Review Malayalam

Olu review: Fascinating visuals enhance this dreamy story of love

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 19 Dec 2018

Suparna Thombare

Shaji N Karun's vision is splendid, but the execution does not fully deliver on the promise of a brilliant work.

There is no doubt Shaji N Karun's vision for Olu, or She in English, is fascinating and the storytelling is mysteriously beautiful, but the execution of the intermingling of ancient customs, mythology, magical realism and an ethereal love story does not quite deliver on the potential.

The story follows a girl named Maya (Esther Anil), who is raped and drowned in Kerala's backwaters.

Kept mysteriously alive by what is believed to be the spirit of a female Buddhist monk in the form of underwater plants, a pregnant Maya, who can see above the water on full moon nights, falls in love with Vasu (Shane Nigam).

Maya is advised by the spirit to release all the love she has inside her heart over a period of 10 full moons — the time required to complete a pregnancy cycle. This, she is told, would help her to attain nirvana.

The underwater visuals of Maya, surrounded by hyacinths and lotuses, are ethereal, a visual treat.

Vasu, who is in search of a muse so that he can become a great painter, is deeply fascinated by Maya's beautiful voice and words. Their romance blossoms under the stars and the full moon, amid water lilies and the calm waters, brought alive by MJ Radhakrishnan's cinematography.

Out of love, Maya uses her special powers to help Vasu create some great works, but their ideas of love are different. While Maya seeks the joy of pure love, Vasu is an ordinary man looking for ordinary love, and yearns to see her in her physical form.

Once the action moves to Mumbai when Vasu gets some opportunities to showcase his art, the performances, including Nigam's, and the screenplay, by TD Ramakrishnan, begin to suffer.

The Kerala backwaters are splendidly shot though and the VFX work beautifully fulfils the director's vision to tell an ethereal, almost other worldly love story.

Shaji N Karun, who has previously explored art and the human psyche beautifully in films like Swapaanam (2013) and Vanaprastham (1999), creates dreamy images and tackles a compelling story with Olu but does not delve effectively into the deep philosophies he sets out to explore. 

Olu was the opening film of the Indian Panorama (Feature) section at the 49th International Film Festival of India in Goa and was screened on 21 November 2018.

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