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"Kovil" ... the maker of "Saami" offers little this time.

AT THE outset Simbu should thank Hari for pulling him out of the rut of tiring stereotypes, pompous gimmicks, affected body language (his fingers in particular) and `heroism' far beyond his age. If "Dham" and "Alai" had you worried about the way directors were dumping a larger than life image on the young man, wherein his enactment could turn an irritant, "Kovil" comes as a healthy change. In this Sri Surya Movies' production Simbu plays a decent, friendly, responsible student, who acts with restraint and maturity even in trying situations.

Reckless and meaningless rift between two families, communities or two villages proving an obstacle to young lovers is a line adopted from the days of Romeo and Juliet. Treatment, however, can make a difference. In "Kovil" it does, to a certain extent. Puliyankulam and Veppankulam are two villages constantly at loggerheads. Minor scuffles often lead to huge conflicts. Periasami (Rajkiran), a respectable person of one of the villages is a moderating factor, as he tries to mitigate the mounting tension at every juncture. And playing the role of a cantankerous religious fanatic is Michael Susai (Nasser). He cannot brook the idea of any other religion making even the most innocuous entry into his house. (His tearing into two a copy of The Hindu is just an example). That Michael's daughter, Angel Devi (Sonia Agarwal) and Sakthivel (Simbu) fall in love (in "Alaigal Oivadhillai" style) is only a predictable fall out of such a tale. Story wise nothing is new. Nasser is his usual capable self. But why does he sport such a cumbersome paunch? Raj Kiran adds a lot of dignity to the role of Periasami — as the understanding father, forgiving village head and humane voice that rushes to the support of Angel, he leaves an indelible mark. With her expressive eyes, Sonia performs creditably. There seems to be a constant sadness in those eyes that goes beyond the plight of the character she portrays. She has to keep an eye her figure, if she's aspiring for the top slot.

Vadivelu's comedy track is funny only in parts. Incidentally, what is the significance of Angel's confession in the church?

"Kovil" has no death-defying stunts or unwarranted item numbers that hamper its pace. In fact, the smoothly moving screenplay without too many frills is a sure draw.

Telling dialogue in the crucial scenes is another feather in Hari's cap. Harris Jayaraj's "Collegekku Povom... " begins in exactly the same way as "Kamban Engu Ponaan... " from "Jadhi Malli", a Maragathamani composition. N. Muthukumar's lyrics for the song are noteworthy. Due credit has to be given to the choreographer (Kalyan or Brinda?) of the "Silu Silu Siluvena... " number.

It is sheer delight that you witness — as Sakthivel joyously runs around plains and over hills. Camera (Priyan) and the angles add to the lure. "Kokku Meenai... " is `Kovil''s answer to `Saami''s "Kalyanamdhan ... " jig.

Even the sets and costume seem similar. K. Kadhir's art lends the essential nativity to many a sequence.

Two aspects in the storyline seem too contrived — one, the comic sequence involving Vadivelu, Charlie and the patriotic strain "Vande Mataram", and the other the more serious issue of the heroine's antecedents that is unravelled in the climax. Nothing wrong in stressing the need for religious unity — only that an astute director, like Hari could have been subtler.


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