National Highway 4 in India is an important highway that passes through Karnataka, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and connects main cities. For his debut directorial venture, director Manimaran has chosen this highway as the title and unfolds his tale on the road which plays a crucial role in the film.
The story of NH4 is nothing unusual as it has the normal ingredients of Tamil cinema viz, love, friendship and the exaltation of the trials and tribulations that lead to fructification of the sensation called love. However what makes this debut work of Manimaran stand out is its presentation and the taut screenplay. Credit also be given to this first timer as he has also kept the audience in his grasp to a large extent.
NH 4 is about a young couple in love who are on a running mission to their destination that is seemingly bereft of troubles and how a highway plays a pivotal role in this journey of theirs. It is a road film that juxtaposes many emotions, the prime one being love.
The story and dialogues owe their credit to Vetri Maaran who has also co-written the screen play with Manimaran. When there is well tuned screenplay and effective narration, rest falls into place quite naturally. And when there is adequate backing from the artists and technical team, the drive proves to be bump-free.
There are quite a number of intelligently crafted scenes and dialogues in NH4. Kay Kay Menon while talking to his wife from the railway station, ends the conversation with a mechanical ‘I love you’ which is the perfect antithesis of the emotion that the words pledge. Here he is on an important mission chasing the lovers but at the same time, has a familial responsibility of being at his son’s birthday. The scene is a fine example of practicality and realism.
Manimaran also crafts some genuinely heart-warming moments like the scene towards the climax when the alarm rings at 12 midnight that ushers in Ashrita Shetty’s 18th birthday. For all those chronic romantics, the climax turns out to be an endearing one that is played out in a very poetic manner against the backdrop of practicalities of life from Kay Kay Menon, which seems to say love is the only feeling that matters.
The statutory warning against nicotine, alcohol and drugs flashing boldly across the song Vaa Iravugal is an interesting idea and it sure does appeal. On the other hand, the gana song does not justify its presence and impedes the flow. As the characters belong to states other than Tamil Nadu, their accented speech sounds quite natural and fits in. Minister Avinash spurting out in Kannada and Kay Kay Menon in Malayalam are fine examples.
It is an author backed role for the smart Kay Kay Menon who has more of screen time than others and it’s a sterling performance from this talented artist. The arrogance and the intelligence of a police officer appear to coarse through his veins. The ruthlessness of a cop is well brought out in the interrogation scenes. Although his wife does not make a visual appearance, voice of Deepa Venkat plays through the entire film and is almost a significant character.
Siddharth essays the character of Prabhu with ease. Ashrita Shetty’s face fits the role of an innocent college going girl who has delivered what is needed for her character. Levity comes out through Siddharth’s friends and it happens in the most unexpected moments.
Technical team has done their work well enough to lift the film up. G V Prakash’s RR revs up the moods where needed and his much popular ‘Yaaro Ivan’ has also been picturized well. NH 4 exemplifies the editing prowess of T E Kishore. Velraj’s cinematography lends itself the necessary feel and is surely a value addition to NH4.
To sum it all, Udhayam NH 4 comes across as a well packaged product that has many things going in its favor and is sure to have patrons from the youth along with other sections of the audience too.
Verdict: Travel in NH 4, worth it!