Childhood buddies Varun (Jiiva) and Nithya (Samantha) are attracted to each other from their school days. When Varun decides to put aside romance on the backburner for the sake of his middle class family, it leads to misunderstandings and eventually a break-up. Are the lovers destined for a happily ever after?
Neethaane En Ponvasantham (NEP)
, Gautham Vasudev Menon hits notes that have been played by Tamil filmmakers quite a bit in the past — ego and misunderstandings that crop up between lovers. But where his notes differ and make this familiar tune of romance slightly refreshing is in Menon boldly acknowledging that every love affair involves a bit of pure selfishness and breaking of your parents' trust.
His Varun and Nithya are clearly madly in love with each other but what becomes an obstacle is not their parents' approval but their own priorities in life. With his brother's love affair turning out to be an eye-opener, Varun wants to realize his parents' aspirations and put romance on the backburner for a while, but the well-off Nithya is quite content to be with him every possible second. Naturally, they misunderstand each other; she thinks he is self-centered and sidelining her for his personal improvement while he feels she might remain unambitious and even fears her over reliance on him might create problems at a later stage.
Menon has constructed the film almost as a musical, with Ilaiyaraaja's tuneful songs really driving many of its plot points, including the lovely early segment involving Varun and Nithya's school romance. But the problem is that most often the segue between song and scene isn't as smooth as it ideally should be. This is especially marked in the second half which mainly involves the question of whether the star-crossed lovers will get back together after the big pre-interval break-up. Part of the problem is also due to the film's structure; it is essentially a series of patch-ups and break-ups — in childhood, high school, higher secondary, college and finally as 20-somethings. With Menon showing us all their tussles till college in the first half, the latter portions, despite the exquisite songs, feel overlong and monotonous. He also gives in to his indulgence of lengthy dialogues that all the more poses a test of patience and sometimes, gives room for unsparing comments from the audience.
Still what keeps us hooked are the astonishingly human characters who don't shy away from being their true self. Varun might be single-minded in the goal he sets for himself but he is also mature enough to differentiate between reality and romance and Jiiva brings out this aspect of the character with a quietly compelling performance. Nithya, though a tad underwritten and not as enigmatic as Jessie from
Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (VTV)
, is what every guy dreams of — a beautiful woman who can't bear the thought of being away from him and pines for him for ever. And, Samantha, in this role, is superb as the school and college-going girl, only faltering towards the end when called upon to express anger and anguish. As with
, here too, Gautham takes a dig at himself, making a parody of that film's leads with Santhanam and Vidyullekha, who play the friends of the lovers, and provide some humour.
An ideal date movie, despite the slow pace and the flaws.