts. But he spreads the canard that she committed suicide. Now, with all the facts known, the writer is ready to put it out in his novel. But the evil villain is still around and does not want the truth to come out for obvious reasons. So he gets down to his venal ways and finish off the writer.
In the remake, Tovino Thomas plays the writer, Rishan Mathew the poet, Rima Kallingal the besotted lover, and Shine Tom Chacko the antagonist. The leads don’t let themselves or the film down in the acting department. In roles that are not too difficult to act out, they are on safe territory.
But it is in the dialogue delivery — especially Tovino and Rima — that they falter. The old-world-style lines don’t ring true in their modern re-imagination. This denies the film the much-needed emotional connection. Also, the villain character needed more depth to make an impact in the present-day scenario. It is in one shade, and the way Shine Tom Chack plays it is predictable and tame. So some frames, even while being brilliant, remain picture postcard efforts. The spirit for a ghostly story is lacking but is made up of tonality and tenor.
But the music and songs provide an emotional ambience. Bijibal and Rex Vijayan have sensitively recreated M S Baburaj’s hall-of-famers like Thamasamenthe Varuvan, Ekanthathayude Maha Theeram and Pottithakarna Kinavu without killing their spirit or sensibility.
The film, overall, is a grand visual homage to the original.
Director: Aashiq Abu
Date Created: 2023-04-21 21:54