Director: Andrew Louis
Cast: Shiv Pandit, Manasi Parekh, Santhanam, Suhasini Raju
A meticulously crafted screenplay, well fleshed out characters, and some natural performances makes Leelai an engaging watch. Andrew Louis in his very first effort (apprenticed with S J Suryah) moves his scenes with total confidence and focus, rarely losing his grip on the narration.
The plot centres on Kartik, a compulsive flirt, who gets caught in a web of his own making, and tries to extricate himself from what seems like a Catch-22 situation. Essaying Kartik with endearing candour and natural flair is Shiv Pandit (of Hindi flick 'Shaithan' fame). The earlier scenes depicting Kartik’s college days, his flirting ways and the girls succumbing to his charm have some fun moments. Dating girls, discarding them and then moving on to the next one, the thorn in his path was Malar. Her friends falling victim to him despite her warnings, Malar disgusted with his ways had berated him over the phone. And when an opportunity cropped up a couple of years later, both now working for an IT company, Kartik decided that it was payback time. The ruse he uses to charm her and how it backfires on him, is narrated with interest and humour.
Essaying Malar is Manasi (a popular face on TV commercials). A natural, the petite debutante has no problem with lip sync of Tamil dialogues, her expressions a delight to watch. There are just a handful of characters and they are well integrated with the plot. Like the easy camarederie between Kartik and his friend Suja, Suhasini (of Jodi No 1 fame) portraying Suja with quiet efficiency.
There is Santhanam as Malar’s friend, pepping up the scenes with his brand of humour. Blending well with the rest, he unlike his recent films, is less gross and crude here.
The film is high on technical values. The editing is crisp, the songs pleasant to the ears, the costumes appropriate, and the cinematography enhances the feel and mood. The director could have turned the finale into a dramatic one. But he appreciably preferred to keep it simple and sensible.
A breezy, light-hearted urban romance, Leelai is like a refreshing whiff of fresh air on a hot summer’s day. Stalled in the cans for a couple of years, it may have taken time to hit the theaters. But the film is definitely worth the wait.