There is a moment in "Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya" when the heroine Jessie (Trisha) looks at the admiring hero Karthik (Simbu) and says, "I was thinking about you and wanted to see you. And, here you are!" It is part of a magical scene set in the middle of the night that's wonderfully written, well acted (especially by Simbu) and superbly photographed. If this scene works for you, then I can guarantee that this movie itself will work for you. This is a romance in its purest form. Just like "Raja Paarvai" and "Idhayathai Thirudaathey" this is a movie that recognizes that a love story will work as long as the Director feels comfortable leaving the audience in the company of just the lead pair as the romance unfolds on screen.
The movie's first half involves scenes of Karthik (an assistant director who hardly seems interested in his work!) falling head over heels in love with Jessie and expressing it to her in no uncertain terms! While Karthik's love for Jessie is pure, genuine and completely uninhibited, Jessie is a complicated person who is indecision personified. She is someone who will invite the guy to a movie-and-dinner date and yet tell him repeatedly that she wished he wouldn't woo her so persistently! Gowtham does a fantastic job as a writer, sharply etching the two diverse characters, sneakily setting the stage for the drama of the second half. Something happens around the intermission point which I will not reveal but the scene that I mentioned at the beginning of the review contains lines that not only highlight the love that Jessie and Karthik share but also her dilemma.
Usually movies where parents (in this case, Jessie's) object to a romance handle this part in dramatic fashion making them unreasonable villains whom we detest. But the only objective of the heroine would be to succeed in her love. But as I mentioned earlier, Jessie, as written by Gowtham, is a complex individual whose struggles between practicality and dreaminess mean that the romance will not always take the front seat. Gowtham narrates the story through Karthik's point of view which means that we understand all of his feelings and completely empathize with him as tries to comprehend Jessie. So, by the end of the movie, we completely understand the two characters, their behaviors and more importantly, their motivations.
But I had some minor quibbles. Having established the two characters by the intermission point, Gowtham loses focus for a while in the second half. So, the scenes begin to feel repetitive, the songs unnecessary and the screenplay meandering. Simbu's scenes as an assistant director (KS Ravikumar appears in a cameo here) are also handled in a very perfunctory, unconvincing manner. But the movie gets back on track with a dramatic revelation that's handled in a very mature, understated manner. What happens in the final few scenes is unforgettable as Gowtham's screenplay and sparkling dialogues are given tremendous impetus by the actors.
Simbu comes up with an excellent performance that is his most mature portrayal till date. He plays the romantic scenes in the first half with a delightfully carefree approach. His comic timing in some scenes (like the way he asks, "Biriyani irukaa?" at Kentucky Fried Chicken!) is pitch perfect. And, the fine, subtle actor in him comes to the forefront in the climactic portions which work largely due to his performance. Trisha, while not as good as Simbu, handles her complex role well. Hers is clearly the more complicated of the two characters and while she doesn't add too much to what was on paper, she doesn't let Gowtham down either. Ganesh has a fun time (so do we!) having some choice comments for Simbu as the latter relentlessly pursues his girl.
Production values are top notch. AR Rehman comes with a memorable soundtrack, with "Hosanna" and "Omana Penney" being the most foot tapping numbers. And, the cinematographer Manoj gives us some unforgettable visuals, his camera being in love with the scenic settings, especially in the song sequences. Nalini Sriram's costumes are very elegant, be it Trisha's sarees or Simbu's outfits in the songs. But as with any good romance, they are all merely effective supporting acts for what is essentially a film about the lead pair. Gowtham realizes this and that's what lends the film not just style but also immense substance. On the whole, kudos to the "Vinaithaandi Varuvaaya" team for bringing Gowtham's vision on screen.