Oru Adaar Love — A Tragedy in Storytelling
Rated S for Spoilers. This is not a review.
Oru Adaar Love is a Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada movie that is set in a high school about a few boys trying to land a girl. That’s about it.
I will not go into a review of the movie here, but I want to focus on this post by director Omar Lulu.
പടം കണ്ട് ഇഷ്ടമായെന്നും പറഞ്ഞ് ഒരുപാട് മെസ്സേജുകൾ വരുന്നുണ്ട് ,അതുപോലെ തന്നെ പടത്തിന്റെ ക്ലൈമാക്സിനെ സംബന്ധിച്ച്…
For the uninitiated, the climax of the film delves into a Shakespearean tragedy where the hero is killed and the heroine is raped by the villains who appeared out of thin air for a convenient plot twist. This moment happens out of nowhere and is totally unearned for the script (Almost all moments in the script are unearned or uncalled for, but especially this one). But that is not to say the script was not without opportunities.
There is also news that the reason for the delay in the release of the movie was a rift between the director and producer regarding the direction of the plot. It is understandable that the producer wanted more of the National Sensation, Priya Varrier in the movie and the director wanted to stay with the original script. Although, it is very apparent that the script was edited to include more of Priya's character.
Other than stubbornly sticking with the climax, here are some opportunities that the script itself presented but were wasted:
Forced Kiss/Invasion of Personal Space
This happens in the first 20 minutes of the movie and the lead characters just met a day before. Priya looks shocked first and then ridiculously lost which is followed by the characters walking away. It is not just that the male character does not face any repercussions of this action, the other characters just perceive this news as normal and the other female lead in the movie agrees to help make things right by talking to Priya instead.
If Priya had reacted in this scene, this could have been a thread establishing that the lead character had the habit of rushing into things without thought. With this clear to the viewers, it would have given Roshan’s character something to work toward at the end. Priya and Roshan love story would have had some tension to overcome and driven the first half much better with Roshan trying to win her back.
Priya Prakash Varrier winks, does weird eyebrow waves, throws away kisses and even dances in rain but none of those antics can save her character from shallow depth. After watching two and a half hours of the film, all the audience can realize about her character is that she plays hard to get. Even this is completely random and no explanations awarded. She is also a nerd who is unhappy getting 95 out of 100, but then that is just cliche.
Let us try and imagine her character a bit differently. She comes from a place of wealth as in the original and has aspirations to move abroad with her parents. With her being a nerd getting good grades et. all, this shouldn’t difficult to imagine. Roshan’s character is established being sloppy and impulsive, this could give her a good reason to try and stay away from Roshan even though she likes him. Being 18 and seeking attention, she still falls in love with him after a few grand gestures.
Now, how do we get them to fall out of love and still maintain character? The original story does by creating an accident where Roshan’s friend takes his phone and uploads a porn video to the class group. I’m hypothesizing that making Roshan’s friend do it when he was drunk is just letting the audience know that he is not guilty of the whole thing (Although it is still his phone, did the friend download the clip and forward it?). Priya breaks up with him and doesn’t wait for Roshan to explain. This is obviously terrible. How do we do this better?
In the preceding scene, we have Roshan showing up at Priya’s house after she tells him nobody is home. This scene currently does not add anything to the movie, so we don’t have anything to replace here. Let us choose to forget Priya’s verbal queue for Roshan’s actions and assume he did this on an impulse. He shows up at her house, drags her into the rain and the rain dance happens. Priya gets caught in the act when her parents come home early and get into a fight with them. Her parents have already secured visa and universities for her abroad and give her a choice of either her irresponsible boyfriend or an elusive career. When she goes back to her room, she finds that Roshan has uploaded a porn clipping to the class group and pulls her further into the dilemma. Next day, she breaks up with him and doesn’t stand around to get an explanation because the clip is not the reason she is breaking up. But to Roshan, this still seems highly unfair, the audience knows a secret that the lead doesn’t. This could fill into the tension that drives the second half.
Tribute to Kalabhavan Mani
While I’m very happy they chose to include this and with the choice of songs and their order, this set piece is very shoddily shot. I get that this is an annual day and this is how annual days are shot, but Common! This is a movie anyway. There is no need to pull in that much reality.
Instead of just inserting it into the plot, this had the opportunity of some character moments too. Gadha’s character (played by Noorin Shereef) is shown to be a jovial girl who mostly hangs out with the boys. What is missing from their friendship circle is a moment where Gadha helps one of the guys. Except maybe writing records or helping them get other girls. This could also help with the guys celebrating Gadha’s birthday at her house more believable. We insert one shy guy in there who sings in the class banging on desks but is afraid of singing on stage. Gadha can monologue him into singing a folk song, have a few scenes with them on stage together and Bam! We have a personal moment that matters with the tribute.
