Monday 8 October 2018

'96 - Gender fluidity and conversation beyond words

Last evening, the husband and I watched a Tamil film '96 starring Trisha Krishnan and Vijay Sethupathi. My sister had earlier nudged me to watch the film. I quote her, "Don't have high expectations. It's a simple film. Just sit back and enjoy." She was right about the film being simple but she was wrong about the high expectations. Watching films quite often, as audience, I guess we allow ourselves to imagine cliched dialogues and familiar situations; This cliche is what was absent in C. Prem Kumar's '96 - a nostalgic walk sans the melodrama and long tear-jerked dialogues. The film's power lies in the unspoken words and quiet moments interspersed with a powerful soundtrack. It was as if the lyrics of the songs were snatched from the minds of the audience.

'96's strength lies in C. Prem Kumar's treatment of the entire plot coupled with beautiful cinematography. The visuals in the introductory song was subtle, beautiful and set the tone of the film. But what captured my mind was the way the director broke down the roles of men and women. Ram (Vijay Sethupathi) was not the macho alpha-male who tries to prove his brawn and brain all the time - he acts feminine at times and does not fail to feel shy or cry when the situation arises. Similarly, Janu (Trisha Krishnan) is not the coy and gentle character - she takes the lead in the second half of the film and comes across as someone who does not hesitate to ask questions and chide Ram as the situation demands. The presence of her thali or meti does not interfere with the bond that is shared by the erstwhile lovers.

The entire second half of the film's tension lay in the premise of whether the erstwhile lovers will profess their love and probably make love - but Prem Kumar destroys those age old cliches and gently leads us through the night. Sometimes when nothing much is conveyed through words, the facial expressions and body language take over and this is precisely what happens in the film. I must confess that I break into tears quite easily and '96 was one such film where I was reduced to tears, not once or twice but during several instances - the tears were for the powerful lyrics of the first song, the thought that something might have happened but did not, the blink-and-miss situation when K. Ramachandran went to see Janaki Devi in her college and all the What ifs which were generously spread throughout the course of the plot. The word 'perhaps' is the tagline of the film for me - The perhaps and the what ifs caused the free flowing tears and I guess that would have been the cause of the many tears that were shed by the audiences who watched the film.

The tears also flowed for the bygone years which was so familiar to me while I was in my X, XI and XII standards. I fondly remembered the long walks in my school's corridors where boyfriends/girlfriends waited for a glimpse of their beloveds; the quiet, stolen glances in classes, the sharing of tiffins, the school uniform, the absolute lack of communication when someone is absent and no means of finding the reason, the cycle sagas, the hero pen, the splashing of the ink on the last last day of school, the innocence of first love and FLAMES - Prem Kumar brought every element of those days alive for me. It comes as no surprise that my batch was the batch of '97 - not very different from the batch of '96. I could identify every single character from my own school days and perhaps that's why the film moved me and the fact that I am so away from Tamil Nadu and everything familiar pushed those extra tears to fall. 


  1. Ahaa.. so many been raving about this movie. might watch it... someday! :D

  2. Hi Susan,
    This is Premjith.
    Enjoyed reading the review.
    I am from class ‘93 and as you rightly described, the movie captures the school culture of the past.
    Just watched it in Sun TV as part of their Deepawali premiere.

    1. Hi PM:

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated. I'm glad that you enjoyed watching the beautiful film.

      Sometimes I think we just live by memories!



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