Nadikar Movie Review: A sporadically amusing but unaffecting tale of a tormented movie star

Lal Jr
Nadikar is at its funniest when it puts Soubin Shahir in a frame with Tovino. Their combined quirkiness is undoubtedly entertaining, especially when the film draws from real-life experiences
Nadikar Movie Review

Nadikar Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Godspeed Cinema,Mythri Movie Makers
Director : Lal Jr

I badly miss Sachy. Driving Licence, that previous Lal Jr movie about people in showbiz trying to deal with real-world problems, benefitted greatly from Sachy's writing. Perhaps Lal Jr was trying to replicate the success with another cinema-related tale of an ego-driven star. Nadikar, despite some cute and funny moments here and there, is a bland affair. I wouldn't call it terrible, but at the same time, the world isn't missing out on anything if it didn't exist. It's a classic case of a wafer-thin idea stretched to feature-length duration. It had the potential to be much better than what it is now but what we are left with is something lacking enough depth and emotional weight.


Let's start with the problem: When you make your protagonist an arrogant, egotistical jerk, it would've helped to cast an actor who was once associated with such an image, whether he was that way or not. Take Prithviraj in Driving Licence, for instance. The role fit him like a glove because he essentially represented a "cinematic" version of the image certain groups created of him in their heads. With Tovino's case, that doesn't happen, because we don't associate a large-than-life aura with him. He is a star, not a superstar... yet. And David Padikkal, his character in Nadikar, happens to be a superstar. When the first instance of a tantrum occurs, the depiction isn't new. There is a sense of deja vu in how he behaves. 


It can be justified by saying that David is that way -- a theatrical actor who is good at memorising and delivering his lines. And to an extent, this approach works. After all, this is a man with some mental block currently hampering his work. But what about the reason for his block? Is it too much to ask for a convincing, more coherent visualisation of the problem that ails him? We don't get that.


The other problem is no matter what the character is in, we cannot shake off the feeling it's Tovino playing David. It has to do with, I guess, the "simple" and "humble" image that Tovino is often associated with. It's not that Tovino cannot play negative or grey-shaded characters -- Kala is the best example of that -- but in Nadikar, there is no sense of unpredictability. I know it's not fair to expect unpredictability in a light-hearted crowd-pleaser. Yes, it could only end in one way, but even with a feel-good entertainer like Driving Licence, there was the sense that it could go in any direction. We don't get that here.


Nadikar is at its funniest when it puts Soubin Shahir in a frame with Tovino. Their combined quirkiness is undoubtedly entertaining, especially when the film draws from the real-life experiences of Tovino, Soubin and a few other actors in Malayalam cinema who got into avoidable controversies during the pandemic. The situations where Soubin's Bala trains David Padikkal provide fascinating insights into the acting process. 


That bit about an actor cutting off his hair and risking continuity, that authoritative director who doesn't give a damn about his actor's attitude, that scene where a fan (Chandu Salim Kumar) realizes that an actor who once played a superhero doesn't know how to swim after saving him from drowning... We can apply a fun meta quality to these situations when we are aware of the existence of a mass filmmaker whose name rhymes with that of Renjith's 'Koshy' or the fact that Tovino did Minnal Murali (superhero) and 2018 (drowning). 


Some portions felt unnecessary, like the ones with Bhavana and that restroom fight sequence with Sumesh Moor. Their inclusion seemed forced; the film would've worked without them. Madhupal gets a funny cameo. That line about privileged folks talking socialism when drunk cracked me up. But what's with the repetitive 'kundi' and 'andi' jokes from other actors? 


However, I felt Nadikar -- a film about people acting in cinema and real life -- would've been much more interesting if the makers approached the "real life" portions with a more naturalistic sensibility, as in Manjummel Boys or Kumbalangi Nights, instead of having these characters behave like they are inside a movie. There are these movie-within-a-movie portions in Nadikar and the only filmmaking choice that informs us of the difference is an aspect ratio switch. What if the acting approach were different too? Wouldn't that be interesting? With Driving Licence, the cinematic acting style worked because it didn't spend so much time dealing with the movie-within-a-movie situations.


I say this, because, when Nadikar finally brings therapeutic relief for David, I wasn't sold because of this "cinematic" approach and also because we did not spend enough time understanding his trauma to feel moved by the resolution. Maybe Sachy would've sold it well.

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