Firstly, unsettling as it is to watch the otherwise symmetrically-featured Vikram play a mentally-challenged person whose face is permanently contorted by the extreme effort he takes to even form thoughts in his mind, Nanna is Vikram's vehicle to this year's awards. Pretty much like all the superstars before him who've done such roles. Even if part of what he does on screen is exaggeration, you can't argue with this - the man is scintillating.
That apart, Nanna is basically a compelling study of an ethical dilemma that most of us are fortunate enough to never be confronted with - should a mentally-challenged parent be allowed custody of his/her child? Director Vijay sets out to examine, explore and dissect the question, and paints a pretty nuanced picture of what things would be like if people would only let their hearts see more than their eyes.
Nanna is an elegant, touching, heart-warming film all through, save for a sagging pre-interval section where the flick suddenly becomes the director's outlet for mindless creative self-indulgence. Also, why the movie is given a vague "art-movie" ending instead of a well-reasoned middle-path solution, is baffling.
Vikram is Krishna, a mentally-challenged person found lying on the road to Vizag. One thing leads to another, and he is soon in a police station, then at the High Court, and then at a lawyer Anu's (Anushka) office, mumbling something about finding a certain "Vennela".
Who is Vennela? What exactly happened to Krishna? Why was he found on the road?
An aesthetically pleasing, well-crafted flashback ensues, in the picturesque hills of Ooty. It is a land where people are simple-minded and large-hearted, and Krishna, the slightly "mental" but pure-hearted guy, is well-known in the town. Krishna is essentially the Swathi Muthyam transplanted into the 21st century. And where he lives, there are no mean men and no one there to trample on his rights, and people generally, lovingly, let him be.
One of Nanna's weaknesses is that Krishna's mental illness is never given a name - you don't know whether he's autistic, for example - and he's only shown as a generically mentally retarded person. So his trying to bring up a new-born baby strikes you as strange, because he's a man who's not even able to express himself properly. Even strange is the fact that Krishna can live by himself, has a job, and can shop for vegetables and cook, etc.
But whether you're bugged by these fundamental questions or not, Nanna's key strength is in its remarkable portrayal of the father-daughter relationship. Even while Vikram eclipses the film with his performance, the angel-faced Baby Sara, who plays Krishna's daughter Vennela, steals the show whenever she's on the screen. There are several moments between father and daughter that are made of such sheer cuteness that it's hard to hold back the tears. Some brilliant work, this.
Then, there are some other scenes where the kid is immensely adorable all by herself - the scene with Vennela's performance on her annual day, for example, or the one in the court towards the end.
All this speaks of good writing and great conceptualization of scenes. Other nuances are beautifully done as well. Anu's evolving relationship with her own father is one such. Then, there's Nasseer playing Bhashyam, a hot-shot lawyer who has his own character arc.
Anushka, Nasseer and Sachin Khedekar put in a flawless job. Anushka is eager to do a good job, and once again reinforces your faith in top-notch heroines taking up woman-oriented roles.
The rest of the cast gives no room for complaint either. Santhanam, as Anu's assistant, is impressive, as is Amala Paul (who plays the school correspondent).
The visuals are top-notch, slick and authentic at once, and Ooty, in particular, has been captured well. And in movies like these, the music plays as much of a role as the lead actors, and G V Prakash delivers a fine background score, that teams up with the writing to wring the best out of every scene.
Nanna is not a flawless movie, but if you're game for opening that little closet of daddy-emotions inside of you and for letting the tears flow, it's pretty much worth it.