Cast: Vijay, Srikanth, Jiiva, Satyaraj, Illeyana, Music: Harris Jeyaraj, Direction: Shankar

Nanban is a faithful,fame-by-frame remake of 3 Idiots. And that is its strength; because how else doyou improve something that has already reached perfection? Shankar, skilful andabundantly talented, has also exhibited ample humility, a rare commodity inIndian film industry. In his vision for Nanban, Shankar has apparently had a simplerequirement: appropriate casting. With just one exception – you know who – the film’scast works perfectly. There’s much needed bonding between the three male leads.From the millimetre boy to the college principle you could not think of anyother artist more suitable to play the roles already made immensely memorableby the 3 Idiots cast. Kudos to Shankar for having had the clarity to stick to the requirement.It is produced with such a clockwork precision that the duration is almost the same as theoriginal. 3 Idiots – 170 mins, Nanban – 168 mins. How did Shankar manage thiswith one extra song plugged in is a wonder!

Talking aboutthe clarity and humility, another example comes to mind. Vasoolraja MBBS, aremake of Munnabhai MBBS was a botched up, over-confident remake that, with ajuvenile flourish, vandalised the Mona Lisa by drawing a moustache and a beard.Kamal Hasan’s haughty presence and indulgent sermons completely ruined theexperience perfected by Sanjay Dutt’s simple, rustic and innocent charm. SanjayDutt is no Kamal Hasan, but Kamal fell miles short of the expectation because,obviously, he thought he could do much better job than Sanjay.

Vijay is no AmirKhan. Thankfully he knows it and he also knows his stock of limited emotions. Thereforehe makes good use of them in attempting to portray this bubbly, goofy and quirkystudent. Understandably, Shankar’s presence too must have helped in toning andpolishing the performance. But the very fact that we’re not able to imagine anotherTamil actor for this role is, it must be admitted albeit grudgingly, a victoryfor Vijay.

Back to thedirector: Shankar can’t live without his five set piece songs. To include them inthe films, he doesn’t offer the standard excuse that other directors give: thatthe audience like the songs and dances. Shankar includes them because he himself lovesthem: he enjoys planning, shooting and producing these songs. He must have felta bit disappointed because the remake of 3 Idiots did not provide him theoption for his set piece songs. So what does he do? He turns Zoobi Dhoobi song onits head to ‘Shankarise’ it and capture all his five songs in one. To make itclear to the viewer of his intentions, he captures each stanza from theshooting spot with the clap-board introducing the type of each song! That is theextent of originality the script allows and he makes the best use of it.Ingenious!