Koditta Idangalai Nirappuga Review: Filled With Perversions, But Still A Blank

What happens when something risque is masqueraded as arthouse? 

Parthiban’s Koditta Idangalai Nirappuga is not risque in the traditional sense, though. There’s no real obscenity that you’d find, nothing on the face, anyway – even the sole sex scene in the movie is vetted for the family audience, the camera politely rising above the bodies to focus on rippling water, with a Kathakali sequence to follow – but there’s quite some titillation vaguely reminiscent of an SJ Suryah movie.

Come to think of it, Parthiban and Suryah perhaps inspire each other – they like to think that they aren’t boxed in but they oh so woefully are. In a kind of perverse filmmaking, which, while definitely not run-of-the-mill, is hardly watchable either.

In Koditta… Parthiban (Rangaraj) is an on call driver  married to woman (Parvathy Nair) much younger than he is and she is beautiful as he’s not. What happens when Raj invites a potential client (Shanthanu Bhagyaraj) to board up at the apartment where he works with his wife?

A client who is young, handsome and everything that he isn’t? The script goes out of its way to set them up – and when they are finally together (which takes an awful lot of time) we have to listen to their moral quandary. That takes some significant screen time by itself; that and a dramatic Kathakali sequence when they have sex, set to some bassy music.

Finally, when we really get to know the truth behind all this, there’s some genuine amusement. But those final minutes still aren’t reason enough to sit through a movie that just cannot make up its mind about what it really wants to be: romance, comedy, romcom or just something risque masquerading as arthouse.

*****

The Koditta Idangalai Nirappuga review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru Review: A Rapid Mystery Where Every Scene Counts

There’s this distinctive quality to simulated rain. It pounds relentlessly on screen – a concerted effort to get all the actors really wet – large, determined drops that are actually visible. It pounds on the nearest prop – usually the windshield of a car, wipers sloshing about furiously. No wind, nothing. Of course, those natural monsoon showers that are visible one second and invisible the next are hard to achieve with a simulator, no matter how clinically you place those rain towers. And, I’m somewhat averse to the kind of full-bodied faux-rain that we see on screen – because, let’s be honest, I don’t want to be reminded that I’m watching cinema when I’m watching cinema. Isn’t that what a filmmaker would like, after all? Also, when there’s so much rain in sight, much of what happens otherwise is obscured – and I’m beginning to suspect that is probably why rain is used unabashedly in genres like crime and mystery. It makes for a diligent accomplice.

Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru, which stars a rather nice-on-the-eye Rahman as a cop, opens to the sounds of a steady patter. A car, an apartment, a killer, and a couple who is getting engaged. All against a dark backdrop of rain that just won’t cease. Then, the camera focuses on a window – the shadow of a window which lights up between flashes of lightning. A gun appears within, a shot is heard.

The director is young, it would seem – but I like his youth.

The couple is dead, I think – they are the victims, surely? The scene switches to the present. There’s only a vague sense of time that I can sense in Dhuruvangal… despite those labels; the past isn’t really done yet, and the present has already begun. A visibly aged Rahman limps along his garden when he receives a call, apparently from a colleague. Can he convince his colleague’s son to not join the police force? Rahman agrees. A young man appears. The tale begins. And, the scene switches to the past – or more precisely, where it all began. Car, apartment, killer – no scratch that – killers. There are new characters in the latest version of the past. The scene of crime is revisited quite a number of times through the movie – in the guise of different theories, but I can never look past the mad sheet of rain, and a blurry tangle of limbs. It does get a little overwhelming at a point – Kris? Rajeev? Mano who is Kris, but is also Mano? The new faces don’t help either. One hour down, I cannot tell apart Kris and Rajeev.

*****

There are also those moments in Dhuruvangal… that quite make something out of nothing. In the thick of the mystery – Rahman goes home. He meets an old neighbour who tells him that a man had been lurking outside his apartment for a long time. He walks inside his apartment, grabs something from the fridge, and finally settles with a cup of noodles – while the audience is on edge, waiting for something to happen. A loud something that could shatter the deafening silence, for it’s definitely too abnormally normal, and those crafty switches between long shots and close-ups don’t help either. But the loud moment that the director braces the audience for, just never comes. A lovely bit of filmmaking right there. A snatch of personal space, colourful paraphernalia, muted background score, an expectant hush – and absolutely nothing. A nice deception.

Dhuruvangal… scores on other fronts, too – at an hour-and-forty-five-minutes, it is as brief as it is rapid, and has no songs. Rahman as a cop – with just a touch of pride and immense authority is a delight to watch. There’s something of note in every scene, a chain of events that you’d miss if you blink – and there’s the mystery itself. One too many suspects, deception, and the malignant twist at the end. The sea of unfamiliar faces is probably one of the few things that compounds the movie-watching experience. That, and the rape. And the allusion to the woman’s ’emotional reaction to her stalker’ that the director makes at the end – heard over a picture-perfect Ooty landscape.

*****

The Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Balle Vellaiya Thevaa Review: Another Tiresome Rural Drama

Balle Vellaiya Theva does one thing effectively: turning Kovai Sarala into the new-age Manorama. This has been coming for a few movies now – she owns a comedy track, gets teary-eyed if needed, and is the loud-mouthed benevolent old woman whom the village loves (or hates when convenient). She can make the most dreary jokes, laugh, cry, and cook up drama at will – it really wouldn’t be amiss.

And that perhaps is her most powerful weapon.

Kovai Sarala is not someone you’d take seriously – and she makes it work in her favour. When a director wants to mock that statutory warning against smoking and alcohol consumption, he enlists the help of Sarala’s unique nasal drawl.

She can no longer be one of the main leads as in Sathi Leelavathi, but Sarala has eased herself into several other roles: whether its the widow with a hotheaded son (Komban) or the really unfunny spirit that appears in a song in Kadavul Irukaan Kumaru. In Balle Vellaiya Thevaa, she’s Kaathaayi, the childless matriarch (yes!) of the village with a penchant for selfies and a whole lot of drama. Sarala doesn’t care when something isn’t funny. She ploughs on earnestly with an instinctive belief that someone, somewhere, would laugh.

They do.

Even when over half the theatre stays silent during an unfunny routine, there’s always the polite chuckle from a distant corner. And, I forgive her quickly – just for her intense comedy. She would definitely make for a fascinating interview subject sometime – as would all comediennes in Tamil cinema. You can’t help but wonder – what makes them tick, really?

***

Sasikumar fondly hopes for another Subramaniapuram, and it is on this quest that he flits between villages, one hopeless rural script at a time. In Vetrivel, he was Vetrivel – who wooed a woman with some creepy stalking. In Balle Vellaiya Thevaa, he’s Sakthivel – who woos a woman with some really creepy stalking.

That’s all the difference there is. The latest Sasikumar film is just another version of Vetrivel with romance that feels as wrong and baseless as the other running theme in the movie: a feud between a village lord and Sakthivel over a DTH service.

It need not have been all that bad, though. The ending is nicer than Subramaniapuram’s, similar but without the violence, and on a comic vein. But it isn’t as potent, and it doesn’t justify the near two-hour drama preceding it. And the moment you hear the notes of a popular song from Subramaniapuram, the illusion that this movie has anything to go on is dispelled. There’s nothing here save the past glory of its lead.

And no matter what previous hits Balle Vellaiya Thevaa draws on, a pair of eyes is just not enough to make sense of it. For instance, who is the Vellaiya Thevan here, really?

*****

The Balle Vellaiya Thevaa review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Veera Sivaji Review: Illogical Plot, Insipid Romance And a Hero Who Is Past His Promise

If Veera Sivaji is anything to go by, Vikram Prabhu is well-past that lovely, promising Kumki period. He was quite unknown then, save for some indistinct resemblance to his father, but that really did not matter. Bomman was earnest as the elephant-boy, living and breathing pachyderms.

Four years later, a slightly more popular Vikram Prabhu draws on his grandfather’s legacy to bring in the audience. Veera Sivaji stars Vikram Prabhu as the eponymous hero – Sivaji – who is out to make a hero of himself. And for this, he employs another age-old tactic of the Nadigar Thilagam: emotions that tug, pull, and totally sever the heart-strings. He does laugh at the ensuing drama when it gets too teary, but the moment is all too fleeting. Sivaji is an orphan with a heart-of-gold, has ‘family’ who are not related to him by blood, and tries everything to save said cash-strapped family from impending doom. He allies with thugs, enters shady deals and does all in his power to circumvent logic. In short, anything that is good movie-fodder.

