When someone who has assisted director Shankar on films like Endhiran and Nanban decides to make his formal entry to direction with a romantic film with more than a dash of humour one would be surprised right? Well not if the person turns out to be Atlee who apart from being influenced by Shankar’s films is also a fan of Mani Ratnam and Gautham Menon, something that one would understand after watching Raja Rani, Atlee’s first film as director. Considering that the film was backed by A.R.Murugadoss and Fox Star, who had earlier collaborated on Tamil films like Engaeyum Eppothum and Vatthikuchi and featured a really good star cast, Raja Rani sounded promising. This was made even clearer with a very interesting teaser that was unveiled first, giving us a glimpse of what the film had in store for us. By the time the trailer and the songs were released the film had me hooked alright.
With the release in Mumbai (along with rest of India except South) being delayed by a few days and with reports from the South turning out positive I was looking forward to the film all the more. And so now that finally the movie has been seen over the weekend here I am to share my views on the same. John (Arya) and Regina (Nayantara) get married in a church but it’s evident that they have got married to each other reluctantly, only to please their parents. John works for an automobile dealer along with his childhood friend Sarathy (Santhanam) and comes home drunk every day. Regina is an I.T professional who doesn’t accept John’s presence in her life and decides to get a transfer abroad, a move that John seems to be ok with. But one night Regina gets an epileptic attack and falls down from the bed and John gets her admitted in a hospital.
Prodded by the doctor John speaks to Regina about her health and asks if she has had such attacks before. That is when she reveals her past to him and briefs him about her relationship with Surya (Jai). This was a relationship she had completely believed in and something that had the approval of her father James (Sathyaraj), a corporate honcho. But unfortunately the whole thing ends in a tragedy and thus Regina decides to marry John to keep her father happy. John is impressed on knowing that Regina truly valued her relationship and tried her best to work it out. This makes him respect Regina and he tries to change his behavior towards her but she keeps rebuffing him. Ultimately Sarathy comes over to meet her and tells her that she doesn’t know John at all as he has seen him suffer a few years ago the same way that he is now suffering now. Regina thus gets to know of John’s relationship with Keerthana (Nazriya Nazim) which in a strange coincidence had also ended in a tragedy.
Now Regina also starts to like John just as he likes her as well, but they do not reveal their feelings to each other. John is startled one day to see Regina organize a surprise birthday for him and she even gives him a special gift asking him to check it out in private, but John throws it away as he thinks Regina has just faked the whole thing to keep up a show in front of her father. That’s when Regina gets a transfer to Australia for 2 years and he ends up asking her to take it up without knowing what’s on her mind. Like many other films of this kind the ending is again at the airport, but thankfully you don’t end up feeling fatigued and that’s where Atlee’s effort definitely seems to have paid off convincingly.
At the very outset it’s essential to acknowledge that the film bears a strong similarity with Mani Ratnam’s classic- Mouna Raagam. At the same time Raja Rani is no remake of the earlier film, rather it is a film in the same space and looks at a similar situation between the lead pair. Cynics can easily add that just like Revathi if Mohan also had an affair in the past and if the film has a lot of comic relief then voila, you end up getting Raja Rani, but it’s easier said than done. The film is extremely contemporary and doesn’t really question the sanctity of romance and/or marriage the way some of the new generation films tend to do. In fact the film while being trendy and very topical also has its own old Worldly sort of charm, which helps the film largely.
One of the strengths of the film is the believable characters who inject life on to the screen. Added to it are some really well conceived portions in the film, especially those which mimic situations often seen in films like these and yet standing out on their own. Check out for example the scene where the automobile dealership owner (‘Naan Kadavul’ Rajendran) invites both John and Sarathy over home and gives them some insight about love and life or the moments between Sathyaraj and Nayantara, they are not strange situations but still the scenes are very convincing. Atlee also introduces George C.Williams, a former associate of Nirav Shah as the DOP here and it’s heartening to see potential in George’s work. The film looks colourful and vibrant and George’s camera work and T.Muthuraj’s art direction can share the credit for the same.
It’s been a long time since I personally liked any album of G.V.Prakash Kumar, and here I must say that finally after Mayakkam Enna he delivers another completely enjoyable music score which is light and pleasing to the ears. While ‘Hey Baby’ is a standard Gaana Bala song (he’s written it along with Na.Muthukumar and sung it along with Aishwarya and G.V.Prakash Kumar), it’s still good fun by and large. ‘Oday Oday’ (lyrics by Pa.Vijay and sung by Vijay Prakash, Sasha and Shalmali Kholgade) is a nice funky song. Songs like ‘Angnyaade’ (lyrics by Pa.Vijay and sung beautifully by Shaktishree Gopalan), ‘Imaye Imaye’ (lyrics by Pa.Vijay and sung by G.V.Prakash Kumar and Shaktishree Gopalan) and ‘Chillena’ (lyrics by Na.Muthukumar, sung by Clinton Cerejo, Alphonse Joseph, Alka) are all romantic numbers which are easy on the ears.
Talking about the choice of actors and their performances I must say that Atlee has got it absolutely right with the casting. It’s nice to see Rajendran who typically plays a baddie in a totally different avatar. Sathyan as Jai’s colleague and friend Aiyappan, does his usual stuff. Dhanya Balakrishna who plays Nayantara’s friend from her B.School is pleasant looking and continues to impress. Sathyaraj as James the father of Nayantara brings in a lot of elegance to his character and the scenes that he shares with Nayantara are wonderful to watch. Santhanam is very well utilized in the film and while he does infuse a lot of humour in the film, there is a little more scope for him to move beyond humour in the film. Jai plays perfect foil to Nayantara as the timid & dad fearing Surya. Arya is a natural, be it in the scenes where he shares space with Santhanam , his romantic scenes with Nazriya or the emotional moments, he’s extremely comfortable and effective. Nazriya Nazim who had impressed us in Neram is wonderful here as well. Here is a young heroine who is not just good looking but also chirpy, witty and a lovely bundle of talent overall. To get a special intro scene (the ‘Ringa Ringa’ scene) it shows that Atlee has tried to utilize her effectively. And yes Nazriya and Arya share wonderful chemistry in the film which makes their love track a treat to watch.
Ultimately one of the best aspects about the film is the presence of Nayantara. Playing Regina she is totally convincing, be it in the happier romantic portions with Jai, her scenes with Sathyaraj where the daughter and father are seen to be sharing a great rapport, or as the lady reluctantly married to a person she doesn’t care for and tries to avoid always. In some ways it reminds us of her earlier films like Yaaradi Nee Mohini where again she got to play such a powerful role. Arya and Nayantara had some sparkling chemistry between them in Boss Engira Bhaskaran and hence it is no surprise to see the pair looking effective here as well. For those asking me if this is the best romantic film or rom-com in recent times or how does it rate among the Tamil films released this year, I would say that there’s nothing here that makes you feel that you’ve seen a great film. After all the film isn’t touching any new subject per se but it’s the treatment that brings out the difference and that’s where the film scores. In terms of showing a film based on relationships it’s certainly a good attempt by Atlee and definitely one of the better Tamil films of the year, though I am very sure it is not in competition for the best film of the year.
All in all a good debut by Atlee, let’s see what he goes on to do from here. On an afterthought I would like to add that the film would work a lot more for those who have been in a relationship that went wrong for whatever reasons. The film’s tagline clearly says “there is life after love failure, there is love after love failure” and that’s what the film is all about.