How Old Are You is an excellent Malayalam film along the lines of English Vinglish and Queen.
The film starts with a scene where Nirupama is giving a job interview to an Irish company. They ask her how old she is, she says 36. They reject her because their policy is not to hire anyone who is older than 35. “But I am just 36” Nirupama says.
Nirupama (Manju Warrier) is a married, lazy government employee. Her husband has plans of immigrating to Ireland and her young daughter wishes the same. Nirupama was a brilliant student in college who stood up for her rights. But as time went on, she got into the habit of daily routines — work and taking care of family. Her husband and daughter complain about how she doesn’t have any goals in life and look down on her for this reason. As indifferent as she is to her work, as engrossed she is with her family and their needs. When her husband gets visas for himself and his daughter to Ireland, Nirupama has no option but to oblige and remain back. But all of this has really gotten to her and she is forced to rethink her life, who she is and what her goals are.
Manju Warrier gives a fantastic performance in this film as Nirupama. She plays the character so effortlessly and so naturally that one inevitably forms an attachment to her from the very first scene of the film. Her character portrayal is endearing and she carries the film on her shoulders with ease, depicting the self-realization of a mature and unique woman beautifully. As the character grows and transforms, we do too with her. It’s the same kind of experience that we had with English Vinglish and Queen. Like them, How Old Are You gives us a peek into the hearts and minds of ordinary woman, who are actually extraordinary. What Shashi from English Vinglish, Rani in Queen and Nirupama in HOAU have in common is that they’re all women who’ve made sacrifices for their families. But instead of being appreciated for these sacrifices, they were scorned and humiliated. And this becomes their wake up call in which they realize that they have to do something for themselves.
The Nirupama character and her story is truly lovable, but if the script had been written a little differently, the film could have been even better. Aside from the main theme of the film, there are a few sub-plots happening that don’t really have too much to do with the story. For example, in the beginning of the film, Nirupama’s husband is caught up in a car accident case in which he places the blame on his wife so that he doesn’t experience any issues with his Irish visa. This sub-plot was placed to add some thrill into the story but it really has nothing to do with anything. In fact, it diverts our attention and misleads the viewer about what this film is really about. There is another sub-plot in which Nirupama’s daughter met the Indian Prime Minister and asked him a question. The PM was so impressed with the question that he asked the girl where she got the question from. The girl tells the PM that she got the question from her mother and so the PM wants to meet Nirupama. Although this event does play a role in the transformation of Nirupama, it too feels like a bit of a distraction from the main story of the film.
Aside from these few minor issues, How Old Are You is an engrossing and lovely film that ought not be missed. If you enjoyed English Vinglish and Queen, make sure you catch this film.
By the way, it has been reported in the news that Ajay Devgan has bought the Hindi remake rights of this film and it may be remade starring Kajol. The Tamil remake of How Old Are You, starring the acclaimed Tamil actress Jyothika, also released last month.This is all great news but I still urge you to see the original film.