"That Four Letter Word" is about youngsters, their dreams and sense of despairSo what is "That Four Letter Word" (TFLW)?The commercial release of the film that has been part of 25 per cent of director Sudhish Kamath's life marks the end of an era for him. The shooting for this coming of age film started in 2002, and has been plagued with problems from actors who came and went, finance, dates, marriage, ego and not to forget that the director is a full time journalist. At a media screening held recently, one of the actors confessed that everyone was ready to give up on it except Sudhish. It finally premiered at the Chennai International Film Festival in December 2006. TFLW is about four friends and, as all lofty ideas are, was conceptualised during a chat between the director and his friends. The idea that they were all so different but still managed to find enough common ground for a strong friendship fascinated Sudhish and his buddy Murugan. And they decided to make a film about it.
Usual formulaThe story revolves around four guys who are distinctly different Vishal (Cary Edwards) indulges his heart but has no plan, Prashant (Praveen) follows his plan and not the heart, Sunil (Aashil Nair) is confused and Zebra (`Evam' Sunill) is obsessed with sex. And then there are the girls Isha (Usha Seetharaman) and Sara (Paloma), who are also diametrically opposite to each other. This movie has become part of the mosaic of Chennai's independent films, and its story of survival should alone make it worth the watch. But judged out of this context too, it presents some good acting and endearing moments. The story is as basic as life boys meet girls, boys like girls, life happens. There is love, there is betrayal and there is idiocy. The characters themselves are rather simplistic - we know the obvious facts about them - Vishal wants to get to medical college, Sunil wants Ashika (the love of his life) - but in his closeness to the script, the director often presents us with sketches rather than fully fleshed out characters. And although the film is in the slice of life genre, where nothing phenomenal ever happens, the story would profit by a more nuanced script.
Catchy soundtrackSudhish presents some rather interesting concepts - the film within the film has so much potential, but it is not exploited. That is the film's problem on the whole, everything is good, sometimes even clever, (Zebra's idea to build the world's biggest brand - sex), but after the initial introduction, they are just left hanging. Some of the editing is rather puzzling. Colour is used a lot, but inexplicably so. There are black and white shots that you think are used in moments of introspection, but as the film progresses, you think that someone at the editing table just decided to have some fun. Wooohoo! Look at it now! TFLW's budget was so low that it would look anorexic besides a shoestring, and for that, it has a slickness that is admirable. The title track by Blaase is catchy and the funky comic strip introduction makes for a good start. The versatility of Cary Edwards' singing for the soundtrack is quite impressive. Aashil Nair is an actor to take note of. Usha Seetharaman too, shows promise in the histrionics department. Altogether, the cast manages to keep alive the spirit of the film - it's youth and naïve view of life. Watch out for an eccentric guest appearance by actor Madhavan.Oh, and in case you haven't figured it out, that four letter word is `life'.SUSAN MUTHALALY