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"Priyamana Thozhi"

AT A time when tinsel town is teeming with young girls who dare to bare and filmmakers making the most of it, comes a neat film with no obscenity in expression, dance movement or dialogue. The confidence and guts of the producer and the director deserve special mention. But director Vikraman has always been known for his clean entertainers.

AVM's "Priyamana Thozhi" is all about the strong bond of friendship between Ashok (Madhavan) and Julie (Sridevi) and the way society views it. The people around see nothing platonic in it. But actually the matter doesn't pose much of a problem. Ashok sees Nandini (Jyotika), falls in love and marries her after a brief courtship. The romantic interlude is refreshing. But when Julie falls in love with Michael (Vineet) stumbling blocks appear in the form of Michael's father and at this point things get too predictable and clichéd.

Those who expect to see an energetic, fun-loving Madhavan, could end up feeling disappointed with the hero's stubble, sad eyes and melancholic grin in the second half. Not that he's running round trees in the first half either.

Though constantly humiliated at home for being jobless, he takes the barbs with a smile. But suddenly you are told that he has his own video coverage business. Jyotika looks gorgeous and lends dignity to the role of an understanding wife. A commendable portrayal comes from Sridevi, who has plenty of scope to perform. The subdued enactment from this soft spoken, delicate and petite heroine is appreciable.

Incidentally, the girl who is otherwise so soft, commenting on the dress sense of her friend's fiancée is unbelievably jarring. Similar crudeness is evident in other characters too — the heroine's status conscious sister Dharini's ridiculous insult in the wedding scene (the behaviour transports you to the screen's cruel women of the black and white era), Jyotika's harsh words when Madhavan's friends come home for dinner and Livingston's digs at his wife, to name a few. Ramesh Kanna's humour glistens with intelligence. Manivannan is appealing as the understanding father of Sridevi.

The height of comedy is, of course, the climax at the railway station.

Julie is frantically searching for Ashok and Nandini who are leaving the town for good. Even as she is entering the station the train begins to move and the perplexed girl, in true filmi style, bursts out into the friendship song she had sung earlier! Ashok hears the song above the din at the railway station and jumps out of the moving train, leaving the wife behind. Poor Jyotika... you actually feel sorry for her as she pulls the chain, stops the train, jumps out with luggage in both hands and runs to catch up with Madhavan.

Vikraman's loyalty to S.A. Rajkumar is unshakeable. The composer could rehash his own tunes or be inspired by others' — it just doesn't matter. Anyway, so what, when most of the numbers are hits? "Vaanam Enna Vaanam ... " is a hum-worthy number from Hariharan. Thotta Tharani's art and S. Saravanan's cinematography are highlights.

The story, screenplay, dialogue and direction are Vikraman's. The dialogue sparkles in many a place, the direction is neat and song sequences have been inserted intelligently — but even with such a youthful team what the film lacks is pep and verve.


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