I happened to catch up on the movie NEPV recently. After all the reviews bashing the film, it was a considered decision on my part to brave the critics’ scathing opinions and go see for myself. I had always considered Goutam Menon as one of the very few directors (along with SJ Suryah) who had a clear realistic take on modern day city based romance. And it was a welcome relief to watch an urban centric movie after a long time, the recent trend in Tamil films being a surfeit of rural romances with bearded, scruffy, dirty heroes, clad in lungis, brandishing sickles and threatening village belles to fall in love or else “you will see the macho side of a man” kind of thing. And Goutham Menon doesn’t disappoint.
NEPV is a neat little movie, showcasing urban relationships and male female dynamics in the modern world. All natural and nothing contrived about the story. There are no goons going around in a dozen Tata Sumos, threatening to kill the couple but allowing the puny hero to single handedly bash them up in minutes. In fact there are no villains as such in the movie and only circumstances play the villain as in real life. There is no hero introduction song with village women showing Mangala Aarathi to the hero and praising the hero as the savior come to rule the land as chief minister in the coming elections. The first song is actually sung by the comedian/second hero of the movie- Santhanam, who does a neat job as usual.
With such a refreshing beginning, the film had a great potential for turning into a entertaining hit. But what lets down the movie are the screenplay and the music. The screenplay sags a bit after the interval and I am astonished that as accomplished a director as Goutham Menon wasn’t a bit more ruthless at the editing table. And as for the music, the less said the better. After the highs of VTV, when GM combined with AR Rahman to create a blockbuster album, NEPV with Ilayaraja helming the music comes as a sad disappointment. There is not one single hummable song (like the eminently likeable Hosanna from VTV) and the music score is completely forgotten by the time we walk out after the end credits. A failed experiment musically and I hope GM goes back to ARR for his next film.
The story as such is simple, boy and girl meet, fall in love, have a misunderstanding and break up. After a suitable time interval boy and girl again meet, rediscover feeling for each other and continue their love, till again a misunderstanding crops up and they break up. Repeat/Rinse for half a dozen times till you come to the climax. At the end the boy decides he has had enough from the girl, no point in waiting any longer and goes in for an arranged marriage. And girl walks in on the day of the wedding to wish him. There is not much novelty to the story if told blandly like that. The difference is in watching the performances, for both the actors Jeeva and Samantha have performed creditably bringing the personalities of the characters alive. The second pair of Santhanam and new introduction Vidyalekha have some of the best lines in the movie and provide welcome relief with their comedy act, especially the spoof in the second half on the directors own earlier hit movie VTV.
A few scenes especially stand out for the deft touch of the director. Like the scene where the hero shows off his brand new car to the heroine (bought from his first job) and asks her why she hasn’t yet changed her old car. This despite the fact that earlier throughout the entire movie the heroine is the one who goes around in a car and the hero borrows it from her and drives around without any compunction treating it as their common property (in Tamlish- Osi Gaji adikaradhu). In that single moment of gloating, the director shows us all a different aspect of the hero. The depth of his inferiority complex about his financial state which he had hidden from the heroine (and us) all along the movie, allowing her to spend lavishly on him and pay for everything, till he finally reaches a state of financial independence when he shows up his true feelings about their mismatched financial backgrounds. For too long Tamil films have perpetuated the myth that people can fall in love despite vast differences in financial backgrounds with the hero being a slum dweller who falls in love with a millionaires daughter and when the heroines father objects to it, the hero in the space of a single montage song becomes a business man who has makes enough money to buy out the girl’s father and humiliate him and teaches him the value of true love over money.
Unfortunately, such things don’t happen in real life. Almost all the mismatched relationships in real life end up in tragedy. Girls who elope with auto drivers and bus conductors end up regretting their stupidity sooner rather than later when the love of their lives turn into parasites who prey upon their earnings while lazing about. Only real achievers who are comfortable with their own lives (sans ego) can bridge over any such mismatched financial backgrounds. The rest will definitely exhibit inferiority complexes and try to take out their frustrations on the very person who loves them. Don’t believe me? Ask any celebrity woman achiever and you will learn the truth about how male ego demands that the woman’s status always be lesser than the man’s ego can bear, even when the woman is paying all the bills.
The next scene which shows the typical Goutham Menon punch is the terrace scene just before the interval, when the hero informs the heroine that no, he would not be marrying her as he had decided to go for higher studies to improve his career prospects. And when the heroine goes all clingy and desperate and talks about sacrificing everything in her life for his love he shows a bit of contempt for her and advices her to find something else to do with her life, get a career or an outside interest like him. This is so true to life but till now has never been shown in any film. When men chase a girl, they put aside everything else and concentrate only on the chase. But once they are satisfied that the girl is indeed theirs (all opposition vanquished), then they slacken off and start considering all the other work which has been put aside till then in the heat of the chase. Suddenly all the lavish attention which was enjoyed earlier seems to be smothering and they want space (this is a universal truth known to all men). So they end up giving unwanted advice on how to find a career or a hobby or something which will allow them to moderate the time spent together to manageable levels. In defense of the guys, it is because they don’t think over much about anything in the initial euphoric phase of love and only when the girl is firmly attached that a guy starts thinking about the next part on how to settle in life, how to earn enough to support the girl with him and suddenly time seems a premium and career or education becomes all important.
The outstanding scene of the film for me is the climax scene where the heroine comes to the hero’s wedding reception and sees him standing with a different girl beside him and realizes the extent of the folly of her ego when she finally realizes that he is not hers any longer, even to fight with or to show anger. Too many people in relationships let their ego ruin things by not realizing that circumstances can change anytime and time waits for no man or woman. They mistake the trees for the woods and forget the big picture and are intent only on punishing their partner without realizing that sometimes they may push away the other person beyond an irretrievable distance. So every time anyone in a relationship feels that their ego is hurt they should just imagine their person of choice standing beside someone else at their wedding reception. Just picture this in your mind and see whether the issue at hand seems as big as before. Fighting is all very well but only when there is someone still left to fight with. That for me was the take home message from the movie. Something which Goutham Menon has nailed in his inimitable style.
So my verdict is NEPV’s a movie worth watching at least once. And if you haven’t till now, better head to the theatre before it’s taken off.