An insipid romance with Shamili (as Anjali, what else) follows. Here are two actors – with familial ties to cinema – starring in a script that quite manages to rob them of their past. Anjali appears and disappears in a cloud of pink or lilac, wears the most outrageous costumes in the most scenic locales, and falls in love with Sivaji who tries to rob her blind. Quite the extraordinary male fantasy, this.

The Veera Sivaji review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Saithaan Review: A Distinctly Filmy Adaptation of a Classic Sujatha Book

aah-sujathaWhen Sujatha’s Aah – a 1990 Tamil novella – begins, there’s quite a preamble. There’s some talk about life in general, a pretty grim sketch if you would; matter-of-fact, a little morbid, but nothing out of the ordinary. A distinctly third person voice, or so it seems until you read further. A few sentences down, the author unveils his plot.

And, his protagonist. That’s when I realise it’s a first person narration. Dinesh Kumar is an engineer, IIT-educated, the sort who flips a phone directory to find himself, finds himself, and his other namesake(s), and wonders if they are all perhaps the same person. Nutty. Nice. This …wackiness is what Saithaan – inspired by the novella – fails to instill in its protagonist. When Saithaan begins, Dinesh Kumar (Vijay Antony) is already with the shrink. He’s on a plush recliner – a cross between a dentist’s chair and a La Z Boy – introducing himself, recounting his life for the benefit of the audience. He types away on his computer in a huge office, has a wife who flits between the bed and the kitchen, and has a mother who flits between the kitchen and aah3god-knows-where. That really is all his world is made of; that and those voices in his head. Not quite demonic, not quite human – simply robotic and non-threatening sounding out from those huge speakers, surround sound systems.

I’m disappointed. This isn’t why I braved cyclone Nada and a bunch of very tardy Uber Pool riders; at least Nada was somewhat true to its name – it’s no longer a cyclone, just a deep depression that has managed to make the city prettily wet. I actually shot a picture, smelling wet smells that even the cab’s synthetic fruity perfume couldn’t mask. The effect isn’t thanks to any filter by the way. Just the cab’s artfully slashed blind.

*****

What I would have loved in Saithaan? The book’s introduction translated on screen, even if it seemed a little too prosaic; a series of disjointed images with minimal score – a lovely bleak picture, and then, Dinesh Kumar in casual conversation with one of his voices. Human voices. Disembodied, or with a form that he can recognise. Something similar to Soodhu Kavvum‘s Shalu, but creepily relatable. I would also never learn why the movie was called Saithaan – when it really had nothing to do with demons, only a bunch of rowdy voices that are never lent a satisfactory explanation once the movie veers into themes of reincarnation and past-life regression. There are human villains too – and right there, I get to see glimpses of almost all movies that have been inspired by Tamil novellas – a mixture of faux science and the paranormal. Sujatha’s Aah was written more than two decades ago, it was novel then, and adapting that to screen in 2016 called for a good look at the present. Perhaps that really was what director Pradeep Krishnamoorthy tried when he tried to create a hero out of Vijay Antony; Dinesh is about to kill his wife, whom, he believes is his past-life tormentor. He’s almost there when she tells him she’s …pregnant.

*****

I’d probably pick Andrew Miller’s Pure for the horror screen. A 2011 book, at the heart of which is an engineer tasked with exhuming a cemetery and demolishing a church in Paris. The cemetery is bursting at the seams with all the corpses and the mass graves it holds while a foul odour permeates the food and breath of all those who live nearby. The novel is set in pre-revolutionary France, and Miller’s writing is visually rich and chilling. A dog pees on a vase in the room where the engineer waits to attend an interview, and right there, Miller makes a point for bleakness.

*****

There seem to have been several writers for Saithaan – Sahithya Academy Award winner Joe D’Cruz among them. But I would never know who imbued the script with this distinct filmy quality: Ravi, Dinesh’s colleague rescues him as he tries to kill himself, and as they sit talking about it, Dinesh’s wife brings them coffee. Ravi takes a sip, gags: Is this why you tried killing yourself?

The theatre erupts. We have such amusing notions of chivalry after all, thoughtfully switching seats with a lady friend as soon as a woman takes the neighbouring seat.

Meanwhile, Joe D’Cruz’s Korkai – a 1174-page historical novel that traces the life of a coastal community – languishes on my bookshelf.

*****

The Saithaan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Kadavul Irukan Kumaru Review: Two Hours of Whatsapp Humour

It’s quite disconcerting to watch GV Prakash Kumar in Kadavul Irukaan Kumaaru. Not just because he shows all signs of becoming the Ilaya Thalapathy minus a decade, also because of his abject indifference to gender-sensitivity. Come to think of it, that’s probably what drives GV Prakash Kumar and his ilk of ‘men’ who just refuse to be classified as adults. They’d rather make offensive jokes, play at being the man-child they had idolised while growing up, turn up a collar or two, and ‘follow’ ponnunga. A screen-sport by itself where the women almost always turn them down, and these ‘men-children’ begin a lament of sad duets and extremely derogatory dialogue. Precisely why I have a healthy fear of what’s now being called a ‘romantic-comedy’ – neither romantic nor comical, they are filled with racy, sexist humour amplified a million times on screen. What’s worse, the actors are young; young enough to influence their wide-eyed, clapping and whooping audience who watch in avid fascination (http://series.fountainink.in/lurking-in-the-shadows/ – a chilling account that just needs to be read). Also young enough to rage against everything that they have made a movie about, to join a revolution already in place. But, they don’t, choosing instead to languish in a hormonal, pubescent space devoid of sane reasoning and social sensitivity. They follow, not knowing that off the sets, stalking is neither cute or desirable, nor does it yield to a scripted-win as they believe in their pretty, little heads. Though even if they did, would they really care? The answer to that is something that I worry about.

Or perhaps, I already know.

*****

Kadavul Irukan Kumaru features GV Prakash with exaggerated mannerisms. He’s brash, uncouth and foul-mouthed with a misplaced sense of self-righteousness. There’s also the lamentable arrogance of youth; the thigh-slapping, expletive-ridden vocabulary – fashionably in tune with the new wave of actors vying to be the mass hero. All those negative adjectives notwithstanding, GVP as Kumaru also sees himself as quite the comedian; but poker-faced humour isn’t something he can pull off without insulting a person or two – and for this, he enlists the help of RJ Balaji, who sometimes is genuinely funny when not offensive. And yet again, director M Rajesh and Kumar fall into a well of their boyhood fantasies – a fairytale which they seem to thoroughly enjoy. One woman to love, one woman to hate – they fight over the hero all the same;  a shoddily-written plot involving religion – so reminiscent of Thirumanam Enum Nikkah – that makes you really wonder about the censoring exercise, and a chase sequence that gets you nowhere. Amidst all this, Prakash Raj in his night-robe, cavorting drunkenly with a woman, who is called Amy Jackson because she’s white.

Deemed ‘universal’ by the censors for all the world to watch.

*****

The Kadavul Irukan Kumaru review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada Review: STR Impresses Out Of Uniform In This Signature Gautham Menon Cop Thriller

Gautham Menon is fastidious about a lot of things. In Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada, he devotes a frame to attribute his inspirations. A moment from The Godfather, no less. A haze of Maharashtra landscape, saffron-clad politicians, a mental asylum, and a snatch of violence later, STR is introduced amidst an adolescent brawl. If Mike Corleone was a decorated war hero who just wanted to stay away from the ‘family business’, AYM‘s STR seems right out of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaya, pat down to the house he lives in. It’s bewildering, this sudden change of …mood(?) but Menon quickly makes his intent known. He is just establishing character. That of someone unlikely enough to chase down a bunch of goons; an average someone who is offended by the rolls of fat he sees on himself. Someone who smooths down his hair before entering a scene of crime, or more precisely, making a scene of crime.

