Neru, a Malayalam film from the Drishyam series creator, would’ve made for a potent Telugu remake in the pre-OTT era
There are filmmakers who’re versatile and there are filmmakers who make hay while the sun shines. While there’s little doubt about Jeethu Joseph’s potential as a director, crime, courtroom proceedings and thrillers have been his forte since his career took off with Suresh Gopi’s Detective in 2007. He continues to make the most of his strengths with his latest release Neru.
The Malayalam storyteller shot to fame with the Drishyam series and never had to look back again. Neru, his absorbing courtroom drama starring Mohanlal, Priyamani, Anaswara Rajan and Siddique, is now out on Disney+ Hotstar. The straightforward yet intricately scripted film shows how far can an earnest lawyer go to ensure justice for a blind girl, who’s been raped.
In more ways than one, the film shares a thematic similarity with Pink. The accused, Michael, is the son of an influential man with a notorious past while a visually challenged Sara Mohammed has all odds stacked against her. The lawyer Vijayamohan returns to work after a sabbatical. There’s a smart gender reversal – as Vijayamohan and Poornima stand up for clients of opposite sexes.
Much like Pink, the defense lawyers viciously twist the case to their advantage, make provocative statements and tampering with evidence and witnesses. Even when pushed to the brink, Vijayamohan finds a way to bounce back, takes calculated risks and stands up for Sara. The authenticity in the courtroom proceedings is the USP of the film; cinematic liberties are only used sparingly.
The backdrop for Sara’s character is quite absorbing. She isn’t only blind but also has a familial issue, raised by her stepfather and biological mother, with her half-siblings not wishing her well. Sara is a trained sculptor and makes a statue of the perpetrator for evidence. The twists are timed smartly and the complexity of the case naturally lends itself to a gripping screenplay.
Even while defending the accused, both Poornima and Rajashekar are not reduced to dummy opponents. At every step, Vijayamohan is challenged and as a viewer, you’re curious for his response. With the riveting screenplay backed by strong attention to detail, Jeethu Joseph already had a winner and he has a capable cast, doing the needful, who preserve the soul of the script.
While the film is more or less a cakewalk for seasoned performers like Mohanlal, Priyamani and Siddiqui, the standout performer is Anaswara Rajan, who masterfully brings the resilient character alive minus any exaggerated histrionics. Jagadish, Santhi Mayadevi, the dependable Mathew Varghese and Sankar Induchoodan do the needful in their well-etched roles.
Although Neru is available across five languages – Malayalam, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada – on OTT, it would’ve served as a potent material for a remake across languages in the pre-digital era, given the universal appeal of the script. With the success rate of remakes drastically reducing in most industries and audiences preferring to watch films in their original versions, it remains to be seen if producers will take that creative risk.