Friday, October 29, 2010

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu Review

Its been several years since the movie released, yet its appeal still remains for me. Its not the usual kind of movie that I watch but still had me hooked with the narration and the performance of the cast. Goutham Vasudev Menon has always been someone I could trust for a good soundtrack, honest performances and exquisite visuals. While Harris Jeyaraj has been his right hand man when it comes to music on most of his films, he has changed to Ravi Verman for cinematography this time.

Tamil cinema is notorious for having the 'law-abiding-smart-police officer up against corrupt officials/terrorists' storylines but after Kaakha Kaakha, Goutham has introduced a breed of slick, suave and scintillatingly intelligent cops that are as much powerful as they are human. Kamal Hassan steps into the khaki uniform after a long time as Raghavan, a city bred cop that knows how to deal with all kinds of criminals, yet all the while, trying to forget a troubled past.  We begin with Raghavan investigating the disappearance of his colleague Arokiaraj [Prakashraj]'s daughter. With limited information, he tries to piece the puzzles together only to find her brutally murdered. With Arokiaraj and his wife Chitra [Rajshri] shifting base to America to find peace, Raghavan continues his search. But peace isn't all they get as he is hit with the news that his colleague and wife have been killed too.

Off home turf maybe but still determined and true to his instinct, he travels to America where with the help of NYPD detective Anderson [Lev Gorn], he finds clues to the killer and has a chance encounter with another tortured soul of the living variety, in the form of Aaradhna [Jyothika]. Plagued by her past like Raghavan, Aaradhna finds a hero and a shoulder to cry on in the stranger she meets at their hotel. While Raghavan is concerned, the case takes he and Anderson down a twisted path that takes their family killing case into a serial killing. The path leads them to several more victims and their culprits. But the encounter doesn't go smoothly to say the least. What proceeds is a race against time as its up to Raghavan to think one step ahead of the killers before the body count rises.

Kamal Hassan needs no introduction and whats more, he surprises yet again. Stripping the images of his previous khaki characters, his shows intelligence, determination and poise of a sophicated urban cop without being a lifeless brick. Jyothika is a favourite for Goutham and is elegant and simple as Aaradhana. Timid and troubled, she emotes in just the right quantity and how anyone in the real world, in her circumtance would, leaving her performance natural. No loud or brash to the point baffoonic, expressions here. Even is his miniscule role, Prakashraj adds raw appeal to his role, as does Lev Gorn, Rajshri and Kamalini, which only adds to the storytelling without cluttering. Now those who have seen Daniel Balaji can vouch for me in that it doesn't take this guy much to look evil. But add him to Saleem Baig , who hasn't been seen much before or after, and you have some nastiness you dont want to cross. Utterly absorbed into the role, Daniel overtakes Saleem alot but you dont see one without the other. Editing by Anthony is crisp and precise while Ravi's camera work is a delight as always. Polished and oozing with finesse. The charts have always been favourable to Harris and once again, he strikes a bulls eye but the extra bonus is his re-recording. If Goutham had everyone glued to the screenplay, Harris made them jump, scream, sigh, cry all in tune. In all honesty, Goutham isn't the kind of person I see doing a village backdrop but in his defense sophistication never looked this cool before. But this game has a flip side.

Contemporary aspects of life are essential to make things believable and while the concept of serial rapist/killers isn't something that has much exposure in Tamil cinema, the homosexual quotient that Goutham infuses into the story doesn't get a valid reason to be there. More over the visible gore in the film makes this a leave-your-kids-at-home kind of film. The catalytic point of the story is hampered by Daniel doing an verbal vomit. In the story it is crucial stage but so very tiresome to watch. Where the director is poetic with Kamal's flashback, he dwells way too much on the one for Daniel and Saleem's. As mentioned, Daniel overtakes Saleem on several occasions but he also goes overboard as well. Yes, he's a psycho and its obvious from his actions but did he really need to be so verbous about it? Also, if you're a non-Tamil watching the flick with subtitles, I warn you the language Daniel uses is foul. While the audio has been beeped out, the subtitles haven't been censored. Given that a lot of English flicks swear without blinking, some maybe used to it. But I personally find it a hinderance when its excessive. In all other situations though the dialogue has a finesse to match the visuals.

in short, the suspense of the movie will drive it home but the basic premise is something not all will be used to and take a liking to. 

