'Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee', a terrific coming-of-age tale

More than the overrated Chichchore and almost as much as Dil Chahta Hai… Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is a coming-of-age brew that is heady, intoxicating , provocative and poignant…sometimes all at once

'Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee', a terrific coming-of-age tale

Subhash K Jha

More than the overrated Chichchore and almost as much as Dil Chahta HaiMudhal Nee Mudivum Nee (MNMN) is a coming-of-age brew that is heady, intoxicating , provocative and poignant…sometimes all at once. This is the kind of rare film that is easy to overlook for its achievements: the writer-director Darbuka Siva(who has also composed the felicitous songs and music) doesn’t tom-tom his skills as a raconteur of remarkable ruminative resources.

The film’s fluid emotions and virginal faces merge and melt into a kind of nostalgic inner-view into the youthful aspirations of the 1990s that never screams for attention. Most endearingly the frames never plead for nostalgia. There is no overt attempt to hammer in the aura of the era through clothes, hairstyle, cars or, most annoying of all, songs (such a convenient mode of period recreation!).

Instead of force-feeding us with periodicity, Darbuka Siva allows the actors to free-flow into the characters. The one problem that I had was in keeping up with the identity of all the youngsters . There are so many of them! Luckily writer-director Siva allows us to choose our favourites.

I came away with the thoughtful musician Vinoth (Kishen Das), the foolhardy Chinese (Harish Kumar, over-the-top initially but settles in), the over smart and mean Catherine (Purva Raghunath), the conservative and possessive Rekha (Meetha Raghunath)…all outstanding in their inconspicuous everyman-ship.

Darbuka Siva extracts the optimum from the indefinable elixir of youth and its impulsive follies. And yet for all its raunchiness and recklessness, it is not all fun and games in the plot which some critics have called “rambling”. It can’t be helped, really. Growing up is not as linear and neat as many coming-of-age films make it seem.

MNMN is not afraid to fall off the edge. The narrative often takes impetuous leaps of faith, opting to remain true to the young protagonists’ journey of life rather than looking to somehow tie up the loose ends. There is a dark subplot about the homophobic Richard (Varun Rajan) bullying Francis (Rahul Kannan) all the way from school to the old boys’ reunion and then suddenly, and unconvincingly apologizing to the victim. Could this apology be just so that Richard’s sensible and just wife is appeased?

Many questions remain unanswered, and that’s the way it’s meant to be.

The end-product does have a messy feel to it. For those sold on a cogent structure, there are two social gathering—a passing-out farewell party at school and a long but richly reflective and revealing old students’ reunion at the end—which book-mark the proceedings. The song that Vinoth sings for his lost love at the reunion is so beautifully composed and positioned in the plot, that not for a second do we feel manipulated into a collective meltdown.

Oh yes, there is also Cupid in the film, played as a Woody Allen-ish romantic worrier by the director himself. Cupid is called in to mend Vinoth’s broken heart. But the belated attempt for a happy ending is most welcome.

MNMN gives us a fresh-faced dewy-eyed rose-tinted look at life and love at an age when nothing else matters. Frozen in time. This is an exhilarating liberating joyride into a past when Archies cards expressed love far better than the movies. This is a thoughtful winsome cinematic ode to an era of corny courtships.

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