‘Nadan’- An honest tribute to drama! There was a time when the concept of entertainment revolved around dramas, when it was almost part and parcel of life. The tradition that this ancient art form has is unparalleled. Dramas held sway over the social life and the evolution of the society in general. Dramas and drama troupes dominated Kerala’s landscape during pre and post independence era. Dramatists and actors were held in such high esteem that, they used to enjoy the same influence film personalities have on the current generation. The upliftment of the downtrodden and giving voice to the voiceless constituted the activities of drama troupes including the celebrated KPAC. Drama was the lifeblood of those who submitted their lives for the art form to evolve and thrive, and people used to throng drama venues with overflowing enthusiasm.
Ace director Kamal fresh from his hugely successful film Celluloid which was a tribute to the father of Malayalam cinema, turns his focus on drama and artistes of the past this time. It is essentially a tribute to drama which has fallen on bad days during changing times. An earnest effort aimed at bringing to fore the importance of drama as an art form. Nadan begins in the 1930s when drama was taking baby steps in Kerala and when Tamil dance dramas used to hold people in thrall. The movie travels through time as we see the beginning of Sargavedhi drama troupe based in Kollam, by renowned dramatist Bharathan(Harish Peradi). He was a pioneer of the drama movement and the context of the formation of Sargavedhi has historical overtones associated with it. Sargavedhi becomes a phenomenon as their dramas are staged across the length and breadth of the state.
Devadasan Sargavedhi (Jayaram), Bharathan’s son takes up the mantle of maintaining the troupe upon himself after his demise. He is a playwright and actor par excellence, but the downward spiral of drama in general during post liberalization era and the development of novel forms of entertainment mean that he has fallen on real bad days. His associates like Radhamani(KPAC Lalitha) and others who stood with him through thick and thin bear the brunt as lack of patronage for drama pushes the troupe to the verge of closing down. At this point, things take a dramatic turn as certain events in Devadasan’s past life catches up with him. Remya Nambeeshan plays the role of Jyothi who used to be a lead actress with Sargavedhi who goes on to become a frontline film actress later on. The arrival of GK(Joy Mathew) in the scene provides a fresh lease of life to the struggling Sargavedhi. But the joy is short-lived as Devadasan realizes that he has to make unacceptable compromises which went against his ideals. The personal life of Devadas which is in tatters due to an illicit relation with a heroine whom he discovered, adds to his woes and he hits the bottle. Whether his life and the troupe are revived constitutes ‘Nadan’. It starts and ends as a tribute to drama and the artists and exudes optimism about the future of drama.
Suresh Babu’s script is rich in detailing and is evocative. The effort that has been put in to give a realistic touch to the narrative is commendable. It is not a period film in the strict sense, but makes fleeting visits to the past and the art direction which brings to life of yesteryears deserve special mention. Neelakandan’s frames are superlative and make Nadan a visually pleasing experience. Ouseppachan’s songs add charm and the background score gives a real feel of the general mood of the movie.
The performances form the backbone of Nadan. Jayaram tries his level best to portray the crests and troughs in the life of Devadasan and his dedication has largely borne fruit. KPAC Lalitha excels as a former famous actress who is like a mother figure to him. Sajitha Mattathil does full justice to her role as the wife of the protagonist and the young actress ( Malavika ) who plays Jayaram’s elder daughter is a revelation. Remya Nambeeshan shows her flair with a controlled performance. All other actors including P.Balachandran who do important roles are remarkable.
Kamal’s soul stirring direction is the forte of the movie. His deep devotion to the medium of drama is apparent in each frame and he has taken real effort to ensure that ‘Nadan’,doesn’t become a docu-fiction. A film about drama has an inherent danger of becoming more dramatic and less cinematic. The experience and craft of the director stands him in good stead here. It is an honest effort which offers rich tribute to the forgotten artistes who don’t find a place in the pages of history. A yeoman effort to give the art form of drama its due and a plea to the new generation to honour the forgotten heroes. Nadan is a cinematic tribute to drama and it captures the essence of this powerful medium in a creatively effervescent manner which deserves applause.