Rating: 3/5

Monday, October 25, 2010

Broken Ties 2

The worst feeling you can have is when your belief and your trust is torn to pieces. To have your heart strings pulled apart because someone you cared for or trusted or looked up to has left you is sometimes unbearable. Whether leaving is dying or simply not existing in your life, the pain is a reality that many struggle to deal with.

To go from celebrating every moment of a friendship with coffees, luncheons, movies, trips away and general banter, to trying to remember when the last time you saw that person is a harsh factor for some of todays youth. But due to the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" concept they follow on, it is very rare to find people that dont get affected by the factors of life and its toll on friendship. But lets leave that aside, what about other relationships? A friend of mine has never been that close to her brother but has told me that even if that were the case, when the factor of a partner came into their life, she felt more abandoned by him than before. There are others that their lack of concern is consistent issue and even when you a completely aware of it, it pangs somewhere deep inside.

Cinema is my way of escaping this pain of mine. A psychiatrist may examine me and say that I should have vented things on my mind, instead of bottling it up. I have seen its outcome in that I lash out at people that mean the world to me. But whatever the situation was, I wanted the happiness I felt and more importantly, that was experienced by those around me to continue. It got to such an extent that when I felt left out, I would sit in a corner or away from the crowd and just watch them. Without saying what I felt. My mother once said that I was an attention seeker because of this attitude/behaviour. I, on the other hand, felt that I was just being human and wanted to be happy, with happy people. Even at this age now, I feel ashamed that this behaviour comes up, because I should know who is important to me and who I am important to. However, this pitfall does subside quickly and then the other one of why pops up. 

I guess to know that this person was apart of your life and then due to whatever reasoning, that happiness/bond that you shared wont ever come back is an event some may never get over. Some people can. I don't think this has to do with your upbringing, gender, or background. But what is concerning is the speed in which life is progressing for those around me. Or is how slow I'm going. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Khaleja Review

I’ll be honest.The "Maheessshhhh" dialogue from Ashta Chamma is pretty much my reaction to every pic of Khaleja I have seen. But then again, beyond that sweety smile, intense eyes and total yumminess that is Mahesh Babu, I got bored with his last movie, Athidi. Yes, I have a problem with Amrita Rao but it was beyond the pairing [As an actress, she's better than a fair few]. Something in the story just didn't sit right. Thankfully, Trivikram’s film have always held my interest and considering the Trivikram-Mahesh combo returns after the critically acclaimed Athadu and also counts as a return for Mahesh too, expectations were moderately high. Moderately high, u may ask? Well, let’s just say Puli taught me a lesson on expectations but that’s another topic.Since action is always an important factor, as well as music; Khaleja is no different on the outer scale. An action-based commercial pot-boiler [seeing a lot of those lately], it has Mahesh’s trusty hit-makers Mani Sharma for music and Raju Sundaram for choreography.

In our opening scene we are introduced to the cremation grounds of Pali, a rural village in Andhra Pradesh, struck by a strange disease with an alarming mortality rate. Its residents believe their beloved village is cursed. No reasons, no apparent causes yet the number of deaths only increased by the day. The village head/oracle [Rao Ramesh] foresees a saviour that will rid them of their dilemma and sends out Siddhappa [Shafi] with instruction to find him and bring him back.

