Engaeyum Eppothum marks a fine directorial debut for M Saravanan and a good foray for Fox Star Studios and AR Murugadoss into Tamil film Production.
The film takes time to settle down post the opening accident of two buses as one tries to figure out from among the characters who is in which bus in Chennai and Trichy. This, even as one is introduced to the main characters 4 hours earlier at the two respective Bus Depots leading them to board their respective buses. Thereafter, the film moves along nicely as it then goes into the back stories of the main characters. Director Saravanan thankfully sticks to the narrative requirements of the film and treats the film more realistically not bowing down to official commercial constraints and manages to sustain interest as the film cuts back and forth between the two buses in the course of their journeys and the two developing love stories.
There is a gentleness about the film till the accident and its horrific aftermath and the two love stories are engaging enough to give the film its emotional wallop post the disaster. While one takes place between a gentle, young man working at a tool plant, Kadhiresan (Jai), and a outspoken nurse, Manimegalai (Anjali), in Trichy over the course of time, the other is spread over the large part of a single day in Chennai. The Chennai story features IT professional Gautham (Sharwanand), and Trichy girl, Amudha (Ananya), who has come to Chennai for the first time for a job interview and is unsure and lost in the city. This story spans a good part of a single day as Gautham is inadvertently forced to help Amudha out at the cost of his own day at work.. The film captures the feel of Trichy and Chennai nicely and the smaller moments and touches in the film that stand out – Gautham being made to change his seat repeatedly in the bus, his scene with Amudha at the restaurant where he adjusts her bindi and she looks at herself through the thali or the sequence where they take a lift with his company bus – do bring a smile to the face as do some of the sequences of Manimegalai bullying Kadhiresan in their romance. Interestingly, in both stories in their own way, it is the girls who drive the narrative forward while the guys follow them and do what they are asked to.
The four central characters are well fleshed out and so are the motley passengers. And the central performances hold up well enough. Anjali walks the thin line between being not very likeable as she bullies Jai in their romance and tends to come on too strong at times but you sense the practical woman in her and she is her reliable fine self in the sequences of the accident and after. However, she must guard herself against being typecast now. Ananya is a little too simpering and overtly naive as the girl from Trichy first time alone in Chennai but is consistent in her performance. Sharwanand is fine as the IT guy while Jai is adequate enough as Kadhiresan.
On the flip side, some of the pay offs are predictable especially since you know right from the beginning the accident has taken place like the scene where Anjali makes Jai donate his organs or the man who has come from the Middle East and is returning home after 5 years not even having seen his daughter who was born after he left. Though one or two of them do work well like the way the young lovers give each other their details and then the boy gives the information when they are trying to figure out the young girl’s background. As the film shifts back and forth between the two buses and the two love stories, there are some moments you feel where the cutting has been decided on the editing stage rather than at the scripting level itself. This tells on the overall pace and sometimes random transitions between the sequences. The bus driver of one of the vehicles is clearly driving like a maniac and he causes enough hell for the passengers as he veers of the road and overtakes vehicles from the side of the road but no one tells him anything. And the way the accident happens could have been thought out better. While no doubt, the scenes involving the accident and its after effects are harrowing as they should be but these sequences are milked too much and seem to go on and on. And did the actual accident shot CG have to be so tacky?
On the technical side, the film deserves a mention for fine on-location camerawork, both exterior and inside the buses, even if the overuse of the zoom lens and sometimes obvious dramatic wide-angle framing could have been avoided. The songs go with the grain of the film and it is refreshing to see a Tamil film after ages where the background score is not overblown and is actually unobtrusive. It still needed to be a little more effective though.
All in all, Engaeyum Eppothum shows once again that Tamil cinema is trying out newer stories and finding newer ways to tell them, especially as long as they don’t have the pressure of having big stars and subsequent formulas to take care of. Yes, well, worth a watch.
Tamil, Drama, Color