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Nanban: Rancho speaks in Tamil, and how!

Bollywood fare, served with Tamil niceties

When the recipes of Gobi Manchurian and Chicken Tikka can transcend national barriers and become a rage elsewhere, can’t we have different versions of an intra-national rage: a remake of a successful Bollywood movie in another language, for instance? Director Shankar answers the question with Nanban (friend), a faithful reproduction, nay a spitting image, of its original, the Aamir Khan-starrer 3 idiots, comprising its highs and lows with equal measure.
The hero and the anti-heroes

The flaws in our higher education system, especially engineering, and campus life unite to form a heady theme, with Vijay, reprising Aamir Khan’s cool dude-cum-Buddha-like role in the original, offering ingenuous solutions to many a conundrum. Did he levitate on screen? I don’t know; however, I am not willing to bet against it. Jeeva and Srikanth (after a hiatus), portraying Sharman Joshi and Madhavan’s roles in the original respectively, are his perennially flabbergasted class and hostel mates who always seek his gyaan.
It is the movie’s primary antagonists, though – Satyaraj, as Virumandi Santhanam or Virus, the college principal with a fetish for perfection, and his nephew Satyan, as “Silencer” Srivatsan, who swears by learning by rote – who come up with brilliant performances.

The visionary that he is, Panchavan Parivendhan (Vijay), a student of mechanical engineering at a prestigious college, unwittingly rubs his teachers and classmates the wrong way with his ideals, getting into confrontations with the principal. He is also an agony aunt and a source of motivation to his chums, Venkatakrishnan (Srikanth) and Sevalkodi Senthil (Jeeva). Panchavan, by helping his friend come out of paralysis, also gets to experience an Awakening-like Robin Williams moment. Riya (Ileana), as Satyaraj’s daughter and a student of medicine, plays Vijay’s love-interest, thereby satisfying the unstated cinematic injunction that the anti-hero’s daughter must be the hero’s sweetheart. In the end, will standardised education or unconventional thinking with that extra bit of passion win?

That’s for anybody’s guess to make.

The traditional Indian
cinematic romantic track

The infectiously humourous scenes that characterised the original – the recitation of a wrongly memorised welcome address, the faking of a heart attack to disembark a flight, the opera in the background when Virus decides to shave and the banker-groom obsessed with brands – make its way into the remake as well.

It’s a Vijay movie all the way, despite his restrained performance, a far cry from some of his recent outings. True, he shares screen space with two other heroes, but the screen time devoted to him should put paid to any such theory. Satyan brings the roof down with his performance. One only wishes that a proper dubbing artiste was employed for Ileana.

Manoj Paramahamsa’s cinematography stands out – be it in the breath-taking shots of the Pamban Bridge in Rameswaram or Ootacamund; Harris Jayaraj seems to have finally got his act back with a memorable music score. Shankar decides to stick to the original and has come up trumps in the process.

This Nanban will be one friendly theatrical outing!

by Rajagopalan Venkataraman

Appeared in City Express, the daily supplement of The New Indian Express, Bangalore on January 17, 2012

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