The movie kicks off with a visibly naive ‘Kuttan’ having us in splits with his responses for an interview for the post of a software analyst. The infectious cheer which follows in Kuttan’s narration is carried off till the end by director Anjali Menon, who introduces cool fun-filled elements in the script one after the other, not letting the narration sag at any point of time. Her handling of the ultra simple one-line ‘What if three close diametrically opposite cousins find solutions to their insecurities in a fun-city?’ is totally refreshing, as she goes deep down into the psyches of each of her protagonists to drive her point home. And that definitely makes you live the characters on-screen and feel their emotions, and even sing, dance, cheer and cry with them.
2) Casting coup
The bringing together of talented prodigies to the likes of Dulquer, Nivin, Nazriya, Fahadh, Parvathi, Isha and providing all of them the opportunity to dazzle on-screen is the single most significant feat Anjali has pulled off rather nonchalantly. Every one of them are total revelations in their respective roles, The supporting cast is also top-notch, as Rekha, Prathap Pothen, Kalpana and Vijayaraghavan pitch in with their nuanced performances. The charming cameo by Nithya Menon is a cherry on the cake. And what a joy it is, to see them all sharing the screen!
3) The killer combo of soulful relatable protagonists and terrific performances
Beautifully written well-etched characters are the heart and soul of ‘Bangalore days’. Dulquer Salman playing the rebel of the three cousins, comes across as vibrant and defiant in the role of ‘Arjun @ Aju’, a lovelorn school drop-out who gets bogged down by his hot-headedness and insecurity. He impresses with his ‘rocky’ charm and brings out the change in his character arc in the second half with style and elan. Nivin is absolutely brilliant in his portrayal of ‘Krishnan @ Kuttan’ – a home-sick country-side youth who gets lost in the conflicts of a metro. With spontaneity and innovation in voice modulation, dialogue delivery and looks, he does steal the thunder from the rest. Nazriya is a ‘natural’ as the lively and buoyant Divya, who enters wedlock with a ton load of dreams. These three gifted actors elevate the movie a few notches higher.
4) Dashing chemistry
If Nazriya was a livewire, Anjali contrasts it beautifully with ‘Das’ (played with maturity by Fahadh Faasil), Divya’s reclusive and indifferent husband who mysteriously goes into a ‘cocoon’ under the excuse of privacy. And when the suspense is revealed, he comes across as compassionate man, who has reluctantly decided to give his shattered life a second chance. Divya and Das aren’t the perfect pair, but they patiently work towards it. And this is where the ‘chemistry’ works! And then, there is Parvathi as the wheel-chair bound radio jockey ‘Sarah’ who exudes positivity in her every ‘step’. The moments when Dulquer (Arjun) realizes that the consummate calmness in Sarah completes him, and comes to terms with his ‘unsure’ self are all sheer magic. The shy ‘Kuttan’ gets attracted to the outspoken air-hostess Meenakshi, and brings the roof down when his ‘coolers and spikes’ antics in his process of falling head over heels in love with her. This unorthodox chemistry between the lead pairs gives a new colour to the film.
5) Beyond a genre
The writing prowess of Anjali is evident in her deftness at jumping genres smoothly, gelling them together without making any stick out as a sore thumb. At one moment, we have Divya and Kuttan clowning around in their comic self, while the next moment we have Das confront Divya over her juvenile pranks and behave in the strangest possible way. At another moment, we have Aju delivering brilliant quips and letting his hair down, and next we have him ‘speechless and lost’ in front of his own cousins. The film unfolds as an intelligent blend of a romantic-comedy and a family-drama for most of its running time, and I must say that it does work well. To add some more zing to the proceedings, Anjali throws in even a pinch of ‘sports drama’ and ‘Suspense drama’ to the script and boy, does that entertain!
6) Emotionally intense, yet feel good
There is a particular sequence in the movie when Das yells at Divya for keeping the house disorderly by painting on the window panes and in a fit of frustration asks her to “grow up”. What we see here is a playful adorable ‘kid’ who had grown up much too soon only to be caught up in an overwhelming emotional ordeal, which is in many ways than one, inappropriate for her age. On the other end of the spectrum is a man who is trying in vain to come to terms with the reality. This emotional encounter culminates when Das gets up early in the morning and watches in awe as the sunshine hits the window and brings in a myriad display of colours, alive on glass. He smiles, and with him we all smile! And when Divya smiles seeing a note left by Das which reads “Thank you for all the colours”, we do have a teardrop rolling down our cheek.
7) A celebration of clichés
It’s quite an irony that the negatives of ‘Bangalore days’ are also its positives. If one thing is written all over the script, it’s the word, ‘predictability’. Right from the start, we know what is going to happen in the lives of each of the protagonists (except for Nivin, which was indeed a good twist). Yes, Fahadh and Nazriya do get close, with Nazriya going the distance in relieving Fahadh of his guilt. Yes, Dulquer does find his inner calling both personally and professionally. Yes, Nivin gets the true love he was yearning for. We do have the wedding song and the climax match. In fact, we have the proverbial formulaic flashback too. But Anjali makes it all appealing and heart-warming with her touches, so much so that the trip we take actually becomes enjoyable, even though we are quite familiar with the destination.
