Writer and Director: Prabhuram Vyas
Cast: Manikandan K, Sri Gouri Priya, Kanna Ravi, Saravanan, Geetha Kailasam, Harish Kumar, Nikhila Shankar
Available in: Theatres
Runtime: 146 minutes
As human beings, we keep evolving. And so do our relationships with people around us. We might have had several sweet memories in a relationship but they probably do not feel the same way in the present, attributed to the time that has passed by and the natural change it has brought upon. Debutant Prabhuram Vyas conveys this understanding in the simplest yet effective way in the opening stretch of Lover. During an outing with her colleagues, Divya (Sri Gouri Priya) is glowing and is all smiles as she talks about how she first met and fell in love with Arun (Manikandan K) in college. But when she suddenly receives a call, we see the smile fade away. And she says, “Sollu, Arun.” This scene not only sets the tone for the rest of the film but also assures you of Prabhu’s craft.
The film doesn’t spend a lot of time telling us the intricacies of the initial days of their relationship. Instead, it speeds through their sweet moments. We do not meet Arun and Divya when they first fell in love but six years later. Divya is now working and Arun is trying to open a cafe. While Divya is tired of telling Arun not to drink or act in violent ways, Arun is possessive gets agitated that Divya keeps lying to him and goes on trips with her colleagues. Several arguments happen, they lead to bigger issues, the couple make up; and repeat. This cycle might feel repetitive after a point. It also takes you some time to see the love they share but it’s evident in little ways like when Divya stays by his side after a huge fight or when Arun makes her favourite apple crumble as to apologise. But how many lies and arguments can a relationship withstand? If a call from your loved one terrifies you, are you even happy in that relationship? Lover skillfully and honestly exposes the cracks in this relationship, without taking sides or blaming either of them for the most part. And by doing so, it doesn’t force us to judge them either.
The film isn’t perfect. When all that we see of Arun is him drinking, you feel a little frustrated. Not just at the character but at the film because it feels stuck. Initially, there are a few lip sync issues too. Although Sean Roldan’s songs seamlessly blend with the narrative, his background score tends to overpower the scene and even distract at times. And I would be lying if I said there weren’t a few moments where the film seemed to lose the balance in perspectives and slightly tilt towards Arun. But such instances are negligible because Lover doesn’t show you the complexities of a relationship at the surface level. Neither does it tell you it is a modern-day relationship and sticks just to people partying and using social media. It digs deeper in ways you don’t think and does so in a subtle manner.
Randomly, a person obsessed with keeping his surroundings clean calls it OCD. When Arun tries to understand why Divya lies, a friend of hers says it’s because of trauma; trauma caused by Arun’s actions in the past. Such words are casually thrown around. It’s not clear whether we as a generation have generalised such terms. However, in modern-day relationships and friendships, speaking about mental health is not just common but also a prominent aspect, and the film takes notice of it.
In an industry, where not a lot of films focus on female friendships or reduce friends to stock characters, Divya’s friends, who stay by her side, are treated well. When her lover isn’t concerned about her opinion, her friend stands up and asks her if she is okay with the plan. When Divya confides in Arun’s mother and complains about his actions, the latter doesn’t yell at her. Instead, she says, “I know you wouldn’t take any decision without thinking about it.” She doesn’t chide her son either but tells him that they’ll handle it together. This attempt to focus on bonds that develop around their relationship and how it affects them individually and as a couple adds to the realism. The film also throws light on how the environment one grew up in affects them. Arun’s father is an alcoholic and is abusive. He cheats on his wife and we see how years of such dominance have made Arun’s mother vulnerable when she even struggles to drive a scooter.
For a film that thrives in the unpleasant side of relationships, it’s as beautiful as a picture-postcard, deriving its aesthetics in the skies and beaches; be it in Chennai or Gokarna. That Kanna Ravi’s Madan (Divya’s friend) is a travel vlogger in the film helps Shreyaas Krishna to capture some breathtaking landscapes, sunrise views, silhouettes and magical waves. Among these, watch out for the moment when you realise Arun has taken control of his life much before the dialogues tell you — Arun is on a trip with Divya and her colleagues. Throughout the journey, he stands behind them, watching the friends enjoy nature. But at that moment, you see him walk past them and for the first time, he stands in the front, looking at the sky.
Manikandan is not charming as Arun, and rightly so. He is not meant to come across as his usual charming self. The writing villainises him before humanising him, and Manikandan too makes you dislike Arun before showing his vulnerable side. When Manikandan cries and trembles, you feel Arun’s insecurity and suffering. Sri Gouri Priya as Divya too adds so much to her character; her little changes in expressions let you see how confused and in pain Divya is.
Lover is about flawed characters. Lover is about flawed relationships. Lover is about how a relationship may not end up being the same as you imagine it to be. Above all, it tells you that you are flawed and you make mistakes but you’re also growing up, trying to become a better version of yourself every single day. And you see the best of this through Kanna Ravi’s Madhan even before you see it in Arun and the closing image of the film with Divya reiterates it.