Stories of long lasting friendships and bonds between friends are something that will always tug at our heart strings. That’s what director Selva has banked on while preparing his latest film, Naanga. It’s all about friendship, love and some values that seem to have dissolved away in today’s world.
Set in 1985, Naanga shows the bond shared by a group of friends, a couple of romances and an unfinished life that brings them all back together, even though only briefly. Each friend has a small story or a memory of his or her own and we are taken through each of their tales, one by one. It is a collage of memories and flashbacks as we are taken back to 1985 to witness what their friendship and love was like.
To begin with, the central idea of Naanga looks very appealing. Nostalgic memories of a band of friends are something everyone can connect with directly. Also, very clearly showcasing the kind of values of that generation is something that director Selva has done very well. The factors that influenced the decisions of the youngsters, the small symbols that they carried around as lifelong memories; all these small things are depicted very well. You do feel good during these portions.
However, the problem with Naanga is that the good feeling and nostalgia stops with these small elements. The main course leaves a lot to be desired. Going back in time to narrate the story of each friend is a good idea; but the screenplay should be such that the entire affair does not look episodic. Unfortunately the film falls into that trap. Each flashback looks independent of the other, even though it is the same band of friends that appears in all of them. It is neither a sequence of events nor stories that are connected to each other in more than a superficial way. This disjointedness hits Naanga very hard.
Among the flashbacks, only two really interest you in terms of telling a story themselves. Otherwise, it looks more like reading loose pages from someone’s diary – each page holding something new, but ultimately failing to give you a complete picture. With the film being set in 1985, the film making style also seems set in that time warp; there is more than a generous helping of drama, which does not feel contemporary. Very well executed full length dramas may succeed even today, but in Naanga the drama seems to be going nowhere in particular, which is why you feel a bit let down. The bonhomie and bonding between the friends is not fully exploited to bring cheer on screen. A good job on this front could have taken the movie at least a notch above.
The cast of Naanga is full of new faces. We have Sanjay Krishna, Uday, Nivas, Munees, Sakir and Ashwin playing the lead roles; all of them are sons of prominent technicians in the film industry. Four new faces play the heroines. The only really familiar faces in Naanga are that of Kasthuri and Raj Kapoor. The young brigade has done a fair job. A period setting in their very first film is something challenging but they have put up a performance that cannot be faulted too much. Kasthuri, seen on screen after her item number in Thamizh Padam, gets to do a complex role, which also has a dose of glamour. Raj Kapoor has a small role but delivers a couple of important lines which underline the character of the film.
Technically, we can see that the film has been made on very limited means. Attempting a period subject on a limited budget is a risk, but Selva has bravely gone for it. The costumes and hair styles look genuine period, but the art work has been a bit compromised. But, there are no glaring errors in period reconstruction. Music is just about passable.
Naanga might be a nostalgic trip for some mainly because it shows the nature of relationships of the mid 80s; the era when telephones were a luxury. About how romance was perceived in that era, about the values that youngsters considered golden back then and about the small things that they treasured; things that might look nonsensical in the ‘Facebook’ era.
For those who love to go back to those days and for those who still love full length dramas, Naanga might work. But, unfortunately, as a movie, Naanga works only for such small things. Otherwise, looking at the big picture, it is an episodic and disjointed affair which never really takes off. A bit more cohesion between the different tales and a central thread running through all of them would have made Naanga worth a watch. For now, it is only an album of memories.
Verdict: Episodic nature of script spoils the mood