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Enai Noki Paayum Thota, Gautham Mennon’s Return To Form

Enai Noki Paayum Thota(Tamil)

Starring  Dhanush,  Megha Akash

Written  & Directed  by Gautham Menon

Rating: *** ½ (3 and a half stars )

 There is a stirring  synthesis  of dread and exhilaration in the way  Tamil auteur  Gautham Menon  goes from romance to  violence  in this largely-engaging drama of  disingenuous  commitments.Family ties , personal  affections,societal  prejudices  and  disruptive violence all fall effortlessly  in Menon’s range of  virile  vision.

Menon who has been absent from filmmaking for a while(his last  ambivalently-received  work Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo came in 2016) returns to form with  this film. Breathlessly paced and  brimming with  a ferocious  anxiety  Enai Noki Paayum Thota weds tenderness with  brutality  in the  way only Menon can.

 He  devotes all  of  the  first half in  the  delicately-drawn rituals  of courtship between  college student Raghu(Dhanush, playing a 20-year  old is a  bit of stretch  but this is where the  age-old convenient  suspension-of-disbelief comes in handy) and the exploited actress Lekha(Megha Akash, charming when not  under emotional stress).

The  mating games are  played with  an enchanting elegance. This is romance  in the purest cinematic sense, ethereal and  unattainable, cadenced and  magnetic, shot with an eye  and ear for  workaday sublimity. Menon lets  the couple  find and  celebrate idealized  love in  routine places.

Even as we  savour the couple’s  moments together  the narrative takes a sharp swerve into  violence.The restless narrative shifts to Mumbai  for action scenes which are as  elegantly  shot as  the romance.  Menon never allows  any awkwardness  to  seep into his  cinema  even as he negotiates  impossible genre  jumps like  a seasoned trapeze artiste.

There is something uniquely  ingratiating  in  the  clasp of courtship and  mayhem that Menon here. While Dhanush  thinks  a clean-shave look entitles  him to ever-youthfulness, his co-star has  a much less challenging role. Megha Akash reminded  me of Urmila Matomdkar   in Ram Gopal Varma’s Mast. The exploited actress locked in a  gilded cage, pining to be  liberated through love…

   Enai Noki Paayum Thota is  a film of many  virtues  about characters who  do not shy away from their  vices. There is a remarkable sense of  headlong apprehension in the scenes. Both the romance and  action are perched dangerously in a steep space where they can easily topple  over into an abyss. The fluency of  director Gautham Menon’s  directorial language  holds together the  disparate  dimensions  of life that we  sometimes weigh against the  powers  of love  to heal rather than hurt.

 This is  not Gauthan Menon’s  finest film but definitely his  best work in recent  years.And that’s saying a  lot.

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