Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yuddham Sei Review

When it comes to the suspense thriller genre, it is almost like walking on thin ice. It takes only one incapable hand to ruin an entire film. Whether its the director, the music director or the cinematographer. But when you have the talented Myshkin at the helm, you can rest assured that the film is in good hands. For the director that brought Anjaathey and Nandhalala, Yuddham Sei is his latest attempt with actor-director Cheran in the lead. An already hyped film with Rajnikanth heaping laurels on it, it brings Neetu Chandra as the latest yellow sari item girl with AGS Productions aiming for a hat trick after Madrasapattinam and Bhale Pandiya. But does it work? Read on to find out.

The movie begins with plain cardboard boxes being found in various public places with amputated limbs inside them. With the media frenzy heightening as each box is found and no clue on who is doing it, the case goes to the Crime Branch of Central Investigation Department. For the Deputy Commissioner [Nareyn] his best man JK [Cheran] is the agent to solve this gruesome case. However for JK, the case that plagues his mind is that of his missing sister’s. Only after he gets assurance he can reopen his sister’s case from the Deputy does he reluctantly take the case. As horrific as the evidence  is, JK slowly pieces the puzzle together and finds there is much more than meets the eye. Each victim that has gone missing with only their limbs being found is linked to another case involving a Dr Purushothaman [Y.G.Mahendran] and his family’s collective suicide. On one side there are the cases of corruption and sexual assault against Dr Purushothaman and his wife respectively that were never proven, on the other side those surrounding them say they were honest and compassionate people. But before he can unravel the link between the Purushothamans case and the limbs, a shocking piece of evidence comes to light. Not just about Dr. Purushothaman but about his missing sister as well. It’s now or never for JK who has to solve the case before the body count increases but can he control the demon inside? Will the observer become the hunter? For this you will have to see the film.

First of all I will be honest. This is not the type of film that a family can sit and watch. It’s not aimless and it sure as hell isn’t brainless. Myshkin has made it clear from the outset there is very minimal “filmy” antics to be seen so if you’re expecting something glamourised, I suggest you watch a different film. Yuddham Sei is what I call a classic who done it film with more life-like appearances than TFI is used to. Straight to the point, Myshkin doesn’t dawdle on who to follow and at the same, he doesn’t make it too hard for the average movie watcher to understand. Kudos to him for selecting Cheran for the lead role of JK. Personally, I found it hard to accept Cheran as an actor. He has been strictly ok thus far and I felt he clearly needed to move away from the emotional dramas he kept doing. With Yuddham Sei, he has done just that. The overacting Cheran is reserved to the only overtly emotional scene he has towards the climax. For everything else, he is practically dead-panned and firmly holds the reigns on his expression which works perfectly for his eccentric distraught character. But thats not to say he is wooden in his emotion. Where its necessary the actor shows urgency, frustration, and anxiety. Honest and real, this has to be Cheran’s best performance yet. Deepa Shah and Yugendran as his subordinates play their part but it is Cheran that drives the film. The two newcomers try their best within their limited roles. Jayaprakash has come around again with a surprise role of Judas, the witty and intelligent medical examiner that is constantly on the drink. The man has a knack of making you erase from memory all his previous roles and gives a fresh one to remember him by. Y.G.Mahendran and Lakshmi Ramakrishnan have never been seen like this before and I expect they won’t again. The two of them breathe life into their characters and are sure to surprise you. Nareyn as the hot-headed Deputy is apt as is Manikkam Vinayagam for the sleazy Duraipandi. The actors that play Tirisangu and Issaki Muthu deserve special mention for their natural act as well but I wasn’t able to find out their names, sorry.

The main man worth all the credit this film receives is Myshkin. The real life circumstances, insertion of detail without blurring the image, the unsaid statements are just a few strokes of his trademark style. At the same time, the director understands where some issues need to be brought in an acceptable package and manipulates the audience in the gory parts instead of blunt imagery. To top if off, whilst understanding this is a film, the question he poses to the audience is both relevant for them  and necessary to understand the proceedings. Cinematography by Sathya and music/background score by K are as close to the lifeline as possible for this film. At no point do either of the  them step over their ground nor do they underplay it. Each frame is creative yet holds its intensity and the music makes sure to keep the audience on edge. Keeping them into an effective sequence is the editing by Gagin. With small sentences and visual imagery to answer questions that may rise, the dialogue sometimes doesn't have a job but where its used, it is sharp and crisp yet remaining true to the character way of communication. As they all do there part, they successfully work as a team to point you in the direction of the narrative as planned with no pushing or shoving necessary.

