#BingeRecommends: Neelavelicham, an ode to a Malayalam classic with eye-appealing visuals

Smrithi Mohan
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The reboot of the classic by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer that laid the foundation of horror in Malayalam, the frames of Girish Gangadharan shine in 'Neelavelicham'.

The thing about remakes is that you can always be the one to create something that questions the need for it to be remade. Not all remakes work and not all remakes need to exist. Aashiq Abu's last release, Neelavelicham is one such hit that sometimes misses the mark. A remake of the 1964 Malayalam classic Bhargavi Nilayam, the 2023 movie does its best to align with today's needs but can't look past the magic that the OG movie created. Starring Tovino Thomas as a peculiar character, the story is about a celebrated author who moves to a new village to find some peace so he can work on his next project. However, he discovers that the place he rented is haunted by the spirits of a young lady called Bhargavi (Rima Kallingal). A ghost everyone fears, soon ends up becoming the center of his next book as he goes on to uncover the mystery behind her death.

It's the genius of Basheer Mashu's story that we could watch the writer have a full-blown conversation with a ghost who is feared by the entire town. The curiosity to know her story and the satisfaction of having found one to write about, he spends his time trying to find the humanity of a ghost who once lived a full life. The aesthetics will take you on a visual spree of emotions, the urge to transport into the era of Basheer Mashu, and the enchanting art of living the old-school romance. Not to forget the absolute fantasy of living Basheer's life as a writer feels unconditionally personal. 

We Look At Neelavelicham As A Tribute To Bhargavi Nilayam: Tovino Thomas

still from the movie

Tovino's portrayal of the estranged writer is appealing but feels robotic at the same time, but the lack of it is covered by how charming and soft he can be onscreen. Again, he is backed up by the exceptional portrayal of Madhu in the classic but does everything to give the character his take. His 'Bhargavikutty' always gets us and creates a sense of belonging in all of us without it feeling forced. The fact that we miss these conversations in the second half, proves this point. Rima, on the other hand, gives Bhargavi the face that is sorched in pain, betrayal, revenge, and love. She devours the dance sequences, as one would expect of her, and shows us the beauty of Bhargavi that the villagers talk about. Although one might ignore her acting, we are more than happy to have seen her on screen after a long time. Shine Tom Chacko's Nanukuttan feels like a hit and miss and doesn't do justice to the actor he is. Roshan shines in his mysterious lover role and manages to make us smile every time he is onscreen. While we would have loved to see more of Pappu like in the original, Rajesh Madhavan was great in the bits that he appeared in. If there is one person that everyone should look out for, it's Pramod Veliyanad's Cheriya Parikkanni. In the little time, he manages to steal the spotlight making us miss him when he leaves.

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Aashiq did his best to pay his tribute to a legendary writer responsible for making Indian literature what it is by filling it with an abundance of life, emotions, and value. Every time Bhargavi and Sasi Kumar had a chat by the wall, it felt like a call back to another one of Basheer's classics, Mathiukal. The atmosphere is filled with pining, secrecy, and want adding to the whole characteristics of the story. Not to forget his success in making Basheer's Bluelight a reality which was worth the hype and feels like a happy trance tying the whole movie together at the end.

While the story most definitely is the star of the film, what makes this remake a success is the visuals that it has to offer. It's the combined effort by Girish Gangadharan, Jothish Shankar, and Sameera Saneesh that succeeds in transcending an early era.

The movie is saved by the beautiful frames of Girish Gangadharan who manages to ignite the beauty of a 70 x 90-inch screen. There is something so appealing about every frame in the film that we get to experience the true artistry of Girish Gangadharan. One can call Girish the real star for being able to do what he does best. For someone who has proved himself and managed to have us in a chokehold with the way he captures moments to give the screenplay the justice that it needs, special ops and mention to Jallikattu, Solo, Angamaly Diaries, and more, it would not be a surprise that he managed to ace it once again in this film.

What also brings out the essence of his classic is the music. Music director Bijibal did his best to keep the integrity and magic of the original songs, composed by legendary composer, Baburaj, intact. One cannot help but sing along as old classics like Pottijakarnna Kinavu, Thamasamenthe Varuvan, and Ekanthathayude Mahathiram start playing. If you aren't motivated to watch the 1964 classic, this movie will definitely, if not encourage, give you a gist of what you can expect.

Neelavelicham is currently streaming on Prime Video.

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