This is also one of the last scenes where we see the seniors who wreaked havoc in the first half with some ragging and menacing looks. With Mani’s songs picking up the tempo, we could have them unite with our lead characters Roshan and Priya, conveniently placed beneath the stage and dance their tensions off before they say goodbye. This could have ended their characters satisfyingly.
Tribute to Fishermen
Salim Kumar’s character pops into the movie as the parent of a student. The scene becomes a very obvious throwback to the blockbuster Premam. As the background score raises the scene pays a tribute to the fishermen who came to rescue in Kerala Floods. But we have the feeling that the character does not deserve this. The character from the introduction seems arrogant and does not care for the education of his child. He takes the complaints very lightly and even finds pride in it. Even after delivering the tribute line, the very next scene, the character goes on to make a sexist remark on his son’s teacher.
I don’t think this requires much of an explanation. Make Salim Kumar’s character much more dignified. Rather than the character forcing an insult out of the school staff surrounding him, make it come naturally. The male teachers are portrayed as buffoons anyway, so there was an opportunity to make use of it. With the sexist remark, let’s just plain avoid it.
But what can we do instead? Since our central character is a local fisherman who commands respect, let’s do what he would do. In the corridor, he meets Sneha Miss who makes a remark about the sexual innuendoes that his son makes about her, he would reprimand/scold his son. Let’s put a tight slap in there. He apologies to the teacher for his son’s behavior. Since he still does not care about his child's test scores, he would still be a cool parent that the movie wishes to convey. But having the same parent burst out at his son for behaving wrongly with his teacher could speak volumes about his standard and set up the tribute nicely for the audience to remember.
But this could also be a boon for our story (otherwise, there is no use putting it there in the first place). What the school lacks up until this point in this story is a teacher that they can look up to. All the male teachers have portrayed buffoons and female ones objectified. Sneha miss, played by Roshna Ann Roy even after the objectification stands out as a likable character with real dialogue and someone who actually cares for the children. She could be the anchor and mature friend that these children come to in case they mess up. Why would we want to have someone like that?
Sex and the School
An obvious theme that runs across the movie is of Sex. Almost every woman character in this movie is objectified at one point or another and the only reason any of the boys come to high school is to land a girl. None of the male leads have any other motivation specified elsewhere. They do not even discuss other things. Furthermore, there are scenes like Priya's character trying to escape punishment by claiming stomach pain (a stand-in for periods, if that was not obvious). This is played just for the laughs and has no impact on the character or plot. Even the boys were asked out of the class, the same thing Priya did, so there was no need of this ploy anyway. If we had Gadha call her out on this behavior or even try to help her (as the story prefers at this point), it would have got a character relationship across with the uniqueness of this gag. Another character’s line I’m not a virgin which is immediately played up for jokes and never remembered again is another one of the lost opportunities.
Another of the major plot points is when Roshan’s friend uploads a porn clip in the class WhatsApp group. Much more than the fact that a porn clip was circulating, it was that it was uploaded in the class group that was causing all the furor. How the plot decides to get across this is by introducing a police inspector (who is a relative to Gadha?) sprinkled with more sexual innuendoes. Instead, what we needed was someone like Sneha Miss. Someone the children and the teachers trusted who could take responsibility. Had she stepped up and straight up talked to the kids about it, the school would have felt complete. Even if she was reprimanding, all we had to do was give her a line acknowledging repressed sexuality of these children and calling out our education system on it, it would also give the students an adult they can look up to. While the objectification should stop in the previous act, this is where respect would come in. We as the audience would perceive the students to have grown from misogyny to a place of respect for women which gives the whole group of students a character arc to work towards.
The question of morality is what it boiled down at the end. But this is addressed with no social commentary, just abruptly jumping on the audience. The answer to how we can make this better is that We don’t. The script has not deserved commentary on the subject and cannot be dealt at the climax of such a plot. Though it subverts the audience expectations, there is a difference when you are doing it for the sake of it.
What I liked about this film
As you can guess, there isn’t much.
How the movie was sometimes referencing to the ridiculousness of itself presented a good watch. As in the scene where characters in the movie are ridiculing the lyrics of a song or when a character retorts that anyone can make waves with eyebrows. These are all thoughts that the audience had watching this and to see this acknowledged by the movie itself is a great feeling.
Hareesh Kanaran playing homage to a role of the PT Teacher in Premam was the saving grace of the movie. Female characters played by Noorin Sherrif and Roshna Ann Roy held up to being likable until the very end even though they had no real character arcs. Noorin’s jovialness and likability are the only reasons that the climax attracts some feeling from the audience.
What do you think can be improved?
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