Watching Natpadhigaaram - 79, you might feel that you have stepped into a time machine and gone back to the 1990s. The film is directed by Ravichandran, whose claim to fame is his debut film, Kannethirey Thondrinal, a late 90s film that, like this one, was also an ode to friendship. We get the staple — romance, misunderstanding, breakup, accident and a climax that almost ends in an airport!
The film gives us two pairs of lovers — Jeeva (Raj Bharath) and Pooja (Tejaswi), and Aravind (Amzath) and Maha (Reshmi Menon). The four become friends and start hanging out together. However, Jeeva's family mistakes his rapport with Maha for love and fix their match. Individual situations around this time result in the four not being able to contact one another. Jeeva and Maha realise the mistake, but they are unable to explain this to their families, because Maha's father has only recently had a heart attack. Meanwhile, Aravind and Pooja, who do not know of the ground reality, assume that they have been betrayed and decide to cut their ties off with the other two.
Natpadhigaaram is the kind of film where every conflict will get resolved if only the characters give each other a few minutes to talk and explain things. And the director, too, is aware and even has a character say something to this effect in the climax. If you can buy into this conceit, the film becomes a moderately interesting one. Ravichandran keeps things ambivalent by giving Jeeva and Maha more in common and does the same with Pooja and Aravind. The former is dependent on their families for emotional support in a way the other two aren't. Jeeva is constantly shown standing up for Maha. He picks up a fight with people at the pub when they tease her; when he is dropping her off at her home, he waits until she has reached her gate on; and so on. The same goes for Aravind and Pooja, who both have rich parents and are interested in starting a company together. Their parents see this as being compatible with one another but they aren't attracted to each other in the same way they are to their respective partners.
There is something nostalgic in the old-fashioned way that Ravichandran weaves his plot. And the friendship between the four, too, isn't over dramatised. But the problem is that his scenes that show why the leads cannot talk things out are weak. That Aravind and Pooja don't even attempt to give the benefit of doubt to their respective lovers even once feels unconvincing. And after building up the central conflict for almost the entire duration of the second half, the director resolves it too conveniently in a matter of minutes, with the help of a character — Jeeva's friend — who, until then, only seemed to be a hanger-on. This character, too, is an element from the films of the 90s. In films of that period, he would be played by a comedian (with his own comedy track). He will have a clearly defined relationship with the hero and when he finally pours his heart out, it would feel plausible. In fact, the director's debut film, too, had this same device. But this isn't the 90s, and the director has to invent something new to serve this purpose. But Ravichandran half-heartedly introduces this 'friend' character in one scene, and has him pop up during the climax in a way that doesn't feel organic. He isn't able to generate tension or make us care enough about whether the friends get together. Even a life-threatening accident to one character, which is desperately introduced to inject some climactic tension, eventually turns into smoke without fire.