Raghavan and Priya fall in love during a train journey, but both believe that the other is a Muslim and start pretending to be of the same religion. What happens when they realize the truth?
Thirumanam Enum Nikkah
is like the romance dramas in which there will be no story at all if the leads talk to each other in a frank manner and so will have to keep pretending for the plot to go on. It is based on a single construct — two lovers belonging to the same religion (and even the same sect) mistaking the other to be of a different religion and so pretending to be of the same religion. It all starts when Vijayaraghavachari aka Raghavan (Jai) approaches a tout for a ticket to Coimbatore. He is asked to pretend as Abubacker and on the train, he meets Vishnupriya (Nazriya), who is actually travelling under the name of her colleague Aayisha. He earns her confidence and both think of the other as a Muslim. On their return to Chennai, they realize they are in love but carry on the pretense of being a Muslim. He lies to Shaukat Ali, a respected Unani doctor, to get to know about Islam, while she learns about the practices followed by Muslims from Aayisha. Meanwhile, both their families are fixing a match for them and Shaukat's daughter, Naseema (Heebah), falls for Raghavan. When they realize their true identities eventually, they are left confused as the both seem alien to each other given that they now looking at one another from a different lens.
The case of mistaken identity isn't new in the romance genre and director Anis tries to lend some freshness to this oft-seen premise by using religious identity as the point of conflict for a romance. He comes up with scenes that are mostly plausible to show how such a misunderstanding could occur. He nicely parallels the lives of the two leads to show how similar they are. Both Raghavan and Priya's have large, traditional families; both have a friend at office who informs their decision; both use details from their lives to make their lies believable (he uses Shaukat Ali's words while she gets her awareness of Muslim religion from her friend Ayesha); both have a character whose only purpose is to be the third wheel (if it's a colleague for her, it's Naseema for him) and so on. At times, he takes this too far — Raghavan and Priya are not just Hindu, they are also Iyengar Brahmins, as if the director wanted to avoid the minor inconvenience that might arise if either of the two were a non-Brahmin or even an Iyer.
The leads, too, are likeable, though the falling-in-love aspect should have had a little more depth. But the first half is breezy enough and the humour that arises out of perceived religious differences provides some moments of levity. Even the attempt to spread the message of communal harmony doesn't come across as too preachy. The director also ups the stakes a bit in the second half by not wanting to provide a simplistic ending. When many would have ended the film once Raghavan and Priya realize their true identities, he reaches for something profound in the second half. Can you continue to love a person even after you realize that you have created a different image of them in your heart?
It is definitely an interesting angle but it is here that Anis slips. The events that follow the revelatory scene are muddled and leave us frustrated. Given that they hardly talk to each other after realizing their real identities, it is hard to believe that in a matter of moments, Raghavan and Priya agree to get married because their parents are OK with their match. It doesn't help that the characters in their families are written in such a non-descript manner that they could be perfectly interchangeable. And so, when the two decide to call off the marriage, it feels like an over-reaction. Similarly, the sub-plot involving Naseema and her angry relative who wants to exact revenge on Raghavan feels forced. All it does is lead to an unnecessary stunt scene which is indifferently shot (even the location changes midway into the fight!). Similarly, Ghibran's songs, which are the film's calling card, are thrust into the narrative in random to stay true to the five-song formula. But most importantly, we never get a convincing answer as to why the lovers finally decide to get together.