Mera Naam Shaji Review: Nadirshah delivers a hat-trick
Though not a perfect film, it is an ideal family entertainer designed to keep you engaged throughout its two-hour runtime
I don’t know how Nadirshah does it. Here is a filmmaker who knows how to do something fresh with a very familiar template. In Mera Naam Shaji, his most light-hearted film till date, he proves that it’s still possible to produce jokes out of someone’s injured posterior, a missing object (in this case, an abandoned sim card), and mistaken identities.
Cast: Biju Menon, Baiju, Asif Ali, Dharmajan, Nikhila Vimal
Once again, you get a Nadirshah entertainer which has a three-word title (it’s not for a superstitious reason, he has said) and three important characters all with the first name, ‘Shaji’. We first meet the Shaji from Kozhikode (Biju Menon), a respected local gangster, not very unlike the actor’s character from the recent Padayottam (the Kozhikode dialect comes in place of the Thiruvananthapuram one). The target of his latest 'quotation' is a local politician (Ganesh Kumar) who happens to be the elder brother of the Shaji from Kochi (Asif Ali), a con man who sometimes comes up with logically-flawed ideas like organising a bogus wedding to make money off of unsuspecting foreigners (yes, they all fall for it). It’s when the con man’s dream girl, Neenu Thomas (Nikhila Vimal) resurfaces that the Shaji from Thiruvananthapuram (Baiju) makes his entry. Throw in Dharmajan’s ‘freakan’ character (as Asif’s buddy), and what we get is a mostly hilarious comedy of errors with occasional lapses in logic and quality.
As with his earlier films, Nadirshah displays his remarkable knack for comic timing. It’s not easy when there are multiple characters and multiple coincidences. How about a scene where two strangers who, after meeting face to face, have a conversation on the phone later without knowing who the person on the other end of the line is? Oh, and this conversation is happening while they are in close proximity to each other. It’s fresh moments like these that stand out in the film.
Biju, Baiju, and Dharmajan come through with flying colours. However, it’s Biju who gets the best lines. A remark about the conspirator, the middleman, and the executor being in the same room had me laughing out loud. This character also comes with a considerable amount of swag. In one sequence, he makes an entry reminiscent of Ajay Devgn in the Singham films. Don’t bother finding the logic behind his ability to get out of an SUV while it’s still spinning. Or a woman putting the lives of many bystanders in jeopardy just to save her friend.
Speaking of this friend, it’s the aforementioned con man’s dream girl, Neenu Thomas. Her problem: she has been trapped in a bad marriage thanks to her father, and spends most of her time brooding and looking clueless. Neenu is a textbook example of a damsel in distress, like Vani Vishwanath’s character from Mannar Mathai Speaking. I can’t fathom why Nikhila was cast in this part, because she deserves much better roles than this. Any newcomer could’ve played this role. There is a nice song, Manasukkulle, featuring her and Asif, but she doesn’t seem very interested in being part of it. Her portions with Asif are among the film’s weakest moments.
Baiju is, needless to say, his usual naturally vibrant self. We are currently going through the Baiju renaissance. As in Lucifer, he gets his moments in Mera Naam Shaji too. His iconic one-liner “Nee Theerneda Theernu” from Left Right Left makes an appearance in a crucial scene. It’s only apt considering the situations he gets into. Nadirshah conceals most of Baiju’s profanity-filled exchanges with Biju using cleverly distorted songs from yesteryear and recent Malayalam hits. You don’t need to know what abuses are being hurled. When you hear Malare from Premam, the swear word is easily guessed.
Though not a perfect film, Mera Naam Shaji is an ideal family entertainer designed to keep you engaged throughout its two-hour runtime. I laughed at some of the gags and cringed at a few of the chauvinistic lines. But then that’s a Nadirshah film for you.