It’s futile to draw similarities, though, and I really wouldn’t want to unless they establish something conclusive. But Menon’s scenes – some of them obviously influenced by The Godfather – segue quite admirably into the narrative that the director has woven, rich with native elements – that they deserve mention. Multiple shots of a deserted hospital corridor set to an ominous background score, the generous use of a tongue foreign to the local audience – Menon devotes another frame to explain his use of language – and the narrative itself, a coming-of-age tale at the centre of which is an actor who is at once brash and romantic. Menon also bestows a worthy name on his hero which he reveals after the interval. Such a nice tale, that one.

It seems right out of a movie.

*****

For someone who has been tirelessly showcasing cop heroes on screen, you’d think the director would exercise some caution this time around – but Menon’s love for the force is all-consuming, so is his penchant for the cool, calculating, ruthlessly honest and honestly ruthless cop that Suriya, Kamal and Ajith were in their own GVM scripts. In Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada though, STR is not born a cop; he’s made into one. By a series of events – fortunate and unfortunate – that unfold. One brings him love, and the next, a few drawn guns. But the cop act doesn’t call for much from STR who has been doing that swagger for a living; he makes quite the impression when he isn’t one, hands visibly shaking when holding a gun, admirably alternating between naked terror and bravery.

Leela (Manjima Mohan) is a revelation. Menon is realistic with his heroine; he chooses a newcomer with careful thought – someone who doesn’t come with the trappings of a star. She’s not unhealthily thin, and seems to like what she eats. Leela also borrows one of Vito Corleone’s unspoken rules: never hit a police officer – but I never get to know why. Though, like all GVM heroines, she is always on the verge of brutal death. Some signature material, this.

*****

AR Rahman’s chords are as delicate as the script is violent, and the movie sometimes seems as musical as its title. Thalli Pogathey is brilliantly positioned, with the most unlikely score ever. A near-fatal highway accident and its resulting chaos are wonderfully woven into a series of cuts – the typical GVM fade-in-and-fade-out – set to some unreal music. Neither sinister, nor cheerful, you never know whether they live or die, for everything becomes a part of the bloody song. Leela is artfully thrown from the bike, hair splayed out against the rich, green landscape while STR is hurled onto an oncoming bus with as much grace as a seemingly-unconscious man can muster.

Only, STR isn’t unconscious, I soon find out. Merely eloquent – professing undying love when dying. He tells it in Tamil, he tells it in English, and soon, you wish the talking would end – one way or the other.

*****

The Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Kaashmora Review: An Untidy Mishmash Of Genres, But The Comedy Is A Saving Grace

When things get a little too serious in Kaashmora – a movie that claims to be darkly fantastical – I almost expect some comic relief: there has to be a joke sometime now. Blame Vivekh, Karthi, or those fashionably-there horromedy movies that get made every month, an expectant hush falls over the theatre during those tense moments – a rising crescendo that drums on yours ears, at the end of which Vivek bursts in with a one-liner. Or, Karthi. Or, the actress who plays his sister. The audience knows that it just cannot be all (that) frightening. And, the director knows that the audience knows; so he alternates horror and humour with some telling background score (Santhosh Narayanan), unleashing a vengeful spirit now, and Vivekh and company later. One of the funnier instances in the film is when Karthi – the-exorcist-who-isn’t – encounters a set of ‘real’ spirits inside an old, haunted bungalow.

So droll, yet it works.

****

If trailers are anything to go by – I always watch them after the movie – Kaashmora‘s two-minute long affair would have you thinking Baahubali thoughts, horror aside. But what you do end up watching is a medley of different genres thrown together in a muddled heap. Karthi as Kaashmora is a conman who feeds off the society’s fear of the supernatural, and does roaring business as an exorcist. Until he meets a set of real spirits, who are all quite …dated. There’s Chandramukhi and Baahubali‘s villains fused into one, a piece of elaborate architecture that is reminiscent of Aayirathil Oruvan, a king and his kingdom, a princess (Nayanthara) and her lover, an infallible rival suitor, and those godforsaken CGI apparitions, red-eyed and smoky – all set against varying shades of grey and black.

Sri Divya – with a forgettable screen name – is mild distraction at best; her appearance too fleeting to be convincing, but that probably isn’t her fault. She appears and disappears at the director’s will, and seems to be around only so that Kaashmora could swat at her. Nayanthara, though, looks a dream in those period costumes …and appears to have stepped right out of someone’s fantasy. She does an Avanthika with a sword – only, her opponents have those telltale CGI contours.

Nobody quite cares, though. The props are all old, but they scare all the same. The humour is characteristically Vivekh, and brash when it’s Karthi, and the theatre explodes with laughter. There are prophecies written on leaves, a child goddess with an unconvincing story… sometimes, seeming right out of Tamil television, with its penchant for everything supernatural and over-the-top dramatics. Only, this isn’t television. It isn’t a cheeky commentary on recent cinema either; the Thamizh Padam of 2016 – now that would have been brilliant, no?

****

The Kaashmora review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Manithan Review: Perfectly Timed Legal Drama

There’s an instance in Manithan when Udhayanidhi Stalin walks towards the camera in a slow-mo shot, just as a flock of birds take flight. He’s just won round one against famous criminal lawyer Adiseshan (Prakash Raj in a dramatically loud role) having just fought for justice for the underprivileged. And boy, does he emote. There’s a subtle, understated smile – neither smug nor victorious – only some quiet triumph. He also cries without the telltale red tint, works up enough anger for some impassioned speech, and manages just the right amount of trepidation to pass as a struggling lawyer. He might not have polished his skills to shine, but those little ruffled edges only add to his character, for Udhayanidhi is Sakthi is a lawyer fresh from school, who still has trouble spelling ‘appeal’.

Manithan, a remake of Jolly LLB, the Hindi court-room dramedy, couldn’t have come at a better time. The age-old political strategy of invoking a mass hero to pull all the right strings is a lovely little campaign right there. The best part? Udhayanidhi isn’t your all-white hero. He gets excited enough about making a quick buck off a deal on the sly as much as being the messiah of the masses later. What I loved about it was the lack of fanfare; granted there’s some celebration and shoulder-riding towards the end, but there are no other trappings that come with the movie of a mass hero. Or a movie that wants to make a mass hero of its actor. With a number of young stars in line to be the next Rajinikanth, Udhayanidhi instinctively does it without much ado. Or perhaps, it’s just the script – I might never know.

A hit-and-run case involving platform dwellers and a high-profile accused is what Manithan (and Jolly LLB) is all about. Adi Seshan is the corrupt defense attorney while Udhayanidhi is the lawyer-on-the-road, looking for a ‘case’ to make ends meet. Just when he’s looking to make it big (and please his girlfriend), Sakthi encounters Adi Seshan and his passionately loud arguments to defend his high-profile clients.

And just like that, Sakthi picks up the case, braves a few murder attempts, collects evidence and a few tears, and emerges victorious. With adoring masses at his back.

Quite the new-age MGR.

*****

Aishwarya Rajesh would have made an impact as Sakthi’s betrothed, if Kaaka Muttai is anything to go by. Who else would you cast as the woman who urges her corrupt lawyer-boyfriend to defend the underprivileged than the actress who was so visually eloquent as the mother to two sooty urchins? But Hansika gets the role, and the romance remains superficial. Aishwarya Rajesh, on the other hand, is the journalist reporting on the case. A character that called for the coolly detached Hansika Motwani.

Vivek’s humour – laugh out loud sometimes – is not without the occasional poke at someone’s physique, and a lingering 90s after-taste. Prakash Raj spews passionate – and loud – arguments, matched only by the sagely Radha Ravi as the judge who offers humorous counsel, ringing for tea when inappropriate, and making some hilarious court room commentary. Santhosh Narayan’s music nudges the proceedings with lovely retro-flavoured score that respects – and allows silence(s) as much as it allows music.

And that makes all the difference.

*****

The Manithan review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Vetrivel Review: (Melo)dramatic

Prabhu is making all the right noises the past few years. It’s probably what you’d call …organic. He’s well past his Andhiyile Vanam days, and not capable of such merry moves either.

