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3.0 138 Ratings

Directed by : Lal Jose

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  • MJ Rating 3.3/5
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Nee-na is a tale of two women, Neena and Nalini. And like every tale of women, there is a man involved too.

Nee-Na Credit & Casting

Chemban Vinod Jose


Nee-Na Audience Review

Neena : Movie Review

Rated 4.0 / 5
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Lal Jose's Neena is a tale of two women and a man who gets straddled between them. Lal impresses you right from the start; when the title card starts rolling, you learn that Nee-Na stands for the names of its two leading ladies and in Malayalam font, it sketches their faces - a woman with earrings and another one sans it. An interrogation mark separates them.

The movie centers on Vinay Panicker (Vijay Babu), Nalini (Ann Augustine) and Neena (Deepthi Sati). Nalini is Vinay's wife, a homemaker and mother of his child. Her friend describes her as "once a firebrand in college", which surprises Vinay probably because she withdrew into a shell post marriage. Neena is Vinay's underling in office who is totally crushing on him (and he knows that). The movie basically has two threads; one explores Vinay's feelings for the two women and other delineates Neena's road to recovery from alcoholism.

One could say that Neena is everything unfeminine as per the basic morality rule book of a Malayali. I'm actually surprised to see our cinema celebrating a female character like Neena without judgment. Okay, it's not the first time a tomboy is getting featured in Malayalam, we all grew up loving Maya of "Ente Sooryaputhrikku (1991)", but there is something different about this Lal Jose movie. The fact that he doesn't judge his tomboy lady. Sooryaputhri ended up deterging all the tomboy-ishness out of Maya. Well it's always been that way right? Our cinema makes a bold woman change her ways. Modesty finds her when she falls for the masochist hero and if she is already married, there would be a scene towards the climax where her husband slaps her to show her "her place". And after insulting her in front of everyone, he would say "Njan ithu nerethe cheyyandathaayirunnu" ("I should have done this long before"). And her boldness is muted once and for all - the movie would then tell us that everyone in this story is going live happily-ever-after, now that we've shown our opinioned female character her place.

Females with an opinion are always despised in our cinema. They're seen as the trouble makers, the sluts, the bitches and perpetuators of all family commotions.

But sifting through the script's intentions again, I'm forced to ask how much this movie has walked away from those cliches. The film doesn't judge her lifestyle, but did it craft her character in such a way that it leaves no loopholes for judgment for an (*stereotype alert*) average Malayali? (NB: I've nothing against my community, my use of 'typical Malayali' is drawn from the vitriol against general Malayali male attitude that I so often see in social media. Also having experienced a bitter share of reality myself, I consider that stereotype to be true to an extent, or at least you Renji Panicker fans, admit it -you enjoyed it when Mammootty called Vani Viswanath "verum pennu" ("just a woman") in 'The King". The way a commercial blockbuster like The King (1995) used the female gender as an insult in itself, reflects the attitude of the masses who savoured the movie.)

Back to why the intentions behind Neena's character sketch seem dubious. It appeared as if the movie was working hard to prove Neena's chastity to us. Again and again you see instances where the movie reaffirms this; Neena invites Vinay to the house of her male friends and tells him that she hangs out there often. When she finds him taken aback by that, she adds that they are gay men. We also hear her say in another instance that Vinay is her first love. I read many arguments in this line, questioning the political correctness of this movie (movie says Neena turned into an alcoholic because her friends were street kids), but feminist arguments were why Neena was forced into rehabilitation centre. Like how is this movie being any different or empowering when the female lead is again made to walk into "righteousness". But in my defense for the movie, why didn't anyone make a fuss when Mohanlal's character retreated from alcohol in Spirit (2012). Instead of surmising a gender aspect to it, why not think of it as a movie that considers alcoholism bad? How is it not gender bias again, if we can't tolerate when a movie reclaims its female protagonist from alcoholism, but overlook that aspect when the protagonist is male (like in Spirit)?

Again in defense of Lal Jose, I could counter my own argument about gay couples stating, that particular scene was intended to show that Neena is not a homophobe. Or maybe because Lal Jose knows that a protagonist in a film needs the approval of her/his audience, to create empathy. In a society which upholds chastity as a virtue, that's the easiest way to get affirmation for Neena, from her audience. And what's fun in watching a film if you're too uptight about its political correctness?

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