On the other side of the country, we meet Raju [Mahesh Babu], a taxi driver that has had a few run-ins with lady bad-luck. Not the mythical type but a real life lady whose name is Subbashini alias Subbu [Anushka Shetty]. Every time he meets her, his taxi takes a turn for the worst. If that wasn’t bad enough, he even ends up in hospital. On what seemed like a normal drop off, one of his passengers forgets his wallet and he goes to return it to him. But lady bad-luck strikes again, as his geologist passenger gets killed and his assistant lands smack on his taxi. After the other encounters his manager [Dharamavarupu] has no way of paying for it, and tells him he has only one way to resolve this. The assistant had life insurance so Raju will have to take the life insurance cheque to the family in Rajasthan and get some in return for the damages. What was to be an easy trip to Rajasthan turns into another dangerous encounter but this time with Subbu and Raju as the target. Injured, he seeks assistance from a stranger. But to the stranger, Siddhappa, Raju is the saviour the oracle foretold. What does Subbu have to do with this? Is Raju really a saviour? Can he save the village? Or is there a less divine being involved in this?

You will never have seen Mahesh in any flick like this before. He’s chatty, witty, funny and downright “local” with a Godavari 
accent. Unlike his brooding intense characters of the recent past, with Trivikram’s unique style of dialogue, the actor shows a fun-side as we laugh at his misfortunes. A complete entertainer, the normally soft spoken actor will have you in splits. Trivikram must be commended for the confrontation between Mahesh and Rao Ramesh in front of the villagers and later between Mahesh and Raghu Babu when the latter is kidnapped by the former. The director’s touch is evident in every scene and the cinematography and music enhance it. Anushka is pure eye candy with nothing much to do but she looks a million bucks and has a cool chemistry with Mahesh. Considering her Arundhati and Vedam have put her in another league from the current glam queens, it is a little disappointing. Prakashraj as businessman G.K. has down played his role well. Barring the climax, he seems a little too quiet from what we are used to. Shafi, Subbaraju and Rao Ramesh have always been reliable for their histrionics, deliver once again. Although Rao has done the oracle at in Magadheera, he’s more controlled this time. With Mahesh himself rocking the floor with comedy, Ali and Sunil are just extras. Mani Sharma has always been in Mahesh’s good books and he delivers once again, with Piliche and Makathika the picks of the lot.

No matter how much I enjoyed seeing Mahesh on screen, the pitfalls are definitely there. First, the length. I could count at least 3 occasions where the action sequence could have put me to sleep, especially the introduction scene for Mahesh, which honestly, had no connection to the story. Visually captivating, yes, but way too long. Second, the depth of the characters is simply not there. Face value may work on passerby characters but not main ones like Prakashraj. This is essential for the validity of the screenplay. Innovative as the screenplay may be, it’s obvious that Trivikram is riding on the star factor to drive the story home.

Pluses and minuses apart, Mahesh... I mean, Khaleja entertains so long as you put your brain away for the serious bits. A definite watch for some action, comedy and Mahesh. Rating: 3.5/5

P.S. Did anyone notice that besides the bathroom scene in this movie, Mahesh never shows his stomach??

Monday, October 18, 2010

Brindavanam Review

I've always had a soft spot for Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao Junior (Tarak). I found him adorable as this massively chubby kid that was larger than life on screen. I know, he was 17 when he did Ninnu Choodalani, but still, he seemed liked a child. Even when he did his macho thigh-slapping in Aadi, it was more funny than ferocious. Anyway, fast forward 10 years, major flops and awesome blockbusters, 2 years of recovery from a near fatal accident and his first release of 2010, we have his latest flick with Vamsi Paidipally. The director is wielding the megaphone after his directorial debut, which didn't so well. The gap between the actor and director, and their films [Adhurs and Munna] created more hype about this film than most anticipated. Add to the basket Kajal Aggarwal, Samantha Prabhu and S.Thaman and you have Brindavanam. 

