Director: C Prem Kumar
When a movie is based on a day’s event and follows the plot closely, every minute counts. Such movies are rarely translated well on to screens and this time, Tamil cinema has done it albeit with a few fluke moves.
‘96’ follows the story of the lead Ram (Vijay Sethupathy) and his high school romance with Jaanu (Trisha) and what happens 20 years after. Ram is now a successful travel photographer and Jaanu is well, married with a child in Singapore. The movie begins with the introduction of the hero and his now somber life, a life full of travel and adventure but no companion to share it with. On the way to a photography expedition, Ram happens to chance upon the school he had attended as a child and that spirals a series of events commencing from arranging for a reunion.
The reunion is a huge success and Jaanu arrives. When the two former lovers meet, the scene is devoid of music which one can presume as an experimental move well paid off. The movie then rotates back and forth between flashback and present and sets the tone of characters and their intense romance making the viewer invest in the character’s emotions. However, if one were cynical towards high school love, the movie can seem over the top in trying to look cutesy infused with very sappy romance.
Post interval, the director pretty much plays a game of cat and mouse with the viewer to see if one can correctly predict the next scene. Expect a lot of twists and turns and the movie goes steady avoiding all of them to seem like the most pragmatic plot ever. The one scene, a replication of ‘La La Land’ alternate climax concept if you will, puts a tear in every eye at the movie theatre, as Jaanu explains what could have been with an alternate past theory. The climax heavily relies on how we perceive compromises, ambition, and emotions thus it is tough to exactly point out and say whether it is a happy ending or not.
Music by Govind Vasanth (Thaikkadum Bridge) is brilliant but seems jammed in every corner possible, waiting to burst at the seams. Direction by C Prem Kumar is swell and makes us reminiscence the days of his earlier blockbuster with Sethupathy, ‘Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kanom’. If the movie were to be acclaimed in any way it would purely be for the extraordinary performances of each and every one in the movie. The casting gets major brownie points for working together like a well oiled machine so much so that, not even one person who had screen time seems out of place. Viewers are definitely left rooting for at least one of the leads bagging a National Award for the year. Overall a roller-coaster of a film but unless one has been in over-the-top-I-will-die-for-you-type-of-romance, one cannot relate, at all!