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‘Enai Noki Paayum Thota’ review: A film for the ‘romantic at heart’

‘Enai Noki Paayum Thota’: The film relies heavily on Dhanush’s acting prowess

‘Enai Noki Paayum Thota’: The film relies heavily on Dhanush’s acting prowess  

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Gautham Menon’s film bears no signs of ageing, and whets those who have longed for Tamil cinema to deliver an emotion-heavy love story...

The enigma of Gautham Menon only deepens after watching Enai Noki Paayum Thota (ENPT) — a bullet that’s taken a long time to hit its target.

I find it intriguing that this person is able to thread together a feature film by extrapolating on various aspects of what is, essentially, a single love story. In Vaaranam Aayiram (2008), he showed us how the pain of separation looks and feels like. In Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010), Menon’s protagonist was engaged in this beautifully-visualised pursuit of love. In Neethaane En Ponvasantham (2012), the filmmaker told us love (or a relationship) is capricious.

Now, sample this piece of dialogue from ENPT — “I have lived on that neck for six months”. This is what the voice-over in narration tells us when a flashback shot shows an intimate moment between the lead actors, while in real-time the protagonist Raghu (Dhanush) is watching a henchman cut ever so gently into the neck of the female lead, Lekha (Megha Akash), with his knife, and blood starts to drip from the wound that has been inflicted.

 

There aren’t many filmmakers in Tamil cinema who would imagine romanticising in a life-or-death situation. But then there is Gautham Menon.

The plot of ENPT has three key elements — the bond between brothers Raghu and Thiru (M Sasikumar), the love that develops between Raghu and Lekha, and Raghu’s ‘beast mode’ moments. Each one of these elements can singularly sustain a film’s narrative. Which is why it is confounding that Gautham chose to knit these elements together, and, in the process, leave the audience little space to care deeply about any one of them.

I, for one, would have preferred to see Gautham elaborate on a familial bond; we got a glimpse of it in Vaaranam Aayiram. In ENPT, just as in Vaaranam..., the parents are idealistic imaginations of a suspended reality (in other words, they are anything but an Indian parent). It is also in this space that Gautham’s narrative thrives; and he adds entertainment to this surrealism. Raghu and Lekha’s romance exists in this sphere.

Enai Noki Paayum Thota
  • Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon
  • Cast: Dhanush, Megha Akash, M Sasikumar, Sunainaa
  • Storyline: In pursuit of his long-lost brother and the love of his life, a man finds himself trapped among dirty cops and the criminal underworld. Will he survive?

When he meets her in college, she is an actor forced into the profession by an overbearing guardian, who also has a murky backstory. How they fall for each other is the stuff of dreams: the kind you read about in novels that present you with this utopian world where everyone is nice, and no one is manipulative. Even Rapunzel (staying for as long as she did locked up in a high tower) was suspicious of the first man she encountered.

There are the classic Gautham-isms (read as: a liberal usage of English to add subtext to what is taking place on the screen). Raghu calls Lekha’s presence “divine”. She tells him, “You’re too kind”. Despite the cuteness overload (sigh), the blossoming of romance feels organic. The intimate moments fanned by their passion for each other has not an iota of vulgarity as an undercurrent. Raghu tells Lekha that he wishes to take her to his home, and the scenes that follow could be no different to what would have happened had Surya actually taken Meghna to his home instead of just dreaming about it in Nenjukkul Peithidum.“It was my life’s most beautiful 30 days,” the voice-over tells us of the time the duo spend with each other at Raghu’s home, and my mind rolls back to Suriya saying “It was like a rock song!” before bursting into Adiyae Kolluthe!

That is another puzzling aspect of Gautham’s films. It requires the viewer to be a disciplined consumer of all his films (his fan, so to speak) to be able to draw more such parallels. A casual viewer should have already been exposed to his earlier films in order to understand his style of filmmaking. In my eyes, that is a big weakness for a filmmaker.

We also know Gautham’s overbearing tendency to use a voice-over to drive his film’s narrative. But Enai Noki.. is 65 per cent voiceover and 35 per cent things that are unfolding on the screen, and the film stays true to its autobiography mode from start till finish. This is irritating. In comparison, Vaaranam... which fits this autobiographical recollection mould much more than ENPT, had fewer voice-overs.

All this leads us to the other key element — Raghu’s bond with his elder sibling. Sasikumar’s character suffers due to a lack of writing; it remains under-developed. The plot seemed to rely on voice-over to move the narrative in the second half — where Sasikumar’s character comes to the fore — much more than anywhere else in the film. It just cannot be the case that voice-over is presented as an excuse for lazy writing.

To cover up for these flaws, the film also relies heavily on Dhanush’s acting prowess, and the star is only happy to oblige. One scene in particular is a great example of his talent: As the Mumbai cops inform him of the death of a key character in a shootout, an over-the-shoulder shot captures the range of emotions on Dhanush’s face for a good two minutes. It is one of those moments that any actor would look back upon, and can be proud of. There are other standout examples of fine direction — like the picturisation of the Maruvaarthai Pesaathe song. You have to watch it to revel in it.

ENPT is no stroke of genius from Gautham Menon. But the way he makes the film punch way above its weight, is a mark of one.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 3:21:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/enai-noki-paayum-thota-review-a-film-for-the-romantic-at-heart/article30115090.ece

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