And so, the actor is slowly slipping into a now familiar role: that of filling the vast vacuum his father left behind. He’s either the burly inspector in a fleeting guest role or the stoic naatamai, the caste-loving oor thalaivar, the venerable panchayat leader …you get the drift. He might not quite be his father in miniature, but the signs are all there. Prabhu knows where he’s headed: the Thevar Magan Sivaji with a disappointing child or two, a love affair that he must frown upon, a family feud that would eventually kill him, and the accompanying emotions that must flit across his face. In Vetrivel, which is pretty much an unsophisticated copy of Thevar Magan with a few changes, Prabhu is all that, and more. Never mind the old tale, the tiring rural subjects, or the horrible roles which are a few decades old, the actor functions quite well as the slighted, victimised village chief.

*****

Sasikumar is the eponymous hero of Vetrivel, in love with Janani, a Malayalee woman (Mia George) who has to have that distinct accent, and a streak of sandal for emphasis. He doesn’t believe in education, but wants Janani – a research scholar – to fall in love with him. He woos her with some creepy staring, and by setting up an organic grocery store overnight (she works at an agricultural research institute, you see). He also ruins this nice Ilaiyaraaja song in the process by making it his ringtone.

Naturally, Janani falls hard for him.

Enter Vetrivel’s brother who needs his help to marry the love of his life. What Vetri does next would surprise you.

Or not. He stages a kidnapping so that the brother can marry his girl, kidnaps the wrong girl, forgoes his love and marries her so that her honour isn’t besmirched, fights his wife’s former fiance and mother-in-law (who also happens to be the village chief’s evil step-sister), and finally emerges victorious – Malayalee girl and his ringtone all forgotten.

So finally, when his wife sings as the end credits roll – to the tunes of D Imman –

Onnapola oruthana na paarthathey illa… (I’ve never seen someone quite like you)

– in a nice, glorious melody, we can’t help but agree with her.

 

*****

The Vetrivel review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Experiencing Theri: As a Woman

The neighbour’s up early today. Earlier than usual. The patch of floor right in front of her apartment is covered in big, colourful loops. The patterns snake and zigzag in a very unkolam-like fashion; probably one of Auntie’s radical designs I think – before quickly realising that she has attempted to write a New Year wish. In Tamil.

I sleepwalk to the door, and let her in. She hands me some very hot kesari dunked in ghee, sneaks a furtive glance at the kitchen.

“Bad night?” she asks.

“No.”

Then, it hits her.

“New Year release aa?”

I nod.

Auntie giggles. “Heh. What a nice job you have! No cooking on festivals!”

After a careful description of the location where the mess serving onion-and-garlic free meals is, she departs.

“Don’t forget to get me a jar of their sambar podi!”

*****

There are only a few directors who are truly reformist. Gautam Menon is one. If he wants to expound on an ideology, he does it thoroughly. Never mind the flamboyance, or the tale that has been retold a few times over; he thrives in the details. His heroines are just as stylish before their wedding, and after; they don’t suddenly turn chaste when they’re married – wrapped in billowing kurtas or saris, and sporting a few other gear to reiterate their marital status.

There’s nothing wrong with kurtas or saris, mind. I love them both. Just that Gautam Menon, and a few other directors of his ilk take care of these subtle influences. There’s a single look for their leading ladies through out a movie; no abrupt switch of style and costumes – except, perhaps during the wedding. That’s what I call truly socially conscious. In Theri, for instance – and in other films of like-minded directors, there’s a load of waffle about social issues, but none of them get to the heart of the matter; these filmmakers don’t realise that they cannot get away with just expounding on a cause, declaring it evil and achieve some kind of vicarious revenge through their movies. Having a rapist’s genitals ripped off and his body mutilated might sound like fitting punishment, but how would that help, really? It’s a typical testosterone-fuelled reaction; a knee-jerk reflex that they just cannot seem to help. Wouldn’t a more responsible (and sedate) approach incorporate social (and sex) education for the offenders – limbs and penises intact? Gautam Menon roughs up too, but he doesn’t bump off a thug by levitating him from a bridge – without sufficient reason. And, he’s gender-conscious. That, for me, is the stuff great directors are made of. Not trapped within the confines of archaic, ill-defined culture – fleshed-out thoughts, moments and scenes, and attentiveness to influences as subtle as clothing.

I have also never quite understood the need to complete a family. That rosy, happy Tamilian ideal: when the mother dies, conjure a maternal figure out of nowhere; that perfect, well-rounded sample of humanity to finish the portrait. Theri would have worked just fine without an Amy Jackson. Or Mallu teachers who can be potential step-mothers.

And, what’s with making mothers out of wives, anyway?

I blame SJ Suryah.

*****

Atlee might have good ideas and his execution is sometimes top-notch. A spark of brilliance that I didn’t quite expect in Theri, is when a classroom is used to teach a bunch of goons what education was all about. I loved the jokes, not the rhyme, mind, but the jokes. They might have been predictable, even a little corny, but I have never quite enjoyed slapstick humour just as much as I did in that particular scene. And, all that I could only think of later, was – what if the rapists and the sex-offenders had been dealt with in the same way?

*****

Vijay is cast perfectly. I might not agree with him on several counts (sorry, Rowling) or forgive him for his past, but he does have style – even without wayfarers. In Theri, he has shorn himself off a lot of things: dialogues aimed at women for instance. And boy, he can joke. He still has a lot of that elder-brotherly air even as a father, but it does work after a while.

And then, the heroics. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee; the hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see: Not quite Muhammad Ali, but very …theri.

*****

I’ve always had a problem with child actors who are made to utter dialogues thrice their age; in Theri not only does the daughter try and set her father up with her teacher, children are used (effectively) to embellish Vijay’s heroics. There also has to be an end to the typical villain act: that of threatening the safety of the family – especially that of kids – to get even with the hero.

It’s way below the belt.

And, rule number one of handling a child artiste as young as a one-year-old: never splash the baby. Ever. Even for cinematic purposes. I have a hardened heart muscle (strengthened over weeks of reviewing movies) that doesn’t quite twitch at these obvious ploys to get me teary, but I nearly skipped a beat when the baby in the tub received a face-full of water, and momentarily gasped for air.

That, really, isn’t done.

*****

The Theri feature is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Jungle Book Review: What If

I had a disquietingly funny thought half way through Jungle Book. Something that involved a Tamil director at the helm of a movie like this: It happened right at the moment when I thought danger was temporarily at bay; Shere Khan had just come to know that the ‘man cub’ is no longer among the wolf pack, Akela having told him so.

Shere Khan must retreat satisfied, surely?

In answer, the massive Royal Bengal had sprung forward, and in a swift, fluid motion, ripped apart the old Akela. I flinched. The guy next to me reared as if struck. A child wailed.

These ‘jump-out-at-you’ scenes took me by surprise – even inspired fear as they were obviously meant to, but I loved them.

And right there, I was seized by a thought. A strange one involving a few Tamil directors, and these jungle-vaasis.

What if; what would happen if these animals were to be directed by a few of our folk?

The stoic Bagheera would have pools of unshed tears in his eyes – much like an elderly Sivaji. Akela’s death would have brought about a mad killing spree (from which everyone would have escaped unhurt, of course). Raksha – the beloved mother wolf – would stuff her knuckles (paws, if you will) in her mouth and throw herself on a ledge of rock to weep in peace.

Shere Khan, on the other hand, would live in the most opulent cave, ever – rippling whiskers and all.

For Mowgli though, I could only think of this especial song.

(Of course, it had to have Rajini in it)

****

Disquieting thoughts aside, this version of Jungle Book is a far, (wild) cry from the warm, friendly animals that we have been acquainted with in the previous versions. The indulgence in the past was quite justified, of course. The target audience were children, and a harmless python that wrapped its coils lovingly around little Mowgli, so that he can count its teeth – was not only looked on fondly, but encouraged. The Jon Favreau version, though, speaks to the same audience. Only, it knows they are no longer children. And so, Jungle Book has grown – along times, and right along its first set of cheerleaders.

Lupita Nyong’o as the wildly gentle and gently fierce Raksha, Ben Kingsley as the seemingly aloof (and dispassionate) Bagheera, Idris Elba (he’d make a terrific James Bond, by the way) as the malevolent Shere Khan, Bill Murray, the affable, business-like Baloo, Neel Sethi as Mowgli …and Rudyard Kipling himself somewhere along the tale. Much as his autobigraphy – Something of Myself – would tell you, he was, somewhere, some time when he lived – a Mowgli – removed against his will from the place of his birth, and transported to a land that he barely knew, vernacular idiom still on tongue. The Ruskin Bond of an earlier century:

[excerpt]

“Once, I passed the edge of a huge ravine a foot deep, where a winged monster as big as myself attacked me, and I fled and wept. My Father drew for me a picture of the tragedy with a
rhyme beneath:

There was a small boy in Bombay
Who once from a hen ran away.
When they said: ‘You’re a baby,’
He replied: ‘Well, I may be:
But I don’t like these hens of Bombay.’

