"Autograph" ... a nostalgic trip neatly presented.  

IT IS A nostalgic trip for Cheran — one in which you accompany him through his adolescence, youth and its following stage. You get to know the women who have been a major influence in his life over the years. This straightforward story of four girls and a man could kindle past memories in many a middle-aged. But tales swinging to the past and back is nothing new. We've come across such subjects earlier. What makes Dream Theatres' "Autograph" reasonably watchable is that the film is free from contrived comedy, unrealistic villainy and a concocted climax. Such a simple line ought to have had a crystal clear narration. But flashbacks play truant at certain points.

"Autograph" opens with Senthil (Cheran) addressing the audience directly. He is on his way to his village, where he did his schooling, to invite the people he knew there but lost touch with, for his wedding. The scene is cut at that point to take you to his boyhood days, his first love, Mallika, and his separation from her. The rest, that include his college days in Kerala, his job in Chennai and his marriage, comes later.

Apt casting is a highlight of "Autograph". The adolescent Senthil resembles the grown up Cheran so much that you feel that it is the same boy who has grown up into a young man. Kamala, who plays the village girl Mallika, lives the role of a typical rustic schoolgirl in dress and demeanour that you forget that she's just acting out a role. So natural is the performance by this new face! Lathika (Gopika) is the college student in Alapuzha, whom Senthil next flips for. Their romance is mature and deep. And later when Senthil goes to her place to invite her for his wedding, you sort of guess what's in store. The young actress looks radiant with make-up on (but she doesn't use it always) and also comes out with an expressive show. This segment is melodramatic, and such theatrics is not actor Cheran's forte. Divya (Sneha) is Senthil's colleague and friend who pulls him out of his depression and puts him on his road to success. Sneha's is the best of the cameos and she sails through it with grace. Her beautiful eyes convey emotions with ease. Be it her simple yet alluring outfits that are so typical of today's office goer, the natural hairstyle or her minimally made-up face, every aspect deserves appreciation. In fact, costumes and accessories have been done with a lot of care for all the characters, to suit the period portrayed. The "Manamae Nalama ... " duet sequence is an example. (On the flip side, Cheran ought to avoid even the few dance steps he attempts) "Five Star" Kaniha is the last heroine to make an appearance, looking cute in a short role. One strong scene is enough for veterans to prove their mettle. And rightfully Rajesh has a place in this exclusive group of actors.

Composer Bharadwaj and Cheran seem to hit it off well. So after "Pandavar Bhoomi" the two have come together again. "Gnabagam Varudhae ... " liltingly sung by Bharadwaj (the lyrics in particular) reminds you of the composer's own earlier number "Avaravar Vazhkaiyil ... " Snehan deserves to be complimented for the lyrics of the "Manamae Nalama ... " song. It is puzzling that as many as four cinematographers have worked for "Autograph" and it is to Cheran's credit that he has listed all four in the titles. JK — Maniraj's artwork warrants mention.

As an actor Cheran passes muster. As a writer-director his work is neat. Yet the presentation could have been crisper. For instance, how long do you wait for the heroines of his past to file out of the wedding reception with that slow, studied expression?