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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Enai Noki Paayum Thota movie review: All swagger, but not enough soul

Enai Noki Paayum Thota movie review: Dhanush-Gautham Menon deliver an underwhelming romantic actioner.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Written by S Subhakeerthana | Chennai | Updated: November 30, 2019 2:40:21 pm
Enai Noki Paayum Thota movie review Enai Noki Paayum Thota movie review: It is amazing how Dhanush transforms into a typical Gautham Menon protagonist.

Enai Noki Paayum Thota movie cast: Dhanush, Megha Akash, Sasikumar
Enai Noki Paayum Thota movie director: Gautham Menon
Enai Noki Paayum Thota movie rating: 2.5 stars

Gautham Menon’s much-delayed film Enai Noki Paayum Thota aka ENPT is here, and it is the filmmaker’s blandest work to date. It is a bonafide Gautham Menon film in every sense. The protagonist ‘speaks’ and ‘behaves’ like Gautham Menon. (Dhanush wears a kada, and sports a haircut like the director) But, you need conviction to make this kind of cinema, I agree. The writing has subversion and cleverness, and the film also grapples with an important issue—consent.

If Aadai had a scene regarding Amala Paul’s character tackling the #MeToo-accused lyricist, Enai Noki Paayum Thota partially throws light on this murky film world. There is this scene where Lekha (Megha Akash) slaps her producer-director with a slipper because he pushed her into something that she didn’t sign up for.

ENPT begins with Raghu (Dhanush) beating up men. You don’t know his past, but you see men attacking him in return. He wants to escape. The bullet is fired—but before it reaches Raghu—there’s a flashback that explains who he is. Slowly, you get to know his brother Thiru (Sasikumar) is away from the family. A running voiceover by Raghu explains to us what we are seeing. But the question is, do you really need the voiceover throughout? In some places, the voiceovers are the scenes, and I am not kidding! The opening portions landed a solid punch, and my hopes were raised. But as the film progresses, I realised the narrative is underwhelming.

Raghu, a final year college student, falls in love with Lekha, an actor. This happens when she is shooting for a film on Raghu’s campus. This is not a ‘believable’ premise at all. It is, in fact, the weakest link in the story. Lekha is forced into acting by Kuberan (Senthil Veerasamy), who adopts her at an early age. She doesn’t like what she does. Raghu understands Lekha is not in good hands. ENPT swings between a romantic drama and an action thriller. That’s where the problem lies, and the film can’t decide what it wants to be. Say, you want a romantic scene to continue, ENPT takes a detour into action—like Gautham Menon’s previous outing Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada.

After so many films, something which was identified as the Gautham Menon genre appears somewhat formulaic in ENPT. In particular, I’d say the voiceovers. At some point, you feel like you don’t want to hear someone explaining things to you. And, ENPT gets predictable the moment Sasikumar’s character gets introduced. The film fails to establish the bond between two brothers. There is commercial larger-than-life-ness, but no tinge of ‘realism’. Hey, they only meet for “eight minutes”, okay?

Megha Akash makes for a pretty love interest. You get ‘moments’, but they don’t translate into a film. There’s a bonfire by the beach, but you don’t ‘feel’ the romance. It is not organic. Take Mani Ratnam’s Alaipayuthe, for instance. There were real conversations between the lead characters played by Madhavan and Shalini. You get to see the parental confrontation; later the couple tie the knot, they move in together—the girl meets with an accident. There are episodes that make you feel invested in the storytelling. Whereas in ENPT, half the things look dramatic and pointless.

In the first five minutes, Gautham establishes everything—tone, texture, and the fact that this isn’t a quintessential boy-meets-girl and-they-lived-happily-ever-after story. Lekha initiates a kiss, and I like how she was forthcoming, but her world isn’t put together before our eyes. I rather liked the situations and women characters more in other Gautham Menon films—Neethaane En Ponvasantham, Varanam Aayiram and Yennai Arindhaal. They were not depressing and animated like Lekha. They were ‘real’. They were full of life.

In a crucial scene, Raghu says, “I have lived on that neck for six months”, referring to Lekha’s neck. This happens when someone strangles her neck. This might ‘sound’ poetic, but you can’t buy it. Gautham Menon wants you to understand things that he has not conveyed. Like many of his films, as an audience, you are required to interpret his thoughts.

ENPT squanders a great premise, and the entire first half has the lead pair working on a preamble to a love story. But the film is at its most engaging best in the action sequences, which are vividly lensed by Jomon T. John and Manoj Paramahamsa.

The other reason ENPT works well is its ‘feel’. There is attitude and classiness from start to finish. ENPT works more like a dream. But you know it’s just a dream, but not reality. Often, you hear the characters say, “Enna nadakkudhune theriyala”. I was tempted to raise my hand and say, “likewise”.

The characters are realistic, but situations —not so much. Raghu calls Lekha “divine”, to which she responds, “You’re too kind”. These were too cheesy. Every time, we get an interesting situation, it’s left unexplored. All we get is a voiceover. Gautham drops another bullet towards the end of the film. (read: hinting at a sequel) Sigh!

Expressions are Dhanush’s forte, and this is why he works so well as Raghu. It’s amazing how the actor transforms into a typical Gautham Menon protagonist. You see the effort he has put in, and Dhanush succeeds in making it credible.

Part of ENPT’s power lies in its casting. No single actor feels wrong. Even Sasikumar, for that matter, who is largely associated with rural-based scripts. Additionally, ENPT doesn’t look like it was shot years ago.

Undoubtedly, the biggest strength of Enai Noki Paayum Thota is Darbuka Siva’s background score and songs. “Maruvarthai” works like visual poetry with the superb Sid Sriram behind Dhanush’s voice.

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