Njaan is a period movie directed by Ranjith based on the novel 'KTN Kottur: Ezhuthum Jeevithavum' (KTN Kottur: Writings and Life) by T P Rajeevan. Previously, Ranjith had directed Paleri Manikyam, based on a novel by the same writer. I am yet to read the novel, so whatever I write here is based on the experience of movie alone. Njaan is the story about a person who lived in pre-independant India with several talents, but was unable to achieve the greatness he was supposed to.
Movie has a very loose, nonlinear narrational structure. It starts when Ravi, a young professional and a blogger who writes with the pen name Kottur, decides to write a play based on the life of KTN Kottur, his inspiration. He is backed by a theatre group headed by actor Joy Mathew. The life of Kottur is slowly uncovered to the viewers.
The movie deals with many themes. I felt it predominantly dealt with the role of individualism in a social setup. Kottur is portrayed as a visionary. But he fails when his compatriots try to bracket him as per their needs. They fail to see that he is not an idealist. He himself claims to be a humanist. His works are mostly romantic in nature. His descent to an alcoholic, an introvert and finally a fatalist has to be viewed in this angle.
One negative point of the movie, I feel is the endorsement of this fatalism. Instead of portraying fatalism with contempt, as a logical conclusion of the descent, the movie tries to romanticize it. That bogs down the narrative towards the end of the movie and makes a mess. Another negative point is that the movie never tries to uncover the writer in Kottur. It undermine the characterization significantly.
But the one point that really spoiled the movie for me was the lead actor. Dulqar Salman, though the guy has evidently tried very hard, is unable to do justice to the role of Kottur that require a certain depth, a capability to make the viewer aware of the impending doom. That's a pity, because all the supporting cast were too good.
Kottur is actually a place in Calicut district. Names of several neighboring places- Neduvannur, Koottalida, Perambra etc., that keep on appearing in the narrative confirms that. Then how come the slang that people speak is that of furthur north, mostly that of Payyannur? Also geography of the location and the presence of theyyam performance is curiously indicating a place near Payyannur.
Njaan is definitely a brave attempt by Ranjith and an important one too as the questions raised by the life of Kottur has contemporary relevance. The movie scores on several other elements like great camera work and a narrative that is multilayered. It is a must watch for people loving serious cinema.