Director: Vishnu Dev
Writers: Vishnu Dev, Shersha Sherief
Cast: Gouri Kishan, Shersha Sherief, Jishnu Sreekumar
Duration: 122 minutes
Available in: Theatres
Vishnu Dev’s Little Miss Rawther has a sharp, distinctive way in which it sets up characters. The modern romance piece does explore the opposites attract quandary. Abhijit Chandradas or AB (Shersha Sherief) is a 6-foot-something poor man who lets his cinema-loving heart guide his decisions. Naina Rawther (Gouri G Kishan) is a posh 4-foot-something college topper who plans her every second. What happens when these two fall in and out of love? The film jumps back and forth between the past and present, the glory of worry-free young romance and the piercing grief of loneliness that signals the transition to adulthood through film footage and flashbacks.
And somewhere along the way, we’re asked to piece together their love and grief, which is fine for the most part because it means we get to imagine conversations and feelings without them being spelled out. Like we’re not told why AB does a set of push-ups every time he’s upset. Or why he breaks down when he gets reminded of his father. But this also means that some of these moving pieces — backed by sweet performances — often stand out as individual scenes rather than contributing to the bigger picture.
AB, who blames Gautham Vasudev Menon and Alphonse Puthren for his romanticised take on love, thinks ONLY in film. He thinks about the slow-motion shot that can depict a mother’s grief or how a trackback shot would suit a pivotal breakup scene, even as his girlfriend dumps him in reality. Naina, on the other hand, isn’t wistful. She doesn’t step out without her hand sanitiser and squeaky clean glasses and isn’t ashamed to reach for a pack of condoms even as people look at her. She even gives AB a shot only to see if they can crack the honeymoon phase conundrum that every relationship suffers. Some of the best parts of the film are found in AB’s film footage that shows us the small moments that make first love unforgettable — the stolen looks at a silent library or singing a song that’s only for a partner to hear in private.
The film also has an infectious young energy with which some of its scenes are written. When AB spirals into a drunken daze a night before Naina’s wedding to another man, his college friend Kalikkiya pulls him into his house. A joint is rolled and in a few seconds, the film cuts to their half-understandable conversations with the wails of Kalikkiya’s newborn in the background. Vishnu uses multiple cutaways and effects to convey a feeling — in this case a high — that cannot be put into words. This leads to lines like “pain is soft…as soft as cotton.”
The film understands the deep conversations that take a ridiculously hilarious turn only with a best friend. In a film about contemplating a ‘what if’ with your ex, the odd friendships that are made along the way are what stand out. Whether it’s a short filmmaker who will take any chance he can to plug his film with a sheepish smile while giving AB a ride or a friend who lends his father-in-law's car in a time of need.
We don’t see the same nuance in Naina and AB’s romance. This is neither visible in their early romance, nor in the one last adventure they embark upon before a life-changing event. Just when you see things moving to give us something heavy, it’s undercut with a joke or an empty line. When Naina gets cold feet before her wedding, knowing that her fiancé brushes past a misogynistic tradition, her cousin opens up to her about her own fling in the past. But her story stops just short of being meaningful when she changes the topic to the cousins starting a food venture together post Naina’s marriage. When we see Naina and AB embrace for a kiss at an important moment, this emotion is undercut with AB’s voiceover that imagines CG propping her up to match his height.
So, even if we have a heart-wrenching scene that has them contemplating their angst in one look, we hardly feel anything. The incessant time-jumping also makes their characterisation uneven. When a character slut-shames and jealousy is stoked, we can hardly process where this is coming from — because we don’t really know enough about these people. Scenes like these instantly distance us from its world and what it’s trying to say. Love is pain like AB likes to keep saying throughout the film. But neither is the love felt and nor is the pain.