The three couples in S.M. Vasanth’s Moondru Per Moondru Kadal are Varun (Vemal) and Anjana (Lasini), Guna (Cheran) and Mallika (Muktha Bhanu), and Harris (Arjun) and Divya (Surveen Chawla) — and the film depicts their knotty love stories over three landscapes: the sea, the hills, and the flat terrains of a city. The film is nothing like the Tamil cinema we see today. The characters sip iced tea instead of loading up on sarakku. They play squash and use Macbooks.

And they’re not just joke-spitting machines; the lines they speak — long monologues and dialogues, sometimes delivered to the camera — are actually about something. The director opts for a low-key approach, eschewing epiphanies in favour of small moments, slices of life. The non-linear narrative style isn’t all that common either. We see something and then we learn what it’s about, or we think one thing and it turns out to be what we never expected.

But the film isn’t worked out very well. It doesn’t build the way it ought to, and the various strands don’t come together satisfactorily — they hang loose. At first, I thought the stories were interconnected, through overlapping incidents. Both Varun and Guna meet their potential love interests by retrieving an object that belongs to them — a cell phone, a moped. In both these stories, the heroes come from happy families, and if Varun tells Anjana’s father about his love for her, Mallika opens up to Guna’s mother — and the consequences aren’t pretty in either case.

But these parallels are isolated occurrences. The ill-fitting songs (‘Aaha kaadhal’ is lovely) can be brushed off as inevitable commercial compromises, but it’s harder to look past the strain of well-intentioned earnestness that informs the filmmaking. High-mindedness is a fine quality, and we need more filmmakers who steer clear of the roads easily taken, but not at the expense of drama. All we’re left with is the exhausting effort to make capital-A Art.

Genre: Romance

Director: S.M. Vasanth

Cast: Arjun, Cheran, Vemal

Storyline: As the title says, three couples, three love stories.

Bottomline: More notable for what it tries to do than what it ends up doing.