It's safe to say that Pranav is the soul of the movie, which is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar. The actor has a charisma that suits his character Arun and Vineeth uses this best during the pre-interval portions set in the campus.
Last Updated: 12.30 AM, Feb 18, 2022
Story: Structured as two chapters in the life of Arun Neelankadan (Pranav Mohanlal), one half follows the events that happen during his campus years and the second examines his time after college and his years as a married man. The people in both the chapters – his first girlfriend Darshana, his friends and Nithya – have a profound influence in his life and help shape the person he has become.
Review: If Vineeth Sreenivasan’s previous four films – Malarvadi Arts Club, Thattathin Marayathu, Thira and Jacobinte Swargarajyam – are anything to go by, it’s almost a given that his movies will have enough cinematic moments and elements to keep the audience engaged, even if it's a familiar story. It’s in the presentation, narration and the experience that his movies offer, that they differ from the earlier versions. Hridayam is again a success on that front.
It's a coming-of-age tale that begins with Arun Neelakandan boarding a train to Chennai to join his engineering college, a place and its people that would come to shape his life in more ways than one. Hridayam is structured as two chapters in Arun’s life – one during college and the other after his campus days, with the third act interconnecting his past and present. The campus chapter is the one that is packed with energy – in terms of tone as well as music.
Being an engineering graduate from a Chennai college himself, Vineeth paints a rather vivid picture that is sure to make the millennials nostalgic and take a stroll down memory lane. It’s also here that Arun meets Darshana, and the filmmaker doesn’t make their relationship a clichéd campus romance. He introduces challenges – some rather too convenient – but it helps Arun’s evolution and completes the arc at the end. Given that it’s those experiences from his campus life that has had a major impact in his life, the director invests a lion’s share of the film to this.
But it’s the second chapter that will have you watching the proceedings with a smile throughout. Be it the weddings, the meet-cute or the romance, these might lack the energy of the first half but it has the heart and humour. And it’s not easy to pull off, given it’s a series of feel-good moments strung together and paced beautifully for the audience to enjoy. That said, Arun’s world in the second half does feel contained compared to the first chapter. You could argue that this is what happens in real life too, it does feel that the character is just an extension of his campus days and lacks the depth that would have made the evolution more complete. Even as he finds himself, there you still don’t get a sense that he has grown as a person. The dialogues in these sequences too come off as rather formulaic.
The movie is just shy of three hours, and the energy does taper in the dying 30 minutes. Hesham Abdul Wahab’s music, however, is a huge boon to a movie of this length. The tracks are brilliantly placed and help pace the movie along nicely. The tempo of the songs too is reflective of Arun's personality, from a youngster driven by adrenaline to one who is mellowed down by experiences and insights.
It's safe to say that Pranav is the soul of the movie, and this is easily his best outing so far. The actor has a charisma that suits his character Arun and this is best used by Vineeth during his campus days. While the matured portions needed some work, the actor does bring in an endearing quality to his character, which could make you overlook the flaws. While he shines in the first half as Arun, it becomes difficult to differentiate between Arun and Pranav's real-life character in the latter chapter. Darshana Rajendran cruises through her role as Darshana in the movie. Of all the characters, she is probably the one who nails the nuances to differentiate the two phases. The arc of her character too is something that has not been explored much in campus tales, and Darshana does complete justice to make it memorable. Kalyani as Nithya is a bundle of energy and her chemistry with Pranav helps make the aforementioned moments work in the second chapter of the movie. Kalyani's character, however, could have been developed more, given that she becomes the cornerstone of Arun's life in the latter phase. Annu Antony, Jojo Jose and Arun Kurian make the most of their parts to stand out in the supporting cast. Ashwath Lal and Aju Varghese elevate the humour elements in Hridayam, along with Johny Antony.
The art department also deserves applause for showing the time period of the late 2000s in the first half without really throwing it in your face. The movie is also beautifully cinematographed by Viswajith Odukkathil. He ensures that the vibrancy of the college is intact in the first half. The visuals for Puthiyoru Lokam sets the refreshing tone for the start of the next chapter and the final sequences accompanied by Hesham’s music, takes you back to remind you of the beating heart of Hridayam.
Verdict: Boasted by beautiful visuals, music and humour, this Vineeth Sreenivasan directorial is sure to take you back to your college days, while also making you realise the joy of what you have around. Pranav Mohanlal brings in his A-game for the movie, which also has a stellar supporting cast and is peppered with delightful moments that are best experienced in theatre with a large audience.