Campus movies, unless when made by veteran filmmakers who are too old to catch the zeitgeist, have been markers of the way the campuses have evolved at that particular point in time. Every decade has had such markers, from the intense, poetry-filled romance of ‘Ulkkadal’ and the other politically charged campus movies of the 1970s and 80s and traversing through the creeping in of political disillusionment of the 1990s, we have reached the depoliticized zones of ‘Premam’ and now ‘Aanandam’, where we are told to cherish the little happy moments, the beautiful sunrises and the beachside parties.
In ‘Aanandam’, the debut directorial of Ganesh Raj, goes back to the ‘picnic’ genre of Malayalam movies, a pre-cursor to the travel movies of today. We are at a private engineering college somewhere in Kerala, where the students are excitedly planning their industrial visit, a euphemism for a pleasure trip with a namesake factory visit thrown in. They have four days and two places to visit – Hampi and Goa.
After being crisply edited to 2 hours, we have half-an-hour exactly divided for each of the four days, over which the internal bonding and romances within a group of seven play out before us. There is no story, nor a plot here to speak of, rather it progresses over a series of small incidents during the trip. Even the conflict in the end does not appear very serious, which quite goes with the light-hearted treatment.
Ganesh probably drew his inspiration from one of Richard Linklater’s early films ‘Dazed and Confused’, in which we follow a group of Texas teenagers during their last day of school in 1976. But of course, Linklater’s mastery of dialogue writing cannot be matched, which is where ‘Anandam’ lacks a bit too. The influence of his mentor Vineeth Sreenivasan, who has produced the movie, is visible, in the overdose of syrupiness and pleasing visuals, which forces us to look away from the lack of a substantial core. The performances of the whole crowd of debutants kept the tempo going.
And going by how the predominantly young college crowd in the theatre who were rapturously celebrating some of the sequences, the filmmaker seems to have served them what strikes a chord with them. Whether it has anything to be celebrated, the same crowd will probably introspect in the years to come.