So where does an exceptional film like this falter? The same place that he scores marks. Yes the unsaid statements in form of imagery work for the film but at times it takes a second view to decipher. Some logics also, even after the movie is over, leave one confused since it goes against the narrative. But the biggest blunder I feel is the insertion of the one and only full song in the film. Yes, Neetu Chandra is gorgeous as the next one to wear a yellow sari for the item number that comes up without fail in Myshkin’s film, but her and Ameer’s dancing routine sticks out like a sore thumb. Some may say that it works in the narrative but with such a gripping screenplay in hand, why Myshkin felt this item song was needed, I really don’t know.

Rating: 4/5 – Gripping and hard hitting, Myshkin is back with his own kicking material. And loads of it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mad about Madhavan...

This is a repost of an article I did for Bollyspice but given its relevance, I'm posting here as well. :)

Madhavan definitely has the goods. But when you sit down to write what those goods are, one can't help but stumble on the words. After all, there are so many Maddy fans of varying ages. So, what do we actually like about Madhavan Ranganathan? Some may think that Maddy is simply a lovable character; some may swoon for that smile. With the release of his newest film Tanu Weds Manu we here at Bollyspice decided to reveal the top 10 things we love about Maddy! So, in no particular order, here it is.

1. His smile

For those that have seen the Tamil version of 
SaathiyaAlaipayuthey, you may remember that the first few scenes are of a grinning Madhavan riding his motorbike. Careless and on top of the world, the scene later proved to be a tragic one, but for those few moments that grin proved deadly the ladies. Bollywood lovers weren't waiting for very long to see what made everyone swoon, remember the scene as he sweetly smiles at Soha Ali Khan when he asks her to marry him in Rang De Basanti. I'm sure she wasn't the only one that fell for him.

2. His professionalism

Whomever you speak to, Maddy has always been and still is Mr. Professional. He is never one to badmouth his colleagues or make drama on the set. In an age where we hear about on set squabbles between two main lead actors are frequent, Maddy has been apart of 17 multi-starrers in his 50 film career and never once has there been a rumour of issues between him and his co-stars.

3. His versatility

Even at the start of his career, he did not hesitate to try and be different. With Mani Ratnam's
Alaipayuthey he shot to fame as a 20-something year old that falls in love and learns to deal the trials of life after marriage. Within a few years he played a father of three in the story of a journey of child going back to her homeland to find her birth mother in Kannathil Muthamittaal, something which was considered taboo in the south for a long time. He then proceeded to transform into a goon in Aiyutha Ezhuthu, a role essayed by Abhishek Bachchan in Yuva, was an innocent chef who travels abroad in Nala Damaiyanthi/Ramji Londonwaley, only to turnaround and become Farhan Qureshi, an engineering student in 3 Idiots. Phew!

4. His effortless acting

One thing we all agree on is how effortless Maddy is at the characters he plays. Be it Ajay Rathod of RDB, Shyam Saxena in 
Guru, or his latest Manu in Tanu Weds Manu, he fits the shoe no matter how big, awkward, dorky or even the downright sombre. He has openly said the role of the goon Inbasekhar aka Inba in Mani Ratnam's Aiyutha Ezhuthu was one of the toughest roles for him to do, yet whoever saw him on screen did not see R. Madhavan, but the character Inba, such is his acting prowness.

5. His style

While a good physique is bound to have the women swooning and the men envious, it is not the only thing that matters when it comes to style. For our dear Maddy, he may not be from the 6-pack-body-bearing class of actors but the man has class for sure. From innocently quirky to charmingly suave, he fits the bill to the T.

6. His eyes

They say the eyes are a gateway to a person's personality. Not quite sure if Maddy is showing his personality in his eyes, but they never fail to show the emotion across beautifully. From the frustration of the common man in 
Evano Oruvan, a Tamil remake of Nishikanth Kamat's Dombivili Fast or a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder sufferer in Mumbai Meri Jaan, he is as sincere as when he romances his leading lady Diya in Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein.

