Premam [Love], the Malayalam film starring Nivin Pauly was one of the first Malayalam films I ever saw, and it remains one of my all time favorites. When I heard they were making a Telugu remake of this massive hit film, I was filled with dread. They’ll ruin all that made it special, no one could match Nivin Pauly’s charm in the three different ages, etc. Then I saw Naga Chaitanya in Manam and discovered he was the lead in the Telugu Premam. Now I HAD to see it because he was so adorable in Manam. I saw one of the last screenings at my local theater, all alone. For the most part, Naga Chaitanya captures the magic that is Premam. He’s great in the three parts, playing Vikram (Vicky) at 16, 20 and his late 20’s.
First, one of the best decisions of the remake was to have two of the actresses reprise their roles. Anupama Parameswaran returns as the wild haired teen that is the object of 16 year old Vicky’s massive young love crush. In the Malayalam film, she is the Christian Mary, here she is Suma. The Telugu love song sequence references that great wild hair, slightly tamed in the Telugu remake.
In this first section of the film, I nearly thought that Chaitanya was doing an impression of Nivin Pauly as a teen. He must have really studied Nivin’s performance, because so many expressions were similar and head tilts and so on. If you’d never seen the Nivin Pauly film, you would love this Telugu film unreservedly. One thing from this early sequence that differs is that I think the Malayalam film was in a more rural setting which added to the feel of innocence about the adolescent love story.
The middle section is the strongest in the Malayalam film, and the weakest in the Telugu. And that’s not Chaitanya’s fault. He is fantastic as the college rowdy. Since it’s a Telugu film, and they probably had a higher budget than the Malayalam, they take the initial explosion prank in the first college scene up a notch. It’s a huge fireball explosion of a transformer instead of a little firecracker to disrupt the festival performance of their rivals. And then the fight is not just a simple mud fight, but a big slow mo fight sequence in a construction sight with big sprays of sand, and bricks flying and what have you. There is also a typically Telugu cameo of star Daggubati Venkatesh as Vicky’s uncle.
The issue with this middle section is that Shruti Haasan is no Sai Palavi. The filmmakers have basically admitted that including Shruti in the remake was for financial reasons to have a name star. She just does not have an ounce of the charm and for lack of a better word, gravitas, of Pallavi. The romance doesn’t seem as deep. I remember Malar and Vicky talking marriage in the original, but it doesn’t seem to go that far in the Telugu. Since the romance isn’t as deep, the tragedy isn’t as deeply felt either by the audience. Chaitanya doesn’t handle that overcome with grief scene as well, but granted, it’s probably one of the best Nivin Pauly acting scenes of his career.
In the Malayalam, part of what made this college romance section so special was that the rogue Vicky falls, and falls hard for a young woman with acne, and not just a little facial acne. His friends mock him and don’t understand what he sees in her, but we the audience see how beautiful she is through Vicky’s eyes. Shruti Haasan with her flawless porcelain skin? Who wouldn’t fall for your teacher when she looks like that?
They used the same melody in both films for this beautiful love song (Malare becomes Evare), and the scenery in this Telugu version is just jaw droppingly gorgeous:
One nice addition to the Telugu remake is that Vicky wins over Sithara (Shtuti) by making her a (Marathi??) traditional sweet for a holiday. So that when we get to the final section of the film, and Vicky has become a prominent chef with his own restaurant, you see that he has taken his love of cooking from his college romance. In the Malayalam the final section, where Vicky finds his bride was the the shortest and an underdeveloped romance, and the fact that he owned a bakery/sweet shop seemed to come out of nowhere. This is supposed to be the love of his life and his bride, and maybe they ran out of money or Madonna Sebastian didn’t have longer dates for filming in the Malayalam version. I had always wanted a bit more, and the Telugu gives it to me.
We get a love song in the Telugu! It shows their developing relationship in the film, and when she reveals that her parents have arranged an engagement, the betrayal hits that much harder for Vicky. I think Chaitanya really came into his own in this final part of the film. Nivin Pauly played the older Vikram as reserved and lonely. Here, Chaitanya’s Vikram is a busy chef who doesn’t care about the marriage arrangements his sister is trying to make in a phone call. I really liked that they beefed up this section a bit more.
The wedding scene however, doesn’t have quite the same punch. Shruti sees that same dessert on the buffet (that Vicky had made for her) and that spurs her memory, and she just looks back a little wistfully. Again, she’s no Sai Pallavi.
So, not spoiling it, if you’ve never seen the Malayalam original ( and you should because it’s fantastic!), but this is a worthy remake. The plot is nearly identical, with a few nice additions. I really enjoyed it. It’s no hardship watching Chaitanya for a few hours! His father Naga Nagarjuna has a nice little cameo at the end as well.
Also, one of the things that had me laughing so hard out loud happened when a certain character is tied up and being beaten up. His tormentor yells, “Why did Kattappa kill Baahubali?! Tell me!!” LOL Gotta love Telugu films.