After seeing so many back-to-back flops and those films that were highly panned panned by the critics, Malayalam cinema was desperately in need of a new flavor. At that time, Lal Jose introduced a fresh breathe for the Malayalam audience in the form of classmates, a film poignantly written by James Albert. College going students loved this film and it became an overnight sensation across Kerala. SFI and KSU students chanted the song “vottu…” during their election campaigns. They were able to identify themselves in the characters depicted in classmates. Above all, the suspense element became the talk of town and even though social media wasn’t that commonly used, the plot details of the classmates reached the ears of many before he/she could see it in theaters. That’s exactly what happened to me. I went through the “psycho” phenomenon, i.e. the effect of knowing a plot twist before watching it (ok, I came made that name up). The suspense of this movie was widely discussed, even in magazines. The advantage of classmates, compared to a typical suspense thriller is the fact that it can be enjoyed even otherwise due to the blend of several genres.
The movie is about classmates Sukumaran (Prithviraj), Thara (Kavya Madhavan), Satheesan Kanjikuzhi (Jayasurya), Raziya (Radhika), Pius (Indrajith), Koshy (Anoop Chandra) and others reuniting after 15 years in their college as per their late friend Murali’s (Narain) wish. Murali’s father and their former chemistry prof Iyer (Balachandran Menon) and his wife Lakshmi (Shobha) arrange the function. That night, Sukumaran is found in a near dead state with Murali’s guitar strings around his neck with it’s end tied to the cot. His diary reveals possible suicide but Iyer deduces that someone did it to him on purpose to kill him as Sukumaran was in a happy state the last time they met. All those who attended the function is made to stay behind by the police as one of them is the suspected abuser who attempted murder. Amidst the investigation, Pius and Iyer discuss the college days where Sukumaran and Satheesan were rivals.
Classmates is Lal Jose’s best film as far as entertainment value is concerned. The late 2000s saw many films that were panned by the critics, classmates boosted the dangling careers of Lal Jose, Prithviraj, Kavya Madhavan, music director Alex Paul and singer Vineeth Srinivasan who sang the popular song “ente khalbile..”, a song that had the same effect as that of frozen’s “let it go” in Kerala, at that time.
It is not a perfect film and has the set of flaws that could have been avoided or polished for a better result. The film is well structured where one incident follows the other smoothly during the flashback style narrative that is presented in Pius’s and Razia’s POV. All the characters have depth followed by intense performances. Prithviraj delivered his standard acting, we see him in his rebellious form during his college days, after 15 years in his depressed and lonely state as he is abandoned and betrayed. The only person we like less is Sukumaran himself due to several negative layers, but at the end we will feel sorry for him. Indrajith was better than Prithviraj in terms of personality change and controlled acting with a blend of comedy and drama. We will admire Pius due to his funny nature and friendship and loyalty towards Sukumaran, and we will despise him for his womanizing nature during the college days. Indrajith manage to present his 35 year persona differently with his body language and expressions. Jayasurya created a despicable persona as Satheesan, then we can’t make out what his true intentions are unless he opens up about it, adding more to him. Kavya Madhavan is the most talented actress of her generation and that is seen in her performance but Radhika out shined her in the last 15 minutes with her stupendous presentation. The loss of Raziya’s innocence is the major plot turn that draws in sympathy for her and kudos to Radhika for delivering the best. Narain is adorable as Murali, the most lovable among the classmates. Balachandran Menon had his moments and Jagathy, as always, made the screen lively with his presence.
The characters are created from a well-structured script, however the romantic dialogue sequences between Thara and Sukumaran were too artificial. The way Thara was termed as an “undakanni” (girl with big eyes) is laughable. Also, some of the riot scenes in men’s hostel at night was too cheesy and unnecessary as far as the plot is concerned, it looked as if it was created for Sukumaran and his friends to show off their macho action. There are many enjoyable dialogue oriented comedy scenes that adds honey to the entertainment part. Thus, James Albert made a good balance of humor, action, mystery and romance within the college campus. As far as the technical aspects are concerned, it is understood that the film is taken at a time when Malayalam film industry was just developing it’s style altogether. The number of stills are less and the song sequences are shot such that it follows the lyrics’s poetry, making it re-watchable. The songs of classmates have earned it’s cult status, making the paths of future generation. The background music is irritating during several scenes with it’s noisiness especially during the romantic scenes and dramatic scenes. Mismatch of the background tunes with the scenario depicted is one of the major faults of Malayalam cinema. But the main theme is considerable for one to remember the essence the movie is trying to give. Success of this film started from the way it shocked the audience with it’s twist, the realistic depiction of student life, and the songs. The success of classmates led to many other college campus stories and thosee films under the same genre. It became a trend setter.
Classmates is an enjoyable film that earned it’s place as one of the most popular films of that genre. It is kind of the film that can be watched with your friends or cousins.
Featured image: cinemadaddy.com