When Vijayamohan, played by Mohanlal, was introduced in Neru (Truth), my brain immediately picked and played an incredibly funny Key & Peele sketch in my mind. That sketch, “Retired Military Specialist,” sums up the cliched character arc of every maverick male lead. It goes like this: An invincible professional who refuses to follow the regular ways, hailed as the next biggest star in his domain, botches a job. Abandoned by his peers, he now lives a hermit life. Then, a new impossible job appears, and there are no worthy takers. It would take some persuasion from the side-kicks – who always lament about how good he was – for him to take up the job.
In Jeethu Joseph’s Neru, Vijayamohan exactly fits the above description. Meanwhile, his nemesis, the powerful Supreme Court lawyer Rajasekharan, brilliantly played by Siddique, is an archetype villain. But these character traits don’t confine the film to a cliché as the Drishyam director’s sensible style and narration steer clear of the mundane. The film centers around the legal battle of a young blind sculptor named Sara, who is a victim of sexual assault. As Vijayamohan sides with her in the David vs Goliath battle, tempers will flare, tears will shed, and unprecedented scenes will take center stage. The case is also a matter of redemption for Vijayamohan as he has scores to settle.
The story’s narration is pretty straightforward. There are no red herrings, unusual twists, or mysteries. Mohanlal shines in the role with his measured approach. He naturally gets into the character, maintaining the subtlety it deserves. Anaswara Rajan is convincing, portraying the nuances and emotions of the character surprisingly well. Sankar Induchoodan‘s character lacks finesse. Perhaps it is the vague writing, but Sankar is confused about his role. Sometimes, his performance feels like that of a cardboard villain and not the careless rich brat the director wants to place him to be. Jeethu also made compromises. He casts Antony Perumbavoor in a mandatory short appearance; celebrity chef Suresh Pillai also makes an appearance.
The one thing I hate about this film is its tone-deaf background score. Vishnu Shyam’s music is sometimes a hindrance to enjoying the movie. He resorts to all sorts of choices, sometimes pumping music to unbearable highs that the entire scene is useless. You could argue that the climax was predictable, and some of the elements shown in the climax could have been used earlier in the movie to solve the case. But from the reaction of the common folk in the theatre, I assume Jeethu Joseph was convincing enough. There is a vague Drishyam reference to which Mohanlal’s character reacts with a cheeky smile, a timely reminder that filmmakers should stop plugging throwbacks to elicit laughter.
Neru, as a movie, doesn’t invent anything new. It feels like a safe bet. It also reminds me of the well-made old-time courtroom dramas in Malayalam. Yes, the film is preachy about women’s rights and their choices, but Neru is a sensibly made commercial film that will please the audience.