Cast: Aishwarya Lakshmi, Asif Ali, Siddique
Director: Jis Joy
I did not walk into Jis Joy’s Vijay Superum Pounramiyum knowing it was a remake of Tharun Bhasker’s 2016 Telugu superhit Pelli Choopulu (I can’t remember too many Malayalam remakes of Telugu films). And to be honest, I was a bit disappointed to make that discovery because Pelli Choppulu, IMHO, isn’t really a film that needs a remake. It’s urban, it’s young, it’s relatable and there’s little a new version can add (or cut) to take the film to a new audience that you couldn’t already reach with a good subtitled version. Or so I thought.
It helps that Vijay Superum opens differently from the original. The setting looks like the 80’s and we’re shown a hospital corridor with a worried man and his personal astrologer waiting for news from the labour room. His wife has delivered a girl, leaving the man disappointed — for he was ‘assured’ a son. In another ward of another hospital, a young boy (Vijay) is being counseled by a shrink for not having any confidence in himself. Vijay is asked to motivate himself by standing in front of the mirror and repeat that he is super (Vijay super aanu). Co-incidentally ‘Vijay Super’ is also the scooter his father rides.
With that extra bit, we’re nicely primed for a character study about the two leads instead of setting off with a meet-cute like the one in Pelli Choopulu. And when the two get accidentally locked in her bedroom before the pennu kaanal (matchmaking meet), we seem to already know them and the conflicts of their opposing personalities. But there’s a new dimension all that information adds to this film. It’s perhaps easier to notice their contrasting gender roles in Vijay Superum than we could in the original.
Pournami (Aishwarya Lakshmi) is clearly the more ambitious and practical person of the two. She’s an MBA (like how she confidently states), a go-getter and wants to start her own business. Vijay (Asif Ali) on the other hand is an engineer (barely) who struggles to keep a job. It’s Pournami who we see talking about money and entrepreneurship while Vijay talks about his passion (his only one) for cooking and he clearly wears the apron in this relationship. Also, isn’t it wonderful for a mainstream film to be about the heroine achieving her dreams with the help of the hero, rather than the other way around?
Another detail which adds to Vijay Superum is Vijay’s ‘plight’. Unlike in the original, there’s an understandable desperation about why Vijay needs to get married soon. His family is under severe financial duress and only his marriage (and the dowry it brings) can save their sinking ship. Again, it’s not very often that we see the marriage of a hero as being the only way he feels he could be of worth to his family.
And when the leads are aided by strong performances by almost the entire supporting cast, the emotional beats too work out better. It’s also clever how a specific vehicle (the Vijay Super, a yellow Vespa, a Royal Enfield, an old Qualis, a Mercedes…) accompanies each of these characters, adding another facet to their personality — and this, in a film where a food truck plays such an important role.
But there’s something missing in the chemistry between Asif Ali and Aishwarya. The awkwardness of their first meeting is absent from their performances, especially in that one scene where Vijay walks up to the door forgetting that it had been jammed.
It also doesn’t help that they both play characters they’ve come to be known for in older films. This is the case with the supporting cast as well, who have all played similar roles before, but they manage to make it work here. Even the detailing at places seem odd. Pournami has pictures of Padmarajan and his films on one of the walls. She even explains how her father had once worked for the legend, but that’s it. This bit of information only confuses us about the character and it sounds more like the fanboy in the director speaking rather than the character. There’s also very little payoff for an elaborate subplot involving Pournami and an old neighbor lady.
These glitches apart, the essence of the original remains intact in Vijay Superum Pournamiyum and it offers a little more even if you’ve watched Pelli Choopulu. The cheery cinematography, upbeat scores and some extremely funny lines make for a successful remake that can stand on its own.