After Dollar Dreams, Anand and Godavari, this is Sekhar Kammula's fourth film. Loads of new faces, but otherwise no surprises from Kammula. The movie is clean, realistic and for the most part, entertaining. The first half goes very slow, while the pace quickens in the second half. Everyone can identify somewhere with this college flick, with ragging, birthdays, friends, fights and love in it.
Plot This is the story of a few friends in an engineering college, CBIT and their lives during their most formative four years. Chandu, Madhu, Rajesh, Aparna, Arjun/Tyson, Shankar, Sangeeta and a host of other characters.
Story, Screenplay and Direction Anyone who has seen any of the director's earlier movies will know that the themes are close to reality. There is no violence, vulgarity and melodrama. He keeps it simple. This may not be to everyone's liking, or what we generally call 'mass' but it's always watchable. The cinematography is adequate; the editing is a little jerky during the second half. The dubbing falters a lot during the first few scenes.
What the director creates is characters. Arjun or 'Tyson', thin, lanky geek who will do anything for friends. Curly-haired senior Sravanthi, his love interest, and all her classmates who challenge the juniors early on. Chandu, the regular collegian, aimless during the four years but learning along the way. Rajesh or Raju, with an MLA for a father and a short-temper. His friend Aparna, a tomboy and Chandu's love-interest Madhu. Shankar, disloyal but a part of the gang and in love with a Sangeeta, a girl with a glad eye. Paidithalli, a rural student and Panduranga, a recluse with special abilities. And oh, the juniors come along too.
So the first half is spent in getting to know all the characters during their first year. In the second half we see what happens to each of them for the rest of their engineering years. It's the journey of a few students basically, and it could have happened to any of us. It's not an extraordinary story or taking that one will sit up and take notice-it slow and steady. Again, the pace is a little erratic even in the second half, as it slows down suddenly and quickens as quickly.
The characters are identifiable. The comedy is situational. The dialogues are good, especially the ones about friendship-not over-the-top or overtly sentimental, just right. Tyson and Rajesh are the characters one will remember after the show, and the humor and friendship threads surrounding each are good.
Performances The plus side of this movie is that all the actors are natural. They all suit their respective roles and portray them with conviction. Sandesh looks a little like Siddharth and gives a creditable first performance. Rahul obviously has worked on the character, and as Tyson he does a good job, with a slight lisp and gawky manner. Sonia as Sravanti, Gayathri as the boyish Appu and Tamanna as Madhu play their parts well. Nikhil as Rajesh has a well-written role and the best lines belong to him and Rahul. Vamsi and Monali as Shankar and Sangeeta are okay; Kamilini pulls of a Sushmita Sen in Main Hoon Naa worthy cameo.
Song and Dance The songs are either a part of the screenplay or have the entire cast shaking a leg in unison. The background is pleasant. The choreography in two songs looks like a drill, albeit graceful.
Last Word Most people who have ever studied in a co-ed set up will identify with it. Freshers, farewell, parties, fighting and making up are all that happen in Happy Days. Nothing really dramatic happens and no bizarre twist hampers the screenplay. Life just goes on, as it goes on for all students. Regular college life-that's why it's called Happy Days. This could pass off as a documented reality show, and no one would tell the difference. That's a slight exaggeration, but Happy Days is surely a trip down memory lane.