This consoled me. I have thought well of hens ever since.”

*****

I’d loved a particular tale as a child – one of the many in Kipling’s Jungle Book. I don’t quite remember everything, just a hazy sketch involving a pet mongoose that saves his family from a nesting cobra and its mate. Rikki Tikki Tavi and a slew of other tales by Kipling were huge favourites.

And that’s perhaps the only grouse I have with these several adaptations of Jungle Book.

There’s Mowgli, there’s Bagheera, and there’s Baloo. That’s really all we get to see.

What if we had one with Rikki? What if Toomai, the elephant boy were to be seen on film again? What about a tale wound around Her Majesty’s Servants? Or a nice little anthology of Kipling’s lesser known works?

All on film?

*****

The Jungle Book review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Hello Naan Pei Pesuren Review: What Women (Don’t) Want

A few things overlap across most Sundar C directorials. Hello Naan Pei Pesuren is a Sundar C production, but that doesn’t make it any less apparent that the director was somehow involved in the making of the film. He still doesn’t seem to have had enough of horror, for one; with loud, screaming banshees in Dolby Atmos who make you long for a pair of ear muffs. My decibel threshold is quite low, I admit, but these spirits – banshees really – aren’t a pleasant sight either. Pale and golden, they quite know how to dress for the evening – even in death. And, Sundar’s heroines – banshee or no – have their pasts firmly rooted in the North. Even if they aren’t, he finds a thin thread to tie it all together. In Hello Naan Pei Pesuren (telling as it is), actress Aishwarya Rajesh plays Kavitha – a typically insipid Sundar C woman who falls for a guy who harasses her. He calls her ‘mysore-pak‘ and ‘seth‘ – just because she works at a pawn-broker’s – and literally woos her into submission, with a few sexual innuendos thrown in for good measure. Oviya, who plays the banshee, is seth herself.

A banshee seth that abuses in fluent Hindi.

*****

There’s something that Shankar, Sundar C and their ilk of directors must learn. To step away from the 90s. And, to run their scripts by a woman. Do women really think what these men think women think?

The banshee in HNPP pleads (with the godman-exorcist) for a night with her now married ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend’s wife, looking in on the scene, feels sorry for the ghost and gives in to the request. The reasoning?

Peiya irundhaalum penn thaane?

Bloody hilarious.

*****

The Hello Naan Pei Pesuren review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Thozha Review: Textbook Tamil

Thozha Motion PosterA scene in Thozha: Cheenu (Karthi) witnesses Vikram Aditya (Nagarjuna), a quadriplegic billionaire whom he cares for, buying a painting worth an extraordinary amount of money. Cheenu is aghast (“Forty thousand euros for a nosebleed!” Driss gasps in The Intouchables, the French original). He then takes Vikram out for a stroll in his wheelchair – and when the latter eyes a huge clock tower in the city, Cheenu quickly points out that it’s not for sale (“Adhellam arasaanga sothu saar. Vikkamaatanga!”). It’s one of the few laugh out loud moments in this Vamsi P remake.

The Intouchables was a socio-cultural hit; the tale of a wealthy, crippled aristocrat who relied heavily on his black caregiver to show him the sights again. It does take a little warming up to, but Driss is quite a character. He’s not all that boisterous as Karthi, certainly no North Madras swagger (that’s really how you show economic divide in Tamil Nadu, by the way – shove ’em in one of those dilapidated housing-boards)  – but quite …feisty in his own way.

“I know this!” Driss exclaims while listening to the ‘Spring’ sonnet of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at a classical music performance. “The Paris Benefit Office! All our lines are currently busy…”

And then, “Bach was hot. Women went for him. He was the Barry White of his day.”

How can you not like him?

There’s little to negligible emotion here, but Driss, in all his indifference, and sudden, surprising waves of sympathy is made much of in Thozha. In Thozha, Cheenu is temperamental in equal parts. He falls in love with Tamannaah (all pretty dresses and pumps), gets poetic, has a mother to whom he has to prove himself to, and a sister to be married (off). He also calls Nagarjuna ‘anna‘, berates Prakash Raj (as Vikram Adithya’s lawyer friend) for not being Tamil enough because he doesn’t invite Cheenu in for a meal, and tries to get Vikram to meet his ex-girlfriend (only to find out that she’s happily married).

That’s not all. There is a duet or two (shot in Paris for added effect), a ‘special’ number with a skimpily-clad danseuse, transgender-baiting, Vivekh, with a separate comedy track, and dreary family drama. Lovely local flavours, really.

*****

The Thozha review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Pugazh Review: Lost Cause

Pugazh Movie StillsThere’s a defining scene well towards the end of Pugazh. Jai as Pugazhendi, the eponymous hero of the movie, descends on a bunch of goons in righteous anger. He’s armed with a long sickle, one that he had just grabbed from a deity at a thiruvizha; there isn’t anyone else to back him up, and yet he razes down an army of (significantly) muscular men and emerges victorious with just that perfunctory scratch across his cheek. He is then discovered – sickle in hand – murderous rage wholly satiated, towering over the sea of bodies like a god of justice. And here, the theatre erupts. Never mind the fact that only moments ago, it had collectively groaned when Pugazh was trying to save the world: more precisely, a playground that was being taken over by the government. He’s the local messiah; the darling of all the older women, the deliverance of the younger. What’s more, he also has a little sister and a wise-cracking friend (RJ Balaji).

In short, Jai is a few sexist jokes shy of being labelled the Ilaya Ilaya Thalapathi (if there can be one), the facial likeness notwithstanding.

Not that he didn’t try, mind.

*****

Jai does something admirably well in Pugazh. In the blink of an eye, he can vanish in a cloud of fists and dust. At will. One moment, he would be lounging on his bike. The very next, he would have launched himself headlong at someone clad in white. A clamour of weapons, voices and bodies would ensue. In an infinite loop.

Valiyavan, Jai’s last offering, in which he essayed the role of a reluctant boxer, was much the same. He was thrust into the ring, fuelled by revenge, love – and Andrea Jeremiah – and his cause just did not stir our sympathies.

Blame it on the story, or perhaps, the culture that surrounds the type of cinema that Jai has chosen for himself these days, but there just isn’t enough thought.

*****

I almost interpret Jai’s MGR fanaticism in Pugazh as a tongue-in-cheek reference to his exaggerated heroics. Almost. But director Manimaran would have none of it. He quickly makes his intentions known by bringing in Surabhi (Bhuvana as the love interest) – who urges Pugazh to watch some Gemini Ganesan as well.

Which he promptly does (…..)

Reinforcing character, see?

*****

The Pugazh review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum Review: Dark and Light

I seem to have grown an annoying little trait. That of slapping labels on movie titles. Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum, for instance, screams of director Selvaraghavan. It’s a lovely rhyme, has a nice ring to it – and it’s as vaguely unsettling as a lovely rhyme can be.

Mayakkam Enna, Irandam Ulagam, Yaradi Nee Mohini, Nenjam Marapathillai…

Selvaraghavan questions. Not necessarily punctuated always, but he does. And this title is right there in his league. Deep. Unsatisfying.

Poignant?

You could say that. While it doesn’t help that Nalan Kumarasamy has just another frame of reference, Soodhu Kavvum, in all its wacky glory, was solid definition, indeed. Precisely why, Eskimo Kadhal – the erstwhile title of KaKaPo – seemed a good pick; cryptic with that lovely pulpy edge, it was quintessentially Nalan – a crisp, stapled novella. I could almost smell the fresh ink.

*****

But this isn’t a Nalan film. The tale and screenplay – from what little I could see of My Dear Desperado – have been adapted (brilliantly, though) to the Tamil screen. Sethupathi is Kathir – a rowdy who isn’t deemed rowdy-enough. He broods, wields weapons of choice, broods again. Madonna Sebastian (as Yazhini, Kathir’s neighbour) is all that Kathir isn’t; she is an engineer out of work – and the yawning chasm between them notwithstanding, they strike an unlikely friendship.

