Neerali (2018) Malayalam Movie Review – Veeyen


‘Neerali’ is quite like the vehicle that latches on to a tree trunk, hanging on for its dear life. It’s only a matter of time before the trunk gives way and the final drop down ensues; carrying down with it a script that is more of a slog, dialogues that are corny to the core and performances that are utterly misplaced in all the chaos.


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A bumble bee buzzes its way straight into a swank looking office in Bangalore, in the opening sequence of Ajoy Verma’s ‘Neerali’, and starts humming around much to the irritation of its occupant, Sunny George (Mohanlal). He tries driving the irritant insect away that however looks persistent, and finally manages to smack it straight into a crevice on the wall, which he then promptly seals up with cello tape trapping the bee inside.

I’m sure Ajoy Verma might have had little thought of the implications of this scene, and neither have us by as early as then. Nor do we have the slightest inkling that it’s all going to turn out into a dreadful metaphor. With the tape sealed all around, it’s a two hour plus a few odd minutes ordeal that lies in wait for us, and while Sunny is benevolent enough to pull off the tape and set the trapped bee free before he leaves the place, Verma seems to be in no mood to do so.

This is no ordinary Neerali, and looks like the blue ringed octopus for sure, and lies all camouflaged under the guise of a survival thriller perched on top of a cliff. Sunny, we learn is a gemmologist,  who receives a call from his wife Mollykutty (Nadhiya Moithu) informing him that she is all set to deliver their twin babies. Off he rushes from Bangalore to his hometown on board a vehicle driven by Veerappa (Suraj Venjarammoodu), and it all seems fine on the precarious road, until a careless passerby jumps across and sends them crashing past the road fence and down along the jungle slope, straight into the abyss that lies far further down.  But as fortune would have it, an oddly placed tree stump that lies right at the very end of the incline serves as the speed breaker and keeps the truck hanging up there, before carrying its horrified passengers any moment, on the final drop to doom.

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This might actually sound like an electrifying start to many more exciting things to come, and I hate to pour cold water over your spirits, but this dangling is far from fun. Verma ensures that the defencelessness of both the passengers is absolute – Veerappa is way too injured and lies almost comatose, and Sunny realizes that the outgoing calls on his mobile phone have been barred due to the non payment of a bill. The battery shows signs of dying any moment as well, and with none in sight, except the odd sound of a priest that comes ebbing across from over a valley down below, the two men seem all alone in their plight.

There are frequent flashes from the past that have Sunny and Veerappa speeding through the streets of Bangalore; shots that look weirdly coloured for some strange reason. They are bizarrely executed as well, and somehow remind you of a long bygone era when technology was just about popping its head up.

It is through these flashbacks that we also realize that Sunny and Mollykutty have been planning for a baby for long. An almost hysterical Mollykutty keeps screeching at Sunny through the phone, imploring him to be with her before the ultimate moment, while his colleague Naina (Parvathy Nair) is devastated that he has sneaked away without a word to her. He has clearly forgotten the magical moments that they had shared at Mongolia while on an official trip, and she seems to be in no forgiving mood.

It’s all pushed up to extremes pretty soon ; a drunk Naina sits with her legs dangling over the balcony rails of a top floor apartment all distraught, a frenzied Mollykutty is almost convinced that she’s about to enter a surgical warzone and a dejected Veerappa reveals that he’s waist deep in debt. And believe it or not, Sunny starts striking up a deal with a monkey that looks back at him, least amused, like the rest of us.

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There are indeed a few scenes that knock the daylights out of you, like the one just mentioned. Sunny offers the monkey a cake and tries to lure him into the vehicle, throwing up hypnotizing gestures and hoping to persuade him to get hold of the mobile phone that lies near Veerappa’s feet. The reason being that the driver is terribly injured and can hardly move, and it’s impossible for Sunny himself to stretch down across without toppling the vehicle over.

The bewildered animal finally gives in to Sunny’s coercions and jumps in, but hardly anything works according to the man’s plans. Nor does he foresee the cobra that slithers in and lets him have a closer look at its hood. It’s actually a wonder that the vehicle doesn’t drop down despite all this meandering deadweight that is loaded in the script, and when it finally does, you heave a sigh of relief.

There is also an embarrassing aside in the form of a crook (Dileesh Pothen) and his gang, who are hot after Veerappa’s heels. They saunter into the forest and after some ridiculous conversations that hold no sense whatsoever, are seen fleeing for their lives with the bellowing of a tusker rambling in the background. They make a reappearance a few minutes later only to soon disappear without a trace. And to top it all even Sunny’s long dead dad (Nasser) makes an appearance, comfortably stretching out on the bonnet of the dangling vehicle.

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But this doesn’t happen before the limits of your endurance are stretched even further. A love sick Naina longingly looks at her mobile phone, decides to refresh her memories and flies straight back to those cold nights in Mongolia. Sunny appears in a video and starts singing a song, a few people have gathered around and a bonfire looks alight, but all you are left thinking is how outlandish the whole Mongolia set design appears to be.

A much younger looking Mohanlal looks spruce for sure, but that’s about it, and ‘Neerali’ is a film that doesn’t deserve an actor of his stature. Nadhiya Moithu does okay in a role which surely doesn’t require her to rework any of the magic that she had worked up all those years back. Suraj Venjarammoodu looks visibly uncomfortable, Parvathy Nair goes way overboard with a histrionic performance and Dileesh Pothen plays the odd man out. There is also a line of supporting actors in ‘Neerali’ – a few fresh faces who appall you with their brief, yet immensely clumsy appearances.

‘Neerali’ is quite like the vehicle that latches on to a tree trunk, hanging on for its dear life. It’s only a matter of time before the trunk gives way and the final drop down ensues; carrying down with it a script that is more of a slog, dialogues that are corny to the core and performances that are utterly misplaced in all the chaos.


Verdict: Disappointing


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