In an initial sequence, Ram (Vijay Sethupathi) is a photographer, who instructs the students to capture and seize the moments instead of mere photographing. Director C. Prem Kumar’s 96 is all about tracking down memories and savouring nostalgia. Ram savours and lives every moment in solitary and wilderness, but somewhere down – a string seems to be departed. As Ram walks through the corridor and classroom of his school, Director C. Prem Kumar chooses to present it pragmatically – capturing the momentariness. 96 literally whips the school nostalgia, unfulfilled romance and momentariness; it lightens the quote, “Love is the biggest lonely companion”.
Ram and Janu (Trisha Krishnan), the lovers from high school separated by fate meet at a reunion – both embroil on an emotional rollercoaster journey exploring the memories and reliving the moments. Romance sprouts with silence, an understated emotion which isn’t well-utilised in romantic films; silence can be interpreted in form of Ram’s character who is engaged in a solitary or different-but-parallel pursuits or musings, there’s a special feeling of closeness. And Janu, who is stronger in gender dynamics and performance is assertive welcomed by Ram without any clichéd explicit (feminist) writing. 96 isn’t a poetic dissertation, it’s a comprehension and painstaking effort of reliving a (realistic) romance, the unfulfilled one. For someone, who has drifted in shades of love – primarily, the longing and lost would be soaked instantly since the resonance is highly captivating and emotionally shattering.
96 is a feeling – smart writing is a strong co-efficient which thoroughly engages into characters, since the film takes a conversational route yet immersing the soul. Director C. Prem Kumar has translated the feeling into an analytical and emotional context, “falling into love is a painful joy”, the magical moments of 96 emerge from the specified joy. There’s a touch of Cherian’s National award-winner Autograph (2004), but 96 hypothetically travels where Jessie left Karthik, before he became a filmmaker in Vinnaithandi Varuvaya (2010). Like Jessie, Janu is an epitome of unfulfilled romance – both portrayed by Trisha, a seized fate isn’t it? I wish Janu was explored the way Ram’s character was, nevertheless, as Janu walks down the dim-lit alleys – she seems entering her bygone personality denoting a start-off from where it was left.
Govind Vasantha’s lilting score in form of guitars, flutes and violins lifts the emotions and fills in the silence; the soundtrack works as a narrative speaking for the characters. Cinematographer N. Shanmuga Sundaram stunningly captures with limited spaces and characters, while the school sequence is captured memorably. While Editing (R. Govindaraj) would’ve been crisp since numerous montage sequences were joined with excessive transitions, which was a personal drawback for a seamless viewing. Running at 157 minutes, it might look as an exhaustive walk through the memory lane – but, it’s worth. Sometimes, unfulfilled romance takes time to blossom and patience makes wait more happening.
Erstwhile performance by Vijay Sethupathi isn’t something new, his command over slipping into character just gets better and ranks up his acting stakes – he engulfs Ram with traits in a natural performance. Trisha Krishnan delivers a strong emotional redemption; in near future Janu might meta-travel and converse with Jessie (on a fateful night) on the streets of Chennai.
96 is a feeling, devoid of any melodramatic cliché it clings on an emotional rollercoaster of unfulfilled romance. It seizes to capture a memory and savour the nostalgia – undoubtedly, one of the best Tamil films of 2018.
Release: 04 October, 2018
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