There are no discernible rough edges (save for the deliberately-styled Vijay Sethupathi) in KaKaPo; nothing to suggest that this movie, was perhaps, not originally conceived by the director. And this diligent reproduction, with a dash of cultural paraphernalia, deserves merit. It might not receive the kind of theatrical applause that Soodhu Kavvum did, but Kumarasamy doesn’t quite care. He doesn’t care about repeating his hero, or about picking a script that would enable him to flex (the same) muscles over and over again – bar-brawls, a rowdy who isn’t one, a bunch of rough-tongued goons, and the portrait of a city’s underbelly – but he does think twice about alluding to sex. During a particular instance, we see Kathir and Yazhini sharing a drunken night. Kumarasamy is quite chaste about it. Yazhini wakes up in Kathir’s arms, and that really is all that the director is willing to risk. He also throws us a song (featuring a jubilant Kathir) that would probably hint some more. And this …cultural sensitivity is a little disappointing. In an earlier scene, Yazhini drinks, Kathir buys her more drinks – and quick on its heels – just before we could rejoice – is a wry remark about women drinking. A ‘joke’ about the number of engineers in Tamil Nadu follows, and then, a sly allusion to women empowerment and the BBC. Things that Soodhu Kavvum admirably steered clear of.


*****

I’ve grown fond of a certain genre of romantic compositions: beautiful retro orchestra, a flurry of light beats, breezy vocals, and nutty lyrics. Santhosh Narayanan – distinctive here with Pangaali, a typical gangster score, (a version of which he had employed in Jigarthanda), is deliberately clinical with romance. The percussion is restrained, the chords don’t overwhelm the lyrics, and his strings are carefully chosen.

Just lovely.

*****

The Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Thani Oruvan Review: A Dizzy Thriller

Jayam Ravi in Thani Oruvan Movie Stills
Jayam Ravi in Thani Oruvan Movie Stills

Five strapping young men (and a woman) who have just entered the police force; a city teeming with underworld mafia, corrupt politicians, and crime at every turn… it all sounds familiar, but Thani Oruvan is something I haven’t seen before.

If I have a grouse about Thani Oruvan, it is that the first ten minutes are not as splendid as the rest of the movie.  There are fleeting whiffs of other cop-gangster thrillers from the past; a medley of scents, but boy does it smell nice. And, just as I try to pin down a possible influence, the movie gallops ahead. Not a brisk canter, mind, but a hurried four-legged gallop. It’s that fast; more like a rally that would have you crick your neck. Deuce. Advantage. And, Deuce again. In quick succession.

And then, just as you think the end is near, you realise it’s a freaking tie.

An impressive one at that.

Thani Oruvan flits past in a haze of drawn guns, blood (nearly as gory as Jigarthanda, but with a ‘U’ certificate), quick chase sequences that you could miss in a blink, an onslaught of strange faces, and –

Arvind Swamy.

I’m not quite sure what to make of him. He’s the villain of the piece, yet he has been dealt with differently. Very differently. The movie, despite its name, is really about two people. Not just the hero – Jayam Ravi, who, I realise, is pretty capable of donning a role as gritty as this – but also the villain, who’s treated like a hero. When Jayam Ravi unravels yet another knot in the mystery, the audience cheer him on, but when Arvind Swamy creates the knot, they are double as lusty. If Jigarthanda delved into the bowels of the city to fish out its tale, Thani Oruvan stays well above the muck. Organized white-collar crimes.

Arvind Swamy is David Carradine. But Jayam Ravi is Uma Thurman; an Uma Thurman who wasn’t shot at while at the altar. An Uma Thurman with no motive, except the Arjun-style patriotic fervour. Mithran (Jayam Ravi) becomes obsessed with his mission: Kill Siddharth (Arvind Swamy), but we get no other tale, no sordid flashback to validate the obsession. That’s probably a good thing – or perhaps, the first in the series of many cinematic allowances you’d be required to entertain.

*****

Nayanthara is used as a ‘lesson’. The first ten minutes are all about her. She’s an IPS officer too, but someone who threatens a man with ‘rape charges’ over a few bottles of liquor. Enter Jayam Ravi who teaches her what is right. She falls hard for him, stalks him, and talks to him even when he spurns her.

Repeatedly.

And that’s pretty much what we see of her, save for a few fleeting flicks of wavy, brown hair when convenient.

Thani Oruvan makes its gender known right in the title.

*****

M Raja cannily places Thambi Ramiah close to Arvind Swamy, sits back and watches the fun. As Arvind Swamy’s lackwit MLA father, he tempers the pace, reining things in when Swamy’s cool, calculated villainy gets a little overwhelming.

A favourite moment in the movie is when Swamy, in his characteristic drawl, tells Ramaiah that he’s ‘incorrigible’.

The sheer absurdity of the situation, the word, and the person it’s targeted at, is nothing if not amusing. I laugh. Thambi Ramiah – all puppy-faced incomprehension – isn’t far behind.

*****

The Thani Oruvan Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

This Week in Tamil Cinema: August 24, 2015

Best stories from last week. Plus, awesome photos.

Akshara Haasan Launches Chennai Diamonds Anna Nagar Showroom
Akshara Haasan Launches Chennai Diamonds Anna Nagar Showroom
  • We got definitive proof that Superstar Rajinikanth’s next is going to be called Kabali, for director Pa Ranjith tweeted the news himself. Rajini will play Kabaleeswaran, a role loosely based on a real-life don. After Lingaa, Kabali aka Kabaleeswaran makes us wonder if the Superstar is being deliberately pious with his names, what with the Himalayan sojourns and all.
  • The Vaalu success meet event also happened last week in which TR was visibly sick, and Simbu spoke about his wedding plans among other things.
  • MR Raja Krishnana, one of the busiest sound technicians in the Southern industry granted us an interview where he told us – amid huge speakers in his movie-hall like studio – about the eloquence of silence.
  • Later, Thribhuvan Vijay, who had been an AD for several films like Maattraan and Yaamirukka Bayamey, spoke to us about the important, unwritten rules on the sets. Like not giving the director (any) bad news, for instance.
  • On the pictures front, we got Akshara Haasan and singer Sudha Raghunathan in a single frame at the launch of jewellery showroom, and Trisha in a lovely pinkish purple ensemble at the launch of Nayagi.
  • Finally, last week’s release, Vanna Jigina, which claimed to be about the perils of social-networking, was really about the perils of being dark-skinned, with one-liners that went: “Nee karugina thiri madhiri iruka, Ava Mezhuguvathi madhiri iruka, epdi set aagum?”

*****

Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga Review: Time For Social Thought?

Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga Lyric VideoThere’s a bitter aftertaste when Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichanvanga ends. The kind you get when your coffee has gone a little too cold; a floating film of dirty brown milk fat that tells you it is no good.

I’m pedantic when it concerns coffee. A little sugar, a little milk, some nice, fresh brew – all decanted just so. Otherwise, I gag.

Too milky? Gag. Too sugary? Gag. Not the right temperature? Gag. God forbid if I take a distracted swallow – the horrible aftertaste would linger long after, which no amount of water-sloshing can cure.

VSOP forces that bad coffee down the throat, and expects lip-smacking appreciation. What’s worse? It does get the appreciation. The theatre erupts at every sexist one-liner that Santhanam spews.

There’s fat-shaming, there’s unsavoury name-calling, there’s misogynist, casteist crap and every fucking thing under the sun that you wouldn’t want in a movie. Or anywhere else. Vidyullekha Raman – who plays friend to the leading lady (Tamannaah) has the short end of the stick. She’s called Kung Fu Panda and a lot of other unpleasant things that I would rather not want documented – though, to her credit, she is unflinching. She takes it all in her stride, and acts the part: that of being cowed when Santhanam and Arya repeatedly harass her in the guise of humour. What I would have loved to see? Vidyullekha’s steely determination put to good use: with a few well-aimed punches. After all, what good is a Kung Fu Panda if it (not mixing up pronouns, mind) doesn’t give back in kind?