8) Restraint matters
There is yet another emotional sequence in the second half when Arjun realises that Sarah is his ‘soul-mate’, which had all the potential to have turned over-the-top dramatic in a usual rom-com. Here, Anjali lets silence and minimal words combined with powerful glances to do the talking. Aju lifts Sarah into a bus and sits besides her. At that moment, some realisation within him makes him look at her eyes with all the ‘love’ and ‘care’ that he could muster. Few seconds of silence linger. In the silence, what we feel is his brusque brazenness dissolving into something more serene, soothing and meaningful. In a moment of profound passion, he responds to a confused Sarah that he doesn’t want to follow her, but instead wants to walk hand-in-hand with her. Sarah is initially taken by shock, but soon brings in poise to her face. Here we see a girl who is scared to accept ‘love’, despite her yearning for the same. She just looks into his eyes to figure out if its ‘sympathy’ or ‘passion’. And when she is sure, she very slowly parts her lips, breaking into a mysterious half-smile. Millions of words were spoken and many drops of tears were shed in silence, that micro moment.
9) Small tweaks go a long way
Anjali seems to have realized that tweaking with the formulaic rom-com in engaging ways can catch us off-guard and make us grin at ourselves sheepishly. Here, Divya even as she completes her degree and dreams of making it to the IIMs, is made to meet a potential groom at the advice of an astrologer. We expect our girl to cry in defiance, question the need for her marriage, argue overnight, get slapped by her dad, shut herself in her room and pounce into bed weeping to glory. But what happens does amuse us, making us sit up in anticipation. Divya gives her concurrence on meeting Das, and goes about her wedding plans excitedly without any fuss. She even confronts Arjun (who warns her against an arranged marriage) reasoning out that she has got a good-looking, decent well-settled guy for an alliance, and it would be stupid for her to turn him away. She goes one step further and even starts making plans in her future city, Bangalore.
10) Breaking stereotypes
Talking of tweaks, Anjali is not afraid of giving her take on a number of contemporary issues and changing perceptions. Kuttan takes the emotionally troubled Divya home only to find that his father missing and a letter from his dad that he could not take the breathlessness anymore. Kuttan’s mother (Kalpana) looks distraught and haggard to the public eye, but when she calls Kuttan and quips on how her husband has never let her be herself, we again smile! She comes to Bangalore with her son, and lo and behold, she doesn’t resort to wearing dull/white extra-sized attire. In fact, she rediscovers herself, changing into a Gen X mom neatly dressed in Salwars and Kurtis, taking to Yoga, holding parties and ordering Pizza. And Kuttan gets a letter from his dad, who is apparently in Goa (Yes, the pun included) breathing free finally. What we see is a matured tale of a couple married for decades, who just drift apart out of love for some independence. Sweet, eh?
11) Appealingly bold – sometimes subtle, sometimes not
For the celebration of cliches that the film is, Divya the bride does become tensed and unsure of her decision to marry just before the wedding. This comes right after the quip from his cousin Arjun that if she was to change her name from Divya Prakash to Divya Das, was it some sort of procedure for transfer of ownership. What does Divya do? She doesnt climb down from the window and escape! She grabs the cigarette from Aju and takes in puffs one after another, till she kind of calms down. Wow, already! The masterstroke actually comes on the wedding stage, when the cousins ask Divya to calm down and take deep breaths. And as she exhales, emerges a puff of smoke from her mouth getting blended with the smoke of the AgniHoma! Another romantic mould goes down the drain as Kuttan gets allured by the enchantress ‘Laxmi’ and gets himself changed, only to find her ex-boyfriend snatch her away, leaving him on the exit with a literal broken nose (Ha ha, so much so for subtlety!)
12) Lively and colourful
The film is full of frames which scream of colours and artistic beauty. Be it the pristine lakes and buildings of countryside Kerala or the glittering night-life of Bangalore, cinematographer Sameer Thahir is at his ‘spell-binding’ best. The energy and detailing of the wedding song makes it one of the best in recent times and Gopi Sunder’s thumping beats liven it up further. The dirt-biking race sequences have been captured pretty well, and again Gopi with his top-notch re-recording makes it far more realistic. Apart from Sameer and Gopi, the art director and the editor have to be commended for their awesome jobs. But again, the editor Praveen could have paced up the second half of the movie a little.
13) It’s about a heart-warming theme at the core
At the heart of all these happenings, the underlying theme of ‘love and passion triumphing over all odds’ is woven deep down, quite discernibly. At the end of it all, the film turns out to be an impressive reminder that life, in spite of its mercurial nature of swinging between joy and sorrow, is there to be celebrated in all its glory.
‘Bangalore days’ is not a flawless or path-breaking movie, which will redefine Indian cinema. It’s not a rib-tickling comedy either, which will make you fall off your seats laughing. But what it effectively does is take you on a roller-coaster ride of joy and emotions, which will keep you smiling for long. Go for it!