Remember that golden age when Sathyan Anthikad and Sreenivasan got together and delivered some of Malayalam cinema's most iconic classics? The director-writer duo's Nadodikkaatu, Varavelpu, Sanmanassullavarkku Samadhanam and Sandesham played a big part in shaping my formative years. Now they are back after 16 long years with a film which finds a place among their best.
Anthikad's detractors have often criticised him for making the same film over and over again -- mostly the story of a common man -- and not keeping up with the times. Njan Prakashan doesn't see Anthikad upgrading himself -- yes, at times it feels like a rehash of some of his earlier films -- but what works hugely to his advantage is a group of incredibly talented actors comprising Fahadh Faasil, Nikhila Vimal, Devika Sanjay, and the writer himself, Sreenivasan.
When Anthikad first announced Njan Prakashan with a different title -- 'Malayali' -- he told me it would be in the same vein as some of his yesteryear classics. At the time of the conversation, filming hadn't even begun, and I'm not sure if I sensed confidence in his voice, but after having seen Njan Prakashan, I must say that I didn't expect it to be this good. I'm sure he must have shrieked with joy after reading Sreenivasan's script because what you see in Njan Prakashan is a master filmmaker returning to form.
Let's begin with Fahadh. How does an actor do a similar role for the second or third time and still make it seem fresh and, in fact, deliver an even better performance than the previous ones? I'm not sure about other actors but Fahadh certainly knows how to do it. In the actor's second collaboration with Anthikad (after Oru Indian Pranayakadha), Fahadh delivers the most endlessly watchable performance of his career.
I see Njan Prakashan as the fourth part of a series of films, in which Fahadh is playing a flawed protagonist turning a new leaf by the end of the film. This series, for me, begins with Maheshinte Prathikaram followed by Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, Carbon, and culminates with Njan Prakashan. (I wouldn't mind seeing him portray similar characters in the future if he continues giving such remarkable performances.) Prakashan is a mix of Mahesh Bhavana (from Maheshinte..), Prasad (from Thondimuthalum...), and Sibi (from Carbon).
The son of a schoolteacher, Prakashan represents that typical Malayali youth who is looking to make an easy buck without moving a single muscle. At one point, he considers joining a political party but he is rejected because they don't have the funds to pay its existing members. He is a bit of a snob and feels that his nursing degree would find better use in a foreign country. According to him, hospitals in India don't deserve someone of his calibre.
The film opens with him rotating a globe -- he is preparing a list of countries he would like to go to. (In a possible nod to another Anthikad-Sreenivasan film Sandesham, Prakashan mutters 'Poland'). He also tells everyone his new name is P R Akash, which he repeats several times throughout the film. But this behaviour is not annoying all, because "My name is P R Akash" is basically the modern upgrade of Mohanlal's "I am B.Com First Class" from Nadodikaattu. In other words, he is a typical Sathyan Anthikad protagonist.
When he learns that a childhood friend, Salomi (a subtly mysterious Nikhila Vimal) -- also a nursing graduate -- is about to move to Germany, he is consumed by envy. It's his dream that she is about to live, and he is desperate to have a piece of the action. So he comes up with a plan to marry her in hope of grabbing a job in Germany through a husband-wife visa. For this, he seeks the help of Gopalji (Sreenivasan), a coordinator of migrant labourers in Kerala.
Prakashan is willing to go to any lengths to make his dream a reality. He feels no shame when asking random strangers to lend him some money. When Prakashan's plan turns sour as a result of an unexpectedly good pre-interval twist, Gopalji decides to teach him a lesson which may or may not change Prakashan's life. Gopalji puts Prakasan through a brief period of misery but only to make him a better human being. You see, he is not interested in destroying Prakashan's life.
Njan Prakashan is a laugh-out-loud comedy, and has more than enough to satisfy anyone looking for two hours of pure entertainment; but since this is a film about life, a couple of dark moments are to be expected. There is one specific scene that brought tears to my eyes. Thankfully, Anthikad keeps the film free of old-fashioned melodrama.
In spite of the presence of Fahadh and others, the one actor who makes a strong impression is newcomer Devika Sanjay, as the pivotal character that transforms Prakashan's life. I hope we will get to see her in more films because she is such a natural and confident actor. And I hope she gets some really strong roles. Though she is present in the film for a short while, she manages to hold our attention in every single scene she is in.
Film: Njan Prakashan
Cast: Fahadh Faasil, Nikhila Vimal, Devika Sanjay, Sreenivasan
Director: Sathyan Anthikad