Neru Movie Review: A Courtroom Drama Emphasizing A Survivor’s Pursuit Of Justice Over The Humiliation Faced As A Rape Survivor.

A Strong-Willed Survivor’s Fight For Justice!

Director : Jeethu Joseph

Cast : Mohanlal, Anaswara Rajan, Jagadish, Siddique, Priya Mani

It has been a great year for Malayalam cinema, from Tovino Thomas’s 2018 to last month’s Kaathal-The Core, we have watched films that have touched her hearts and left a huge impact on our lives. That’s the power of good cinema and storytelling. Adding to this year’s must-watch movie list is Mohanlal’s Neru, a compelling courtroom drama that features a very sincere Anaswara Rajan as a rape survivor seeking justice.

The story isn’t new, the subject of sexual assault and the cases that follow suit have been a serious topic of discussion in films. With Neru, the protagonist is a young blind girl who comes from a middle-class family. The story is set in Kerala, where a family of 3, Sara (Anaswara Rajan), her step-father (Jagadish) and her mother (Sreedhanya) live together. When Sara is raped in her own home by a stranger, we are instantly shown how she is able to help the investigation by making a sculpture of his face. The film wastes no time, there is no chase or search for the perpetrator. The police are able to nab him almost immediately. The accused is a classic rich spoilt brat who gets the best lawyer (Siddique) in the country to represent him in the case. On the opposite side is the survivor’s lawyer played by a brilliant Mohanlal, who gives a measured but impactful performance packing punches every time he comes on the screen.

The rape survivor in this film does not adhere to a stereotype, she isn’t afraid to speak her truth. Sara is an intelligent girl who is determined to get justice. Her focus doesn’t hinder for a second, she isn’t embarrassed by what happened, even though she is gaslit and shamed multiple times for not behaving like a ‘rape victim’. When Rajsekhar is questioning Sara on the stand and he continues to gaslight and character assassinate her, Mohanlal’s powerful dialogue goes like this “ She is today’s girl. She will talk about what happened, where it happened and how it happened.” It’s a strong message. It implied that one should not be scared to talk about it, we shall speak openly and freely about what we went through for it wasn’t our fault.

Another interesting aspect of the film is ‘consent’ and how it is manipulated in such scenarios to benefit the perpetrator. The victim is threatened by the rapist while assaulting her, and for the sake of her life, she doesn’t fight back. When this is twisted to make it seem like she consented to the act by the defendant’s lawyer, Mohanlal gives another powerful speech as to what defines ‘ consent’ and the importance of it is iterated in one of the final scenes where the survivor asks for permission to touch another person. The details, such as this, are not very obvious in the film, they are nuanced.
The movie is not without faults, the caricaturish depiction of the media seems unnecessary, and it doesn’t do much in terms of moving the plot forward.
The writing is strong, co-written by Jithu Joseph, the director and Santhi Mayadevi, who also acts in the film. We are shown a girl of today who is tenacious, she doesn’t carry the burden of shame resulting from the assault; instead, she is determined to see the person responsible face legal consequences. That’s the core of this film, to stop victim-blaming and shaming and rather, get them justice in the court of law.

Anaswara Rajan is remarkably good as the main protagonist lending the character the perfect amount of vulnerability as well as courage. She is smart with a sharp presence of mind, which we get to see throughout the film. Mohanlal is excellent as per usual, his performance is what elevates the entire courtroom drama. Siddique, as the opposing lawyer is commendable as the detestable and money-minded antagonist. The rest of the supporting cast is convincing but does not make a mark.

It’s a movie that shifts the narratives a bit, even though the story is seen and heard before in movies, we get to see it in a new light. Watch it for the terrific performances by the leads and the compelling arguments made to prove that a survivor’s determination to get justice is stronger than the humiliation she faces because she is a survivor of rape.

Rating: 3.5/5


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