Onto the final review of the weekend and it has been a bit of a stretch! With so many new releases this weekend, I am exhausted but have loved every moment of it! So for my final review of this elaborate weekend, I had a choice between two films, both of which were out on Netflix. The first was the Telugu film Ante Sundaraniki and the second one was the Malayalam film Dear Friend. And I had to opt for the latter simply because it was an hour shorter, so no biases there! At some point in our lives, we have always had this one best friend whom you think would continue to stay by your side. But as time passes, and when you look beside you, you do not find that person next to you(figuratively speaking). At times it does hurt you and you also do start questioning yourself or that person but you seldom get any answers. That is life for you, where people come in and eventually leave. Based on this theme, I finished watching Dear Friend on Netflix. Is it worth your time, stay tuned!
Story & Screenplay
Dear Friend follows the story of a group of friends who chill together and are an integral part of each other’s lives until one of them disappears suddenly. What is the mystery behind it? The story is a nuanced take on friendship which rather opts for a very unconventional route. The screenplay standing at just under 2 hours is about the ideal length as far as the drama is concerned.
The drama begins with a birthday party of one of the friends which sets the ball rolling beautifully. You can also feel the camaraderie between the group especially in that car scene at the very beginning. This is an urban setup wherein one of the subplot tells us that the friends have opened a startup in Bangalore(modern day Bengaluru) and are searching for investors. Elsewhere, a couple of friends do like each other and wish to get married even though the girl’s father is not in favour of it. The screenplay almost unfolds like a slice of life drama which rings in a fresh vibe to it. The vibes did match with Dil Chahta Hai where the core story focusses on friendship while the rest focusses on their individual lives. This until there is a twist in the tale.
The twist in the tale comes at a point wherein everything is rosy and you least expect it. The mystery surrounding it is very well formulated which keeps the viewers guessing as to what really has transpired. It is rather unassuming in the manner in which it unfolds. But it is at this point where the unconventionality of the screenplsy kicks in(and this is what makes Malayalam films special).
I wouldn’t want to give out any spoilers but the route which the screenplay takes is probably brave and rather bold. It is metaphorical and almost philosophical if you are willing to dig deeper into understanding the nuances of it. That one pivot in the group going missing leading upto an ambiguous final act is a brave decision by the writers! The final end is going to split the audiences for sure but if you come to think of it, it was symbolic of all our lives. That one friend can be anyone in any of our lives with the bottom line being, that person doesn’t feature in your life currently. This is only so much I can reveal as I really wish you to witness this tale. In other words, the screenplsy starts off in a breezy manner but soon takes an unconventional turn which was absolutely brilliant!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are urban centric and quite conversational in nature with many esoteric elements introduced in the screenplay making them impactful. The music is soothing and blends well with the drama. The BGM is subtle and definitely adds to the ambience of the drama, be it casual or filled with tension. The cinematography is pretty good and I really liked the colour grading here. Director Vineeth Kumar has done a phenomenal job in opting for an unconventional approach. This is rather brave because you run the risk of losing out on a good chunk of the audience simply because you do not wish to spoon feed them. That for me is why I watch cinema as I like when filmmakers give the audience an opportunity to interpret the drama as per their sensibilities. Here, the direction is top notch!
The performances are excellent here summing up all characters which were very well etched out. Sanchana Natarajan as Kumudam has a charming presence and she does a really good job. Arjun Radhakrishnan as Shyam is absolutely natural to the core and I am also enjoying his film/series choices like Pada, Jhund and Rocket Boys. Basil Joseph as Sajith shows great range as an actor here – from being easy going and casual to really serious by the end of the film. He is quite fabulous. Arjun Lal as Arjun is well restrained and subtly impactful in his role. Darshana Rajendran is such a fine actor and here as Jannat, she is simply brilliant. She has such expressive eyes which emote evety bit of her emotions. Her character was probably the best written character and her layered performance made it one to cherish! Tovino Thomas as Vinod is excellent in a rather unconventional role. His towering presence and charm make you as a viewer invest in his character only to be caught unawares in the second hour. It was a mysterious character which managed to keep you guessing till the very end. A brilliant and a refreshing choice of role by Tovino!
Dear Friend is a rather unconventional take on friendship which makes for a refreshingly brilliant watch! But remember to keep in mind that this drama is a niche in many ways – if you enjoy experimenting with cinema then this one is for you! Available on Netflix and Highly Recommended!