Natpadhigaram 79: Interesting premise, disappointing film

There’s a crushing disappointment when a film with an interesting premise fails to capitalise on it, especially at a time when finding a theatrical release is an achievement by itself.

On the face of it, Natpadhigaram 79, named after the eponymous chapter on friendship in the Thirukkural ( Natpaaraaidhal), has a lot going for it. Take the story itself—of two young couples in love, their bonding, and lives being tossed about the rough seas for no fault of theirs. And, more importantly, parents who defy stereotypes and casually acknowledge that children can love someone of their choice.

Genre: Romance
Director: Ravichandran
Cast: Raj Bharath, Amzath, Reshmi Menon, Tejaswi Madivada, M.S. Bhaskar, Subbu Panchu, Vinodhini
Storyline:Two sets of couples face heartbreak due to circumstances and overly understanding parents
It’s been a while when you’ve seen a warm understanding between a boy and his buddy’s girlfriend. But, things seem too easy, too forced. It takes just one cigarette smoke-smothered meeting at night—a foolhardy one in these dark days—for love to strike a purple pumps-sporting high-flying event manager Pooja (Tejaswi Madivada) and unemployed marine engineer Jeeva (Raj Bharath). The other couple has a history, but their present looks regressive. Maha, the Bharatanatyam-loving daughter of a pujari goes to the pub, because her man, engineering student Aravind (Amzath) likes it. She wears clothes he chooses, silently putting away her selection. But, Reshmi Menon is so lovely on screen, you forget these gaping holes in her character development.

You never invest in the love stories; so, when it is time for you to feel for the young lovers, there’s nada. Raj Bharath is a good clotheshorse, has lovely, deep eyes and makes for a striking presence on screen. But, his character has just a couple of emotions written into it — happiness and a mopey, half-sleepy look. He has a great voice, though. Of the two, Amzath comes out more natural on screen. The star of the film is the cinematographer. R.B. Gurudev lends every single frame an artistic touch. Be it the colours, lighting or mood, his work is a winner all the way. The sweeping wide-angles and tight close-ups are a work of art. The second hero would be the mostly mellow music (Deepak Nilambur).

The third vote would go to M.S. Bhaskar for playing a traditional father with lovely shades of modernity. Ravichandran’s direction and dialogues sparkle in some places. There’s this scene with Bhaskar, who speaks about what a father’s duty towards his daughter is; before you jump to conclusions, he says: ‘getting her married to a man of her choice’. There are unsaid gems too. Aravind always drops Maha and zips off without looking; one day, Jeeva drops her, and waits till she opens her door. Their bond seems very special, and there’s more chemistry there.

At the same time, some dialogues confound you. Sample this logic from Aravind’s father: ‘A lover can never become a friend, but a friend can become a lover’. The film, at just 118 minutes, still feels too long. Some tighter editing, deft direction and a smattering of honesty would have taken this film elsewhere. It is nice to make a regular, no-frills film too, where emotion drives proceedings.

The best is reserved for the climax. When Pooja cries, no, attempts to cry, you want to laugh. There’s still one doubt—why did they focus in such agonising detail on the purple pumps?

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 5:29:56 PM |

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