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"Punnagai Poovae"

THE BANNER is big — so is the expectation. And the inclusion of Sarika and Yuvan Shankar Raja in song sequences is a ploy that has added to the hype. Kalaipuli S. Thanu, whose mammoth earlier production, "Aalavandhan" came a cropper, returns with a simple, well narrated story of two friends, in V Creations' "Punnagai Poovae".

The story offers nothing new. Tales of unrequited love and mistaken identity have been seen on screen for years now. (The excellently enacted Savithri starrer of yore, "Kathirundha Kangal", and K. Balachander's "Thamarai Nenjam", to name a couple) It is the treatment that makes the difference in "Punnagai Poovae". In the present scenario it needs guts (and V Creations seems to have it in plenty) to choose a story where two heroines are given equally powerful roles and the hero too has a significant part to play (especially when the cast is comparatively new to the Tamil audience).

Meera (Rekha) and Nithya (Kaveri) share a 14-year friendship that dates back to their childhood. Though their attitudes, tastes and views are very different from one another, their bond is a strong one. (However there are no strong incidents to show the strength of their friendship) Till of course Venkat (Nandha) enters their lives. Taken in by Venkat's looks and nature, Meera falls in love with him and without revealing her identity, she plagues him with calls over telephone. Circumstances lead Venkat to believe that his caller is Nithya. His overtures, kindness and passion make Nithya respond, albeit with a lot of guilt. Suspense is carefully built up to an interesting crescendo, though the end is on expected lines.

Nandha proved his potential even when he played the second lead in "Mounam Pesiyadhae". And as a full-fledged hero for the first time he does a commendable job in "Punnagai Poovae". Kaveri as the friend torn between guilt and love is as effective as she was in her earlier films, including "Kasi". Rekha, the new face in the Tamil scene, fits into the role with ease. The comedy track with Vadivelu, the thankfully few double entendres and the unwarranted fight sequence can probably be excused as inevitable additions. The scene with `Bayilvan' Ranganathan and Vadivelu is typical of similar fare that came your way in a few of Parthiban's films. The idea behind bringing in Sarika for a song could be a paying gimmick or a deliberate move, but the actress (she looks jaded and washed out) could have chosen a better vehicle for her re-launch. Here it appears more a desperate attempt made in haste. M.S. Viswanathan's is a miniscule role — not something a music genius of his stature should accept. Then you have a self-conscious Yuvan Shankar Raja himself moving around ambiguously for a song.

The concept and picturisation of the duet on Nandha and Kaveri is interesting. "Vanam Thoovum"(Harish Raghavendar) and "Oru Poongili" (Srinivas and Prasanna) are foot-tapping numbers from Yuvan. Sensible, sensitive re-recording shows that the youngster is growing as a composer to reckon with. Appealing camera work (Suresh Devan), aesthetic art (T. Muthuraj) and lucid editing (Kasi Viswanathan) warrant mention.

Screenplay writer and director Saba Kailash deserves a pat for a decent offering — a commodity that rarely comes your way these days.


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