What do you want out of life? Love? A career? Friends? Family? An opiate high of pursuing your life’s passion? And can all of these threads ever intersect? “Bangalore Days” (Malayalam), directed by Anjali Menon, sets out to trace lives of three of its characters in pursuit of their lives’ goals and ambitions, even as their paths spin into a planned collision to throw a mosaic of warm, funny, moving, and sometimes dragging moments. And yes, these characters are in pursuit of one of the questions above.
Anjali Menon, who also wrote the story, does pave the path of answers for its lead characters – Divya “Kunju” Prakash (Nazriya Nazim), Krishnan Kuttan (Nivin Pauly), and Arjun (Dulquer Salmaan), cousins all. Narrated by Kuttan, who lands a software job in Bangalore, you’re immediately informed that Kuttan’s a straitlaced chap, yearning for home cooked food, preferring to wash his clothes in his village water body rather than Bangalore’s hardy water. (As an aside, his hair’s intact and flourishing despite said water – can someone ship the magic hair oil from Kerala – and I don’t mean “Anoop”.) Divya’s marriage is fixed, and she chooses a boy from Bangalore – a dour-faced chap named Shivadas (Fahadh Faasil). And before you ask, his demeanor is not a result of Bangalore’s traffic or power cuts or because he lives next to Belandur lake. He confesses to Divya during their first meet about an affaire de coeur that he hasn’t gotten over. Divya glosses this over, causing much anguish and chagrin later. Amidst all this, Arjun seems to be the only one who’s happy, his life seemingly a happy song, until he meets a radio jockey in Bangalore – RJ Sarah (Parvathy) – and then, does this turn into a siren song?
“Bangalore Days” is a nice look at the youth of today as they converge into the city of Bangalore, hoping to discover their lives’ moment of epiphany. Director Menon deep dives into each of the cousins’ stories and here’s where she comes up with a recipe book that’s a mixed bag. She keeps the pan on a happy flame and its contents on a fluffy high for the most part of the first half. But, as you await the interval calling card with a smile, she slightly turns it into a mildly impatient trough for you, as she digs into the marital life of peppy Divya and pepper Shivadas. And that’s where the story hits the headwinds, even as you begin to see flashes of Farhan Akhtar’s “Dil Chahta Hai”, and then threatens to underwhelm you with Arjun-Sarah’s story and you almost wait for the rush to the airport to reach a teary climax.
Here’s where Anjali Menon fortunately turns and lifts the movie back, and propels it into a heady rush of tailwinds – and she does this in a heart wrenching scene of Shivadas’s redemption with his past. That brings you and your tear glands back to life and from there on, it’s a race to the end to tie all loose ends rather too neatly and pat. But “Bangalore Days” is still a satisfying watch, and it’s to the lead actors’ credit that they keep the story alive and believable.
Nariya Nazim is superbly vivacious, her moments of grabbing the scene ranging from fun to discovering a past she didn’t expect, to fighting to save her marriage. She’s equally good in all these scenes. Nivin Pauly is marvelous as the traditional Keralite, who discovers that a libidinous release and heartbreak are two sides of the romance coin and he makes the transition with ease. Likewise the transition that Dulquer Salmaan’s Arjun makes. Salmaan is easily the life of the movie, lighting up the project with his likeable warmth and ease, making you want to reach out to him with a warm handshake a chilled beer. But the highlight performance to me is Fahadh Faasil, who holds back so much, that a lesser actor would have you reaching out for a bottle of Isabgol for him. Instead, Faasil’s intensity and inner turmoil remains just that, and you realize that he’s holding all within, and when he does break down, he takes you down with him. Plus there’s a whole group of supporting actors (Maniyanpilla Raju, Praveena, Vijayaraghavan, Kalpana – bless her talented soul, Prathap Pothen, Vinaya Prasad) that add to the heft, fun, and dimension that lift you and make you soar.
The other highlight is Gopi Sunder’s music – never mind what Bryan Adams thinks of the catchy “Nam Ooru Bengaluru.” “Maangalayam”, on the other hand, is a beautiful mix of fun and just a titillating touch of melody, and a winner. Sunder also scores a very effective background score, and the scene where Kuttan sees the passion of his life dive into enemy territory is where you hear a beautifully made music piece that traipses into Illaiyaraja territory. What fun that is.
“Bangalore Days” also, if you care for such things, raises questions about the answers it ostensibly provides. Is this a life that we want for ourselves? Is finding the truth about life stuck in a traditional rut, or will we find out all about it in a Goan toke? Should girls sacrifice their career aspirations to the altar of a horror-scope of superstition? When will couples realize that their children bear the maximum impact of their divorce? How important is it that someone have a job and life that falls into the warm and comforting arms of acceptable specifications?
And the most important of them all: what filter did director Anjali Menon use that hid all the filth and disaster that threaten to consume all of our Bangalore days?
Watch the trailer of Bangalore Days here: