When the recipes of Gobi Manchurian and Chicken Tikka can transcend national barriers and become a rage elsewhere, can’t we have different versions of an intra-national rage: a remake of a successful Bollywood movie in another language, for instance? Director Shankar answers the question with Nanban (friend), a faithful reproduction, nay a spitting image, of its original, the Aamir Khan-starrer 3 Idiots.
The flaws in higher education system and campus life unite to form a heady theme, with Vijay, reprising Aamir Khan’s cool dude-cum-Buddha- like role in the original, offering ingenuous solutions to many a conundrum.
Did he levitate on screen? I don’t know; however, I am not willing to bet against it.
Jeeva and Srikanth (after a hiatus), portraying Sharman Joshi and Madhavan’s roles in the original respectively, are his perennially flabbergasted classmates who always seek his gyaan.
It is the movie’s antagonists, though - Satyaraj, as Virumandi Santhanam or Virus, the college principal with his fetish for perfection, a n d Satyan, as ‘Silencer’ Srivatsan, who swears by learning by rote - who come up with brilliant performances.
The visionary that he is, Panchavan Parivendhan (Vijay), a mechanical engineering student, unwittingly rubs his teachers the wrong way with his ideals.
He is also an agony aunt to his chums, Venkatakrishnan ( S r i k a n t h ) a n d Sevalkodi Senthil (Jeeva).
Panchavan, by helping his friend recover from paralysis, also gets to experience an Awakeninglike Robin Williams moment.
Riya (Ileana), as Satyaraj’s daughter and a student of medicine, plays Vijay’s love-interest.
In the end, will standardised education or unconventional thinking with that extra bit of passion win? That’s for anybody’s guess to make.
The infectiously humorous scenes that characterised the original - the recitation of a wrongly-memorised welcome address, the banker-groom obsessed with brands — make its way into the remake as well.
Vijay puts in a restrained performance, a welcome change from some of his recent outings.
One wishes that the remake had done away with some illogical, emotion-sloshed scenes that almost threatened to derail the original.
Manoj Paramahamsa’s cinematography stands out - be it the breathtaking shots of the Pamban Bridge in Rameswaram or Ootacamund; Harris Jayaraj seems to have finally got his act back with a memorable music score.
Shankar decides to stick to the original and has come up trumps in the process.
This Nanban will be one friendly theatrical outing!