Neram is like watching an enthusiastic but amateur dancer appear on a professional dance competition; it has spark and some skill but lacks finesse. Its concept is clear yet the design is patchy; every character in Neram has the quality of being memorable but not the essence. You would be less interested in a match between two low-ranked players, irrespective of their improvement on court, than a battle between two top seeders. Neram sometimes feels stodgy and heavy-handed but you do admire its efforts nevertheless. But you want more, you want something delicious, something you can relish like sinful dark chocolate but what Neram provides you is Milky Bar. Nice, no doubt, but not to make you go ‘Bow Chicka Wah Wah!’ Axe style.
My intention wasn’t to watch Neram at all when I entered Mayajaal theater hall in Chennai. As there wasn’t any other movie playing at that time (well I did have options but it was either this or the animated film Epic or worse, a long three hour wait for the rest of the films), I chose to go for Neram, only because I was pleased by the efforts current Tamil directors were putting in their films unlike many of their Bollywood counterparts. When I entered the hall, the movie had not ‘kindly stopped for me’ (couldn’t resist using the Emily Dickinson phrase!) so I can’t exactly tell how it began. My version began with the scene where Vatti Raja, a small-time money-lender cum thug berates someone for not repaying the loan as others, including our protagonist Vetri and his friend look on unnerved. The scene ends with Vetri’s friend farting and I thought immediately ‘Was that necessary?’. A number of such embellishments weren’t needed, but Neram retained them, making the film feel like an over-decorated Christmas tree. Like after this very scene when Vetri begins telling about his love life and we are taken back to his school days when he met his future fiancé Jeena the first time in the sixth grade I think; the scene is cute until the film also decides to add an entire song sequence with Vetri and Jeena performing the predictable ‘park foreplay’ (with bubble-blowing, this time) and the sappiest audience goes ‘Ah! What I cute couple!’. I was unmoved.