As sarakku scenes go, it’s the usual scenario. Two men get drunk. One of them talks about the girl who ditched him, the one that ran away. The other one talks about the girl he loved, the one that got away. (In Tamil cinema, the woman is always the heartbreaker, the man always the one left nursing his broken heart.) You’d think the conversation is between Siva (Simbu) and Vasu (Soori) – isn’t that why heroes have best friends? But it’s actually two older men talking, Siva’s father and the father of the girl Siva is engaged to (Myla, played by Nayanthara). If you’re wondering, as I was, why Siva isn’t shown with a bottle in his hand, here’s a theory. The first time he sees Myla, he’s struck by her beauty. He tells Vasu, “Paathadhukke full adicha maadhiri irukku.” Siva doesn’t need intoxicants. He’s drunk on love.
As, some might say, Simbu is. The actor has made no secret about his love life, and Pandiraj’s Idhu Namma Aalu comes off like gossipy fan-fiction written by one of the actor’s fans who really, really wanted him to be with Nayanthara. (They called off their relationship some years ago.) At one point, Myla asks Simbu, “Love pannirkeengala?” – you have to wonder how sporting these actors are, and also what ran through their minds while shooting the scene. Later, Siva/Simbu says, “Ellaarum en love-a vachu comedy pannreenga.” And what to make of the Loosu penne reference? Is that…? Could that be…?
Idhu Namma Aalu is the story of a couple that gets together through an arranged-marriage setup, and Pandiraj captures the natural moments that occur in such a situation – the getting-to-know-you part, the does-she-have a past? part, the hours-and-hours-on-the-phone part, the going-on-long-drives-with-Ilayaraja-songs part… Pandiraj is trying to make a young, cool film. When Siva talks about his ex Pooja, played by Andrea Jeremiah, a corner of the screen shows the text “FLASHBACK LOADING,” along with the icon of a battery-like device “loading” this flashback. A lot of this works fairly well. The dialogues are fun, though you wish they’d give lines with rhyming words (privacy/paradesi) a rest. And Soori is a riot. He delivers a running commentary about the Siva-Myla romance, pricking their mushy speech balloons with sardonic barbs.
But he also prevents the film from becoming something better, something greater. When Mani Ratnam or Gautham Menon does the urban romance, you don’t just smile. You wince. You keep watching a parallel movie in your head, one made from memories. They make love stories that are real, and become reference points for a certain kind of movie-love. Pandiraj, on the other hand, doesn’t even take the time to savour the romantic situations. The night that Siva and Pooja spend in a store after they find themselves locked in, or the multiple marriages that end the film – these should have been way more awww-some.
Pandiraj’s aims are modest. He just wants the audience to be entertained while watching the movie – and that’s perfectly legit. But the problem is that the relative real-ness of the Siva-Myla portions is compromised by terribly contrived events, like Vasu hiring a detective to check up on Myla, or the in-laws getting into a fight after a drink, or even an attempt at suicide. After a while, you get the feeling Pandiraj is throwing these things at us simply because he did not know how else to bring about conflict. Even Myla’s temporary break-up with Siva looks less a genuine moment of crisis in a relationship than something that will lead to a dramatic interval point. What’s worse is that these conflicts are resolved very simplistically. But Simbu and Nayanthara are in good form, and they keep us watching. And wondering.
- sarakku = booze
- “Paathadhukke full adicha maadhiri irukku.” = Just looking at her is like having a peg.
- “Love pannirkeengala?” = Have you been in love?
- “Ellaarum en love-a vachu comedy pannreenga.” = My love life has become a joke.
- Loosu penne = see here
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