Santosh Subramaniyam is a neat, clean and charming rom-com that works and works pretty well for much of its 3 hour running time. The film is a re-make of the Telugu film Bommarillu starring Siddharth Narayan, Genilia D'Souza and Prakash Raj.
The opening light-hearted sequences, where we see every aspect of Santosh’s life controlled by his father right down to the shirts he must wear, nicely set the tone of the film. The treatment is fresh, charming and feel good and even the comic scenes are thankfully not overplayed and are gentle enough to bring a smile to your face. The father – son relationship is brought out nicely as is the process of Santosh finding his life opening up and changing once Hasini enters it. Their falling in love and him being amazed by her zest for life is done credibly with several nice, heart-warming moments between the two. The film explores the thin line between caring obsessively for one’s children and interfering in their lives, even if in good faith. The climax where Santosh finally turns on his father and blames him for everything, especially his lack of identity, and subsequently the father’s realization of his mistakes is extremely well handled and does pack a solid punch with both Jayam Ravi and Prakash Raj in fine form here.
Where the films fails to be as good as it should be is the key section where Hasini comes to spend the one week in Santosh’s house to with his family over and this is especially so after the breezy and extremely enjoyable first half. The scenes here are rather silly and not as innovative or fresh as the rest of the film. Consequently, the film goes a bit downhill here rather than go up as it should. You feel Genelia’s winning over the women in the household could have and should have been handled better and there are times her character appears plain stupid without any common sense whatsoever. Another bit which is handled abruptly is Jayam Ravi going to his would be father-in-law to call off the marriage and the bride speaking out against her father and thanking Santosh for being so honest. You feel this is done to round off her angle quickly and swiftly though if she too felt stifled with her father, at least hints of this should have been given earlier.
The film gets much of its strength from the central performance of Jayam Ravi playing the title role. He makes a good, clean-cut romantic hero and plays the various shades of his character really well - be it the forced introvert who is unable to ever question his father or the natural and likeable extrovert wanting to live his own life behind his father’s back. He captures his character’s frustrations, elation on falling on love and anger with Hasini on her behaviour in his house, perfectly. He does look chubby in some scenes, though. Genelia, reprising her role from the Telugu original, is more cast correctly for what she is rather than her displaying any great acting talents. Actually, her innocence and naivety at times seems somewhat unconvincing as a city bred college going girl of today would be far smarter and more mature. Still, her vivaciousness does make her character work and you are able to go along with her and buy the change in Santosh’s life once she enters it and sweeps him off his feet. She even manages to somewhat carry off her key scene saying she doesn’t want to marry Santosh seeing what he is in the house as against the man she fell in love with outside the house. Prakash Raj, also reprising his role of the caring but domineering father from Bommarillu, is spot on in a role that is practically second nature to him. The supporting cast including Sayaji Shinde, Santhanam, Premgi, MS Baskar do their bits efficiently enough.
Technically, the camerawork is neat and clean; the songs go with the film without really being memorable as they should be in a love story. One also feels they could have been choreographed better and maybe even picturised better. The song once Genelia is in Ravi’s house comes at a point when they are at the height of their romance. It needed a far more romantic and poetic picturisation rather than them just prancing about in a beautiful location. The wedding song gets preachy between the two generations but breaking it with Santosh’s mother’s song works surprisingly well. The production design, styling and editing all deserve a special mention though you do feel the film's length towards the end.
All in all, Santosh Subramaniyam is good time-pass and worth seeing for Jayam Ravi’s likeable act. After its success in Telugu and Tamil, the film is now being re-made in Hindi as It’s My Life (2010) starring Harman Baweja and Genelia (playing the role again!) with Nana Patekar as Baweja’s domineering father and being directed by Anees Bazmi. A hat-trick of successes, anyone?