*****

Santhanam strides onto the screen with a grim sense of poker-faced purpose. As many punches as he can pack in a sentence. Who cares if it’s offensive? Santhanam doesn’t. As long as he gets those laughs, and as many appreciative whoops, he is content. Well-pleased with himself. And in the process, he takes nasty digs at everyone. A doctor’s big belly is called an ‘air-bag’, a woman is called a ‘chalk-piece’ because she’s fair, and when Arya pretends to fall in love with Vidyullekha, he says, “malai maadri irukkura ungala, kadal alavu pudichirikku.” And then, the theatre erupts again.

*shudder*

The tale of Vasu and Saravanan is an extraordinary one; Vasu decides to get married, but his wife-to-be doesn’t like Saravanan – so Vasu decides to get Saravanan married: that way it would be quite easy to sever the friendship, see?

Saravanan and Vasu also devise ‘interviews’ for the other’s wife. With preposterous questions that go: What would you do if you do not get along with his mother?

And when Tamannaah protests at this, she is shouted down in an instant. Much before Santhanam or Arya could react, the guy beside me hollers: Kelambu di!

That takes my breath away.

I’ve seen and felt covert sexism, I’ve read about it, but this is as brutal an encounter as can be – he is sitting right next to me, this twenty-something lad with a few wisps of hair on his face, hungrily devouring all the wrong lessons in manhood. His friends are screaming themselves hoarse. They love it. They approve of it. They rehash those awful dialogues when we break.

The women they have come with are all coy smiles. To them, this is endearingly funny. Clearly, they are in college, but what are they learning?

Santhanam continues his tirade blithely till the last moment – emboldened along the way by the laughs he knows he would definitely be getting.

Then, Vishal joins the fray. Women are like beer, he begins.

I tune out. I have heard enough this century.

*****

The Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Idhu Enna Maayam Review: Unmagical

Idhu Enna Maayam TrailerIn the two-odd hours of Idhu Enna Mayam, it’s hard to believe that the young Vikram Prabhu’s debut film was that engaging little tale in the wilderness. Here, there’s no trace of the wild-streaked Bomman, or Arima Nambi’s spunky Arjun Krishna. Just plain old Arun (Prabhu), who tells his parents that he’s doing something serious for a living, when in reality, he runs a company (Unnal Mudiyum Thambi!) that orchestrates romance – a grand matchmaking project. He builds sets, he hires actors, and he choreographs perfect cinematic moments in real life. But he barely cracks a smile. After all, this ain’t Prabhu Solomon we’re dealing with. This is AL Vijay. Romance, in his world, is all about delicate porcelain figurines with curvy lettering to match. There has to be something sentimental behind every action. If Arun is in pain because of a physical injury, his mother has certainly ascended to even greater mental agony. And then, there’s the dysfunctional (or not) family as the tell-all backdrop.

It’s pretty clear how this film is going to end.

*****

Arun falls in love with Maya (Keerthy Suresh) in college. Maya – eerily modelled on Shreya Ghoshal – has quite the voice. But thanks to a series of errors and misunderstanding – of the AL Vijay kind – the couple end the relationship, and move on.

But what happens (a few years later) when Arun finds out that he is about to set his client up with Maya?

*****

Even more importantly, what happens when, during a college cricket tournament, a fierce bouncer hits Arun on his head?

He wipes the blood off the cut, casts away his helmet, walks to the pitch –

…and hits the next ball for a six.

*****

Yes, there certainly is a heartwarming twist.

*****

The Idhu Enna Maayam Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Naalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Oorum Review: Flight Of (Tamil) Fancy

Silverscreen.in Copyrighted PhotosNaalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Oorum is quite reminiscent of a play that I read in school; one from those standard NCERT textbooks on Functional English. It was about a city that records no crime, which has no evidence of a crime – all because its residents could read minds. Such a nice read it turned out to be – as was most literature read back in high school.

Someone at NCERT had decent taste.

Naalu Policeum, though not half as great, features a village just as idyllic and harmonious – so much that the police station doesn’t work on Sundays – with a dash of some typical Tamil fantastical elements. A robber who arrives in the village is treated to such a dangerous dose of Tamil hospitality that he turns a new leaf. The local leader is someone who would readily wade knee-deep in the gutter to clean it up, while the police – comprising Arulnithi, Bagavathi Perumal and Singal Puli turn the ‘prison’ into an indoor gaming den.

Director NJ Sri Krishna though, still does not appear content. He wants a greater trait, something more decisive that would drive home the point of his ‘peaceful’ village.

So, we are shown a maamiyar and marumagal who fall over themselves trying to please each other (and an equally nasty brawl when things go awry).

Point made.

*****

For all its other faults, Naalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Ooorum has the most engaging (and relevant) title of all time; it almost sounds like a Balaji Mohan movie.

 

…What happens when the ‘home ministry’ decides to shut the police station and ‘transfer’ the four men to a relatively more violent locality?

NPNO is also pretty funny in parts. In a hilarious instance, Arulnithi (who frequently fantasizes of being a fierce police officer) chases down a couple of ‘thugs’ in the dead of the night – wearing dark sunglasses. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and that – just that – is heartening to watch.

Also, Arulnithi is called Shanmuga Pandian (…)

*****

Remya Nambeesan is a teacher; a profession deemed holy enough to be taken up by Tamil women, while Arulnithi – in a spectacularly unfunny scene – lapses into one of his ‘fantasies’ involving a library, a couple of towering book racks, and the two of them ‘trapped’ within the narrow alleyway.

Yeah, right.

*****

Even better is Remya Nambeesan’s ‘fantasy’. It involves Arulnithi on a 100m sprint thaali in hand, overpowering Remya, and finally managing to get it around her neck.

Clearly, no women were involved in the filmmaking process.

Or were ever consulted on their fantasies.

*****

The Naalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Oorum Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Maari Review: Truly Local

Dhanush in Maari Movie Stills
Dhanush in Maari Movie Stills

I would love to see a dialogue-writer at work, some time. He probably has the most arduous task of all, and the most extraordinary power to wield: that of transforming an actor into a hero. How else would you get the theatre to implode at something as preposterous as:

“Na kallapadamana nallavana irukardha vida, sutthamana kettavana irukken!” (I’d rather be pure evil than contaminated good!)

So verbose. And, so hollow. Scratch the surface, and there’s nothing underneath. Word-play, that (seemingly) sounds good when delivered pitch-perfect. That’s some serious talent right there; thinking up one-liners that knock you flat with their empty wisdom. A punch dialogue.

Maari is full of them.

*****

So this is thara local. Dhanush in vibrant florals (and paisleys), gaudy jewellery, a double-edged moustache, a distinct Shamitabh hangover, and more distinct Rajini-isms. When Maari flicks a cigarette stub, it serenely whizzes past in a protracted slow-mo shot, and hits the villain right on the chest; hard enough to make him stumble. He is the glorified rowdy who hates being called a rowdy, because, well, he has a heart of gold (Thheechcha thangam maari, moracha singam maari!). He would mercilessly tease little girls, but would also pay their school fees. He would forcefully extort money from his neighbours, but would also shelter them when in need. He would rough up almost everyone in the vicinity, but he would be ever so delicate with his flock of pet pigeons…

And, he harbours an inherent dislike for anyone with a decent education. Sounds much like Pudhupettai? Or Polladhavan? VIP? A slice of Anegan? Maari is much the same; only, here, a flock of pigeons are on board as well.

That explains those wings.

*****

It’s also quite a fitting name for a film that’s earnestly local; a contraction of the word maadhiri, which doesn’t have a convincing equivalent in any other language. And, it’s also the name of Dhanush, who’s… very Maari-maadhiri. Balaji Mohan has chosen well. Even better, he decides to weave in tiny somethings from the past. Vijay Yesudas, who plays the police officer, is Arjun. And, the local dada – whom Maari revers – is Velu annan. Then, there are those grand introductions themselves, it’s almost like watching a Rajini movie – no shot begins without a shattered pane or two, or a few upturned vegetable carts – just to announce Maari’s arrival. And when Maari turns auto-driver (some hilarious instances here), you could see it happening right before your eyes: this really is how a Superstar is made. The cool confidence, the easy swagger, a few loyal friends, knock-out one-liners… Dhanush is almost there, as his raucous fan-base would tell you.

