For a debutant director Atlee delivers a movie that more than impresses. Raja Rani has a refreshingly light-hearted approach to modern day relationships without trivialising them. Although there are the occasional sexist jibes like ‘it is women that drive men to drink’ and ‘a good wife would ensure her husband didn’t stay out drinking half the night’ they can be largely ignored. Why? Because like most movies there’s no false machismo here. The woman holds her ground, wears the pants in the relationship and even slaps her man. While the men too are not shy of expressing their emotions. If Jai plays the annoyingly meek and simpering Surya, Arya too has no qualms about shedding a few tears as the devastated John.

The film begins with Regina (Nayantara) and John getting married to please their respective families. However, the marriage is no easy one. The two cannot stand each other and do everything possible to hurt each other. While John drinks himself senseless night after night Regina wants to do everything to get away from the marriage, even if it means a transfer overseas.

So indifferent are the two towards each other that during a medical emergency John has no idea of his wife’s medical details or even her age. Like it is in every love story the tide does change. Regina and John discover each other’s painful pasts (shown through elaborate flashbacks) and heartbreaks. They begin to sympathise with each other. But does this sympathy turn into true love forms the rest of the plot.

While the basic premise of the story that there is life and love after love failure is nice it could have done with tighter editing. The extensive flashbacks make the film a tad long and also eats into the attention paid to the romance between the lead pair. There may also be some predictable moments but Atlee’s treatment of the film makes it all worthwhile.

But that is still no reason to dismiss the film. What works for the film is its fresh take on relationships, Atlee’s direction and some stellar performances. Nayantara holds her ground as the strong willed Regina while Arya impresses as John. The chemistry between the lead pair is palpable and they both look good on screen.

Santhanam as John’s best friend Sarathy provides good comic relief while Jai as the weepy Surya does a good job. Nazriya Nazim as the bubbly Keerthana is refreshing and paints a pretty picture, while Sathiaraj as the super cool and supportive father, who shares Regina’s excitement and heartbreak, is both believable and impressive.

RAJA RANI

Genre: Romantic comedy

Cast: Arya, Nayantara, Nazriya Nazim, Jai, Santhanam

Director: Atlee Kumar

Plot: Two people forced into marriage learn to overcome their respective pasts

Bottomline: Light-hearted and refreshing