So what is it about? It’s about 2 families, a friendship and the importance these two have in the protagonist's life. Yes, it does have the violin effect in the background during some of the speeches Tarak gives and some may speak of common sense, but we all know that it ain't that common. So we begin in a typical Tarak fashion with some stylish fight sequences to show Krish [Tarak]'s strength and some fun yet sentimental scenes to introduce his parent [Pragathi and Mukesh Rishi]. Cool, calm and immensely confident, he is their only son. Their apple of their eye and the heir to more money than anyone cares to ellaborate. Enter the glam doll Indu [Samantha] and the girl-next-door Bhoomi [Kajal]. The former is his girlfriend and the latter is her friend. While Krish's parents have given the go-ahead for h
is own love story, Bhoomi is stuck in an alliance she doesn't want to go through with. Even though her father [Prakashraj] has arranged it and is aware she wants to go overseas to study, he is stubborn. To break this alliance, her grandfather [Kota Srinivasa Rao] says a lie. A lie which Bhoomi through Indu, gets Krish to make believable. But the fun doesn't stop with their little act. Add in a possessive "bava" [Ajay], an enmity of dire straits with the neighbouring town head [Srihari] and lots of comedy from Venu Madhav and Brahmanandam, and you have yourself a commercial pot-boiler for the family with Tarak in a slightly different role.

Let's begin with my soft-corner. Tarak is larger than life again, but in a subdued manner. This may be contradicting but as Krish, he looks the part and performs it well. Yet you will get the feeling he takes over each scene he is in. As the catalyst, I guess its warranted but except for the confrontation between the family and Prak
ashraj and Kajal's outburst, the other characters seemed overshadowed. Hence the larger than life statement. Kajal Aggarwal doesn't do much and was down-right annoying. Yes, she is supposed to be a little tame and less bubbly like her last film, Darling, but she pretty much uses 3-4 facial expressions and does not seem convincing on the story-within-a-story level. Samantha on the other hand, is cute and plays her smaller role as the girl/friend well. There are stages in the film that she seems completely forgotten and they add balcony shots to remind the audience she is there. However, I would say she left more of an impact that Kajal. The secondary casting all have limited scenes and play them well but one would expect more from biggies such as Prakashraj, Kota, Srihari, Ajay but Tanikella Bharani as Ajay's father, does seem a little odd in his sinister-ish role.

Moving on to the music, it has all the elements of a "mass" album. With a blend of western and folk, Eh Raja, Chinnado Vaipu and Yuvakulu will have you tapping your feet without you realising. Not clear if the 
music is supposed to be his trademark tuning or not, as sense of de-ja-vu comes to the fore and plays spoilsport in some cases. However, there’s a huge disappointment with the blatant use of DB Boulevard's Point of View in Nijamena [You too, Brutus]. On the visual front, it looks good, barring the obvious affection to blue [Another reference back to Krishna?] Vamsi has done an ok job with such a big cast but as mentioned, his concentration is apparent, especially, the ending. What’s worse is the film has so much potential to be a laugh-a-thon but it drags at the points where it should flourish.

Tarak is the backbone and probably will be the sole reason this film runs.  Rating: 3/5

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Back to the Roots..

Turbulent times during my childhood usually had me running to the playground or running to the tv. More specifically the VHS player for my favourite collection of flicks. Considering my age, it didn't make a difference whether these films fared well or not. I loved the acting, the sets, the songs and the story. So every time I went to watch these films, it was not a skip to the chapter I wanted. It was a start to finish watch filled with the same laughter, the same tears, the same anger for the baddie and the same dancing [my little mind had decided different steps would not make it for that song]. So while I nagged my dear friend Prathna to write a list of her favourite Prithviraj flicks and commented on most of the posts on another darling friend Louella's blog, it got me thinking about the flicks that I survived my childhood on. And maybe even built my personality on.

As usual, Thalaivar Superstar is my first point of call. His comic timing, his acting, his ishtyle. He's an one man army that tackles all the baddies, controls the comedians and romances the beauties. For me, there was never a day that I could not watch his Dharmathin Thalaivan and laugh hysterically at his absentminded professor/drunken goon act. He made it look possible to tackle a giant of a man by simply splashing water in his face and bashing him black and blue with gold bricks in a fanny pack. Yet at the same time, forgets where he lives. Yes, this is a remake of Amitabh Bachchan's Kasme Vaade but nativity added to the enjoyment of this film. And its Rajnikanth. DOT!

