It's easy to see why Shankar was tempted to remake 3 Idiots in Tamil and serve it with sambar on the side. 3 Idiots has a let's-give-the-audience-a-good-time kind of filmi fantasy quotient, with a healthy mix of sentiment and comedy, that cheerfully and unapologetically refuses to cater to high-brow critics - a glorious cinematic concoction that so works for both Telugu and Tamil audiences. And since those in the Tamil hinterlands might not have watched the original, making a version with local pin-up boys was a move that seemed unlikely to go wrong.
But dubbing a Tamil remake of a Hindi blockbuster into Telugu? What's next - getting Salman Khan to star in a fresh, new Hindi remake, directed by Prabhu Deva?
It doesn't help that Snehitudu is a loyal scene-to-scene rendition of the original. Or that it has performances (we'll gush about them more, but in a minute) that must be termed stellar. It's simply an irrelevant film, relegated to Screen 5 in Prasads, and unable to gather a crowd that fills even half the seats there. Sad, yes, but what were the makers thinking?
The story, for the uninitiated, is about 3 friends - Pani (Vijay), Nikhil (Jiiva) and Venkataramakrishna (Sriram) - and their journey together from when they met in an engineering college. Pani, brilliant at engineering, is mostly indifferent to the "systems" that attempt to educate students, and is often seen preaching about the "right way to learn and teach". Nikhil battles a deep-rooted fear of failure, while Venkat's heart is in a hobby he is passionate about.
Campus adventures consist of their run-ins with the strict, disciplinarian principal Virupaksha Sundaram (played by an exceptional Satyaraj), and with their bookish classmate nicknamed Silencer (Satyam).
Shankar's appetite for risk sure went to a low with Nanban - not only is this a photocopy with scenes and dialogues that don't swerve from the original, he also makes his actors (not just the characters) behave like those in 3 Idiots. Jiiva actually looks like Sharman, and Vijay imitates Aamir Khan's mannerisms, and Ileana - hard to believe, but true - reminds you of Kareena in her opening scenes.
That said, this is a set of wonderful performances. Vijay's boy-next-door charm, Jiiva's understatedness (and occasional weeping) and Sriram's warmth - all sync well to create a vibrant canvas. While each of these actors has been told to replicate 3 Idiots to the letter, they lend their own appeal to the movie.
Satyaraj is flawless as the principal. And Satyam is a great replacement for Omi Vaidya as Chatur, although, because Sunil dubs for the role, it is only Sunil that a Telugu viewer can connect to.
The music is unremarkable, but the visuals are slick. Coming from Shankar, that wouldn't have been a big deal.
If you somehow end up watching this movie, you'll have a good time, but it is quite unlikely that you will volunteer to watch it. You may as well wait for Lakshmi Ganapathi's Telugized Journey 2 next week.