7. His charm

Give it up ladies, if you met someone as charming as Madhavan, would you not fall for him or what? I'm sure Sarita, Maddy's wife of 12 years, would have a few words to say about his wonder charm. But seriously, the appeal about it is not even the 'Oh my god, he's so hot' types. It's the type that has you giggling like a little girl while your friends smile in a jealous fits yet when you take him home to the folks... your mum will want to make him a home cooked meal and dad will impress him with his golden year stories.

8. His all round appeal

Much like his charming ways, Madhavan is one of the few actors that appeals to all ages. Be it the youngsters, the kiddies, the parents or old timers, or language, be it Hindi, Tamil or Telugu, Maddy has a fan base that shows their support. In fact, his Tamil film 
Priyasakhi, which was later remade as Shaadi Kar Ke Phas Gaya, was the first Tamil film to ever be dubbed in the South African language, Zulu.

9. His determination

Fixed formulas and sentiments go hand in hand with Indian cinema and especially with our "heroes". As mentioned, Madhavan not only changed the rules by his choice of films but every time he was shunted as a typecast because of his appearance, he came back with something innovative and different.
10. He's all heart

When it comes to giving a helping hand, the humanitarian in Madhavan is always present and ready for action. From being an active member of PETA and winning the cutest male vegetarian award while Kareena Kapoor won the female one, to being a part of the AIDS Awareness program initiated by Richard Gere, to featuring in fellow actor and friend Suriya Sivakumar's Agaram Foundation campaign "Herova Zerova" to promote educational awareness, Madhavan has utilised his fame to do his bit for society.

Now whether your reason for being Mad about Maddy is on the list or not, there is one thing that is undeniable. Madhavan is one sensational actor with a heart of gold.

Ko Review

They say that if there is a desire that doesn't get fulfilled, most people will try to incorporate it into their life as a hobby at least. For K.V.Anand, an established cinematographer and now successful film director, apparently his desire was always to be a still photo journalist. Already having seen success with his innovative portrait of smuggling in Ayan, the director lives out his dream job through his lead actor Jiiva in his latest offering Ko. Taking the controversies of cast changes and rumors in his stride, Anand returns with Harris Jeyaraj for music and duo Subha [D. Suresh and A.N. Balakrishnan] for story and dialogue but brings a new team of actors and technicians with the talented Jiiva, Karthika who makes her debut and surprise packets Piaa Bajpai and Ajmal Ameer in lead roles while newcomer Richard Nathan takes over cinematography. So without further delay, lets dive in.

The film opens with Ashwin [Jiiva], a still photo journalist for a daily newspaper Dhina Anjal, photographing a group of men robbing a bank as they leave. With some fancy foot work on his bike, he grabs everyone on his camera but not before the leader of the group notices him. All attempts to catch Ashwin fail until he stumbles into Renuka [Karthika] who mistakes him for a thief and stops him in his tracks, inadvertently helping the criminals get away. Confusions clarified, life comes back to normal with Ashwin finding out that Renuka is the new investigative reporter on the team and the police catching four of the five culprits, leaving the leader still at large. After breaking the ice with Ashwin and Saro[Piaa Bajpai], Renuka becomes close with both of them. However, when affections rise for Ashwin, Saro stops her and makes her existing feelings known. Not one to create trouble for her friend, Renuka hides behind her work as their editor assigns her to cover the upcoming elections with Ashwin. For his part, Ashwin begins to feel the same but is confused by her actions so he puts it all aside and stands by her with camera in hand. The two through their investigation shed light to the controversies of the ruling party Chief Minister Yogi [Prakashraj] and opposing party candidate Aalavandhan[Kota Srinivasa Rao]. Its here that Ashwin, Renuka and Saro are introduced to a new candidate group lead by Vasanthan [Ajmal Ameer]. Backed by a group of youngsters, each holding a PUC and goals to be the change they so desperately want in society, Vasanthan and his team battles to find support for their group "Sirugugal" and with Ashwin's help, the wind finally blows their way. But when it comes to politics, the rivalry is both common and brutal. Just when the Sirugugal group finds itself a fighting chance, tragedy strikes in the form of a bomb blast, leaving several members of the party dead. Questions rise as Ashwin and Renuka try to figure out who did it. In the midst of this and in a doubtful state, Vasanthan too questions himself after seeing the gory side of politics whether he should continue. But while the tumultuous turn of events has left everyone shocked, shattering truths come out of Ashwin and Renuka's investigation that will make them both question who really are their allies. To find out the real faces behind the mask, you will need to watch the film.

