Director Lal Jose has given Malayalam cinema a lot to cheer about. It is a welcome change to watch a neat script, narrated engrossingly and enacted by youngsters rather than big stars such as Mohanlal, Mamootty and Dileep. This film really works due to its campus setting which is depicted in a realistic manner.

Classmates begins with a reunion of the batch of 1991, organised by professor Iyer (Balachandra Menon) to commemorate the wishes of his deceased son Murli (Narain), who was a classmate of the same

Not everything is smooth during the reunion as Sukumar (Prithviraj) is found strangled with a guitar string which once belonged to Murli. As Sukumar is battling death in hospital, his best friends Pious (Indrajith) and Iyer try to recall the events of 1991. A lot of skeletons then start coming out of the closet.

Through flashback, the audience comes to know that Sukumar, a leftist ideologist student leader is at loggerheads with the opposite faction leader, Satheesan (Jayasurya). While Pious is a ladies man and Sukumar's confidante. Tara (Kavya Madhavan), a talented dancer, falls in love with Sukumar. But it is Murli, the man with a golden voice, who is the toast of the college. His love interest is the burqa-clad Raziya (Radhika).

Life in college goes on in an energetic manner until Murli is found dead in mysterious circumstances. From here on, the film switches gear and becomes a suspense drama with a thrilling climax.

The story keeps on moving back and forth, making the narrative style interesting. However, the sore part is the love angle between Sukumar and Tara in the second half.

Jose beautifully depicts the various shades of campus life - festivity, romance, pranks and violence. The characters in the movie are very realistic and credit needs to be given to new writer James Albert, who cleverly mixes dollops of emotions with elements of suspense. The performances of all the stars are good mainly because they have well defined characters.

Prithviraj has given a great performance and his strengths are in the emotional scenes. Madhavan does full justice to her role. Indrajith is hilarious as Prithviraj's best friend and his comic talent will definitely take him places. Jayasurya depicts the cunning character of Satheesan with a lot of conviction. Narain leaves his mark in brief role.

But the show stealer is debutant Radhika as she delivers a power packed performance in the later half of the film. She does not give any impression that this is her debut film and, in fact, is the film's best surprise. Menon lends adequate support. Jagathy Sreekumar as the hostel warden evokes good laughs. Music by Alex Paul is in sync with the film's storyline.

The movie may not be an exceptional one, but it definitely breaks the norms and takes the audience on a compelling, nostalgic trip.

Classmates has become a trendsetter and taken the Malayalam film industry by storm. When the film was released in September during the Onam festival, in Kerala, amidst other much-hyped Mamootty and Mohanlal starrers, nobody thought that this film, without a major star, would be so successful. In fact, it has turned out to be one of the highest grossing Malayalam films in recent times.

The film has connected in a big way with youngsters who instantly relate their college lifestyle to the film's campus life, while the older audiences can take a walk down memory lane. The film's clean content is also one of the reasons for attracting the family

The music has become a rage and the song Ente Kalbile, which celebrates campus life, is on the lips of every college student in Kerala.

The scenario is no different in the UAE. The film has evoked an overwhelming response here. For most of the audience it's like revisiting the golden period of their fun-filled college days.

Classmates is currently being screened in the UAE.