A host of new faces, a fresh approach to narration, a rare storyline that gives equal importance to an entire group of friends — five in all — decent portrayals, a few clichés and a dose of melodrama comprise Selva's Naanga (U).

Selva has worked hard to make his 25th film a novel attempt. Generally a film that is about five young men has one of them as the hero, while the others are more like hangers-on. But here each has a story of his own, and when one of them is the pivot, the others play a dormant role.

Interestingly woven, screenplay is a highlight of Naanga. The other commendable feature is the dialogue. Witty, funny and thought-provoking, some of the lines deserve applause. Selva has handled the story, script, dialogue and direction, along with the onus of production, quite ably.

After being in a coma for two decades and a half, Devi (Vishnupriya) regains consciousness. Claimed to be a medical miracle, the media goes berserk flashing the story. Her friends from college, now settled in various places, get to know of it and decide to meet her. As the journey begins, each of them goes back in time, to 1985, and their lives as students, before the story returns to 2011 …

Selva's premise, script and dialogue hold viewers' attention. Among the five heroes, director Santhanabharathi's son Sanjay Krishna (in the role of the aspiring singer, Chandran) and Nivas Adithan (the fiery college goer) score more.

Among others, Munees (Baasha, the policeman) and Uday (Babu, who falls for a woman older than him) are apt. But predictable theatrics affect the character essayed by Vinod (Daya, who lands in jail after he is forced to turn murderer).

Vishnupriya who plays Devi is a charming new face, but she tends to overact in the emotional scenes. The artist, who has lent voice to her, adds to the melodrama. Ashwin Raja, the gluttonous tutorial college student of Boss Engira Baskaran, tickles the funny bone now and then, and his dialogue enhances the comedy quotient.

Singer Mano's son Shakir has all the makings of a film villain. If the outcome isn't much, it's because his ruthlessness has no strong reason.

Known faces Rajkapoor and Kasturi make a mark — especially, Rajkapoor, in a role, which is far removed from the hard-core baddie we've seen him as. The softness beneath the façade of strictness lifts the character and the performance.

The segment involving policeman Baasha, where he tries to impress the father to woo the daughter, takes you to a similar situation in K. Bhagyaraj's unforgettable comedy, Indru Poi Naalai Vaa. But here the hilarity leads to a poignant twist that will remain with you for long.

The make-up department has worked overtime, for an authentic 1985 feel. Forget the ghastly wigs (particularly Sanjay Krishna's) of their prime when only Nivas Adithan looks natural. But the costume and appearances that show the boys as men in their late 40s or early 50s are very appealing. The same, though, cannot be said of the three ‘middle-aged' heroines — Arasi, Shivani and Vaidehi. The hair-do and make-up make them seem much older than they should be. Only the appearance of a battered Vishnupriya, after years of being in a coma, is realistic.

Selva, who joined hands with composer Balabharathi for his maiden directorial venture, Amaravathi (that also marked Ajith's debut) is back with him for Naanga, effectively re-ushering the strains of the 1980s, without aping them.

Production value isn't high. Also it teems with actors, most of them first-timers. These factors lend the film a small-screen-soap feel. Despite its positives, Naanga is more like a mega for youth.

Naanga

Genre: Period drama/Romance

Director: Selva

Cast: Sanjay Krishna, Vinod, Nivas Adithan, Uday, Munees, Shakir, Ashwin Raja, Rajkapoor, Kasturi, Vishnupriya, Arasi, Shivani, Vaidehi …

Storyline: The joys and sorrows of youth and the sobriety and maturity of middle-age…

Bottomline: A new attempt on a small scale

Keywords: SelvaaNaangaFilm review

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Tamil Cinema ReviewsOctober 18, 2011