The first scene of Vikraman’s Ninaithathu Yaaro – the title comes from the Ilayaraja hit from Paattukku Oru Thalaivan, which plays intermittently in the form of a ring tone –is enough to make you want to give up on the movie. It’s a beach. A woman runs across the sand, and a man – her lover, presumably – follows. The camera drops to gaze at the imprints left by her feet, and the man exclaims, in that dulcet tone often employed by declaimers of really bad verse, that… even the waves don’t have the heart to erase these marks. Almost as if sensing our dismay at all this antiquated poetry, the director switches track to show five youngsters – three men, two women – who live together and who’ve all been spurned in love. In a touch borrowed from K Balachander, a blackboard hangs over the gate outside their home, and it bears, each day, a new anti-love slogan. Vikraman wants us to know that he’s hip and clued in to what today’s generation is like – almost desperately so. In a sense, Ninaithathu Yaaro is what Pudhu Vasantham – this director’s first film – might have been today, with iPods, laptops, YouTube uploads, and, most importantly, home deliveries consisting of KFC burgers and Domino’s pizza, without which, we all know, no depiction of “urban life” in Tamil cinema is complete.
But slowly, we see that the track involving these five youngsters is just a (clumsy) framing device, and that the main story is about the man and woman (Rejith Menon, Nimisha Suresh)on that beach. And that’s quite a solid story, one where a married woman returns to her dejected former lover and helps him find his footing in life. Gossipy neighbours point fingers, her father is outraged – but she doesn’t react, and she doesn’t mope. In these times of comedies that have no narrative thrust, it’s a relief to have people and situations to care about. But soon the veneer of modernity is stripped away. The woman – the modern woman – who’s walked out on her husband, refers to herself as a vaazhavatti, a term I haven’t heard in Tamil cinema for about a decade now. And we’re told that her husband hasn’t touched her in the six months they were together, thus leaving her “pure” enough to be reclaimed by her former lover. What’s left of this tale is undone by simplistic storytelling, an earnest, overemphatic style, and some ugly moralising. The peanut gallery in the theatre went berserk pointing and laughing.
An edited version of this piece can be found here.
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