The Un Samayal Arayil Review
Un Samayal Arayil flirts with food. Quite delectably so. It opens with shots of some fresh, crispy vadais being strained off the stove; patterns of jalebis dunked in hot oil, dosais being flipped over, succulent joints of meat being roasted; and a decadent cake that comes with a tale. There’s also a tasteful vignette of a vendakka poriyal being slow-cooked; with lovely golden, caramelized onions and many dreamy moments of flour being sieved, parottas tossed in the air and steaming idlis being served. And that’s what we love about the movie. It doesn’t just romanticize food, it romanticizes cooking.
And in the process, makes you hungry.
Un Samayal Arayil is also quite evocative of a lovely number from another time. There’s no Mammooty or Banupriya; and neither is it the Madras of the old (we have a sneaking suspicion that it’s Bangalore, what with the black-and-yellow autos), but there are those tell-tale whispers of Sangeetha Swarangal. Two people, wedged on either side of the screen, lost in a telephonic conversation. Of course, it’s a different premise, and perhaps a different tale altogether. There’s nothing otherwise similar, except for those many moments on the phone. And it’s probably, for all practical purposes, an obscure reference, but it’s there alright; this dash of Azhagan.
But Kalidasan (a charming Prakash Raj) the archaeologist is anything but that. He’s stocky (well-built, if you please), with slight flecks of grey, and a hint of a paunch. He works for the government, sits behind a wooden desk and rings an attendant in. He also lives in a beautiful house, dotted with antiques, has a trusted aide who is bent on getting him married; and brings home a cook (Thambi Ramaiah again, in an endearing role – quite reminiscent of the one in Nedunchalai) when he meets the family of a potential bride. Kalidasan is quirky like that, and loveably so. He also reads a lot, has charming taste in books (fist-bump); and is quite lusty for food.
Gowri (Sneha; weepy and a tad too exuberant), on the other hand, is from a different world. She’s quite touchy about being single, can’t tell Indira Gandhi from Sonia Gandhi for a dubbing artiste and frets about her age. But she has a love for food, alright – and a craving for dosais that leads her to Kalidasan.
Un Samayal Arayil, for all its flaws, has a good premise. There are some hastily-constructed sequences, yes – and the second half is nothing short of melodramatic (Kalidasan, in anger, flings a plate of rice and some lovingly-made nandu kuzhambu on the floor; and Gowri dissolves into tears at every possible instance). To cap it all, there are the couple’s younger counterparts (Tejus and Samyuktha Hornad) who valiantly struggle to convince us that they are in love. But, there are also those carefully-structured moments, which are quite funny – when Gowri, in a fit of emotion, starts weeping uncontrollably; Kalidasan is at a loss for words. He quickly throws down the phone; and stares at it as if it were the plague.
But perhaps the one scene that struck a chord with us was the final, closing moment. Kalidasan and Gowri meet; after a prolonged and much misunderstood tiff – and when they do (at a museum, not a coffee-shop), post a dramatic monologue courtesy him, he doesn’t meet her eyes. He is shy, shuffles his feet awkwardly; and for someone who’s been quite intimate over the phone, doesn’t want to look at her if he can help it.
And that’s where Prakash Raj wins; as the inimitable Kalidasan.