It is human nature for a movie lover to knowingly or unknowingly compare any movie he watches with something else in the same language or genre or the actor’s film list. But once in a blue moon comes a movie which seems to be on a zone of its own. It runs at its own pace, has no qualms in being very different, has its own unique visual language and sets its own screenplay rules. Neelakasham Pachakkadal Chuvanna Bhoomi(NPCB) is one such effort and it will leave you with a truly pleasant experience for at least a couple of days.
Directed and co-produced by Sameer Thahir, the man behind the inspired, yet engaging Chappa Kurishu, NPCB brings together
the hero-friend duo of Dulquer Salman and Sunny Wayne post their debut outing in ‘Second Show’. NPCB being a very story-light but experience oriented movie, I will keep my story brief to a bare minimum so that any potential viewers are not robbed of a good movie going experience. In a nutshell, NPCB tell the story of Kasi (Dulquer) who has set on a long biking road trip on his bullet accompanied by his best friend Suni (Sunny). Gradually during the course of their journey in Puri and a West Bengal village, we are shown some flashes of his past involving his SFI days at college and his tender lover story with a classmate of his from Nagaland. Post-interval we get to know more about his past, how his conservative Muslim family reacts to his love affair with a North Eastern girl and what leads him to go on his soul searching road journey.
Random as my brief may sound to you, that is where the team behind NPCB has triumphed in the use of the cinematic medium
to weave magic with a very simple story and traverse way beyond narration and moving the viewer to a contemplative stage. It definitely makes you reflect upon incidents from your life and ask you questions about issues such as a) How much you live for yourself and how much do you sacrifice that for the needs of those around you b) How much do you think you love and protect your loved ones vis a vis how much they actually end up protecting you. NPCB is definitely not for those in the mood of hardcore masala fans in the hunt of a weekend escapade. But just briefly open up your patience levels and you will be amazed by how the movie makes you absorb, smile and think. Moreover the film manages to clearly bring out the insecurities and complications faced by the younger generation in matters of love and family. The narration is subtlety personified and it is filled with lovely moments all over.
The languid initial reels in Puri with a cute love side track involving the surfer chic (Paloma Monappa) sets the tone at the start and things keep getting better. The flashback college scenes and lead love story are cute and crisp. The small side tracks of Suni with the college sweeper and the Bengali girl work majorly because of his amazing screen presence and great timing. This is one rare movie in recent times where the 2nd half instead of being a downer, picks up speed rapidly. The scenes in Kasi’s ancestral home are brilliantly done and beautifully show his family’s dilemma in getting caught between their son’s happiness and their social standing and the difficult choice they make out of it. But the film’s high-point is definitely the Assam episode where the confused youth played by Kasi sees a emotionally charged up situation and starts questioning his attitude towards his family. A road movie by itself is a brave attempt and it would be impossible to attempt that without a strong technical team.
Cinematography by Gireesh Gangadharan is outstanding. The length and breadth of the country have not been captured so beautifully at least in my recent memory. Be it the beaches of Puri the hills of the North East or even the random highway, the visual are all consistently top notch. The songs and bgm are perfectly in sync with each mood of the film. ‘Doore Doore’ and ‘Thaazhvaaram’ come to the top of the mind immediately as standout songs. But the musical effort overall, especially the BGM is very commendable. At times even a simple guitar or piano section seems to do the trick. The screenplay is definitely not blemishless. Even with its optimum length you feel at times that there is a sub-plot too many. But still a big round of kudos must be given to Hashir Mohamed for coming up with a very innovative writing approach of smartly interspersing love and drama with a long road journey.
Performance wise there is not a single false note from anyone. Firstly it has a very fresh set of female characters to look forward to in Manipuri actress Surja Bala Hijam, Bangalore model Paloma Monappa and Ena Saha. It doesn’t hurt that all of them do adequate justice to their parts. The rest of the supporting cast are all very earnest in their jobs be it Vanitha as Kasi’s mom, Joy Mathew as his father or Dhritiman Chatterjee as the principled comrade. But the cake and bakery are of course taken by Dulquer and Sunny Wayne. Just when you thought that Dulquer is probably a bit too repetitive in his urban avtars, he threw a mini surprise with his role in Anchu Sundarikal and hits a home run with NPCB. Yes he does play a dude who gets as urban as it gets, but he clearly has a huge bandwidth to play around and he does absolute justice to it. Be it with college kid with a carefree attitude, the earnest SFI activist, the home loving son and most importantly the confused youngster he just kills it frame after frame, frame after frame. Just look for the frames where he proposes to his girl, the one where he tells his Dad about his love angle or the one where he breaks down on thinking about his mother. This kid is here to stay. I would be lacking in my duty if I fail to make a big mention about Sunny Wayne. The man conveys so much by just being around. His escapades with the college sweeper, his mature sub-plot in Bengal and his calm yet relentless friendship with Dulquer are all pulled off with panache.
NPCB as I said before is not regular popcorn fare. Neither does it even try to even get you engaged with a regular linear plot. That can definitely put some audience off. But invest some patience, soak in the sights it offers and then chances are its gradual plot progression will definitely win you over. You will surely be able to relate some of its themes with something personal to you. This is path breaking cinema. Surely not fault free. But these are definitely big, bold steps for a whole generation to work on and improve upon. It has a super confident generation and a welcoming ecosystem (read audience, technicians and actors in that order) to whole heartedly thank for. 3.5 stars to all of them.