Do you remember the viral song from Oru Adaar Love where Priya Prakash Varrier and Roshan Abdul Rahoof make eyes at each other in slow motion? Now, imagine nearly two and half hours of that. That is this film.
Roshan and Priya meet on her first day at school. He bullies her. She is saved by a senior, who happens to be a person living with dwarfism. In the next few minutes, we meet a motley group of high-school students. There is the fat boy who never gets love. There is a silly joker who is attracted to the teacher (Of course, they also make a shallow reference to Premam and ‘Malar miss’). There is an evil senior who makes weird sounds with his mouth while saying his name. One strange chemistry teacher, a naive principal and a kind sub-inspector.
The primary job of the women in this film’s script — whether they are students or teachers — is to get gawked at by men.
Oru Adaar Love is the story of young boys trying to “correct” or “set up” the girls around them. How this happens should have made the screenplay of the film — but it doesn’t. The film only gives us a series of slo-mo shots where the lovers make puppy-eyes at each other. Every single character is a caricature, most of them written for that one awful joke or the one plot-twist we could have lived without.
Priya Prakash Varrier, who literally took the meme world by a storm with her viral wink, gets to play an absurd character and the film’s narrative around her is symptomatic of how problematic the makers’ understanding of women, agency and even teenage romance is. In the first half of the film, she is all sweet, coy and flirtatious — quite literally the girl we imagined she’d be from the viral clip. However, in the second half, she breaks up and her character transforms into a girl consumed with jealousy. The stark change in the film’s gaze is palpable. It’s as if as long as she seemed happy being chased by the boy, it was all great. As soon as she starts demanding attention from him and grows a semblance of a personality, the film portrays her as a jealous, vile girl. The film goes to the extent of justifying the boy slapping her in a scene.
A film about romance in school, you’d think, would have the potential to explore modern-day relationships and its complexities. After all, kissing, sex and porn are spoken about with such casual irreverence, this film could have been an intelligent take on what it means to be in love for teenagers today.
But, no. Oru Adaar Love falls back on the tropes and ideas that are too old for 2019. It seems to take the worst of all school/college romance films and combines them to make it worse. Porn mistakenly sent to the school WhatsApp group, principal getting lectured on how to be empathetic with teenagers from a sub-inspector, girl leaving class complaining of stomach ache to escape punishment, two friends acting like they’re in love to make the ex-girlfriend jealous — scene after scene the film serves mothballed plot ‘twists’ with remarkable perseverance.
It also dismisses consent, trivialises sexual violence and incredulously asserts that when a woman says no, she’s just seeking more attention!
If the romance is bad, the comedy is unbearable. A girl mistakenly walks into the men’s toilet to find the peon emerging in his underwear, farting, carrying a bucket. In the physics class the day after Roshan sends porn to the school Whatsapp group, there are several double entendres. The fat boy is the butt of jokes quite regularly. So are women. In fact, a student asks his teacher, “namma rendu perum sendhu kuzhi-la chedi nadalaama?” (Shall we together plant this in the hole) and then wonders if she got his true meaning.
This isn’t even the worst of it.
The worst part of Oru Adaar Love is the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but the utterly bizarre and tragic turn the film takes – which is entirely out-of-line with the rest of the film’s tone – and the voyeuristic way in which it’s shot, you’d better celebrate Valentine’s weekend by giving this film a miss.