Arjun Das and Kalidas Jayaram in Por
Arjun Das and Kalidas Jayaram in PorYouTube screengrabs

Por review: Arjun Das-Kalidas Jayaram pull off a stylish film on the frenzy of youth

‘Por’ is essentially a well-orchestrated retelling of a familiar college story. Old wine in a new, flashy, and graffitied bottle, but it works.
Por (Tamil)(3.5 / 5)

As Por progresses, one cannot help but notice that it is just a collection of loosely connected stories. But towards the high-octane climax, as male college-going students beat the crap out of each other, all the stories come together in a satisfying closure. Set in Puducherry’s (fictional) St Martin’s University, Por is all about charged college life, gang wars, and petty rivalry. The film, co-written and directed by Bejoy Nambiar, blends themes like mental health, casteism, and regional politics into its frenzy, elevating the viewing experience several notches up.

Por follows the stories of Prabhu (Arjun Das) and Yuvaraj (Kalidas Jayaram), two students at the University who lead separate lives and have their own circle of friends. But when their paths cross, all hell breaks loose. Yuvaraj, a first-year student, goes out of his way to seek revenge against Prabhu, a senior who is struggling to submit his Ph.D. Whether it is convincing the management to break their decades-long tradition and let first-year students conduct an annual three-day fest or trying to hurt the ones Prabhu cares about, Yuvaraj’s antics are both entertaining and infuriating at the same time. 

The rivalry between the two culminates in a bloody fight on the fest's final day and has lasting consequences for both gangs. Throw into the mix a local politician trying to clinch a position for his daughter Surya (a wonderful Amrutha Srinivasan) in the students’ union, and fiery student activists Gayathri (TJ Bhanu) and Vennila (Nithyashri), and Por becomes an energetic, albeit chaotic film that does not hold back. 

While Por largely focuses on the two men and their conflicts, the women characters are written realistically and with some depth. Every woman in the film has their interests and a distinct personality that adds to the plot. Rishika (Sanchana Natarajan), one of Prabhu's close friends, is spirited, unapologetic about her flaws, and does not shy away from vulnerability.  Similarly, Gayathri does not cower to management pressure or politicians and is not hesitant to call out a casteist professor or stand by her friend Vennilla who prepares to contest in the student union elections. 

Por has a few queer characters and they fit into the narrative. However, Jeeva Subramaniam’s transwoman character does feel like a token – she barely has more than a few lines and is often relegated to the background. While the film steers clear of transphobia and the character is fondly called ‘akka’ (older sister), her name is not mentioned throughout the film, leaving very little to remember her by.

Arjun Das as Prabhu is simply brilliant. He has mostly been cast in turbulent roles across films, and Por utilises that persona to give viewers a satisfying watch. While his age and baritone voice might have done him a small disservice in playing a college student, Das is able to settle in with ease and really shines, especially in the more vulnerable moments of the film. The romance between Prabhu and Gayathri is tender and offers some respite from the film’s machismo. 

Similarly, Kalidas Jayaram pulls off the angry troublemaker quite well. For the most part, he is able to express a range of emotions from rage to grief, but in some scenes, they come across as deliberate. Yuvaraj and Rishika are not very convincing as a couple, but their on-screen romance elicits a few feel-good laughs. 

Gaurav Godkhindi’s music helps maintain the youthful chaos of the film. At the same time, his melodies during the softer moments also add to the emotional payoff. Similarly, Jimshi Khalid’s cinematography is inventive and makes the fight scenes quite engaging, especially when a bunch of students gang up for a fight in the hostel bathroom and when Prabhu takes on a collegemate’s assaulters. 

Every tiny detail in the film feels deliberate and they add to the richness of the narrative. Sometimes though, the storyline gets overwhelming as characters and subplots are introduced quickly. But they fall into place as the film progresses. However, the events leading up to the big face-off between Prabhu and Yuvaraj feel a tad too convenient and unconvincing at times. 

As for the violence, the plot justifies the actions of the characters, and it helps that the focus of the face-offs is not on the blood and gore, but on bringing out the abandon and frenzied recklessness of youth. 

On the whole, Por is essentially a well-orchestrated retelling of a familiar college story. Old wine in a new, flashy, and graffitied bottle, but it works. 

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

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