The romantic travel on twin tracks proves an effective narrative tool in Chikku Bukku (U). Two stories, one that emerges from the pages of a diary dated 1985, and the other, the present, set in 2010 are juxtaposed in a fairly interesting manner. The common factor in both the sojourns is Arya.

The title may refer to only the chugging of trains but there isn't a single mode of conveyance that you don't see in the film. From bicycles and bikes to cars, trucks and planes, the lead pair travels in all possible modes of transport to reach their destinations.

Arjun (Arya), who lives in London with his grandma, is forced to come down to Karaikkudi to retrieve his father's house, which is about to be auctioned. The grandma puts his father's 1985 diary in his luggage and as Arjun reads it, the poignant love story of his dad Shekar (Arya again) unfolds.

From the moment Arjun lands in India, the journey seems jinxed. Not just for him but also for Anu (Shriya Saran) who's on her way to Madurai from London. She is visiting her ailing dad. Beginning at the point the young pair meets, it is adventure all the way.

As Arjun, Arya sails through the role with ease — it isn't a taxing part after all. But as Shekar, his eyes are admirably expressive — Arya emerges as an ace romantic here. And his make-over to suit the period is appreciable. Comparatively the Arjun-Anu romance has much less depth. It's a solid role for debutante Preetika Rao, and she fills the bill. (Couldn't her hair stylist have done a better job?) Shriya as Anu is cute. Yet in his enthusiasm to create a bubbly heroine, director Manikandan makes the character go overboard in her reactions that she either looks sheepish or stupid most of the time. She's gullible enough to make a small boy dupe her and she loses her bag with her passport et al, but her folly doesn't upset her as much as it should!

If at all you feel the chug-chug slowing down at times it's because you find certain happenings predictable. For example, when Arya Senior and his friend Ammaiyappan (Anup Kumar) begin to climb up the poles at the police training camp, you know what's in store.

Santhanam tickles the funny bone all right but that he makes no contribution to the story is a little disappointing.

Be it Lakshminarayanan's audiography or Praveen Mani's re-recording, the sound department in Chikku Bukku is strong. Hariharan and Leslie come up with a couple of hummable numbers. Once again, cameraman R. B. Gurudev proves that he is from the late Jeeva's school. Panning his camera in style he offers a brilliant visual treat. Lighting is a highpoint in many scenes. The locations, outdoor and indoor, exemplify Milan's eye for artwork.

Better pruning would have speeded up matters even more. The sequence featuring Arjun and Anu in London at a marriage function, for instance, goes on for more than 15 minutes, but remains an irrelevant sequence till the end!

Chikku Bukku is a neat film that moves on parallel tracks, before the lines meet and culminate in a joyous climax. And though guessable, the narration sustains your interest. A feel-good romance!

Chikku Bukku

Genre: Romance

Director: K. Manikandan

Cast: Arya, Shriya, Preetika, Santhanam

Storyline: The hero comes to his motherland with a purpose, and the heroine, initially a stranger, is forced to accompany him, when both are left stranded.

Bottomline: As a travelogue it isn't new, but the presentation is fresh.