I usually start off my analysis with the male lead of the film but for a change and because Ko is that kind of film, the first person I must mention is K.V.Anand. You have seen so many stories of an honest reporter shedding light to the atrocities of society. But you will not come across a narrative so closely depicted to reality. Possibly using events that happened during his days as freelance photo journalist, the director doesn't just give his lead character a camera to take random shots; he shows the audience the life of a still photographer working in a daily newspaper. No demigod status, no righteous attitude, just a normal man staying true to his work and maintaining a heart as well. His trademark style is present here as well and what’s more the detail injected into the story makes his story all the more believable. Duo Subha have a knack for creating subtle suspense and with Anand's know how, they strike a connective cord with the audience without becoming too abstract. Richard Nathan, please take the stand for your ovation. His camerawork shows passion, innocence, integrity, and violence with amazing detail like none before. A true highlight of the film that is sure to set a new standard. Peter Hein's action sequences are sure to grab more than just the average action junkie's attention. Harris Jeyaraj's track record speaks for itself so it is hard to select the pick of the lot from any soundtrack of his. With Amali Thumali displaying exquisite locales with the fun vocals of Hariharan and Swetha Mohan/Chinmayi, Venpaniye showcasing the talent of success singer duo Sriram Parthasarathy and Bombay Jayashree and a star studded guest list in the video of the stylish Aga Naga, the only way to determine which the bigger tick is by bringing in the choreography and cinematography to decide which is better. On the background score front, Harris works it in by heightening the emphasis of an already racy screenplay. 

Where do you begin with someone like Jiiva. Personally, I feel his bankability rises with each film. The same actor who played characters like Raam and E, shows his versatility again as he is street-smart, sophisticated and fun Ashwin in every frame. Completely in sync with nuances of a photo journalist, he breaths life into the role. For leading lady Karthika, this is her third film that is the actress's debut after Telugu and Malayalam. Making it even more special and possibly more challenging is that its Tamil, a language her mother Radha reigned supreme before settling to family life. Elegant and cute, she has pitched in her two cents worth but unfortunate for her, Piaa Bajpai steals the scene in first half at every given chance. As the stylish, vivacious yet lovable Saro, she is a amazingly infectious and adorable. The role seems tailor made and she scores on all counts. The next scene stealer would have to be Ajmal Ameer. From Anjaathey to Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru, the actor takes strides in his acting every time and Ko is no exception. Another character that seems tailor made, he performs with utmost ease and sincerity. Both Prakashraj and Kota Srinivasa Rao, are not new to the corrupt politician role so its cakewalk for them. Bose Venkat is adequate. The remaining cast includes some known names but not enough screen time to remember them by.

With so many things working for a film, there is always flip side but logic is  something that always does get lost in cinematic liberties and Anthony's editing is crisp and neat for the most part so it would be unfair to take away from this adrenaline rushed entertainer on both counts. 

Rating: 3.75/5 - It may not be a Kana Kanden or Ayan, but Ko gives one KO punch.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Aadukalam Review

Pride and honour sometimes hold much more importance to those that live for a sport. Money and fame is something that they find is secondary/additional. For Vetrimaran, Polladhavan may have been a struggle to begin and make but he proved that he knew his craft. So he used Bicycle Theives as a basis for the story, at the end of it, the story worked because his adaptation was valid, screenplay clicked with the audience and he had great performance to back it. He now uses a competition where honour is the prize on the backdrop of rural rooster fights that have been deemed illegal. On a new "playground" [the translation for Aadukalam], he is joined by Dhanush in a totally different role and Tapsee who debuts in Tamil, with trusty aide Kishore, newbie actor writer/poet Jayabalan, GV Prakash doing the music and Velraj with the cinematography. Read on to find out if it worked.

