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"Boys" ... technical wizardry all right, but the theme could have been treated with subtlety and finesse.

DIRECTOR SHANKAR'S latest coming-of-age extravaganza is complete with technical wizardry, terrific music and a vivacious cast. It packs in quite a lot in terms of "message for the masses". Overdone, but relevant. The theme this time? Teen trouble and generation gap.

The media has, over the past couple of months, given quite a bit of space to the film, writing about the money being spent, the "60-odd cameras" effect for a song sequence and of course, A.R. Rahman bouncing back to form. So, expectations have been high.

Five fun-loving college goers from different social backgrounds, live it up, wooing girls while not downing a peg or two on the sly or reading porno magazines. They are also musically talented — if one writes poetry, another plays an instrument and the third can sing.

One of them falls in love with the daughter of a rich, status-conscious couple. All hell breaks loose, predictably, and `battle lines' are drawn — parents vs. children. The youngsters walk out of their homes, the lovers get married and the friends vow to make it big together.

The story moves at quite a fast pace till here. Then it meanders, and situations become over-exaggerated and melodramatic.

The prison sequence looks contrived. The treatment meted out to Kumar, one of the boys, is unnecessary. And the Mount Road episode is needlessly overblown.

But "Boys" has its moments. It captures the spirit of youth — camaraderie, restlessness, discovery, impulsiveness and love.

There are some sensible statements, especially with reference to the subject of sex. When Vivek, who, for once, is serious, says television is responsible to a large extent in "corrupting" young minds, he is not too far from the truth. Only, the scenes could have been handled with lot more subtlety.

All the actors play their parts well, be it the boys — Siddharth, Manikandan, Nakul Jaidev, Bharat Nivas and Sai Srinivas — or Genelia as Harini.

Among the others, A.V. Ramanan stands out. But why do artistes like Kalairani settle for such stereotypical roles? All she does is wail. As for Anita Ratnam, it's a reprisal of the "Kandukondian... " role. But the show belongs to Vivek. He's the mouthpiece for the director.

Rahman is at his rocking-best with "Girlfriend Vaenum", "Maro Maro" and "Secret of Success (Sa Re Ga Mae)". The song picturisations have the Shankar stamp — all shot on a grand scale. However, the other songs do not impress much.

Ravi K.Chandran's camera feasts on the lush locales of Tasmania in one song, but beyond that plays a functional role. Sujatha's dialogue is hard-hitting, but does it have to border on vulgarity? Sabu Cyril comes up trumps with his art direction, especially the MTV awards set.

Shankar's films are entertainers with a strong social message. "Boys" too has it. With such a powerful theme and concept, Shankar could have taken a fresh approach, say on the lines of the Hindi film "Dil Chahta Hai". But looks like he was weighed down by the needs to pander to the box-office.


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