If there is someone in the Tamil cinema who breathes and lives on movies alone, surely it is Cheran. Other star directors like Maniratnam and Shankar have a flair for technical details, but when it comes to emotions & nativity, it is Cheran's forte. Thats' why none of his films has been remade in other languages due to the strong flavour of Tamilnadu. Cheran is someone who not only has a strong theme for his movies but also doesn't compromise on the quality of the movie. This is evident on his previous movies.
Page 1Autograph - as everyone knows the story let me keep it short for my other state friends. Senthil (Cheran) is getting married and goes to the people he loved and lived with to invite them for his wedding. The list includes childhood crush Kamala (Mallika), estranged ladylove Lathika (Gopika) and his soulmate Divya (Sneha). Everyone turns up for the wedding and shares his precious moments. The story moves forth and back to accomodate his memories.
Let me start with the screenplay department. The movie is long 2hrs 45 minutes, longer for an average Tamil movie. But the beauty is Cheran keeps you engrossed that you keep looking forward for what is next. The screen play is neat and fine. Only time you find it dragging is the scenes that show how Senthil becomes a drug addict. You hate him but that's Cheran's success. The screenplay is divided into four parts. Innocence rules in the school part while romance is at its full swing in Alappuzha portions. Positive attitude and confidence dominates in the Sneha's interludes while the marriage scenes will definitely make you feel lump in the throat. Which part is the best? No answer for this as every part is different from each other.
Dialogues are razor sharp, especially when Sneha makes her entry. "If you stand where you are hurt the wound never heals, you have to move ahead, afterall changes are life", "Kamalavukku pracchinainaa kootti vandhu vacchukkuviya?", the dialogues shoot directly & instantly litting up the whole scene. The school lingo is fine and even in Kerala portions Cheran didn't make any special efforts to cater Tamil audiences tampering the authenticity. All the malayalee characters, including Gopika Varma, speak in chaste Malayalam, not in Thalayalam.
As far as direction concerned it is a milestone in Cheran's career. If you remove the songs and background score it is no different from an art film. The way the shots are cut also follow the offbeat format. Tight close ups for a whole minute, puffing the whole cigar in a long uncut shot are few examples for the artfilm type of picturisations. Yet Cheran bridges between the offbeat and commercial cinema. The stupendous success of this movie among the youth, especially college goers is the visual example. Hats off for Cheran's guts to make a movie devoid of navel shows, pelvic thrusts, item numbers and a vulgar comedy track.
While speaking of performances,(Shame on Prabhu Deva, Murali and Surya for refusing this script! They are still in macho hero dream) it is Mallika who stays in your heart longer. Her portrayal as Kamala, a school girl as well as complete transformation to a mother of three kids is amazing. The last scene where after wishing Senthil best marriage wishes she turns back to look him conveys a lot more than what thousands of words and pages of dialogues can do. Mallika is a school goer who had done many short films in Malayalam and the feather in her cap is Adoor Gopalakrishnan's "Nizhalkootthu".