If you were in high school the late 80s/early 90s, almost everyone had a crush. Some were lucky enough to see an affection reciprocated. Tamil cinema has its fair share of movies (starting with “Panneer Pushpangal”, which was turned into a formula). You invoke adolescent romance, create a familiar sense of close friends/school buildings/favourite teachers, add Illayaraja to the mix, throw in some violins/flutes/pianos to drown us in our own tears. You had to engage. When you are exposed to our most vulnerable spaces, how can you not like the film!
The love for ’96 comes from beyond all basic conceits of nostalgic-schoolkid-romance tropes. Clearly a writer’s show, it takes its time to unfold. It feels stuck in a rut while it sets up the stage for us. Even when it touches familiar landscape, ’96 creates precarious situations that throw up choices. The movie then reaches for decisions that make us fall for the purity and sincerity it reaches for. The love story budding on-screen is only a narration of events. The one happening inside us is a story that you never knew could be carved out in your mind, yet one we could have very possibly had when we were young.
Have to confess that this is the first time I’ve not hated Trisha as an actress. If Vijay Sethupathi keeps floating films/directors like this, I’m not sure how the future bodes for other actors in Tamil.
’96 is the kind of film that you can tease your kid with; that this how we adjusted to falling in love and having a heart to deal with losing it.