99 Review: Nostalgia rekindled in this faithful remake of 96
99 is the story of the pangs of a long lost love, made for both the young and the old.
The beauty of screenplay, storytelling, performance and direction all came together in the Tamil movie, 96. It is no wonder then that Preetham Gubbi has stayed true to the original in this largely faithful remake.
Cast: Ganesh, Bhavana, Shamikshaa, Hemanth, Ravi Shankar Gowda
Director: Preetham Gubbi
The original story by C Prem Kumar was a standout. The biggest challenge Preetham faced was not just replicating it but also casting the right actors. In this regard, he has not erred as Ganesh and Bhavana prove they were cut out for this romantic story.
The film revolves around Ramachandra Thirthahalli aka Ram (Ganesh), a freelance photographer. After a visit to his high school, his '99 batch plans a reunion. During the get together, he meets his school sweetheart, Janaki aka Jaanu (Bhavana). While both were in love during their school days, they never expressed their feelings to each other and ultimately, circumstances tore them apart.
The rest of the story goes back and forth, from school and college days to the present, showcasing their love and encounters, marriage to others, and their longing for each other. The magic of screenplay is crucial for such a subject, and Preetham Gubbi succeeds in captivating the audience in this conversational romantic drama.
He also recreates the freshness of the original with elan. A relatable story of long lost love, 99 is elevated by the music by Arjun Janya. All the songs -- Heege Doora, Navilugari, Aniurthide, Nee Gnyapaka -- are soulful and are neatly woven into the story. It sets the right mood, and is captured beautifully by cinematographer Santhosh Rai Pathaje.
Ganesh is the perfect lead and stands out with his expressions and emotions. The script demands the actor get the right feel of longing for his beloved, and Ganesh delivers exactly this. Sagacity, innocence, courage, hesitation, craving -- all of these are blended in the right proportion in his acting. Adding a physical transformation on top of these is proof of the actor’s exemplary dedication.
Bhavana, who shares an equal amount of screen space, matches Ganesh’s performance in every way. Her expressions of love and pain, and the way she portrays a married woman rekindling her lost love are all well crafted.
School days and happy memories are mostly brought through Samikshaa and Hemanth, who play Bhavana and Ganesh's younger versions. Watching them is akin to taking a nostalgic trip to our own good old days. The episodes with the relationship calculator (Flames), the ink mark, preserving memories with dried flower kept between pages -- all take you back in time. Ravi Shankar Gowda, P D Satish and Jyothi Rai, who are part of this relatively small cast, bind the knots between the lead characters.
99 is a beautiful story of the pangs of a long lost love, and it's one that's made for both the young and the old.