What makes cinema fascinating, like with most other things in life is the choices it throws. Popcorn entertainment vs. realism, big star canvas vs. new comers in tailor made roles, Song and dance extravaganza vs. plot centric stories and so on. Though a lot of these debates and demarcations are slowly dying out, we all know that it is tough to fully root them out from our system.But what we also know is that once every while, off comes a movie which manages to totally park these things by the side and grip you with a simple, witty , heartwarming story and makes you think about the pleasant side of everything around you. ‘Azhagarsamiyin Kudhirai’ did this to me a year ago and I can confidently say now that ‘Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom (NKPK)’ ( some pages are missing inthe middle ) manages to achieve that and much more.
Premkumar (Vijay Sethupathy), Baks (Bhagavathy), Balaji aka Bajji (Rajkumar), Saras (Vigneshwaran) with nothing much to do on an afternoon before Prem’s reception, decide to play a game of cricket. The game becomes very competitive as time passes by and at one point, Prem trips and falls while trying to grab a catch. His friends slowly realize that this fall has hurt Prem’s Medulla Oblongata (a part of the brain) and this has resulted in him forgetting everything that happened in the last few years. He also has short term memory loss and keeps forgetting thing after a few minutes. With the Doctor telling them that he can regain memory any time now, the rest of the movie is about how the 3 friends manage the situation and try to tide through Prem’s reception and wedding.
What makes the movie click, in spite of a very simple and probably even a very predictable premise is the simplicity of the movie and the spontaneous humour which is continuously created by the lead cast. There is no shortage of standout scenes and moments in the film. Some of the best in the humour department are Baks’s scaring the crap out of Bajji in the hospital, the brilliant scene where they create an office atmosphere on phone from a hospital, the rollicking scene in the saloon and of course the most important reception sequence. Subtle humour too is always around as an undercurrent, especially in things like mocking arguments with relatives or taking a dig at bombastic punch dialogues on love or jealousy in grabbing a friend’s mind share. The few sentimental sequences such as the ones where the friends get scared about Prem’s future or Saras getting speechless at how much Prem values his friendship, make a very good impact because of their crisp nature and smart placement.
In a film like this with minimum frills, props and distractions, performances are truly the lifeline and there is no disappointment in this area. Vijay Sethupathi and his 3 friends are practically the people you see in almost each frame. That by itself is a rarity in a star driven system and to top it, the hero himself is alternatingly overshadowed by each of the friends in different scenes and segments of the movie. All of these are true differentiators. Bhagavathy to me is the best of the lot and he excels in equal measure when he scares or is scared, smiles or is smiled at and makes a bakra of someone or is the target himself. Though he is the story writer of the film, he could be a great comedian or character artiste to watch out for in the future. Rajkumar and Vigneshwaran as two totally contrasting characters (dumb and smart, practical and emotional and so on) shine greatly and what is nice is at different moments of the movie they both get a chance to show their individual brilliance and they don’t let that opportunity slip by. Last but definitely not the least, Vijay Sethupathi, in his 4th smartly chosen movie (‘Thenmaerkku Paruvakkatru’,’Sundarapandian’,’Pizza’) sizzles in a great performance and rises even higher by beautifully underplaying the role of a memory loss person and allowing his friends to shine in the foreground.
On the technical front, the lighting part of the cinematography by Premkumar (whose real life story is apparently the base material for the film) is brilliant and literally allows different lead actors to hog the limelight at apt situations. Background music by Ved Shankar, an ARR music school student, does a great job in keeping us focused and not distracting by jarring. That itself is an adequate job in a song less movie. Editing to me is probably one of the biggest downers to me as a theme which requires a 2 – 2:10 hour presentation has definitely been stretched to a 2:30 – 2:45 hour format. This is unpardonable for a song less movie with a very simple linear narrative with a handful of sequences to show.
The biggest challenge in making such a movie with limited characters and scenarios is that, most of the good things about the movie could potentially end up as the weak spots too, especially with inefficient pruning. The repetitive dialogues said by Prem like the hilarious ‘Ennachu, cricket vilayndom…’ are hilarious initially, but do start grating on the nerves towards the end. The reception sequence is one of the best comedy scenes in recent memory, but in the corner of your mind, you do start developing a feeling that it is pretty unrealistic to start with and as the scene keeps plodding on, this feeling only grows more. Even things like the repeated practice of extensively zooming the face of the lead characters and the continuous usage of shock expressions from the 3 friends become pretty tiring. The abrupt placement of the one promo song after the interval is an attempt at being novel and doesn’t come off, especially considering the very average nature of the song. They could have much rather somehow tried to fit ‘O crazy minnal’ which is a much better and more popular song.
But all said and done, the movie is a must watch on various counts. It is a simple, sincere, witty and non-fussy movie with fresh faces and a fresh approach to storytelling. It is bold for discarding its songs, giving equal importance to all 4 lead characters and bringing in the heroine only when she is necessary after a good 2 hours into the movie. And most importantly somehow it magically manages to fill your mind with a generous dose of goodness and optimism. For that and that alone I will dare to go beyond a 3.25 and give it a 3.5 it probably doesn’t merit at a purely cinematic level.