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University

HE GETS to know who she is but she is not aware that he is her lover. From the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan entertainer, "You've Got Mail", to our very own "Kadhal Kottai", the mysterious approach to love has always worked. Mayapuri Screens' maiden venture, "University", has safely chosen the same line — the instrument of romance here being the telephone. Nevertheless the treatment is interesting and the presentation convincing.

As is the trend, the film boasts of no known faces, except probably Raghuvaran and Vivek. Gazala, the heroine, was seen in "Ezhumalai" earlier, where she didn't make much of an impact. A meaty role has come her way in "University" and the petite actress has done ample justice to the job offered. In fact the film would have proved a perfect launch pad for her.

As Gandhi, the sequestered hero, Jeevan shows promise. But if he stands apart straightway, it is because of his flowing tresses — the hairstyle he sports is, as Vivek comments, "a mix of A.R. Rahman and composer Adityan". It does look odd all right, but somehow jells with the role of an introverted, soft-spoken young man suffering from a severe inferiority complex. And at the point his self-effacing statements begin to become a whine, thankfully he turns gutsy.

Gandhi is a man of few words. He hardly opens up with anyone in college or anywhere else. His only conversations are with unknown people whose telephone numbers he picks up at random from the directory. One such chance call helps him avert a tragedy — he gives Shanmathi (Gazala) a tinkle just at the time she plans to end her life, and makes her change her mind. Once she realises her folly she yearns to express her gratitude to him. He keeps her pining thinking that she would surely hate him once she sets eyes on him. The game of hide and seek continues till it can go on no longer.

Vivek, the mainstay of "University", has you in splits throughout — and if the comedian's gimmicks, which are a spoof for the most part, enhance the spirit of the film, Prasannakumar's dialogue also contributes in equal measure. The dialogue for the rest of the film is written by Pragadish, who also makes his debut as story and screenplay writer and director in "University". Raghuvaran appears in a very brief role (as a psychology professor) and yet makes his presence felt.

All the songs make an impression — among them the "Kadhalai Valarthai ... " scintillatingly sung by Chitra (why such a voice is being relegated is a puzzle) and Ramesh Vinayakam stands out. Melody or fast-paced numbers (the falsetto touches in "Dhool Dhool ... " are only an example) Ramesh Vinayakam proves that he is a composer with potential.

Re-recording is also a strongpoint. And the way the songs have been conceived lifts the scenes to appreciable levels. Ra. Krishna's camera pans the countryside and the sets with an aesthetic eye. V. T. Vijayan's crisp editing is another laudable factor in "University". Sridhar and Johnny whom we have watched as dancers in innumerable films, apart from their catchy footwork, blossom as actors too.

The imperfect lip-sync at many points, and minor faux pas such as the one about caller-id telephones, could have been avoided. And the introduction of the scheming scallywag, who dupes Shanmathi almost into marriage, hampers the pace of the film.

Yet this "University", which is a decent, dignified portrayal of love, has an indisputable freshness about it.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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