In the teaser scene of the movie you see Sukumaran (Prithviraj) chasing Sateeshan (Jayasurya) along the campus. Finally Sukumaran catches him and beats him to pulp. Someone throws him a hockey stick and as he is about to kill Sateeshan, someone shouts that their friend Murali (Sunil) is found dead in the generator room. Suku wakes up from his dream and gets ready to go back to Kerala from Mumbai for a reunion among those classmates.
The reunion of the 1991 Chemistry batch was organized by Prof. Iyer (Balachandra Menon) and his wife (Sobha Mohan) in memory of their son Murali. The plan was to have a get together in the evening, recollect memories, stay in the hostel for the night and leave in the morning. Besides Sukumaran who is now a diamond merchant the other people who arrive are Sateeshan, who is an MLA, Pius (Indrajith), who is now in Gulf, Thara Kurup (Kavya Madhavan) who is a professional dancer and Raziya (Radhika).
As they arrive one by one, both Thara and Sateeshan give a hostile looks to Sukumaran and you know something is not right. His only friend is Pius, but since his daughter was sick, Pius leaves to see a doctor at night at the insistence of Thara. As Suku is drunk and lying in the hostel room at night, Prof. Iyer comes to meet him and talk about Murali and his guitar which Iyer kept in another room. That night when Pius returns he finds Suku is strangled by the guitar string and police comes to investigate.
Suku was not dead and he is moved to the ICU. The police meanwhile find his diary in which he had written that he wanted to end his life, but before that he wanted to go back to his past one last time. Iyer does not believe that it is suicide. He walks along with Pius and tells that to understand the present, we have to go back into the past. The movie then flash backs to 1991.
The college life of that era was a time of strikes, a time of romance, a time of political fights and the time of love letters hidden in books. Suku is the leader of SFK and Sateeshan that of DSU and they have their tiffs. Suku also has an ongoing feud with Thara ever since she refused to leave class following a strike call issued by him. They play pranks on each other and finally it turns out that they both are madly in love with each other.
To disrupt this, Sateeshan influences Thara’s father, a big shot in DSU and makes her a candidate in the elections. She disregards Suku’s warnings which irritates him. Murali meanwhile is the favorite of everyone as he is a singer and non political. Pius is the local kamadevan trying to flirt with everyone in the campus including Raziya who is called Penguin because of her purdah. Sateeshan plays dirty in the elections, steals a love letter written by Thara to Suku and deposits it in the ballot box.
Thara and Suku fall apart. Then Murali’s death happens and a disgusted Suku stops his education and leaves. Iyer then goes through more details with Pius and slowly he pieces the story of the last 15 years. In this process he learns how his son died. He also learns who attacked Suku. This unfolding of events forms the story of Classmates.
There are two aspects which made this movie very interesting to watch. The first one is the nostalgia it creates for the campus life. We studied in a college which is exactly same as the college shown in this movie. We had friends who were like Suku, Sateeshan and Thara. Writer James Albert has made that era very lively and realistic. In one of the scenes one of the guys mentions that he was in love with a girl for almost two years and another one asks, “Does she know it”. We had a friend who fits this silent lover to the t.
The second aspect is the very interesting way of narration. Initially a set of sequences are shown, both in the past and present. Then as Iyer learns more and more, the gaps left in both past and present and filled one by one leading to the identity of the killer and attempted killer. Also in this layered narration, a hidden story of relationship is also revealed which was very interesting. Due to this, characters who remained in the background in the first pass get more prominence in the second around. The same scenes are shown again and you get to see the new angle. Due to this style of story telling, even after the movie was over, we were re sequencing the story in our head. This was clever writing.
The movie was funny. Any college movie should have pranks and the ones between Suku and Thara where he swaps her dance song for a Rajnikanth song and kidnaps her from the hostel while she is sleeping had us laughing. In another scene, Murali is asked by SFK guys to sing their revolutionary song for campaign. As he is singing, he is lifted by the DSU guys and forced to sing a different son. Then the SFK guys chase him and he starts singing both songs.
The movie had strong emotions too. The point where the relationship between Thara and Suku turn from hostility to love was refreshingly done. Similarly the hostility between Suku and Sateeshan build up over small incidents resulting in frequent fights and finally it reaches the climax with the ultimate prank that Sateshan plays which destroys Suku’s life completely. The drama here and the tension between the characters make for compelling viewing.
Besides writing such a layered story, dialogue by James Albert is non cliched as well. When Suku asks Thara not to stand for elections, she simply asks him to marry her immediately so that she does not have to listen to her father anymore. When they are locked up in the Chemistry lab, both Suku and Thara talk about their love for each other, mostly in third person which was interesting. When you have so many characters giving each one of them time is not easy, but James Albert has done justice to all the characters.
The movie is not without its drawbacks also. There is a scene where police enters the campus and beats all students including girls. We studied in a college where this was a regular feature and not once have we seen police beating girls. Also in this movie, lot of events happen because one person overhears what he is not supposed to. Thus we see Sateeshan overhearing the conversation between Thara and Suku, Sateeshan’s friend overhearing a conversation between Pius and Suku about Thara’s love letter and finally the person who attacked Suku overhearing something incriminating. This overhearing in fact forms the pillar of the movie and was overused.
Prithviraj did an excellent job as Suku. As we saw in Vargam, playing arrogant head strong characters is his forte. But in this movie he gets to be a romantic as well as a devastated helpless man. The other revelation is Indrajith. There is one scene where he grabs the letter Thara wrote to Suku and reads it out while Suku tries to grab it. His body language and the way he does it was really funny. Though we are not big fans of Jayasurya after seeing terrible movies like Immini Nalloral and Pulival Kalyanam, we were impressed with his role as Sateeshan. He can make a good villain. One versatile actor is Sunil, who morphs like a chameleon into each of the characters he is playing whether it is the rowdy in Chittiram Pesuthadi, or Police Officer in Four the People. In this film too he plays the musician’s role with ease. Among the actresses Kavya as usual has done her role very well. Radhika who played the role of Rasiya got some excellent scenes.
The music of the movie too deserves mention. Alex Paul and Vayalar Sharat Chandra Varma’s songs re-create the spirit of the campus with very memorable songs. Our favorite is Ente Khalbile. Technically too this film stands out with the use of steady cams to get us into the middle of the action. Director Lal Jose has impressed us with movies like Meesha Madhavan, Chanthupottu, and Achanurangatha Veedu. Once again he has impressed us with this well made movie.