Nadikar Movie Review: A lost opportunity, high on broad strokes

Nadikar Movie Review: A lost opportunity, high on broad strokes

If not for the unimaginative writing, the Tovino-starrer could have been a compelling coming-of-age of a narcissist and a potent satire on the idea of stardom
Nadikar(2.5 / 5)

In one of the early scenes of Nadikar, superstar David Padikkal (Tovino Thomas) is ready for his shot and starts reciting the lines that he has memorised. 'Feel evide?' (Where is the feel?), shouts a veteran director (Ranjith), frustrated on seeing his lead actor hamming his way through, sans any emotion. This sequence comes after a well-shot montage illustrating David's sudden propulsion to stardom, leading him to taking things for granted with an unmistakable air of arrogance. As the film progresses nonchalantly, one cannot be blamed if the audience, too, starts pondering the same question. Feel evide?

Director: Lal Jr

Cast: Tovino Thomas, Soubin Shahir, Bhavana, Suresh Krishna, Balu Varghese

Several years after a streak of success catapulted him to fame, David is now gradually losing everything, courtesy a string of flops. The general public, the media, and his entourage are all questioning his relevance as an actor. It reaches a point where he becomes open to the idea of hiring a professional acting coach, who could potentially breathe new life into his waning career. Soon, Bala (Soubin Shahir), a dispassionate acting instructor with a strong theater background comes into the picture and it is anything but smooth for him to tame David's tantrums.

It is the second time Lal Jr is attempting a film centered around the life of a film star after Driving License (2019), which, thankfully, had the backing of a solid script that did not pull its punches. Coming to Nadikar, the intentions are evident in its portrayal of the evolution of an unruly superstar, but unfortunately, Suvin S Somasekharan's lackadaisical writing approaches this narrative with broad strokes. Barring some of the sporadic humour, mostly involving Suresh Krishna and Balu Varghese, the film tries too hard to find a solid footing.

Nadikar begins on a humble note with the video footage of an interview featuring Malayalam's first superstar, Prem Nazir, sharing pearls of wisdom on how stardom is not a bed of roses and emphasising the importance of discipline to stay relevant. The film attempts to examine this notion of stardom as a meta-commentary in today's times, showcasing how the Malayalam film industry operates. Unfortunately, apart from barely scratching the surface of the underlying themes and featuring some customary tongue-in-cheek gags related to the industry, it offers hardly anything new that we have not seen before.

The first hour of Nadikar moves at a brisk pace as it leaves no stone unturned in portraying David's unhinged and insecure life as a junkie and womaniser, who can't move on from his ex-lover. However, it significantly falters in engaging the audience post the interval when David reluctantly starts embracing Bala's pieces of advice on how to act.

As David, Tovino does manage to deliver an impressive performance while walking a tightrope between portraying a haughty star consumed by vanity and a mediocre actor who cannot even care to move a finger to improve his craft. The film falters when it lazily tries to explore the inner turmoils of David as an orphan, which becomes the cornerstone of the character's reinvention as an actor. Soubin, too, gets to shine in a few emotional scenes opposite Tovino, but the writing around his one-note character leaves a lot to be desired.

Among the supporting cast, the standout performer was the hilarious Suresh Krishna as David's manager, reminiscent of Antony Perumbavoor's association with Mohanlal, as referenced in the film. Balu Varghese, too, provides comedic relief as part of the entourage. It was also refreshing to see Bhavana in a composed-yet-fun portrayal, even though her limited presence is peripheral to the story.

One aspect that soared high in the film is, of course, the costumes and styling departments who understood the assignment. While most of the technical departments were satisfactory, the sync sound and mixing felt subpar as many dialogues were partially inaudible.

On the whole, Nadikar is a lost opportunity that lacks both energy and emotional connection. It could have been a compelling coming-of-age of a narcissist and a potent satire on the idea of stardom, but its unimaginative writing makes it a lacklustre affair.

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