'Nitham Oru Vaanam' movie review: Sincere performances elevate this breezy, feel-good entertainer

Debutant Karthik quite admirably keeps playing to his strengths leaving hardly any space for distractions. He sets the mood right for this feel-good film in every way possible.
Ashok Selvan in Nitham Oru Vaanam
Ashok Selvan in Nitham Oru Vaanam

Remember the classic idli upma scene from Suriya Vamsam, where Devayani's Nandhini comes up with a delicious recipe with leftovers? Well, the new Ashok Selvan-starrer Nitham Oru Vaanam is perhaps the equivalent of that upma in cinema. I say this not to undermine the writing of NOV, but to underline the fact that this entire film is a beautiful retelling of many memorable tropes and scenes in Tamil cinema.

Though this makes the film tread on the dangerous line of being a series of cliches or one big rip-off, interesting writing choices and sincere performances make Nitham Oru Vaanam a tasteful dish, albeit made from the usual ingredients.

While watching NOV, it is hard not to think of a Thalapathy or a Sillunu Oru Kadhal, when you see a villain-chasing rugged hero mistakenly hit the soft-spoken heroine; a Yeh Jawani Hey Diwani when the nerdy protagonist gets a new perspective on life after a trip to the Himalayas; and a Raman Thediya Seethai when the protagonist ends up being the groom of a runaway bride a few minutes into the film.

These striking resemblances could have very well been the primary antagonist of Nitham Oru Vaanam, aside from the challenges thrown in the story by fate, but debutant Ra Karthik tackles the problem effectively with an interesting screenplay technique. As we begin to develop a sense of belonging, Karthik goes on to amplify our curiosity by pausing the parallel storylines exactly at cliffhangers.

Karthik quite admirably keeps playing to his strengths leaving hardly any space for distractions. He sets the mood right for this feel-good film in every way possible. Starting from the characters, the visuals, and the music, every element in the film is specifically designed to uplift the audience. Maintaining this single tone throughout the film is quite a task, especially since the plot is a compilation of several love stories with distinct flavours and it unveils not in one location but across India.

The outstanding cinematography of Vidhu Ayyanna plays a vital part in pulling off this feat. Be it the frosty peaks of the Himalayas, or the rustic barrens of Madurai, Vidhu's camera adds a sense of warmth to the tale throughout. Though a few might find Dharan Kumar's background score to be animated at times, it contributes a lot to keeping the scenes lively.

The weakest portion of the NOV is perhaps the Anbe Sivam-esque journey of Arjun (Ashok Selvan) and Subatra (Ritu Varma). While we get an ample amount of background about the mysophobic loner Arjun, there is hardly any explanation as to why Subatra is such an extension of Jab We Met's Geet. Often times, Oftentimes, an over-enthusiastic persona is a cover-up for a major twist in the end. But I couldn't have been more wrong. Also, it is the series of decisions made by this rather plastic character that makes the journey of Arjun an unreasonably long one. Abhirami plays Doctor Krishnaveni, and she is a psychologist at one moment, a gynaecologist in the other, and a general physician in many other parts of the story, and in the end, serves as another major logical roadblock that pulls down the film.

NOV is in every sense an Ashok Selvan star vehicle and he shines throughout as a hero and a performer. He plays Arjun, Veera, Prabha, and another surprise character with equal investment. I quite loved the variations he brings to each character, despite some of them have common traits. For instance, Veera and the surprise role have courage as the common emotion, similarly, Arjun and Prabha are innately innocent, but he ensures that none of the characters is carbon copies.

I guess playing araathu roles would have become second nature to Aparna Balamurali now as her Madhie feels more like a happy-go-lucky version of Soorarai Pottru's Bommi. This character could have come across as an annoying one in the hands of a lesser actor, but she makes sure that the mischief meter never crosses the bar. Shivatmika Rajasekhar is a revelation as the kind yet strong-willed Meenakshi. Her eyes speak volumes and it is an absolute delight to see her chemistry with Ashok's Veera.

Despite being made on a massive canvas, NOV is a simple film that conveys a simple message. It encourages us to smile whenever possible, show some kindness to people around us and embrace life as it comes. Several times in the film, I found myself smiling at the screen subconsciously. I guess this is a good enough reason to believe simple, feel-good films always matter.

Cast: Ashok Selvan, Shivathmika Rajasekhar, Aparna Balamurali, Ritu Varma

Director: Ra Karthik

(This story was originally published in Cinema Express)

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