‘Autograph’ is my favourite Cheran movie by far – it narrates the tale of a well-settled advertising executive reminiscing about the three important women whose relationships have impacted his life and persona. And now that he is finally getting married, it is a great tribute that he pays to the past by inviting them to attend his marriage.
Cheran may not be a nuanced actor but he suits the role well and brings a sense of realism and sincerity to the character. As he acknowledges in the parting shot, one just has to tap into one’s own heart and memories to re-discover the ‘Autographs’ in our lives.
Cheran gets a lot of things right in this movie for me – the narrative style in flashback, the songs, great visuals of Kerala’s backwaters, the length of the movie and the placement of dramatic moments that add a twist to the tale.
His first relationship is from his village school when a shy teenager having a startling resemblance to Cheran falls for Kamala (Mallika). It is a case of infatuation and there is not much strength in terms of characterization or narrative. We have the routine rural school settings that remind you of Azhagi. It remains an unrequited narrative as Cheran fails to even convey his feelings. Kamala is shown to like Cheran but is well reconciled to live the life ordained by her father. Cheran must have meant to pay a tribute to the confused emotions that besets teenagers still finding themselves as they grow towards being adults.
Cheran then moves to Kerala where he meets a Malayali girl, Latika (Gopika) and the instantly take a liking of each other.In a graded manner the romance blooms and the courtship is quite entertaining. The ‘Adam-and-Eve’ allegory is a bit contrived but the ‘Walkman’ and ‘mookuthi’ episodes bring a smile. But the dénouement is sharp and painful – the lovers part company in a violent reprisal by Gopika’s powerful and patriarchal father. Cheran’s family is forced to shift to Coimbatore and he remains lost and adrift for over couple of years. His friend’s visit and a message from Latika provide the required closure although this relationship will cause Cheran the most amount of pain and emotional stress.
Cheran moves to Chennai in search of work and wanders aimlessly for a while. He then spots Sneha singing a lovely number, ‘Ovvoru pookalume…’ while inspiring a group of Blind students to continue their struggle to achieve their dreams. Cheran and his friends try an innovative trick to find work and Sneha gets them to join the advertising agency where she works. She is quite a character – incisive, frank, helpful, and a fighter.
She alternately goads and cajoles Cheran into learning more about advertising and improving his work profile. Cheran’s narrative and characterization is most realistic here as he convincingly portrays that a man and woman can be great friends. This is a stereotype that often gets ‘lip-service’ in our movie – in fact in any other movie Sneha would have been cast in the role of playing the hero’s love interest. Even the ups and downs of friends sharing their lives and problems is well portrayed. This is the most decisive relationship for Cheran as it grooms him into a mature man who is willing to move on in life and progress to the next level.
Cheran must have run out of time so he finally appears to settle for an arranged marriage with an unknown but acquiescing girl – quite a let down as that is a conventional story and does not quite sync well with his characterization. He even struggles with his choice on learning that Latika is now a widow and a solitary figure. Again Sneha convinces him about the need to move on in life.
The final scenes are quite moving as the marriage takes place with the blessings of family and friends.So that is a nice and emotional drama without being over-the-top and melodramatic. No wonder then that I rate it as the best movie done by Cheran so far. Don’t miss it.