The weirdest thing about watching a film from 2002 in 2012 is precisely that - when you're so used to thinking of early 2000s films as "current", "recent", even "modern", and then there's a very sudden realisation that no, actually a lot of these movies are getting rather old. Of course, old doesn't necessarily mean dated. In some instances, however, it does, at least in some aspects.
Run (2002) is a Tamil action romantic comedy about a guy (R. Madhavan at his absolute most adorable) who meets a girl (Meera Jasmine - ditto!), pursues her, and then gets into trouble for loving her. At the heart of this conflict is the girl's brother (Atul Kulkarni, who is awesome), who is a bit of a rowdy, and there is a cute b-plot where the boy doesn't like his brother-in-law. It was re-made in Hindi two years later starring Bhumika Chawla (remember her?) and Abhishek Bachchan.
Run is far from being a really good film, or even a good film. It's saved by the cuteness of its leads, and the strength of the Vidyasagar soundtrack, but that's about it - the story is unremarkable, the action is not the most engaging (whoever thought that Madhavan would make a convincing badass?) and overall it just has the feel of a very run-of-the-mill early 00's Tamil actioner.
Oh, and there's Vivek, playing Madhavan's friend in his own comedy b-plot, who is unsuccessful in locating his friend in the massive city of Chennai, but is very successful in getting himself into a world of trouble by behaving irresponsibly and carelessly.
The Vivek comedy in this was not incredibly but reminded me of why the guy is a favourite: his character is a terrible, selfish person, but his comeuppance for his bad behaviour is both hilarious and socially critical, as it points out the multiple ways in which people rip off, abuse and exploit other people. You feel bad for him, in some ways, but on the other hand, his misfortunes are caused by his own behaviour - if he just behaved like a decent human being, he might not land in so much trouble.
One aspect of the film is the relentless pursue of Meera Jasmine's character by Madhavan's character. Sadly this feature of the love story is not as dated as it should be - her no's (brought on by her knowledge of her brother's behaviour) go unheard by him, and eventually he is vindicated when she confesses she likes him, but would still rather they not see each other, because of her brother's anger.
I do like some Indian films where stalking sadly gets vindication like here, but in Run, the love story is just kind of bland, and so it irked me that they included this. Of course, the story does also have the couple continuously running into each other, unintended, suggesting fate has its hand in their love, but the stalking does still feature.
So why did I still enjoy this film, despite its unremarkableness and some unlikable aspects of the story? It had its charm, particularly in the interactions between the leads, and the songs. The film goes out to have songs and picturizations that feel very much "of its time". We get not just on but two Swiss picturizations, which are so beautifully shot you suddenly remember why these song picturizations in a foreign country became a thing. Despite questionable fashion (those fake leather trousers, please never return to us!) the songs are just a delight - beautiful locations, fun dancing, very catchy, poppy tunes.
For a good example, check out this song - and for a challenge, try not to hum the "duhh dooh duhh" tune afterwards.
What else? Well, Madhavan is really cute in this.
Of course, not to be outdone by Meera Jasmine.
Precious! It's interesting that the only other film with these two that I've seen was Ayitha Ezhuthu (ie Tamil Yuva with the Best Cast Ever: Surya, Siddharth, Madhavan), where they play the characters Rani and Abhishek played in the Hindi version. If you know either film, you'll know those parts are a far cry from romantic fluff.
Other things I enjoyed...
Raghuvaran as Madhavan's brother-in-law. There is awkwardness between them, because the marriage took the sister Madhavan's character loved so much away from him. However, the two find common ground as the film goes along, and the subdued character Raghuvaran plays is just fantastic.
And Atul Kulkarni, who I'd gladly see more of, stole the scene whenever possible as the resident baddie. There's a certain subtle, razor-sharp edge to his acting that makes for really good villains, even if the writing doesn't give his character the complete badness that would make it a truly legendary villain.
And so there you go - a middle-of-the-road film that feels very much of its time, in both good and bad.
GRATEFUL NOTE: The DVD I have of this comes from Nina, who years and years ago sent me a bunch of DVD's she no longer had the need for. It's taking me a small forever to get through the films - I think I've still got at least three films to sit through, but I still appreciate her sending me movies, and will hold onto this DVD for whenever I feel like watching some young Madhavan in catchy songs. Thanks, Nina! (Assuming you're still following this blog!)