A Hindu boy falls in love with a Muslim girl. Naturally, this romance faces problems.
Now that Mohan Raja has proved that he can do original films, Mithran Jawahar has become the go-to guy for remaking a film. 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' seems to be the mantra of his filmmaking (though, who knows, he might surprise us all with a Thani Oruvan one day), and that has helped him so far. And that is the case with Meendum Oru Kadhal Kadhai, a remake the Malayalam hit Thattathin Marayathu, which is a fairly competent film as far as remakes go. In that sense, it is on even ground with Bangalore Naatkal, another remake of a Malayalam film that is popular among youngsters in the state.
The story revolves around Vinodh (Walter Philips), a happy-go-lucky youngster, whose watching of Mani Ratnam's Bombay at an impressionistic age results in a fetish (of sorts) for the purdah. And his wish comes true when he stumbles into Ayesha (Isha Talwar). That encounter results in a fall — literally for the girl, and of the head-over-heels kind for Vinodh. And thus begins his dogged pursuit of the girl. But even if she does love him, will her orthodox family, headed by her authoritarian uncle Abdul Khader (Nasser), a politician, agree to the match?
Given that it is pretty faithful remake, and the changes that Jawahar does are purely cosmetic (and negligible), it all depended on the cast to make Meendum Oru Kadhal Kadhai work, and they deliver. Jawahar even retains a few actors from the original like Manoj K Jayan (as a police inspector who helps out Vinodh after hearing his love story) and Vanitha Krishnachandran (as Vinodh's mother), and of course, the female lead Isha Talwar, whose chief job here is to make Ayesha look ethereal enough to make us believe that a guy would instantly be besotted with this girl. The other actors, from seniors like Nasser and Thalaivasal Vijay, to the bunch of younger actors who play the characters helping the hero in his romance, are solid. As for Walter Phillips, he is passable in a role that made Nivin Pauly a heartthrob in Kerala. But Walter, who lacks the charm of the latter, plays the role in a po-faced manner, while Nivin performed with a twinkle in his eye.
Even when the staging or the acting isn't up to the mark, we respond to Shaan Rahman's enchanting score. Take away the score and we wouldn't be caring for this romance as much as we do. We sense it every time the film uses the songs that GV Prakash Kumar has composed, which keep breaking the spell that the background score builds around us (a duet in the second half is pretty much a bathroom break). Even the director seems to realises this and acknowledges the effectiveness of the original's music by reusing a couple of those Malayalam songs at key moments.
The original did have its weaker moments — like the underdeveloped characters in the hero's and the heroine's families — and it is no different here. And for an (almost) frame-by-frame remake, the scenes feel stretched and Jawahar doesn't quite capture the playful tone of the original. For those who have seen the original, this Tamil version wouldn't seem as charming (obviously!), but there is enough here for someone looking for light-hearted entertainment.