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Neru movie review: Mohanlal has started his journey back

Neru review: It is Mohanlal’s performance, notably better than his recent lacklustre ones, that makes Neru’s 150-minute runtime feel less prolonged.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Neru reviewMohanlal's Neru has hit screens across India.

Most crime thrillers, at least in recent times, usually end on a “high” note with the previously elusive and unidentified culprit being apprehended by the infallible hero cop. But what happens to these culprits after that? Do they receive the deserved punishment? Are the victims granted timely justice? Or do these wrongdoers manipulate the system, tipping the scales in their favour, and resurface in society even more formidable?

As vital as the investigative phase is to a case, the trial holds equal, if not greater, importance as it ultimately determines the final verdict. However, observing this process unfold in a two to two-and-a-half-hour film may not be inherently engaging, which is why courtroom scenes in cinema tend to be exaggerated, sometimes even lacking coherence. Nevertheless, with his Mohanlal-starrer Neru, director Jeethu Joseph has made an attempt to navigate the realm of courtroom drama with an emphasis on accuracy yet without compromising emotional depth; but its effectiveness is somewhat questionable.

Centred on a case involving the rape of a woman with visual impairment in her home when no one else was present, Neru primarily revolves around her and her lawyer’s efforts to prove before the judiciary that the man she identified, through senses of touch and hearing, is indeed the perpetrator.


Since a significant portion of the movie unfolds in the courtroom, meticulously exploring each stage of the trial process, Jeethu begins the film at the case’s outset, when Thumba police circle inspector Paul Varghese (Ganesh Kumar) learns about the incident. In these segments, the film handles the subject with utmost care, avoiding problematic portrayals or extremely graphic visuals of assault, in contrast to most films with a similar case at the centre.

Though visually impaired, Sara (Anaswara Rajan) is a skilled sculptor, just like her stepfather Mohammed (Jagadish). Thus, even without technically seeing the perpetrator, Sara creates a clay sculpture of him based on her recollections of his facial features and thus the family recognises the man, Michael (Sankar Induchoodan), and informs the CI, leading to his eventual arrest. However, hailing from an affluent family, Michael gets renowned Supreme Court lawyer Rajasekhararan (Siddique) to represent him.

Festive offer

Meanwhile, Mohammed and Paul realise that their government-assigned public prosecutor is loyal to Rajasekhararan, prompting their search for a special PP. With the assistance of a former court employee, Ahana (Santhi Mayadevi), they approach Vijayamohan (Mohanlal), a former courtroom firebrand who had abandoned the practice after an unfortunate incident. Despite lacking confidence in appearing for the trial, Vijayamohan takes on the case, moved by Sara’s determination and helplessness. The rest of the film follows his efforts to prove Michael’s guilt in court.

While the film begins impressively, providing insights into a case not previously explored in Malayalam cinema, and maintains a deliberate pace consistent with its genre to avoid abrupt disruptions, writers Santhi Mayadevi and Jeethu Joseph are unable to fully capture the essence of the moments right from the start. Despite the script’s meticulous attention to detail, mirroring the filmmaker’s previous works, both within and outside the courtroom, every scene in the film seems somewhat incomplete due to a lack of refined writing.


From Sara’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), her parents’ sense of helplessness and Vijayamohan’s fear to take up the case, to the lawyer-survivor bond, the shrewdness of a formidable defence attorney and the affluence of the culprit, the writers successfully incorporate gripping elements into the script. Yet, every moment in Neru lacks the impactful resonance it should have carried as the writing fails to deliver a strong punch.

This is not to suggest that Neru should have aimed to be a thriller. Absolutely not! Even within its courtroom drama setting, Neru’s narrative unfortunately falls short in fully capitalising on the numerous potential impactful moments, leaving them feeling underdeveloped upon reflection. This includes instances like the interval block, shifts in the trial’s course, revelation moments and what could have been high points — all passing without reaching their full potential.

However, one of the notable strength of Neru lies in its avoidance of the typical dramatic courtroom moments, previously seen in Malayalam films like Jana Gana Mana (2022) and Queen (2018), where a star or well-known actor portraying the lawyer delivers a powerful speech that alters the case’s trajectory, leading the court to “acknowledge its errors”. Instead, Neru skillfully concentrates on the intricacies and monotony of a trial, steering clear of providing either Vijayamohan or Sara the chance to turn the courtroom into a platform to showcase their skills in acting or delivering monologues.


Nevertheless, even in the film’s technical aspects, Jeethu Joseph fails to offer anything significant, although he ensures the movie remains stable without any major flaws. Unfortunately, its inability to surpass a level of above-average is regrettable.

In the midst of all these, it is Mohanlal’s performance, notably better than his recent lacklustre ones, that makes Neru’s 150-minute runtime feel less prolonged. By fully immersing himself in the narrative and the filmmaker’s vision, Mohanlal avoids letting his star persona become a burden to the story. He adeptly portrays the role of Vijayamohan with precision, balancing the character’s vulnerability and abilities without overshadowing Vijayamohan’s ordinary nature.

Following a pivotal moment in the film, a simple Vijayamohan is depicted walking out of the court among numerous other lawyers, onto the road, seamlessly blending with the crowd outside and almost becoming invisible. It is this Mohanlal that he had seemingly forgotten and denied the viewers for many years. Witnessing a stellar actor like him making promises about a potential comeback as a powerhouse performer is genuinely satisfying and one can only hope he doesn’t lose his way on this journey.

In contrast to her recent roles, Anaswara Rajan excels in her portrayal of Sara, demonstrating great care and effort. The dedication she has invested in doing justice to the character is evident throughout, deserving praise even when her efforts are occasionally inadequate. Siddique, Jagadish, Ganesh Kumar and Sreedhanya also deliver memorable performances, but Priyamani fails to contribute meaningfully due to the lack of depth in her character.

This issue extends beyond her, as Neru’s script falls short in providing sufficient development for several characters. For instance, Michael’s mother, initially portrayed as adamant about his acquittal, is not explored further. Even Michael’s father briefly appears before disappearing entirely from the screen, creating the impression that the case is primarily contested between the two lawyers. Santhi Mayadevi’s performance also comes across as somewhat amateur.


Though Vishnu Shyam’s music enhances the film in most portions, it becomes loud at some points, lacking consistency. Meanwhile, Satheesh Kurup’s cinematography works in favour of the movie quite well, especially by not giving off the feeling that almost the entire movie unfolds inside a room.

Neru movie cast: Mohanlal, Priyamani, Anaswara Rajan, Ganesh Kumar, Siddique, Jagadish, Sreedhanya
Neru movie director: Jeethu Joseph
Neru movie rating: 2.5 stars

First published on: 21-12-2023 at 17:00 IST
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