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Nadikar Review: Tovino Thomas Aces

May 06, 2024 11:29 IST
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The film's focus lies in humanising a larger-than-life star and breaking down his celebrity, aimed at a simplistic takedown of the 'superstar' myth, observes Arjun Menon.

Among many thing, Nadikar is the story of a son reckoning with his mother's absence in his life. Like Fahadh Faasil's Aavesham, which was a methodical deconstruction of the 'gangster' archetype with mommy issues, Nadikar is the anatomy of a superstar and his search for some semblance of humanity shaking off his privilege and entitlement.

The film tells the story of an arrogant superstar David Padikkal (Tovino Thomas) wasting away his accumulated reel-life credibility with his real life shenanigans.

Nadikar follows him in his nightmarish descent into his own psyche, where he is forced to confront his murky, non-potent side as a human first, and as an artist second.

Director Lal Jr and Writer Suvin S Somasekhar are not that interested in his film making movies a vessel for satirical punching down or self-righteous artistic moralising.

What we get instead echoes a character study that aims to debunk the myth surrounding our matinee idols.

The film's focus lies in humanising a larger-than-life star and breaking down his celebrity, and its associated vices aimed at a simplistic takedown of the 'superstar' myth.


Nadikar takes on an extended caricature like 'Nithin Molly' from Vineeth Sreenivasan's Varshangalku Shesham, another recent film about film-making and the creative process, and turns the superfluous exterior of a entitled star to reveal the inner machinations of a volatile, clueless and estranged person looking for approval from the ones around him, despite being the centre of attention for millions everywhere.

There is clearly a man-sized void at the centre of David's larger-than-life antiques and entitlement, that conceals a painfully scared 'child' threatening to break free of the hollow adulations and senseless fan culture that ironically propels his downward spiral.

Like Ekta Bhatted's costume design, consisting of bright, glittery jackets and stylish party wear worn by David and his entourage, the screenplay also gives off the impression of its broad and diluted examination of weighty themes.

There are momentary glimpses of the satirical edge and dramatic possibilities of the subject matter, like in the scenes featuring the acting coach Bala (Soubin Shahir) and the near contempt with which the star dismisses his friendly advice to reframe his performance style and persona on and off screen.

The interval scene that takes place in a children's drama rehearsal, where David Padikkal gives into his reluctance to take the criticism against his opaque acting seriously, is staged with the verve and style that is unfortunately lacking in the rest of the film.

Everything is simplistic and the screenplay is in a hurry to get across its thesis statement of art being not merely a projection but a way of life, coupled with some seething commentary on the standards of celebrity culture and stardom.

All these ideas work well on paper but when the protagonist loses his sense of agency to a quick PowerPoint presentation in the second half, the film feels rushed.

Tovino Thomas is splendid as the sensitive yet brash superstar, whose arrogance is only matched by his ability to belittle himself and others through childlike outbursts.

The film is held in its centre by the star who lends inner complexities and some sense of agency in the hero's arc, who is treated like a buffoon unaware of his own issues.

The film asks Tovino to bear it all out on screen and play out the humiliatingly bonkers mental state of a star, submerged in his own ego.

The actor gives a vulnerable and gracious performance, not holding much back by way of vanity.

Soubin Shahir is also good as the cranky acting coach yet he gets under served as a 'acting school' trained 'Oliver Reed' fanboy who is just a device of transformation in the hero's journey.

Suresh Krishna is a laugh riot as the modest manager, who is like a father figure to the star.

Balu Varghese gets to be the sidekick, who understands the man behind the screen.

Bhavana is terrific in an extended cameo that sees her effortlessly play the hero's past love interest, who has moved on from his toxic influence but becomes an integral part of David's redemption arc.

Alby's camerawork captures the glitz and glamour of the movie business and superstar lifestyle well, and Neha and Yakzan Gary Pereira's score adds to the cutting edge rhythm.

The climatic scene, involving a scene being shot for a film, echoes the real grief at the heart of David Padikkal and his troubled past.

Though the conception of the cinema within the cinema scene exploring a real emotional longing of the hero is a touch of writing genius and you feel the weight of David's emotional breakdown that aids in his journey to being an empathetic, sensible actor.

But the staging of that particular encounter and its excessive drama offsets the narrative purpose of the scene to an extent. Still, it elevates an otherwise commonplace ending.

Nadikar Review Rediff Rating:

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