'Ambikapathy' - when love overgrows age

Film: "Ambikapathy"; Cast: Dhanush, Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub and Swara Bhaskar; Director: Anand L. Rai; Rating: ***1/2

What's a love story without some fun, heartaches and reality checks? Most love stories of our times pass through these three phases, and by then, either the girl or the boy realises they're not meant to be together, and move on with their lives.

However, in some rare cases, we see a love story enter the fourth phase - when you realise that love doesn't age, but people do in a relationship.

Anand L. Rai's "Ambikapathy", the Tamil dubbed version of "Raanjhanaa", is a simple love story of a small-town boy and a girl, who in the process of figuring out the thin line between love and friendship, uncover stronger feelings for each other.

We've had oodles of love stories focusing on the communal divide between the lovers, but "Ambikapathy" is largely about the divide in the ideologies of the youth of modern India. It's the story of small town values versus urban philosophies.

What happens when a girl with city-intellect is pitted against the conventional yet archaic values of a small-town boy in the name of love? This is what precisely Rai depicts in this breezy entertainer packed with pain, laughs and little melodrama.

"Ambikapathy" scores an ace in two departments - casting and music. There would have been a third one if the second half was shorter and less melancholic. Spearheaded by Dhanush, who was irreplaceable in his role, and a brilliant supporting cast of Swara and Ayub, the film helps Sonam unleash her acting prowess.

Rahman's music, needless to say, becomes an integral part of the film's composition and helps us connect with the soul of the film.

Just like his previous film "Tanu Weds Manu", Rai's second directorial venture celebrates life in the alleys of Benaras, on the banks of the Ganga, giving us a slice-of-life of small town adventures. Some of the best moments come from the scenes between Dhanush, Ayub and Swara.

The camaraderie between them may pop up question in many as to how could two guys use a girl for their whims and fancies, but if you look at it from a small-town's point of view, it's one of the best friendship moments ever captured on screen.

You could easily write-off Rai's protagonist, who like a love-struck puppy, stalks Sonam Kapoor, but it doesn't rule out the probability that most small-town love stories are akin to what was portrayed to us. If you haven't known a friend who cut his wrist or ever attempted suicide over love, then it's unlikely that you will understand what lies beneath the layers of the emotion.

For people who attach only a love story tag to "Ambikapathy", there is so much you didn't understand in the film or could've gotten bored with because of the disengaging second half.

Love is merely used as a tool to help us understand the complexity of modern-day relationships (including father-daughter or father-son) and politics.

There are two heroes in the film - Dhanush and A.R. Rahman, and both wear the south Indian label like a medal of honour and never allow it come in between their work. With his flawless performance as a Benarasi Brahmin boy, Dhanush kicks all the south Indian cliches out of the window, while Rahman helps us connect with the film more on an emotional level.

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