Poor Vijay Yesudas, really. His arrival almost goes unnoticed.

******

Kajal Aggarwal might have an important role to play in Maari (a romance that isn’t – a nice touch, this), but that doesn’t mean she will be treated any differently than the average commercial fare. There’s the unwritten clause to abide by: one that comes with the territory of thara local (and that’s how it is used in a sentence) Tamil movies.

She’s ‘ladies’. A ‘figure’. She has to be submissive.

And then, there are those ‘lessons’ in dressing.

The rape ‘jokes’ follow.

When did Dhanush morph into Vijay?

What’s it about breasts that bothers men?

What really happened to the director who made Vaayai Moodi Pesavum and Kaadhalil...?

No, I really wouldn’t like to think it was all Dulquer. Or Siddharth.

Or maybe… it was just Dhanush.

*****

The Maari Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Future Tense: Indru Netru Naalai Review

Vishnu and Mia George in Indru Netru Naalai Movie Stills
Vishnu and Mia George in Indru Netru Naalai Movie Stills

What I love about Netru Indru Naalai is not the theme; after all, time-travel has been done to death the world over. Look at this Rolling Stone list, for instance, which also features a 1961 movie based on the famous novel by H G Wells – there have been many interpretations, and just as many time-machines. But what’s great about INN is the way the subject has been dealt with. Sure, the typeface in the title is all too geometric, with very science-y motifs, but peek underneath, and you’ll find the strangest wreath ever, quite out of place in a film that looks to the future.

Lemons and chillies.

How’s that for a sample?

INN has an awesome premise, where ‘science’ – loosely defined– and astrology co-exist easily, and are talked and laughed about in the same breath; with some humorous commentary on a society that remains trapped between the two. One of the leads – Karunakaran in yet another funny do – is an astrologer (Pulivetti Arumugam) whose skill at reading the planets is just as bleak as his friend’s (Vishnu Vishal as Ilango) life. What do they do when they chance upon a machine that can flit between the annals of time in the blink of an eye? Reverse a war? Save the earth? No. They simply use it to better their business: helping people find things that they have lost. All in the name of astrology.

*****

Director Ravikumar is definitely CV Kumar material. The production house that is famous for its quirky movies, and for making stars out of debutant directors. Indru Netru Naalai is quite within the league, and in time. It’s probably a first for Tamil cinema – and just like the previous ventures of Thirukumaran Entertainment, rides very little on heroics. No flashy introduction to the leads, no mind-numbing songs, and negligible action. Of course there’s a very robotic Arya in a guest role – but what blessed relief! The jokes are straight-faced, borne brilliantly by the screenplay, and there’s a solid theme which is worked out pat to the last detail.

As the movie begins, a Kurt Vonnegut quote flashes on screen. From Slaughterhouse-Five: ‘All things past, present and future have always existed, and always will exist’. And just like that, Ravikumar sets the premise for his trick. One that has everything and very little to do with the evolution of science, and its study. It isn’t hard to pin down the influences. A steady diet of Tamil novellas, full of supercomputers and robotics.

*****

INN is science-fiction bordering on fantasy; a genre that needs deft handling. It has to convince. It needs to convince. How else would the humour work? If it does feel surreal – laughably so – soon after the interval, the feeling is quickly dispelled. In a particular instance, when Pulivetti Arumugam deadpans brilliantly, I laugh.

Unakku idha otta theriyuma?” he wonders aloud, pointing at the time-machine.

*****

Bizarre instances do occur in this onionesque film. When Ilango takes his girlfriend (Mia George as Anu) for a spin in the time-machine – in what is meant as a touching moment – they drive her mother to the hospital so that she can birth Anu.

Even more bizarrely – in a gross violation of time-travel rules – Anu then kisses her infant self (!)

*****

And of course, neither Pulivetti Arumugam nor Ilango can work the time machine. They need a Giridhar Parthasarathy (TM Karthik) for that. One who wears Pink Floyd t-shirts, dreams up nutty inventions, and drives voice-automated cars. And that’s where – even as the director attempts to break free from those traditional cinematic tropes – the movie remains firmly entrenched in the past.

*****

The Indru Netru Naalai Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Eli Review: A Decade Too Late

Eli Video SongsThere’s something that Vadivelu and his ilk of comedians refuse to acknowledge: their brand of hyperbolic, slapstick humour is just…passé. Nobody really laughs anymore because someone tripped. Least of all when it’s Vadivelu, with his outlandish attire and wooly loafers, getting clubbed the moment he’s introduced in his latest film, Eli. Yes, this fixation with physical humour provided fodder for Goundamani and Senthil, and Vadivelu himself. It saw them through the 90s, and a little through the 2000s as well. But not longer. And, certainly not now. Nobody really laughs at deliberate mispronunciations. Nobody wants to laugh.

Vadivelu is not alone in this, though – a couple of months ago, Bhagyaraj’s Thunai Mudhalvar was just as farcical. A sample: When Shwetha Menon, who plays Bhagyaraj’s wife, says, “Veedu evide?” – which translates to -“Where do you live?” in Malayalam, Bhagyaraj, in a true display of 90s wit, goes, “ennadhu, vade, bonda va?”

Or in Eli, when Vadivelu dreams a duet with Sadha – Mere Sapno Ki Rani Kab Aayegi Tu – in 60s finery, to be sure, singing, “Chali aa, tu chali aa…,” one of his comrades thinks he has a cold. And that particular line is drummed into our heads repeatedly – lest we miss the joke. That is all there is to these films – the ones where comedians turn heroes (the honorary exception being Nagesh, of course). The story – just as preposterous – is a cover to introduce these droll jokes. If anyone is really interested in the actual plot, Vadivelu plays a spy in Eli – a tale set in the 60s. He’s the rat in a den of smugglers, sniffing out information for the police.

Also, he’s called Elisamy in the movie.

Why?

Because his parents are named Elizabeth and Sami Kannu, you see.

 

*****

The Eli Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

Romeo Juliet Review: Lessons in Filmmaking

Romeo Juliet TrailerIf there is something worse than naming a film as crass and woeful as Romeo Juliet after a Shakespearean play, it’s the task of sitting through two hours of it. Suffice to say that this Lakshman fare has absolutely nothing in common with its namesake. Granted, there’s a ‘Romeo’ – as loosely as the style is used these days to represent anything romantic; a Juliet, who’s characteristically more juvenile, and a story, which, even if it isn’t essentially a “tragedy”, ends up being one anyway.

There’s this exquisite Tamil sentiment that is heavily exploited in Romeo Juliet. Something that always seems to be in vogue year after year, decade after decade. The sentiment that several massy actors always employ to their advantage, Sivakarthikeyan (in Kaakki Sattai) being the latest to do so. A penurious hero with a heart of gold versus a rich, English-spouting <insert a few negative adjectives> business man. Only, here it’s more excruciating, with ribald, sexist humour, and two leads whose antics get increasingly insipid over time.

Sometimes, I wish I could sit on the censor board.

*****

Romeo Juliet begins with a few famous scenes from movies past. There’s Sivaji professing his undying love, there’s Thalapathi’s Rajini, that song from Guna, then, Vijay, Dhanush, Ajith, and a moment from 7G Rainbow Colony. Romeo… belongs with the latter few. An exaggerated version of all things Vijay and Dhanush, entailing more harassment if there ever was than 7G Rainbow.

Aishwarya (Hansika) is an air hostess who wants to marry rich; Karthik is a gym instructor whose parents are intent on finding him a bride. What happens when Aishwarya, through a sheer twist of fate, falls in love with Karthik when she sees him driving a Mercedes Benz and living in a huge bungalow? And what happens when she finally realises that he’s not rich? If the first half of Romeo Juliet seeks to showcase how shallow Aishwarya is, the second is all about teaching her a lesson.

The Tamil way.

Whom does she choose? The penniless hero with a heart filled with equal parts gold and discriminatory humour and subtle disapproval about her clothes, or the rich, controlling, power-hungry businessman, full of obvious disapproval about her clothes, body, and handwriting?

And, the jokes. Of course, the theatre was laughing; especially the woman next to me who was cheering Jayam Ravi on.

There has to be a manual somewhere on responsible filmmaking.

*****

The Romeo Juliet Review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have an advertising relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.