The first half of Pyaar Prema Kaadhal was what I thought it would be. We have Sree (Harish Kalyan) ‘boy-next-door’ hero, whom we all only know too well. He is content with staring at a woman who works in the next building, says he loves her and wants to be with her. But he struggles to strike a basic conversation or even muster up the courage to say hi. On the other hand, we have Sindhuja (Raiza Wilson), the urbane woman who cusses without abandon, drinks, and has casual sex.
The first half of the film travels a path that we knew too well, but the treatment makes all the difference. We are shown a story but also made witnesses to two different sides of it. There are some great explaining stretches where we get to know what kind of a family Sree hails from. I couldn’t stop smiling when the father walks out of the kitchen and says ‘Hey Sree, look I made a dosa that is paper thin’. It is an adorable moment that is right out of our kitchen. He sees his father clean his mother’s tailoring machine and listens to stories about how their parents met on their wedding, lying on his mother’s lap. On the other hand, Sindhuja is independent. She makes her own breakfast, drinks alcohol and plays tennis with her dad. Sree is ‘close’ to his parents — they share the dinner table and go through motions of the mundane life together — but he isn’t able to tell his parents about the girl he loves. On the other hand, Sindhuja shares a relationship that, on the paper can be called ‘aloof’ with her dad. But she is able to tell her dad about her love life, literally. The contrast is real, and alive.
More than the clash of sensibilities, Elan’s treatment of it is sensible. That makes Pyaar Prema Kaadhal different. Every character gets an arc. After the casual sex, Sindhuja suggests they remain friends — Sree is flabbergasted. How can someone be friends after sex? Sindhuja explains that it just happened at the heat of the moment. I was surprised when Sree agrees to being friends. Sindhuja, on the other hand, truly falls for him. Before she could actually spell it out, he makes the usual drunk ‘what kind of a cheap woman are you?’ speech. Sindhuja’s reaction made me sit up and that is where the movie truly begins to surprise you. Sindhuja asks the question that I have longed for every Kollywood heroine to ask for ages: ‘If I am really the ‘cheap’ woman, then what were you in ‘love’ with?’ She walks away, leaving Sree to think about what he said. And Sree realises what went wrong and woos her back and thus begins a sensible relationship that Kollywood deserves.
I loved the fact that Elan doesn’t make a villain out of anybody — not Sindhuja or Sree. It is not just Sree who gets a character arc, so does Sindhuja. When she falters, she doesn’t stand on a pedestal and she makes up for it. She isn’t the pampered, materialistic brat that modern women are shown to be. In a lovely moment, Sree gifts her a ring. While I was expecting an ecstatic reaction that jewellery ads are infamous for, Sindhuja gives a small smile, pushes away the ring and hugs Sree close. He mattered more than the ring. Even the supportive characters get an arc. Both Harish Kalayan and Raiza come up with performances that they can be proud of. Raiza makes a confident debut as the sensible Sindhuja and Harish sells the innocence and maturity equally well. And it is a fitting Yuvan musical. Despite the numerous cuts to songs, I didn’t mind, thanks to a lovely soundtrack.
Pyaar Prema Kaadhal isn’t perfect. The film felt too ‘wannabe’ at a few places. A public spat at an office party is fine, but apologising at a ‘team meeting’ seemed pushing it; so were the endearments. The extended climax felt like a reason to fit in a few more bed moments. But these are very minor grouses for a film that gets most of the things right. As someone who is a constant critic of how non-sensical our onscreen relationships are, it is my duty to acknowledge when things are right. Well, almost.