Among the half dozen films Ezhil has directed, the first three — Thullaadha Manamum Thullum with Vijay, Pennin Manadhai Thottu with Prabhudeva and Poovellam Un Vaasam with Ajith — showed promise. The rest hardly passed muster. Yet when Manam Kothi Paravai (U), his latest, was announced, it aroused interest because it was touted as a rom-com — a genre Ezhil hasn't attempted before — and because playing the lead is up-and-coming actor and anchor, Sivakarthikeyan, who is steadily climbing the ladder of popularity with his spontaneity and humour.

If a group of comedians talking nineteen to the dozen, and a hero, who isn't exactly sure when he has to look sad, can make a rom-com, MKP is one. But if you expect a light-hearted story and screenplay, with humour as its mainstay, MKP is a dampener.

There's nothing very new in the line, except for the heroine Revathi's (Athmiya) stand that she isn't in love with the hero Kannan (Sivakarthikeyan), till rather late in the narration. She'd rather bury her feelings than antagonise her family that's filled with ruffians, a la Chinna Thambi.

Towards the end, Ezhil isn't too sure whether he should end MKP on a comedic note or make matters sober. In fact, at some point he almost threatens to toe the Ek Dujje Ke Liye route and finally settles for something in between Alaigal Oivadhillai and Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai — all yesteryear films.

Generally, Sivakarthikeyan and seriousness don't go together. In MKP, when he walks around like a zombie, looks sullen for a while and hits the bottle like all jilted lovers from time immemorial, he irritates you. But when he breaks down like a kid, you do feel sorry for him.

The hero's thoughtless moves, such as the way he casually walks towards the sickle-wielding henchmen who are out to kill him and asks them to come over to his house for lunch, are neither that of a comedian nor that of a bold lover. They fall in a category that's between folly and puerile humour. And as he walks round the village looking forlorn and singing ‘Po Po Po' in a style that dates back to the era of Sivaji Ganesan's ‘Engay Nimmadhi …' number, you realise that Ezhil is caught in a time warp.

New-find Athmiya conveys a lot with her expressive eyes. Her role has substance, and she carries it off well. ‘Deiva Thirumagan' Kishore is a misfit but at least he doesn't test your patience as Singampuli and Suri do. Their logorrhoea in the name of comedy gets so unbearable after a point that you want to scream. But even in a character with very little scope, Ilavarasu knows how to score, and he does. And providing a perfect foil for him is Vanitha, as his wife.

Imman's title music is soothing on the ear and a couple of his numbers are hum-worthy. Just when you decide MKP is a comedy it turns serious and when you settle down for the drama, matters turn ludicrous. Consistency in treatment is a casualty. Armed thugs in SUVs make things seem menacing, but when suddenly they become harmless and almost pathetic you are confounded!

Manam Kothi Paravai is neither here nor there.

Manam Kothi Paravai

Genre: Rom-com?

Director: S. Ezhil

Cast: Sivakarthikeyan, Athmiya

Storyline: Assuming that the heroine is in love with the hero, his friends kidnap the girl, on the eve of her wedding.

Bottomline: Half-baked attempt at humour