Credible characters and a fairly good screenplay are the positive components of director Badri Venkatesh's debut film, Baana (U). You do have patches of slowness but they are few and far between. If you can conjecture the relevance of the title and the tagline (‘Kathaadi'), you've got the story.

Even as the narrative is running on an even keel, Badri falls prey to the item number syndrome and has a stylish dancer gyrating in skimpy costume, in an area with LIG tenements!

For the group of teenagers that includes Ramesh (Atharva), life is all about playing on the streets and chasing kites. When he crosses the path of fashion technology student Priya (Samantha), little does he know his future is to undergo a sea change — whether it's for the better or for the worse forms the suspense.

Spontaneity marks the portrayals and heading the list is Mounika. She plays the loving mother with a rough exterior to perfection. This talented actor is rarely seen on screens, big and small, these days. If she's loud it's because Badri has conceived the character so. With his big eyes, child-like earnestness and studied dialogue delivery, Atharva reminds you a little of Simbu as he is now and Murali as he was in the early years of his career. Footwork and fights come easily to the young man — definite hero material.

Samantha, the new find, has a solid role and she does justice to it. Over the decades, poor-boy-rich-girl themes have been milked dry in cinema, and the implausibility of the premise is becoming increasingly irksome. That sophisticated girl Priya, whose parents live in the U.S., falls for a boy from the slums, is unbelievable, especially in a line that tries to strike a balance between formula and realism.

Prasanna has already proved that he can pull off negative roles with ease. In Baana too, he is convincing as a villain with a conscience. Effective underplay is Prasanna's forte — it comes to the fore once again here.

Karunas's humour quotient works fine in the main storyline. But the separate track with T.P. Gajendran looks disjointed.

Udayaraj, the child actor-turned-adolescent, who, some years ago, made a mark in award winning ventures such as Nilakaalam, returns as Atharva's schoolmate and friend.

Badri takes you all the way to the Gujarat Kite Festival but strangely gives you only glimpses of it. Certain scenes that could have been pruned — the opening kite chase, for one, which seems to go on and on …

Yuvan's score is an elevating aspect of Baana. ‘Thaakudhe …' is already a chartbuster, but the beats and the melody of the ‘En Nenjil' piece follow you long after you leave the hall. In fact, percussion draws attention in many a song and sequence.

Art showcases authentic sets and breezy locations — the creator is Rembon.

The suspenseful climax and the run-up to it help Badri Venkatesh emerge as a maker with potential.

Keywords: Tamil cinemaBaana