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Classmates

According to Wikipedia Classmates is the highest grossing Malayalam film ever!

The ‘House Full’ sign outside a theatre is perhaps the best advertisement for any film and “Classsmates” has worn that tag for every show for more than fifty days now. Half past nine in the morning, soon after breakfast is an awkward time to run to the theatre but I did it to check out what was drawing the crowds……

Review

The lights dim and her laughter of arrogance echoes through the darkened cinema hall and his smirk suggests, ‘no one can get the better of me’. She- Thara Kurup (played by Kavya Madhavan) the daughter of a MLA is a dancer and he- Sukumaran (played by Prithviraj) is the SFK leader- both final year students of the BSc Chemistry Class of ‘91. Two strong personalities are out to get each other and the scenes rapidly unfold to tickle you with their mishievous inventiveness. You know they are destined to fall in love but meanwhile only Thara seems to have the guts to stand up to Sukumaran’s bullying political decrees: No one should attend class while a strike is on, least of all my classmates.

When the realization of love dawns on them, Director Lal Jose is careful to steer it away from excessiveness and the romance scenes are confined to the minimum. You naturally expect an immediate makeover of the woman’s character: the feisty woman to transmute into a demure faithful shadow. Not so. In the midst of sweet love when Sukumaran asks Thara with cocksure male chauvinism not to stand for elections as the Arts Club secretary from the opposing camp, her answer is succinct and firm. “You get a job, marry me and then I will listen to you and only you. But right now I live under my father’s protection and he has asked me to stand for elections and I have to listen to him. Our love will just have bear with this election.” It is not her sweetheart alone that is surprised even the audience is taken aback. She stands her ground conveying her individuality with aplomb. You want to get up and applaud her and the Director for getting it so right. Love does not have to be treated as servitude- we see so much of it in real life and reel life- the instant subversion of the feminine self for the sake of love and marriage. Here her lines come as a refreshing change.

As the election fever on the college campus rises to a crescendo the miffed lover boy seems to take the spirit of competition in his stride. But the art of manipulation and cunningness are often learnt on the campus and juvenile politicians learn the dirty tricks of a very dirty trade right there. So how did Thara Kurup’s revelatory love note find its way into the ballot box? It was meant only for Sukumaran. Did he put it in there to malign her and get her defeated? He was framed but he cannot convince Thara or anyone else of his innocence. There is something tragic about this hero: he is a failure. He fails as a son, as a lover, as a friend and as a student but it is this helpless vulnerability that reaches out to the audience and strikes a chord.

Fourteen years later at a class reunion the past begins to unfurl seamlessly interlacing with the present. Scenes are deftly repeated to reveal different perspectives and it does not bore the viewer. The erstwhile sweethearts have now matured and there is a resigned tenderness that is emoted and captured well in the film. It is the element of surprise that keeps you on the edge of the seat in this campus film with a death thrown in for shock. As the minor details of the death of the popular singer Murali emerge, a sub-plot evolves beautifully at the fag end of the film. Fun, love and dreary death Lal Jose has held it well.

Lal Jose's flms are different and he treats them differently.

By the way, it is a great idea to rush to the theatre first thing in the morning: a pleasurable way to start the day.

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