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CERTAIN THEMES never get stale with our filmmakers — friendship is one. Garnish it with a little romance, a touch of sentiment, and oodles of melodrama and you have a story to make weepy women swoon in anguish and practical ones snigger. Of course there is a comedy topping too. Roja Combines' "Samasthanam", which has story, screenplay and direction by Rajkapoor, is on such lines.

Thiru (Sarath Kumar) and Surya (Suresh Gopi) are close friends. Nothing can come in the way of their friendship — or so it seems. Yet estrangement comes about quite easily. The villains want them to fall apart, and predictably things turn sour between the two. If the husband had been willing to give a patient ear to what the wife had to say or if the friends had discussed matters for just a couple of minutes, things could have been better. But such eventful exercises are not to be — because protraction is the name of the game. Added to these is a flawed flashback — when Sankara (Ashish Vidyarthi) even as a lad had killed Thiru's father and when his own father (a hooligan himself) had gunned down Surya's straightforward dad, what was the reason for him to harbour revenge even after he had greyed with age? All the same the suspense involving the elopement of the two youngsters has been maintained well.

Visually soothing locations are a positive aspect of "Samasthanam". Sarath Kumar reminds you of the role he essayed in ``Thenkasi Pattanam''. But in ``Samasthanam'' the portrayal has finesse. Suresh Gopi is theatrical for the most part — exaggerated expressions proving a minus factor.

Devyani's character has much substance and she sails through with grace. You can't blame her if some of the scenes seem dramatic and contrived — her talking to the birds for instance. Abhirami is more a decorative piece in comparison. Goundamani and Senthil seem to have returned to the comic path they had traversed long ago. But somehow the magic does not seem to work now. You have seen inactive, ineffective and corrupt screen policemen — but in "Samasthanam", for the first time you see them running away from rowdies in fear! And the way Vadivukkarasi begins, you think her contribution would be significant — but the promise remains unfulfilled.

Deva, it is clear, has not exerted himself much — the compositions barely make an impression.

Lengthy flashbacks and unwarranted song sequences mar the tempo of ``Samasthanam.'' The story is strong, but the screenplay lacks crispness. Yet it all boils down to one pertinent query — When will we ever see a normal, healthy friendship on screen?


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