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"Panchathanthiram"... with dialogue as its mainstay.

NONE IN the industry has utilised `Crazy' Mohan's inimitable ingenuity in comic dialogue as wonderfully as Kamal Haasan has. Sri Rajlakshmi Film's " Panchathanthiram" is another example.

Save Suresh Krissna's "Aha", which had `Crazy's dialogue as its strongpoint, be it "Apoorva Sagodharargal" or "Thenali", "Pammal K. Sambandham" or the latest "Panchathanthiram", it has been a hilarious Crazy-Kamal combo all the way. The inspiration could have come from anywhere but the treatment is purely desi.

With story by Kamal Haasan and screenplay and direction by K. S. Ravikumar, "Pancha... " is completely entertaining ... in the first half. Towards the end however it turns into a quagmire where confusion reigns supreme. In the process, characters such as those of Manivannan and Ramesh Kanna appear rather vague.

The quartet comprising Ayyappan Nair (Jayaram), Hegde (Ramesh Arvind), Reddy (Sriman) and Vedantham (Yugi Sethu) — take their friend Ram (Kamal) to Bangalore for his birthday. They plan to make him forget his estranged wife Mythili (Simran), and goad him into having a nice time with the vamp Maggie (Ramya Krishnan). Things turn awry and the fivesome end up with a corpse on their hands. Maggie and her accomplices are also behind them for a different purpose. How the friends extricate themselves from the imbroglio is told in a sometimes funny, sometimes confusing fashion.

Kamal's adeptness at comedy comes to the fore in "Panchathanthiram". With suitable slapstick, apt body language and timing and modulation that tickle, the veteran makes a mark yet again. And if experience shows age does too.

You see more of Simran's midriff than ever before. Ramya Krishnan has a plum role and the actress has done ample justice to it. Her sustained youthfulness is simply amazing.

The four spouses, that include Urvasi, Aishwarya (her voice could have been dubbed) and Sanghavi, have nothing much to do. In fact, you feel that even Jayaram should have had more scope to perform, like in "Thenali". The group's volte-face in the climax only evokes a grimace. But all of them, including Nagesh, have performed well within the given ambit. Ram's adorable baby and the Nair's fat son are other notable attractions.

Devyani's short role is a pleasant surprise ... the actress proves she is good at comedy too. The speed at which Yugi Sethu speaks is only too well known — audible yet hardly intelligible. But in "Pancha ... " it helps to enhance the humour of the situations and thus proves a plus point.

A couple of Deva's tunes are hum-worthy. A welcome change about the duets is that, at least on and off, you see the lead pair walking down the streets in a natural manner in foreign lands and not always indulging in acrobatics in the name of dance, in the midst of nowhere.

Be it "Aalavandhan" the colossus that misfired or "Pammal ... " the medium runner, Kamal's two earlier ventures (excluding "Thenali") were probably no great money-spinners. But "Panchathanthiram" could be a case of the hero turning lucky this time.


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