Karuppu [Dhanush] isn't your average youngster in a poor family consisting of just him and his mother. He is a crucial member of a gang of village rooster fighters, led by his boss and the reigning champion trainer Pettaikaran [Jayabalan]. For Karuppu though, Pettaikaaran is not only a leader, but a father figure as well. Adversaries in the form of the local policeman Rathnaswamy [Naren] are present and he has been brewing a long standing grudge against Pettai but the method of battle isn't not with knives and guns, rather on the playing field with roosters. In a final attempt to regain his honor for his family, Rathnaswamy forces Pettai to a tornament where if Pettaikaaran loses even once, he would bid goodbye to the game and never compete again. With honor and intense love for the game at stake, preparations begin. All things are running smoothly until days before the tournament, Karuppu brings his rooster as a competitor. Pettaikaaran initially accepts but then rejects it at the trial game on lack of performance and orders him to kill the rooster. Dejected and disappointed, Karuppu doesn't find the heart to follow through and hides this from Pettai. But if there is one thing that you can count on, its the change of fate. On the day of the tournament, after an angered Pettai had announced that he claims no ownership of Karuppu's victory or loss, the student takes over the limelight from the master as Karuppu's rooster wins above all. Stumped his judgement failed him, the once wise Pettai begins to turn on his student and an oblivious Karuppu falls prey to his jealousy. But its not just his rooster that Pettai is out to get. In an ultimate act of vengence, Pettai stops at nothing to degrade, humiliate and deprive Karuppu of his happiness including taking away the love of his life, Irene [Tapsee].What this entails can only be seen to understand the impact.

First of all, this story is heavily dependant on the nuances of a culture and traditions that many are not aware so from the get go Vetrimaran has a lot to explain and his source isn’t just the narrative but his cast.  So it is imperative that the core actors do not have an identity that overshadows the character they are playing or else the story looses its authenticity. With that said, Dhanush has proven his ability to mould himself and yet again the actor surprises in a flawless portrayal. He may have a string of an uneducated callous ruffian characters in his filmography but Karuppu is by far the most intricately tailored role that you wouldn’t have seen Dhanush play before. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say the honesty he depicts his emotions, from love to betrayal, is something he himself may find hard to repeat. Tapsee as Irene may not have a big part in the synopsis but she is picture perfect for the role and does justice with no OTT business. Kudos to the actress for selecting such a male dominated film as a debut and yet, successfully shining through. Jayabalan may have been dubbed by Radharavi but at no point does he stray from his character nor does he seem awkward for someone who has been writing for almost a lifetime. He literally lives the life of Pettaikaran and displays immense control and versatility. Kishore is always dependable for a power packed performance and the only thing that doesn’t sit right is his wig but even that can be easily forgotten[after seeing him with his own hair [or lack of], it didn’t seem necessary]. Both Meenal and the lady that plays Dhanush’s mum put in their two cents worth but are clearly figures in the background.

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_EIVpufiam54/TSCDh6-iXkI/AAAAAAAAATs/zPjJQ647clI/s1600/Aadukalam1.jpgWith an interesting and innovative backdrop in hand, Vetrimaran's shoulders had quite a heavy burden to support as he needed to not only make this an entertaining film but one that can be understood for the citybred audience. On top of that the director who had already proven he has spark with Polladhavan, needed to prove he was not a one hit wonder and was capable to follow through with his craft. On all counts the director scores in a big way. By keeping the script simple enough to be understood and using his band of actors, cinematographer Velraj and editor Kishore to maintain an authentic look and feel to the film, he not only keeps the audience engaged but stays honest to the story. G.V.Prakash said in an interview that Yaathe Yaathe would be a smash hit when speaking about upcoming projects at the time. I feel that song alone is worth Prakash’s weight in gold. His usage of multiple singers [e.g SPB and SPB Charan in Aiyayo] isn't new but definitely is pleasing technique to the ears. Pick of the lot has to be his prediction Yaathe, Aiyaiyo and Otha Sollale but the album entirely works well on the radio and with the proceedings. Once again, Prakash showcases his skill with the background score literally lifting an already flying film.

So many pluses don’t mean there aren’t any minuses. What may annoy some, maybe completely irrelevant to others. For this film I have heard that the story is too simple, the fights are too long and the film is quite slow. I did feel the lag on occasion and thought editor Kishore needs to pick up on the scissors again but at the same time felt a depth in the narrative was adequate. So unlike usual, I’ll leave the minuses in your hand, dear reader as I felt this film stepped away from the norm in its boundaries and was made with sincerity. 

Rating: 4/5 – In a season where if rural films are ruling the box office, Aadukalam is different and stands out.

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