Nedunalvaadai Review: Superlative performances elevate this rural drama
A film that manages to engage audience throughly despite having a storyline that sticks to a tried-and-tested formula
Debutant Selvakannan's Nedunalvaadai is a film that induces vivid nostalgia. It might remind you of the seven stones game you played with your childhood friends, the long walk to fetch water or your warm-hearted grandfather. Even those alien to the milieu this film is set in, will be able to admire the hyper-realistic portrayal of its characters. The film manages to achieve this despite having a storyline that sticks to a tried-and-tested formula which begins with: "Oru azhagaana graamam; adhula oru anbaana thatha.."
Cast: Poo Ramu, Ilango, Anjali Nair
Selvakannan gets a lot right. Children in this film are innocent and fight over mangoes and chalk pieces. It’s relieving to see them desist from giving life advice to adults. The portrayal of the rural woman is refreshing and progressive. They are upright and bold; they speak their mind and sometimes, even swear (without the customary censor beeps, thankfully). At no point in the film are they moral-policed by the men. The film also touches upon caste, and the struggles faced by farmers, without ever turning preachy. The screenplay remains focused on the main characters.
The absence of an antagonist adds more beauty to Nedunalvaadai with the only villain here being 'society'. It is society that makes Kombaiyya (Mime Gopi) develop venomous hate towards his sister; it is what pushes Chellaiyya (Poo Ramu) to fear for his grandson's future; it is what separates Ilango (Ilango) from his girlfriend.
It’s hard not to notice the detailing in every scene. Be it the Nellai dialect in which they refer to atrocity as ‘odi sandi thanam’, or minute details like the increase in the number of chains worn by the initially bare-necked Pechiyamma (Sendhi) as the film progresses, the film shines. There are constant reality checks throughout the film, and whenever, say, a love scene seems to be getting out of hand, co-actors speak for the audience when they say something like, “Loosa pulla nee?"
The performances of Poo Ramasamy and the debutant Anjali Nair hold this film together, and stop us from paying attention to its weakest point, the story or rather, the lack of it. It felt so good to see a female actor convincingly pull off a character that is both vivacious and sensible at the same time. Poo Ramasamy comfortably gets into the skin of his character, be it the scene in which he looks at Ilango's report card and says, "Nee puthagatha eduthu padicha madhriye therlaiye pa," or the one in which he hands over his property to Pechiyamma and says,"Enna ippo setha, thooka naalu paeru vara maatan. Adhanaala enna?" He really steals the show.
The picturesque Nellai landscape by Vinoth Rathnasamy and the soothing instrumentals of Jose Franklin prove that well-made regional content can be as good as international films.
On the whole, Nedunalvaadai is indeed a well-made story. The only problem: There isn’t anything new about the story to celebrate.