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Nala Damayanti

IF IT was Kameswaran, the Brahmin from Palakkad, who had you in splits in the ever-enjoyable "Michael Madhana Kama Rajan", in Rajkamal Films International's "Nala Damayanti" it is Ramji, the cook from the same part of Kerala, whom circumstances transport to Melbourne, Australia. In the former it was Kamal Hassan here it is Madhavan.

Travelling all the way to foreign lands for a mere song sequence has been an exasperating norm in our films. But "Nala Damayanti" presents a marked deviation — most part of the film has been made in Melbourne itself.

A logical storyline and a well thought out script by Kamal Hassan are definite scoring points that sustain viewers' interest till the end. Stage plays or cinema, Moulee's dialogue has always sparkled with wit and intelligent humour. "Nala... " is yet another example. Subtle reactions and counters are also director Moulee's forte as the film proves. One example is when Madhavan, shocked at the price of a pair of shoes on display at a shop abroad, places them back on the shelf with reverence. The character of Ramji as a whole has been beautifully etched by Kamal Hassan. Projecting Ramji's loquacity as the main reason for the hero's mounting problems is something new in Tamil cinema.

Ramji (Madhavan) a cook by profession is forced to leave for Australia to earn money and dole out the promised dowry for his sister's marriage. Matters turn awry when Ramji does not get the promised job, loses his belongings and his passport and is virtually on the street. The experiences that follow have been told in a sometimes humorous, sometimes touching vein.

Geetu Mohandas, the new heroine, is a ravishing find. Her huge, expressive eyes convey even minute expressions with ease. There is a natural sophistication about Madhavan that does not quite jell with the image of a poor, little educated cook. Yet his prowess helps him come out with a convincing portrayal.

There are a whole lot of characters from Delhi Ganesh, Srutika and Vaiyapuri to Madan Bob, T. S. Ranganathan (the newsreader on Sun) and Mouli Suresh, but they have nothing much to do.

Among them it is Shashi, as Madhavan's assistant, who makes an impact as the lover who eventually marries Ramji's sister Bhagyam (Divyadarshini). His theatrics and loudness were irritants in "Parasuram." Here he is quiet, subdued and effective. Other soft but strong essays come from Sriman and Anu Hassan. Also you cannot forget the initially casual and later inimical Ivan, the Srilankan lawyer in Australia (Bruno Xavier). But the one who tugs at your heartstrings with his sheer innocence and cheerfulness is the challenged child Aditya Sharma. The face will not leave your minds for long.

Of course there are the essential cinematic stunts choreographed by Vikram Dharma. For a change it was nice to see a woman taking on the bad men head-on. Madhavan's attempts at slapstick are not always effective. Again Ramji's hostility towards Ivan is too sudden. And also the love between the lead pair blossoms without any strong base.

At least one stanza of Kamal's "Soodupattadha ... " could have been reserved for the end, after Ramji's final goof up at the Immigration office. Incidentally, how many of our viewers will be able to understand and relate to the problems of visa and work permit, one wonders.

The success of rerecording lies in utilising the power of silence, which can at times enhance the significance of certain scenes. Composer Ramesh Vinayakam has understood it only too well. His music wafts through the scenes when necessary, reaches a crescendo when warranted and most importantly knows when to keep mum. Three of the four songs in the film make a tremendous impact — Kamal's English (where the actor's diction needs special mention) and Tamil numbers, Sharad's "Pei Muzhi" refrain and the melodious duet from Chinmayi and Ramesh Vinayakam, "Enna Idhu ... " The euphonious use of violins, the veena (in the country western type Kamal number) and the flute make the music as inspiring as the M. S. Viswanathan songs of yore. Song writers may come and go, but Vaali is in tune with the times always. Age cannot blunt his pen nor wither his thoughts. The veteran's lyrics are simply awesome. Siddharth's steady cam dances down the streets of Australia providing a delectable feast all the way.

This decent offering from Kamal Hassan and Moulee is an affordable Australian outing.


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