As an Indian, I have lived on a diet of romantic movies since I was a schoolgirl. However, over the years, very few have stood the test of time. Making a romantic drama comes easily to Indian filmmakers, after all, we live in a society where a romantic relationship between two consenting individuals is still frowned upon. So we live our dreams through movies. Last year, a Tamil film titled 96 released and it caught my fancy. For here was a romantic drama at last, which despite indulging in a little melodrama, knew exactly when to pull back the strings.
The story was simple, not something unheard of — unrequited love. A love which was never realised except in its nascent stage. The lead stars, Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha, were not only believable as the characters they were portraying but shared incredible chemistry. And a sequence where Janaki (Trisha) is seen narrating a ‘what if’ version of her incomplete love story to K Ramachandran’s (Sethupathi) students represents that wonderfully. A whole table and a group of students separate them but their eyes are filled with love and affection for the other.
The ‘what if’ version is also effective thanks to the actors playing younger versions of the lead characters. As we go back in time, Trisha’s sing-song voice tells us that the twain did meet when they had to, that fate was not cruel to their love and that is how they eventually ended up finding their way back to each other. But as we all know, even in that moment, that it is all a lie. The story Trisha aka Janaki is narrating to the kids is a fabrication, and even more so, a longing.
Towards the end of the five-minute sequence I found that not only people in the scene were transported to another world with Janaki’s story, but that as an audience, I was moved as well. The music by Govind Vasantha is exquisite and sits in with the scene perfectly.
96 is available for streaming on YouTube.