Sandalwood
The film will make you nostalgic if you haven't watched the original '96'.
Worth a watch

With great power comes great responsibility and with shouldering the remake of a superhit film comes the obligation to do it well. Not just that, the makers will have to make peace with comparisons and assessments as most people would have already watched the original on TV or online streaming platforms. Those who have already seen the original will watch the remake with only one intention – to see how similar or different the remake is; and to see if the remake is better that the original.

99, starring Ganesh and Bhavana and directed by Preetham Gubbi, is a remake of the Tamil superhit film 96 starring Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha. The trailer of the film which was officially released two weeks ago, has received over 2 million hits. The comments section is filled with comparisons, especially about the ‘heart-touching’ scene. In fact, the comparison had begun when the first look of the film itself was launched. Further, the morning show of the film was cancelled across the state due to a technical glitch. The film took off only by noon and thus had an already bumpy beginning.

Ram (Ganesh) is a photographer by profession who travels all around the country. A chance visit to his hometown sets him off on a path down memory lane - like the bus stand, the hospital where he was born, the only shopping centre in his town, and most importantly, the school where he met the love of his life, Janu (Bhavana).

Cut to the past - Ram (the younger version played by Hemanth) and Janu (Samikshaa plays Bhavana's younger version), Class X students, are deeply in love with each other and circumstances tear them apart. Back in the present, Ram and his friends plan a reunion and Ram meets Janu after 22 long years. Ram is still single and in love, but Janu is happily married. What happens in the next few hours changes the equation of their relationship.

Speaking of the making, 96 was a tricky film to pull off, akin to walking a tightrope. A slip here or there would have turned into a maudlin film. But kudos to the director, he managed to create poetry on celluloid. While the first half of 99 switches between the past and the present, the second half is all about conversations between Ram and Janu — how Ram tried to reach Janu initially after their school, what has happened in their lives during the past 22 years, and the feelings that they still have for each other and more.

Though the remake doesn't live up to the standards set by the original, there are several endearing moments in the film which make us nostalgic - like My Autograph. Throughout the film, you can't help but smile at the beautifully etched scenes. Ganesh is a terrific actor, but the more he tries to get into Vijay Sethupathi's shoes, the more he fails. This applies to Bhavana as well. They share a chemistry that crackles to life on screen, but it does not match up to what we saw in 96. The same goes for Hemanth and Samikshaa. 

Director Preetham hasn't tried to change anything in this frame by frame remake, including the names of the protagonists. Arjun Janya's music plays a big role. This is the music director's 100th film. The background score when Ram opens the gate of his shcool and enters the past gives you goosebumps. The four songs in the album - "Navilugari", "Heege Doora", "Anisuthide", "Nee Gnyapaka" - all of them original compositions, are soothing and soulful.

99 is sure to make you nostalgic, if you haven't already been smitted by the 96 magic. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the series/film. TNM Editorial is independent of any business relationship the organisation may have with producers or any other members of its cast or crew.