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Neene Neene - 2008

My association with Kannada cinema has been rather limited. I grew up watching the plan of Dinesh Babu’s film Suprabhatha take shape before me since the producer of the film was a close friend of our family. It was a simple story revolving around a single location, a gas filling station with just two main actors Vishnuvardhan and Suhasini Mani Rathnam. While it took shape, I happened to interact with everyone from the actors to the singers who came home, although one person, the drummer Shivamani had left an unforgettable impression on my mind. Then again, I was too young at that time to know what was happening other than being part of the buzz and seeing how all of them contributed to the end product was adjudged a grand landmark in cinema as I recall at that point. Then came Girish Kasarvalli’s, Haseena. My family was invited for a private screening of the movie but just as the movie was about to begin we had to draw ourselves away from the theatre because the new maid we had employed had run away from home. Cut to 2008, I was at Gandhi Nagar visiting a friend I hadn’t met in ages and noticed all the Kannada posters around. The quality of visual representation I noted had improved tremendously. While some of the posters were passable, some others were worthy of a second glance, but there was one in particular that caught my eye. It was excellent and was the poster of Sammir Dattani aka Dhyaan, the romantic, chocolate hero of Kannada cinema. I pulled out my mobile and sent Sammir a text message telling him what a breath of fresh air it was to see his posters pasted with those of others, who in my own opinion looked fairly odd to me as stars; they were either too old, or too young. And if they had the looks they lacked the talent, and if they had the talent, they lacked the looks, not Dhyaan, he was a near flawless combination of both looks and talent. When my message status showed that it been delivered, I received a call from him. He said he was boarding the aircraft to Bangalore from Bombay and that the premier of the films poster I was looking at was happening at INOX the same evening at six and that he’d see me there. I griped that I hardly knew Kannada merely to escape being there more so because I was reclusive in a crowd I did not know. But Sammir, in his trademark sweetness, always had a way to get people to do what he wanted without ever pushing it and I had become his current victim.

I landed at INOX and spotted Sammir surrounded by the a large crowd while the others around were quite enjoying the photo sessions and hob-nobbing with the rest of the crew. I stood chatting with my friend Prathibha for a while when Sammir asked me whether I even knew the name of his film. I smiled blankly. “Neene Neene,” he said with a grin, “not a difficult name to remember." He paused and smiled, "Even my friends at Bombay have got it right this time.”

Past a few mintes, Sammir informed us that the film was about to begin.

In a word the film is – romantic. It started off on a fine note with Abhishek (Dhyaan) winning the award for the best employee. He then calls his mother to give her the good news, a la Shahrukh Khan style. It then shifts onto him meeting his friend at a café. They are both having a blast discussing life and failures with women when Nandini (Aishwarya Nag) calls him and starts yelling at him for having called her aimlessly to flirt. This leads them to exchanging a few more calls and with a few more text messages betwixt them, the strangers meet and they become friends. And in no time their friendship spins into love and he proposes to her. All this happens rather quickly and what follows is something that one has to watch to know. What I was quite amazed, however, was at the swift pace up until then. The characters moved smoothly, especially of Nandini. Her role has been etched out with positive notes for the most part of the film barring the second half where she is portrayed playing the martyr. Ananth Nag as Nandini’s father has done a small, but strong role. His character could have been given a better length. Beyond all this what I appreciated is the subtlety of certain situations, in particular when Ananth Nag goes to wish Nandini a happy birthday and figures that someone has for the first time in so many years called her before him. He then observes her wearing the bracelet given by Abhishek at breakfast and tests the waters by saying that he would get her married to someone smart from London in 2 months and when he notices her expressions changing, takes her for a chat and settles the matter without any theatrics telling her that since she has made up her mind he’ll get her married and she must stay with her husband post marriage and not come back to him for help irrespective of the circumstances. She agrees and thus begins her delightful matrimonial journey that ends speedily due to the financial snarls that Ahbhisek entangles himself into to give his wife the comfort of her father’s home.

On the whole the film is a decent blend of incidents that do not appear contrived and one can identify with them almost instantly. The narration tends to drop at places and the needless scenes could have been done without such as the friend in the second half showing up from no where, beating up the goons, vanishing and reappearing only in the end. Although the lovers unite in the end, the other flip side of the second half is this – all along we have been seeing Abhishek as an energetic character. And then abruptly, he turns into a shade of grey, letting go of his frustrations on his wife. This I thought was way out of line. The director here could have done with making the issue the villain and not the protagonist Abhishek.

The film is a good attempt by first time director Shivadwaj. Sri Muruli’s tunes complement the lyrics, but the songs are nothing much to talk about. Dinesh Babu’s camera work is skilful. Sharan, as the friend is bright not only in his comedy but also for the rock that he is for his friend Abhishek. Dhyaan is marvellous. He has the aplomb and sensitivity to play just about any role and plays this one like a dream. Besides his smile, which is a sure winner, his eyes convey a lot too and I hope directors in the future also tap into this powerful aspect of his. Aishwarya Nag is just about acceptable. She looks convincing in certain scenes but has a long way to go to be called an actress. She looked more like Dhyaan’s older sister than his love interest. Someone delicate would have befitted him better.

In the end I was cracking up with laughter when I saw Abhishek ready to commit suicide with a bag clung loosely on his shoulder. I just couldn't help myself from wondering what that was all about so I sent Sammir a text message in the theatre that said - “Why does one have to attempt suicide by carrying a bag, bro.” And the prompt response I obtained was – “Haha, it’s just a movie, bro.”

So for all you movie buffs there, go watch the total family entertainer Neene Neene. Despite the glitches, you’ll not step out of the auditorium disappointed.