Language: Malayalam

Director: Shyamaprasad

Cast: Nivin Pauly, Trisha 

Jude (Nivin Pauly) is in Goa. A great-aunt has died, and his Kochi-based family – father Dominic (Siddique), mother Maria (Neena Kurup) – have come to pay their last respects. Endings sometimes lead to new beginnings, and Jude meets Crystal (Trisha Krishnan, in one of her most disarming performances). They do what high-wattage movie stars do: first, they fight; then, they become friends; and then, we get this scene on the beach, with Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World mingling with the midnight air. The halting interplay between the characters (and the actors) is beautiful, and Jude tells Crystal he likes her. She replies, with a smile, “Do you like me or… love me?” This is exactly the kind of dreamy, romantic scene the posters have primed us for. Only, Hey Jude is not a romance.

The director, Shyamaprasad, has called the film a rom-com – but it isn’t that either. Hey Jude is one of those movies where a buttoned-up nerd, with very particular habits and interests, begins to loosen up under the influence of a free spirit. (And I mean this literally, for it isn’t until the final scenes that Jude stops fastening the topmost buttons on his shirts.) And yet… it isn’t quite that kind of movie either. For a while, Crystal does come across like a manic pixie put on this earth for the sole purpose of unbuttoning Jude. (We first meet her as she’s strumming a guitar and singing You fill up my senses beside her mother’s grave.) But it turns out, she isn’t that sorted after all.

The director, Shyamaprasad, has called the film a rom-com – but it isn’t that either. Hey Jude is one of those movies where a buttoned-up nerd, with very particular habits and interests, begins to loosen up under the influence of a free spirit.

If you expected a linear love story, revolving around the hearts and minds of the boy and girl, be prepared for a film that’s all tangents, dictated by external factors. (The screenplay is by Nirmal Sahadev, George Kanatt.) Hey Jude (the strongest part of the film), what the problem with Crystal is (the weakest), and though the overall narrative arc isn’t surprising, the off touches, propelled by a whimsical score, keep things from getting too pat and predictable. Despite convenient plot points (of course, Crystal lives right next door to Jude) and underdeveloped characters (Jude’s sister, Andrea, played by a spunky Apoorva Bose, comes off like no one knew what to do with her), the film is irresistible. The tone is marvellously casual.

The humour helps. There are laugh-out-loud scenes involving Aju Varghese (in a cameo), and Siddique is in peak form as an antiques dealer who always happens to have “the only [such] piece available in India right now,” until the camera sneaks under a table and reveals several more such pieces. His exasperation with Jude’s fussiness is a lot of fun, not least when they go to look at a girl for Jude. She turns out to be on the heavier side, but it’s a credit to the film’s warmth that these jokes don’t come off as fat-shaming. And the one-upmanship between Dominic and Crystal’s father (an excellent Vijay Menon), though stretched a bit, is classic broad, Indian comedy.

But Siddique also gets a great breakfast-table scene after he finally gets Jude. We see a man who was this way, at least partly because of his frustrations with his son, and now, a weight is off his shoulders. We also sense that Maria’s extreme devoutness is a result of the way Jude was. None of this is pushed in our face. It’s there if we want to see it – and because Nivin Pauly makes us care about this man-child. He really looks and feels like a Jude. The physical transformation isn’t just in the newly gained kilos. He squints, as though constantly staring at the sun. He wrinkles his nose, as though perpetually surrounded by foul odour. His lips remain pursed. This isn’t a likeable actor coasting along on his likeability. This is someone testing the boundaries of the mainstream and succeeding more often than not.

Rating:   star

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