‘96 felt like a warm hug because it portrayed a range of feelings and emotions so warm like childhood friendships, school memories, reunions, and ofcourse first love. During the initial scenes of the movie, when the planning for a reunion happens, we go back to our school days and wish we could meet all our school friends again. The entire cast who play Ram’s friends do it so convincingly that we wish our school friendships also last that long.
Within the first half hour itself we’re introduced to both Ram and Jaanu’s characters. We start falling in love with their journey and their cute love story. But the emotions that play in our hearts after we watch what happens involves a lot of anxiety. Will they ever unite? Why did they go separate ways? These are some questions that keep coming to our minds at regular intervals.
When Ram and Jaanu talk about their life after Ram leaves, it is almost devastating to hear how evil and twisted destiny could be. At every instance where they could have united and had their chance at a happy ending, destiny intervened to change the story. Unlike other love stories where parental disapproval or societal problems separate lovers, this story is purely about the evil decoy of fate that leads to their separation. When we realise that all’s done and there is nothing left, we are left to wonder what else this movie could give us.
At one scene where Ram’s students assume Jaanu to be his wife, and ask Jaanu to narrate their love story, the director gives us the beautiful possibility of them uniting in the movie itself. Those 5 minutes of the movie is not only Jaanu and Ram assuming their life together, but even us wishing for the same. A love story so pure is so rare that we are actually heartbroken when we realise the game fate played in their lives.
An important reason why this movie is as memorable as it is today is its cast. The director introduced two brand new faces into the movie with Gouri G Kishan playing Trisha’s younger version and Adithya Bhaskhar playing Vijay Sethupathi’s younger counterpart. It was pretty refreshing to see the performances of both these actors as they really did justice in delivering the essence of a teenage love story. Ofcourse, Niyathi and Surya Prakash playing the younger versions of Devadarshini and Bhagavathi Perumal respectively also did a very good job with their supporting characters.
More than anything, the performances of both Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha are necessarily mention-worthy. If not for their perfect portrayal of emotions, the movie could have become an emotional landslide. The tension they hold in the first parts of the movie and their easy transition into a comfortable space makes us believe in their emotions and journey even more. If as an audience we were able to accept the decisions they took in life it is because of how convincing the two actors were.
Costumes and setting also play a great role in the movie. Those who have watched the movie might be wondering why I am mentioning costumes, when in entirety very few were actually used. That is the best part about costumes. With simple designs for both Jaanu and Ram, the costumes were just perfect to suit the scene and the mental state they were in. Similarly, the setting in many scenes, like the reunion, Jaanu’s hotel room and of course the Metro train journey to the airport was perfectly set for the scene and the expressions.
A movie is complete only with music. Govind Vasantha went wonderfully overboard with the songs in the movie. ‘Kadhale Kadhale’ sung by Chinmayi and Govind himself became a hit even before the movie was released. Pradeep Kumar did us an amazing favour by singing Life of Ram and Thaabangale, a few songs that are still many’s favourite. As this is a movie that is entirely based on emotions rather than dialogues, the role of music is extremely important. And without doubt Govind Vasantha has done justice to that.
The song ‘Life Of Ram’ stands out the most because of the most aesthetically appealing visuals it comes with. The song, which meant to give us an idea of Ram’s profession, is such a warm sight for the eye. Starting the movie with that song and its visuals ensured that the audience were entirely relaxed and calmed at the beginning itself.
This movie is one with an unprecedented storyline. Something unexpected and new for the Tamil audiences. There have been two remakes of the movie in Telugu and Kannada, but till date, the original stands out. The movie is something that deals with a range of emotions but at the same time does not leave its audience at a standstill. If the movie is a rollercoaster ride, it ensures that its audience completes the ride safely and comfortably. I think that is one of the main reasons why the movie is remembered.
Generally, directors somehow aim to give movies a happy ending, because the audience would generally want to leave the theatre with a contented and peaceful mindset. It is a huge risk to give a movie an unhappy or an unexpected ending because the audience may not accept such a movie. However, the director of ‘96, C Premkumar, decided to go ahead and take that risk. Today, after watching the movie many times, I think it is fair to say that the risk taken was worth it. No matter how badly we want them to unite in the film, we know that it is pretty impossible in reality. The movie itself therefore acts as a way for Ram and Jaanu to get closure and for us to experience catharsis.