‘Neram’ – gem of Tamil cinema

Film: “Neram”; Cast: Nivin Pauly, Nazriya Nizam, Simhaa, Thambi Ramaiah, Nasser, John Vijay, Charlie and Ananth Nag; Director: Alphonse Putharen; Rating: ****

“Neram” tops a list of films that come once in a while to make us believe that Tamil cinema is not dead. Surprisingly, it’s the first-time filmmakers, not the veterans any longer, who are keeping this industry alive and redefining entertainment with better craftsmanship.

Call it the impact of Hollywood or the arrival of better days, but the future of this industry rests on the shoulders of filmmakers such as Karthik Subbaraj, Nalan Kumarasamy and the director of “Neram”, Alphonse Putharen.

It is believed that there is good and bad time in our lives and both have important parts to play. Based on this simple premise, the story takes us through the life of a young, jobless computer engineer called Vetri, who borrowed some money from a man called Vetti Raja, a feared money-lender, to get his sister married.

Vetti Raja wouldn’t spare a soul when it comes to collecting his money back from his debtors. So when Vetri fails to repay monthly interest on time, Vetti Raja gives him an ultimatum to return the money by a certain evening, the rejection of which will result in death. Sucked into the race against time, how does Vetri arrange for the money? This forms the rest of the story.

There is absolutely nothing new about the story, yet what differentiates “Neram” from other films is its brilliant non-linear screenplay, never seen before in Tamil cinema. The film grows on you very gradually despite its brooding first half, but what follows post interval is top class and is worth every applaud or hoot that came its way. With few key characters that are made to run into each other at one point, the film allows for some subtle humour to unfold.

What’s even more exciting is the fact that everything takes place in a day in and around a place called Mandaveli. Even when these characters are close they don’t come in contact until it’s time to meet. And when they meet eventually, we know that the time is not good for someone. Time plays a crucial role in the lives of all the characters. We infer from the film that everything is plucked away from you when it’s bad time, but it’s returned later when the time is good.

“Neram” also reminds us of the cycle of karma and help understand that life is a vicious cycle where bad is followed by good and vice versa.

The film is backed by a deft screenplay and features effortless performances by a relatively new cast. Nivin and Nazriya as the lead pair bring life into the film, while Nasser and Thambi Ramaiah provide us with few moments of laughter. The film’s biggest strength is its crisp and short (one hour and 57 minutes) narration, but its music by debutant Rajesh Murugesan also gives us a cinematic experience worth every buck.

Alphonse, at the helm of the affairs, also earns equal credit for his work as an editor. Cinematography by Anand Chandran is top notch and leaves the audiences in awe, especially during the slow-motion sequences that boast finesse.

Since the film talks about good and bad time from the minute go, I believe good times have begun for Tamil cinema.

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