Synopsis: A bunch of characters, each with their own set of problems, try to tackle the question of marriage that hangs over their lives.
Review: Oru Naal Koothu revolves around a few characters who are all connected by one thing — marriage. There is Raj Kumar (Dinesh, unconvincing), whose colleague and lover, Kavya (Nivetha Pethuraj, impressive in her debut), is about to get married to another guy. She still loves him, but he wants her to wait because he has a family (which he admits he doesn't love, but has a responsibility towards) to take care of. Her family is well off and her father, who is practical and believes their relationship will anyway not work in the long run because of their social differences, has gone ahead and arranged the match.
We have Lakshmi (Miya George, effective), a timid small-town girl, who is facing the prospect of living her entire life as a spinster because her father (Nagineedu) has been turning down every prospective groom, citing one reason or another, for seven years! She has been doing the girl-seeing thing for so many times, that she laments that she doesn't even feel shy any more to stand like an object for inspection before a man.
For Susheela (Riythvika, good), an RJ, the man she is engaged to, Bhaskar, has decided to call off their marriage for a flimsy reason (he thinks she isn't a looker), but is too much of a coward to tell that to her family. In the meantime, she begins a relationship with her colleague Sathish (Ramesh Thilak, OK), who is ready to marry her, but fate has different plans.
Last week, we had Iraivi that told us that women, most often, do not have any freedom when it comes to shaping up their lives, and Oru Naal Koothu seems to add that even men, too, do not have much say in their lives, especially when it comes to choosing a life partner (there is even a male character who gets bundled into a car for trying to have his way). And the film gives its women more agency than Iraivi. For better or worse, all the three women keep trying to make their own decisions. In fact, in one scene, Lakshmi's friend, a divorcee, jokingly tells her to leave her home and live-in with her. Though the next dialogue tries to make light of this comment instantly, it is refreshing to see a mainstream film where lesbianism is discussed openly. And the film, too, is centred around their characters, even though Dinesh is the one who is given top billing in the credits.
In contrast, the men are underdeveloped. Beyond moping about, Raj has nothing much to do; Sathish, on the other hand, is made to act the clown, but that's just that. And the script never bothers to tell us why Lakshmi's father behaves as he does. It is only the characters of Raghavendra (Karunakaran), Susheela's elder unmarried brother, and his friend Benjamin (Charlie), a man who has missed the marriage bus, who register as solid characters.
Nelson and editor Sabu Joseph ensure that the multi-strand narrative never confuses the viewer, and focus on all the three tracks equally (in this aspect, it is as efficient as Tamizhukku En Tamizhukku En 1-Ai Azhuthavum). The director also does a good job capturing the work place environment of some of the characters. The dialogues are humorous and often sharp: Marriage aagalana edho expiry aana product maadhiri paakaranga; Nooru rubaaiku napkin vikkara naatla pathaayiram kooda sambathikkalana eppadi; Edho picha podra madhiriye kalyanam panna varanga... The comedy by Bala Saravanan, who plays Raj's friend (given the support he lends to Raj, his nickname Shoulder feels apt), is forced into the narrative, but the actor makes the lines work with his timing and delivery.
What doesn't work are the filmi touches that Nelson adds to the narrative. An accident in the opening scenes (included mainly to inject melodrama), a couple of twists in the climax (pulled off very unconvincingly by the director who treats them as if he is solving permutations and combinations problems), and a sequence where characters break out into a song (that hardly serves any purpose). These scenes actually clash with the understated nature of the rest of the scenes, but the somewhat open ending and the vox pop interviews in the end credits (an English-speaking auto driver almost walks away with the whole bit) manages to bring the film back on track.