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"Engal Anna"

A HEALTHY laugh riot all the way, Andal Azhagar Cine Combines' "Engal Anna" is a very different kind of Vijayakanth fare that has come your way this Pongal. This Tamil version of the Malayalam film, "Chronic Bachelor" starring Mammootty, has Prabhu Deva, Pandiarajan and Vadivelu at their comic best, with a serious Vijayakanth adding a humorous touch now and then.

Siddique, who is in charge of the story, screenplay and direction, returns to the Tamil screen after a long gap. He had earlier proved his mettle with "Friends". Again "Engal Anna" shows class.

Prabhakar's (Vijayakanth) romantic interlude as an adolescent wreaks havoc on his family. He loses his parents and his wealth, and ironically Bhavani (Indraja), the girl for whom he lost everything becomes his sworn enemy. A distraught Prabhakar vows to remain a bachelor and help his stepsister Parvati (Swarnamalya) settle down well in life. But his stepbrother Rajapandi (Lal), Bhavani and her husband (Anandraj) don't leave him alone. Then there's Parvati's friend Gowri (Namita) who's in love with him. And you have the comic trio that has you in splits — cousins Kannan (Prabhudeva) and Cheenu (Pandiarajan) and Prabhakar's secretary Mayil (Vadivelu).

Looks like Vijayakanth has lost some weight. And the role of a sworn bachelor suits him well. His exasperation every time the three fellows drive him crazy is enjoyable. The slapstick bouts of Prabhudeva, Pandiarajan and Vadivelu are must-see sequences of "Engal Anna." And the couple of times the popular TV face, M. S. Baskar (as the drunkard) joins the fray, it is replete with rib-tickling fun. Prabhudeva, once again, reveals his commendable sense of timing in comedy. But it would be better if he avoids dance movements that are too repetitive. Vadivelu and Pandiarajan shine in their roles and the laughter they evoke is something you can think about and enjoy.

Gokulkrishna's dialogue enhances the appeal of these segments. For Vadivelu, after "Friends" and "Winner", "Engal Anna" is where he scores. New heroine Namitha's role offers her scope to go beyond the glamour. Swarnamalya ought to have entered cinema in earnest after she did "Alaipayudhey". The re-entry seems to have come a little late. So the vivacity of a teenager is missing in Swarnamalya's much thinned down appearance. But performance wise she gets a clean chit. She also deserves to be noticed for the fact that she has dubbed for the film — a rare feat as far as today's aspiring-to-be-heroines are concerned. Indraja looks unduly fierce.

Deva's numbers are melodious, though they give the listener a `heard-before' feel. "Mudhan Mudhalaaga ... " is one such.

Towards the end the stepbrother tangle is a slightly protracted piece. Yet most of the time, "Engal Anna" keeps you laughing.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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