The first thought that comes to mind as you take in the fresh scenery, casual conversation and relaxed filmi ambience is this: why aren't more people watching this movie?
For Shenbaga Kumar's Tamil film, Pudichirukku, directed by Kanagu with a host of newbies and some recognizable oldies is quite decent as it goes, which is saying quite a lot. Or perhaps, it was the fact that I went in with zero expectations that did the trick. Whatever.
They have obviously started off on the right note by choosing characters that are sufficiently removed from cinema stereotypes: Velu (Ashok) is a broker in a lorry-booking office in Thoothukkudi, while Manju Mariadoss (Visaka), a Roman Catholic, is a first year Maths student at a sufficiently down-south college where students are actually in class, studying.
And their first encounter, even if it's a tiff, is fresh enough for you to sit up and take notice. While driving, Velu is thrown off his seat by a studious Manju's flapping dupatta, whereupon they get into a flaming row.
But it is the way that tiff slowly blossoms into love that is refreshingly sweet and different, despite being a theme that's been handled a zillion times in Tamil cinema.
Manju's 'love-letter' is hilariously misunderstood by Esakki aka Tyre (Kanja Karuppu, as the perfect accompanying comedian), who takes every opportunity of eavesdropping on the developments, much to Velu's joyous embarrassment. From a demure girl who's nervous of a furious Velu, Manju slowly metamorphoses into someone who begins to see his other side; the caring, perseverant young man who's keen on making his mark in the world. The series of swift montages that show them falling in love are a delight to watch.
Matters swiftly escalate as the two star-crossed lovers meet in a clandestine fashion in the backs of lorries, only to be caught red-handed at Customs, by the heroine's father himself. And mayhem ensues as the story flits from Thoothukkudi to Pune and back.
Ashok has done a great job as the fiery-tempered young man who eventually falls for the sweet-tempered softie; the scenes where he snatches love-laden trysts with Manju are a sensual treat. Visaka is subdued, underplayed, as befitting her role. She bursts out when she's required to, and fits the bill.
Kanja Karuppu has a ball as the loyal friend who is desperate for an idli in Pune's chapatti filled madness. He's an apt foil to the rather serious Velu. While Mariadoss (Sampath Raj) yells and screams quite effectively as Manju's father, it's Saranya, as the mother Stella, who steals the show in the climax.
The second half of the movie tends to drag a bit, compared to the first, in an attempt to make Velu's mission more realistic. But the end rather makes up for it.
And Manu Ramaseshan's music is good enough that it doesn't jar you out of the movie. The song that shows Velu and Co traveling through Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, changing languages is one example.
Not bad at all. Take a bow, Kanagu.