For book lovers, seeing their favourite novels and stories turned into movies is a thrilling experience. What’s even more exciting is when a film that was made over fifty years ago is given a fresh new perspective. In 1964, Muhammad Vaikom Basheer’s short story “Neelavelicham” was brought to life in the movie “Bhargavi Nilayam,” with Basheer penning the screenplay. Starring Madhu, Vijay Nirmala, Prem Nazir, and PJ Anthony, this romantic horror flick tells the story of a writer who moves into a haunted house. As a reflection of its era, “Bhargavi Nilayam” remains a classic that still manages to chill and charm audiences today.
The announcement of Ashiq Abu’s decision to reboot Basheer’s movie on his death anniversary generated a lot of excitement and praise. Fans were eager to see how he would reimagine the classic. The film features Tovino Thomas, Rima Kallingal, Shine Tom Chacko, and Roshan Mathews and received positive reviews upon its release. It serves as a fitting tribute to Bhargavi Nilayam. However, the new interpretation may have lost some hype to preserve the original film.
Basheer incorporated the short story into the screenplay, adding some extra details that were carried over into Neelavelicham. However, the movie’s essence is preserved through the dialogue and actions of the actors, who seem to have studied the characters from the previous film and delivered an exceptional experience.
Both movies share similarities in plot structure and how they build up to a climax. Tovino Thomas flawlessly portrays the writer’s role, which Madhu originally played in Bhargavi Nilayam. His attention to subtle nonverbal cues and other intricate details helps restore certain aspects that were overlooked in the poorly produced black-and-white film.
The music and songs of the original composer S. Baburaj have been preserved, while Bijibal and Rex Vijayan have reimagined the background score. These two movies share more than just similarities; they serve as a fitting homage and tribute to the first horror film in Malayalam cinema.
Neelavelicham is visually stunning, thanks to Girish Gandharvan’s remarkable camera skills and the captivating use of colour, particularly the ‘blue light’. However, the movie fails to portray a modernized version of Bhargavi and Sasi Kumar’s love story. While the film remains faithful to the original story, it fails to capture the contemporary meaning of love and how it has evolved. As a result, the story feels out of touch with modern audiences.
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The movie Bhargavi Nilayam offered a fresh perspective on paranormal activity and the relationship between a ghost and a human. It explored dimensions that were not previously examined in Basheer’s short story. However, Neelavelicham failed to deliver a modern interpretation, apart from using blue and intense lighting techniques to create jump scares. The tragedy of Bhargavi’s life was retold faithfully, with predictable character developments. This is a plus point for the film, as it retains the originality and soul of the original movie, which is often lost in remakes. While the younger generation may find the story new and exciting, the older folks can relive their nostalgia as the dreamy scenes are brought to life with added colour, vigour, and subtle details still retaining the essence of the original movie.
Aashiq Abu’s decision not to tamper with the classic can be viewed as a wise move, given the recent backlash against Bollywood songs that have undergone similar treatment. However, the philosophical motive behind the tribute to the older film is worth considering. First, it serves as a reminder to the present generation to revisit the olden era, which is still cherished today as a testament to the timeless phrase ‘old is gold’.