96: What a super movie

By Devaki Parthasarathy

96 is a love story with a lot to fall in love with.

Story:  A school reunion where the protagonist meets the love of his life for the first time in 22 years. Set in just one night the couple revisit their fledgling love story. Without resorting to emotional manipulation or hysteria, the film in the first half unfolds a wistful yesteryear puppy love of a pair of teenagers. The second half is pinned on the female lead, who actually leads the film to fruition ”“ so artistically, so romantically and so beautifully.

Screenplay:    is gripping. It has you on the edge of your seat for what are seemingly the most inane activities ”“ school attendance, conversations over coffee and even a ride in the metro. The movie, at several junctures, puts its viewers in a moral dilemma, making you question if what you are rooting for is correct. And the beauty is that even after 12 hours of having watched the film I am not sure I can answer that!

The actors:  A fantastic cast of thousands”¦ each one has played their part so well. A true team effort. Right from younger actors like Devadarshini, Bagavathi Perumal, Aadukalam Murugadoss, (I had to google the names) who appear as Ram and Janu’s friends, to seniors Janagaraj and Kavithalaya Krishnan, who appear in cameos, the casting is bang on. The actors who play the younger Ram and Janu ”” Adithya Bhaskar and Gouri Kishan ”” are so good, it was easy to fall in love with them and be transported to their world. And the review would be incomplete without a mention of my favourite Vijay Sethupathi and not so favourite Trisha who share a chemistry that crackles to life on screen. They feed off each other’s energy and leave you wanting for more. Their masterfully understated performances complement Prem Kumar’s storytelling lyricism, and together the magic on screen happens! I would love to tell you some of the scenes I loved, but that would be too many to write here and would spoil the fun for you!

The Direction:  When I googled it, I found out that this movie is Prem Kumar’s debut venture!!!! What a genius this guy is! In spite of the fact that it is not an action film”¦ the pace is super-fast and steady. A highly charged emotional scene is suddenly succeeded by a light moment and before you recover, the director is already moving forward to the next frame. It does not give you a moment to savour the moment and you simply cannot take your eyes off the screen. And that is why you come out of the theatre living those frames you couldn’t quite process!!! You cry with them, you laugh with them, you feel with them and then feel for them. The director makes you step into their shoes with each and every dilemma and wonder, what you may have done under the circumstances!!! Woooow”¦ spectacular!

The music:  Composer Govind Menon’s  provides a wistfully hummable score and superbly effective background score interspersed at just the right moments in just the right degree to help one feel the happiness, the dilemma and the eternal longing that the characters have to deal with. Just loved it!

Cinematography:  Is superb. Seeing as the protagonist was a photographer the initial frames were a work of art. Slow mo was used so beautifully to emphasise the moments of despair when a struggle occurred between moral and emotional elements.

The comedy:  Oh my God!!! I am huge on comedy and comedy was such an intrinsic part of this film. Extremely potent scenes were depicted through chemistry and the tension broken with humour! The personal growth and contrasting personalities of the pair are showcased through humour. Puppy love unfolds humorously and you get drawn to the characters in a beautiful way and you laugh not at them, but with them! Oh it was amazing!

Final verdict:  I LOVED THIS FILM and would like to watch it again! Everything about it was just right”¦ like a “viridu Shaapaad” “Banquet” where there’s just the right amount of everything to add spice to life”¦. Muah Muah Muah Vijay”¦ I wuuuuuv you!!!!

DeeScore:  12/5 J

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