‘Nalla Nilavulla Rathri’ movie review: Murphy Devassy’s directorial debut fails to live up to its interesting premise

The character building and context setting by Murphy Devassy in the first half is wasted as the movie pivots to become a slasher-home invasion thriller 

June 30, 2023 05:08 pm | Updated 05:08 pm IST

A still from ‘Nalla Nilavulla Rathri’

A still from ‘Nalla Nilavulla Rathri’

All external labels are misleading in Nalla Nilavulla Rathri, starting with its title which conjures up images of a romantic drama. The film, set in a cut-throat, all-male world, is anything but that. Even the initial setup, involving a group of friends who are in business together but don’t trust each other, later appears to be just a reason to have some kind of build-up towards the outpouring of violence that is the real focus of the film.

When Kurien (Baburaj), who is deep in financial troubles meets his old collegemates Dominic (Jinu Joseph) and Joshi (Binu Pappu) after several years, he senses an opportunity to change his fortunes. The duo, running an organic farming business with their friends Peter (Rony David) and Rajeev (Nithin George), are taken in by Kurien’s proposals to expand the business to rural Karnataka, but the more realistic and less greedy Peter is not very keen on the plan. When they land up at the bungalow amid a sprawling forest, things don’t turn out the way they expect to. The arrival of their friend Irumban (Chemban Vinod) further complicates matters.

Nalla Nilavulla Rathri (Malayalam)
Director: Murphy Devassy
Cast: Baburaj, Chemban Vinod, Jinu Joseph, Binu Pappu, Ganapathy, Rony David, Nithin George
Runtime: 126 minutes
Storyline: When debt-ridden Kurien meets his old friends who are finding some success with a new business, he senses an opportunity to change his fortunes. His business plan takes them to an old bungalow in rural Karnataka, where things don’t go according to plan.

Murphy Devassy, making his debut as a director and screenwriter, gets going with character studies of each man. For the number of men on the screen, it is quite a task to have distinctive character traits to separate one from the other. All of them are scheming and planning the next killer move against their closest friends. They all are just various shades of grey with Peter and Rajeev being the least dangerous of the lot. The fact that they are organic farmers is some delicious irony, for its upends all the benign images that one associates with organic farming.

But, all this character building and context setting are wasted when the movie aspires to become a slasher-home invasion thriller.

Even the purpose of their visit or the motivations of each of these characters seem to be forgotten when the focus shifts to the action, which then becomes the be-all and end-all of the movie. It takes a leaf or two out of Rohith V.S.’s 2021 movie Kala, but the staging of the action and violence stand out only in a couple of scenes, while the rest is a replay of what we have seen many a time in the past in movies of this genre from other languages.

The portrayal of the attackers as blood-thirsty savages, who express themselves in growls and grunts, does not also fit well with the reason for their attack or the point that the movie attempts to be making. In keeping with the trend, the possibilities of a sequel are hinted at, but going by how things fizzle out in the latter half, there might not be enough content to generate or sustain interest in a sequel to this.

Nalla Nilavulla Rathri is currently running in theatres

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