96 was eagerly anticipated by many Tamil film lovers, because of the lead pair of Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha Krishnan, two actors who are known for their versatility and brilliance in execution, and also for the songs by Govind Menon. Please don’t go late for the film, as the opening song is a must see, a visual feast by Mahendiran and Shanmuga, whose camerawork takes us to far locations across India.
The story can’t be any simpler – the lead pair had feelings for each other in their Class 10 days, haven’t been in contact ever after and are seeing each other during a reunion after a gap of 22 years – hearing this you may think of Cheran’s Autograph and Nivin Pauly’s Premam, but that’s where the Director has excelled with his different treatment reminding you more of Murali’s Idhayam. For a story like this, obviously there have to be flashbacks of school days, but they are kept to a minimum.
It was good to see on screen veteran comedian Janagaraj after decades, he has done well his role of a school watchman who sees an old student after decades. The school students who have been cast to play the younger versions of the older character were excellent choices, especially the girl who played the younger version of Devadarshini was perfect. The second half had a lot of close-up shots of Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha, and both of them were fantastic with their expressions, you can’t imagine anyone else playing the roles, and just for that, this film is worth a watch.
Director has taken efforts to plug the otherwise logic gaps, like with the reason for the hero to go back to Tanjore and visit his school after decades – it is because of a traffic detour on his way from Madurai to Chennai; heroine is going back to Singapore via Trichy makes it possible for the hero to buy a ticket and enter the airport in Chennai with her. I knew at the instant the film started without the statutory health warning card, that this movie will be a different one and it will not have any pathos song in a Tasmac bar.
The movie progressed slowly throughout, I suppose it was deliberately done to kindle the childhood memories and emotions with the audience and Director C.Prem Kumar has succeeded on that.
Titbit: I was told that the younger K.Ramachandran (Vijay Sethupathi‘s role) was played by Actor M.S.Bhaskar‘s son Adithya Bhaskar and younger Subhashini (Devadarshini‘s role) by Devadarshini’s own daughter Niyathi Kadambi.