*** Spoilers ahead ***
It is almost one hour into the movie that Jaanu arrives at the school re-union. When she is told that Ram is hiding behind at a distance, her eyes lit up. Jaanu hasn’t seen Ram in 22 years. She stands up and starts walking to him. At this point writer-director Prem Kumar decides to cut-short that scene, takes us to their flashback and tells us what exactly caused them to part ways in the school. It is now when he reveals to us clearly about Jaanu’s feelings and her point of view. It could have been earlier. It could have been later. But that Premkumar decides to disclose it now is one of the things about 96 that makes it so beautiful – Its scenes are so perfectly placed.
Even for a romantic movie with only two characters for most of its run-time, Prem Kumar does exceptional writing to throw little surprises at us from time to time. Just when you start wondering why Ram and Jaanu couldn’t find ways to meet for 22 years, you are revealed the movie’s most pivot point that Ram had visited Janu’s college after 3 years from school to try and meet her. This single scene is shown from three perspectives to let you know how very small details made sure that they could never see each other that day or even unite in life. First the scene is shown from Ram’s angle. Second you see what caused the misunderstanding and what went wrong from Jaanu’s angle.
It is the third act that Premkumar sets up though which gives it a complete closure. In a coffee shop, Jaanu introduces herself as Ram’s wife to Ram’s students and tells a version that she wished had happened that day in college. In her version, the girl who had brought her the letter had told the right name. Jaanu had looked at the right direction. Ram seemed more assured and patient. Result is one of the most beautiful scenes in recent memory as Jaanu and Ram look at each other’s eyes and realize how their life could have been different if this version had happened that day. Trisha and Vijay Sethupathi deliver performances that consumes us so deeply into the world of Jaanu and Ram, whereas Govind Menon’s music plays a role as equally well as these two.
Not a single detail told earlier in the movie is unnecessary. Ram had always wanted Jaanu to sing “Yamuna Aatrile” for him in school, but she never conceded. Few hours before Jaanu is about to leave back to Singapore after the re-union, the power goes off and Ram walks into a room to take a torch . It is there when Jaanu finally sings those lines from Thalapathy. He breathes hardly, looses his mind and stumbles upon things. He manages to take the torch somehow and then finally returns to see her sing his favorite song. There are still few more minutes to go before the end of the movie. But you had already fallen in love with this movie. You had decided this would be one movie that you would revisit more in years to come.
Dear Prem Kumar – They don’t make great romantic movies that tug at your heartstrings like this more often. How could you take such a big leap in your debut itself?
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