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Home»Features»Hridayam, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, Rowdy Boys: Three tales about navigating college, life and relationships»

Hridayam, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, Rowdy Boys: Three tales about navigating college, life and relationships

Three films across three languages released over the last two weeks have contrasting approaches to their portrayal of college life and complexities surrounding teenage romances

Hridayam, Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee, Rowdy Boys: Three tales about navigating college, life and relationships
MNMN, Hridayam and Rowdy Boys
  • Srivathsan Nadadhur

Last Updated: 06.17 AM, Jan 25, 2022


It's more or less official that campus dramas are back in vogue. Need proof? Not one, but three of them. Interestingly, three films, in as many languages, over the last couple of weeks, Hridayam (Malayalam), Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee (Tamil) and Rowdy Boys (Telugu) are coming-of-age stories revolving around campuses, relationships, the phase where youngsters gradually evolve as adults.

Rowdy Boys, which hit theatres for Sankranthi, is set in a massier terrain in comparison to the other films. The film revolves around two warring student groups based in an engineering college and a medical college. The stage for the conflict is set when Akshay, a happy-go-lucky engineering college student, is smitten by Kavya, a medicine student who's older than him by a few years.

What starts as a tale of campus wars transitions into a relationship drama when Akshay and Kavya decide to move in together, unfettered by the chaos around them, only to part ways later. The story is about Akshay finally realising his responsibilities and patching up with Kavya. Though a reasonable plot on paper, Rowdy Boys, with a pigeonholed view of college life, is undone by done-to-death stereotypes and familiar storytelling tropes.

The all-too-easy journey of a wayward student maturing into a young man doesn't exactly hit you hard and like most college dramas, there's very little to it beyond the love lives of the protagonists. The loud treatment and the amateurish setup don't allow you to invest in the stories as much you'd have liked.

This is not to suggest that Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee (MNMN) does anything pathbreaking, but it's the grounded, mature treatment that makes all the difference. The story deals with the little pleasures and conflicts of early adulthood, from friendships to romance to heartbreak and careers. The 90s nostalgia, a refreshing cast - full of newcomers - coming up with earnest performances makes it feel like a breath of fresh air.

The film is divided into two halves, romanticised college life and a reunion a decade later where reality sinks in. There's a delightful socio-fantasy angle where the director Darbuka Siva plays Manmadha a.k.a cupid trying to give a direction to the love lives of the pivotal characters. Nostalgia is the overpowering feeling that MNMN leaves you with. The intent to discuss homophobia in such a backdrop shows why it's bound to be a relevant film for many years to come.

No prizes for guessing that it's Hridayam that encapsulates the essence of both the films in one stroke, with greater efficiency. Here, life comes full circle - the film starts with Arun as a young college boy and ends with him being a happily married man and a father to a baby boy. 180 minutes may sound a little too long for the adventure but the director Vineeth Sreenivasan packs in so much in the runtime that you've very little to complain about.

While Rowdy Boys and MNMN romanticise college life, Hridayam goes a step beyond to tell that it's a phase where a student discovers his/her true purpose and that shapes their ideals for a lifetime. From his innocent days to experiencing heartbreak to turning a rebel and finally taking charge of his life, Arun's character graph is very real despite its feel-good exterior.

Beyond the campus backdrops, another factor that binds all these films together is the memorable music. If Devi Sri Prasad's album lets you experience the adrenaline rush of college life in Rowdy Boys, Darbuka Siva's music score for Mudhal Nee Mudivum Nee is like a hummable melody that'll be a warm companion for a lazy evening. 

However, it's Hridayam again that takes the cake in using music so effectively to drive a story. Hesham Abdul Wahab packages flavours unique to all the navarasas in a dream of a soundtrack. No wonder the strategy of the music company, Think Music, to revive the trend of cassettes and audio CDs with the film's album, has found takers among audiences.