Don't ask me why or how I got it. All I remember was the stomach cramps I got from laughing at the kids in the film when they played their pranks. Of course as I grew older I understood the message of hope, acceptance and forgiveness, but Shamili,Tarun and Shruthi were so adorable. My mother recalls me asking for my own "Anjali papa".  One thing for sure, I still cry till this day when watching Revathi's turmoil as her own child is scared to come close to her. For a 4 year old, I don't know how much of her character Shamili understood when doing it but she underplays it well.

Prabhu has always been a bankable hero in my books. I was forever comparing him to my brother since they both have the squinting effect when smiling or laughing. This is back when Prabhu was in his prime and my brother still had hair but I wasn't the only one as my mother dearest loved Prabhu as well as he reminded her of him too [I have since learnt I am worse with the squinting but that's another topic]. So with the powerhouse performer and the rib-tickling screenplay by Visu, you're sure to be entertained by Kavalan Avan Kovalan. For all the stories of two people looking alike but not having a single thing to do with each other, this is one of my favourites. A simpleton teaches the hot shot a lesson storyline has been done before I know, but the appeal lies in how Visu, who plays a  role himself, brings the characters together.

Malluvetti Mainnar may not be perfect but it sustained an interesting plot for your average pot-boiler. Whats more the film has powerhouse performers Shobana, Seetha and Sathyaraj in it. Although he now seems to be making a career at the expense of others, this film was at a time that Sathyaraj was taken seriously as a hero. For a simple plot of the village casanova becoming a "ekha pathini virathan" or one-woman man, it was handled well. The thing that really drew me was the witty one-liners and the child-artiste Mahendran that plays Sathyaraj's son. Pure comic genius in a tiny body that sometimes overshadowed Sathyaraj!

During a phase when the above mentioned Sathyaraj still did villain roles, I fell in love with Kakki Chattai. Yes, its another commercial pot-boiler but this is Kamal Hassan we are talking about. Like Rajni, his aura is just superb and he was still quite handsome back then. Again, we deal with your average joe who dreams of being a police officer but the chemistry between Ambika and Kamal is just amazing. I dont really know how many films they had done by the time I watched this but I thought they were perfect for each and should get married then I found out he was already married  [Oh well, I loved his on screen presence anyway]. I must mention Madhavi in this one. Total Bomb of a lady and she looks alluring and acts well so its not a one sided show with Kamal stealing all the credit in their scenes. Mum recalls again me aping Madhavi in the Poo Potta Thavani track. Looking at it now, I don't remember how but I'll leave that to the imagination of a child.

Now this is a funny fact. I saw Unnal Mudiyum Thambi before Kakki Chattai even though chronologically its after. But considering Kakki Chattai was released in 1985, i doubt I would know what I am watching at that age [barely 1!!]. This movie's soundtrack is honestly the main reason I re-watched it so much. The concept was so beautifully told with the carnatic backdrop but without being a total carnatic lesson. My absolute favourite song though is Enna Samayalo. With the classic Balachandar touch, the story of a man torn between his own ideals on life and society, and living up to the expectations of his father has an appeal to it that doesn't make it a total preachfest. Kamal Hassan at his simple best with Gemini Ganesan. I had only recently found out that a flick that I've been looking forward to but have no luck in finding, Rudraveena [Chiranjeevi and Shobana] is UMT's Telugu remake that won 2 National Awards for its music.

Where would I have been without them? I don't know. But I'm sure my then night-shift-working-mother would have been up the creek without a paddle. Being a vivacious child with an imagination that made all efforts around the house "helping mum out" [i.e. pots are broken, drinks spilt or food on the floor], I would have found something else to do. But movies were what I resorted to and out all of the hours I spent in front of the tv, I think I absorbed more than just the storylines. But am I alone?
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