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Premalu Is A Boilerplate Girish AD Film: Why The Formula Is So Fertile

In Girish AD's films, all his characters operate within the conventional family framework, stereotypes aren’t busted, yet we are fine with the representations because of their organic evolution.

Premalu Is A Boilerplate Girish AD Film: Why The Formula Is So Fertile
Premalu poster.

Last Updated: 02.44 PM, Mar 13, 2024


IN PREMALU, Sachin (Naslen) is just about recovering from a heartbreak when he walks into the “love of his life.” It takes him less than two minutes to decide that Reenu (Mamitha Baiju) is going to be his life partner. Reenu, who has freshly joined an IT company is sorted and has already made a blueprint of her future. She plans to get married and have kids before 30. She is warm and friendly with Sachin, and it is clear that the feeling isn’t mutual. But Sachin rejigs his plan to be around her. 

Like most boys of his age, he misconstrues her openness for love. They hang around a lot and he even obtains a native concoction from a village lady and delivers it to her in the middle of a train journey when she complains of food poisoning. And when he confesses his love while sitting in a tiny stationery shop as she helps him edit his CV, he isn’t prepared for her rejection. Sachin doesn’t hide his disappointment; he sulks and avoids her. What follows is a conventional turn of events that’s a staple to every love story when the boy faces rejection. 

Reenu’s rejection is strategically worded (“I am sure this isn’t the first time you are facing rejection”) to evoke instant sympathy for Sachin. Top that with his friend’s nasty inference that she hurt him badly, leaves the stage ripe for the subsequent “happy” climax. So in theory Premalu clock backs to the cliched love stories that have graced the screen since time immemorial. Here, Reenu for all her sense of agency falls into the same trap as her celluloid predecessors.

Similarly, when 11th grader Jason (Mathew Thomas) in Thanneer Mathan Dinangal is spurned by his classmate Keerthy (Anaswara Rajan), he takes it badly. In a telling scene when he confides to his friend, he consoles him: “They always start with a no and then you have to chase them to say yes.” Thereby upholding the wooing trope that’s been rampant in every celluloid love story. Though in Premalu, they try to lighten the “stalking” subtext with a funny rhyming word, in the film, Sachin is inadvertently doing just that. 

In Super Sharanya, a much older Deepu (Arjun Asokan) who is taken in by the compliance of Sharanya (Anaswara Rajan) when he accidentally bumps into her, typically starts stalking her online. Of course, she takes her time to give in and he doesn’t push his luck too far either. Sharanya, who hails from a small town, feels underconfident in college and finds it difficult to keep her string of toxic admirers at bay. So in a way, her romance with Deepu facilitates her coming-of-age journey.

Super Sharanya poster.
Super Sharanya poster.

When the antagonists are cut from the same cloth

Interestingly all the proverbial “antagonists’ in Girish’s films are initially presented as genial, smart men who also have a substantial fan following. Ravi Padmanabhan (Vineeth Sreenivasan) in Thanneer Mathan Dinangal is a newly recruited teacher who instantly wins over everyone with his amiability. He isn’t like the other teachers and appears to be a rule-bender, which gives him an instant shine in front of the students. When a teacher prepares to cane a student, Padmanabhan intervenes smoothly and advises him against it. Though right from the start, he is hostile towards Jaison and tries various sneaky ways to put him down, the rest don't see it. Eventually, Padmanabhan turns out to be a fraud who uses fake certificates to get into schools. In hindsight, Padmanabhan’s behaviour does seem outlandish, but we are too taken in by his charming exterior to see through him.

Still from Thanneer Mathan Dinangal.
Still from Thanneer Mathan Dinangal.

In Super Sharanya, “college hero” Ajith Menon (ironically a parody of Arjun Reddy) is revered by juniors and seniors. Even the otherwise sharp and liberal Sona is moony-eyed in front of him. When he makes his interest in Sharanya (being compliant and shy) plain, he shows his entitlement in objectionable ways, including ordering her around. He neither understands consent nor boundaries. Though it takes a while for Sharanya to summon up enough courage to put him in his place, till then Ajith Menon reigns in style.

Unlike Ajith or Ravi, Aadhi (Syam Mohan) in Premalu, comes across as authentic. He is young, successful, warm, and isn’t as overbearing or overenthusiastic as his predecessors. Everything was going well for him, till Sachin entered the picture. From then on he starts unravelling, gradually trying to get his claws on Reenu. Even then we are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it is the rejection that eventually gives him away. While Sachin avoids Reenu following her rejection, Aadhi’s ways are more aggressive.

Keerthy, Sharanya and Reenu

Sharanya is the most complex among the three, while Reenu is the most ambitious one. Keerthy is playful and tries to make sense of the world around her. But in the end, Sharanya’s arc evolves more satisfyingly, while Reenu’s arc is manipulated to suit the man’s perspective.

Still from Super Sharanya.
Still from Super Sharanya.

Girish’s world

It’s a sub-genre of realistic fiction (a lighter version of Sathyan Anthikad and Dileesh Pothan films), that takes place in ordinary homes and small towns. The humour is irreverent and cheeky, and the characters and situations are all known to you. All his characters operate within the conventional family framework, stereotypes aren’t busted (rather they are often reinstated), yet we are fine with the representations because of their organic evolution. Like Anthikad and Pothan, he revels in giving space and backstory to his sub-characters. The “Jugheady” Melvin who is quiet and lively when he wants, and Amal Davis who offers friendship goals, or the free-spirited Sona Re, add the chutzpah to the narrative. It’s a world free of artifice, inhabited by people who savour the little pleasures of life and the unexpected beauty of friendships. That’s perhaps why they have such fine recall value.