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``King''... he stands apart in many ways.

NO FILM in the recent past has so tellingly portrayed the intimate bonding between a father and son. No frills, no hackneyed expressions, no sentiment — it is simple, pure affection that one witnesses in Indian Theatre Production's "King". But it is not in this alone that the king stands apart. Generally, it is the climax that holds the twist, if there is one. But here it happens at the half way mark, making you sit up with a jolt. The story, screenplay, dialogue and direction by A. X. Solomon reveal how diligent the makers have been. For a change foreign locations have been put to proper use and whether it is Hong Kong or Karaikudi, the background blends well with the narration.

Raja (Vikram) and his father Shanmugam (Nasser) share the most congenial father-son relationship. Having lost his wife in childbirth, Shanmugam dotes on the son who reciprocates the affection. So it is a warm and healthy friendship that they share. A car accident leads to the revelation that the father is terminally ill. The son is shocked and acting on the advice of the doctor and family friend (Santhanabharathi), he does everything possible to keep his father happy for the rest of the time. All this accounts for an absorbing first half. It is in the second half that the director seems to struggle about the course of action. Conveniently, the disease would not raise its hood till the last stages. But it is admirable that there is no unnecessary hue and cry from the father or son. Melodrama has been avoided, thankfully, to a large extent.

Vikram has the acumen to choose stories that are different. He has done it again with "King." But the solid and equally important role of Nasser is a surprise packet. Nasser is seldom given roles to match his talent. Kamal Hassan is one of the very few who have used him in roles with scope. But again for the most part they have been negative in nature. Solomon has now utilised the versatility of the actor very well and the result is a sensitive and effective delineation by the veteran.

Again it is a strong role for Janakaraj as the father of Nasser.

The actor has come out after a long hibernation and the wait seems worthwhile. Any other comedian may have turned it ludicrous while a serious actor could have made it hammy. Janakaraj strikes the right balance. Sneha as the heroine does her bit, which is anyway not much.

Dhina's compositions seem to have been influenced by old melodies. And when complete originality is a casualty, the songs could fail to stir the listener. The "Sunday... " number, which you often hear in the background, falls in this category.

The ploy of the doctor is rather confusing — why should the son be made to undergo the agony at all? Vadivelu's character reminds you of Nagesh in "Kadhalikka Naeramillai", though the former is not a patch on the inimitable comedian. The joint family scenario is typical of Tamil films.

"Good game... " Vikram comments at a particular point. Sure it is... because it has been played quite well.


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