Naan Kadavul

Taming the Third Taboo (pic: Photobucket)

Bala’s Naan Kadavul is a stupendous failure. Its script is darn predictable. It is nothing more than a reworking of the damsel in distress template. Most of its characters are caricatures and exaggerated for dramatic effect. The final monologue is way over the top. Its shot compositions are weak and inconsistent. It glorifies violence. Its way too melodramatic for its own good. Rudran’s mother is a cardboard and her character, overdone. And so is the character of Thandavan. It uses music way too generously to corrupt its atmosphere. Its editing is way too jagged and at times too liberal. Don’t even get me started on the logical flaws. 

Phew! Now that all that’s off my chest, let’s talk about the film.

Bala’s films have become like the Cricket World cup. They come out with much hype and after years of wait. What we have here is a director who has “grown out” of the industry. Rather than going with the flow of things, we have a director here who seems to pave his own way. Very few directors have managed to become independent of the market demand in Tamil film industry, leave alone with such a minuscule filmography. This is one of the very few directors who get a louder cheer than the lead actor of the film during the title credits. Let’s face it, which director, even with the remotest idea of what sells and what doesn’t, would have the guts to open a film in an alien land, with a Hindi title song? Or to follow it up with an extended Sanskrit track? Or to use considerable amounts of lines in Hindi and Sanskrit? Heck, who else would have a lead character who roams around in his loincloth and speaks sparing and barely legible lines? Welcome to Bala’s world.

Naan Kadavul is pretty much faulty with its techniques. Arthur Wilson’s cinematography is weak and shows glaringly in the indoor scenes. His two-shots betray the scene and show complacency. See, you build up tension with the scripted scene and why do you want to drive home the content by losing the atmosphere? Not to mention the scenes in the beggar lair. The whole camerawork is politically incorrect, as in Sethu (1999) too. You never look at the characters like that. Wilson’s camera is always curious. It tilts, it pans and it tracks. There’s no problem with that at all, but the grammar it uses isn’t right. It keeps looking down upon its characters. And also hurting the film is the slew of reaction shots that Bala uses. This technique, fortunately for Bala, proves itself to be a double edged sword in the film. You see, a reaction shot in a scene of drama is a sign of weakness. It is as if the director is showing us the gravity of the situation without letting the audience comprehend it. And Naan Kadavul is filled up with many of these. Interestingly, it is the reaction shot that makes a comedy scene work. More than the comic line or gesture, the reaction from “the victim” is what highlights it. Naan Kadavul is filled with those too. Take the scene where Hamsavali advices Rudran to go back to his family. This could have been one sick lecture, but see how Bala’s reaction shots distort the tone of the scene from melodrama to comedy. Sadly, the former type stands out too. However, the handhelds work well outdoors and, I feel, could have been used throughout the film. And so are the close-ups. It’s been a long time since we saw a director confident enough to use the close-ups. Bala closes in and his actors deliver. 

Take the editing of the film too. Bala either cuts way too early for comfort or way too late for continuity. There are some absurd filler shots that are a sore. And some shots that should have been given a second or two more. Consider the scene where Rudran is on the terrace waking up the whole neighbourhood. We are shown a shot of the members of the family sitting together downstairs. They are shattered and helpless. There is a perfect distance achieved by the camera. And what happens?  Bala cuts away. This shot could have made much more impact than the buckets of tears. Again, take the scene where the second beggar group is performing at the police station. We see a constable stationed outside, timidly trying to take a look at what is happening. This is great satire. But how many of us noticed it. This is not our problem as Bala refuses to show that for more than half a second. What happens essentially is that the cutting betrays good cinematography and vice versa. 

Thirdly and most importantly, the use of background score undermines the quality of the film big time. With all due respects to Ilayaraja (whose score would shine as a standalone piece), I would say that the excessive use of emotional cues is a shot in the arm for Naan Kadavul. You see, the moment you have a violin in your film, you throw it away to the dogs.  That is because, by the property of their sounds, violins are very evocative instruments. Bala’s scenes have enough raw power by themselves to convey the depth of the situation. He uses excessive amounts of highlighting score that tries to tell you what to feel eventually making the scenes mediocre. Consider the scenes of Rudran’s return home or the separation of the beggar kids by the thugs. There is already much happening and pop comes the background score to distract us. There is enough drama in all his scenes, aided by good performances. Why over-determine what you want to say? Bala is a director who has as much confidence as does the title of the film, but not (yet) on his audience. He should have believed that his audience would understand the emotional gravity that he felt, without resorting to such poor tricks. Bala is a director who has never shirked from showing raw emotions. So why shirk from hiding it when necessary? Luckily, Bala’s films so far have compensated for the form with their content, more or less. So I’ll just stop there with a hope that all this will be completely corrected in his forthcoming films.

There have always been two facets, taboos rather, that have plagued cinema world over – sex and violence. Their depiction on screen has been much debated over and their use much researched and their responsibilities, studied. The world is slowly opening up to the former, but the latter still remains a hot issue. Popular cinema, however, still treats them as it did decades ago. The use and the meaning it conveys have never been questioned by pop filmmakers of the world, leave alone the Indian ones. Indian cinema has always shown gratuitous amounts of violence on screen and seemed to have no problems with that. But ALL the violence it shows is based on a single moral premise – good over evil – that we all have been hypnotized with. I don’t mean the idea of good winning over its rival but the definition of good and bad itself. Films as graphic as Thevar Magan (1992) to ones as mellow as Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na (2008) have firmly set their foot on this premise as far as their use of graphic violence is considered. And Bala’s film here, is no different. See how he creates the platform for violence by making his villain despicable. He imparts alarming one-dimensionality to Thandavan and resorts to shocking the audience with graphic torture. In essence, like the very many Indian films, he the sets audience’s mentality to consider violence as a optimum solution to the problem. And the ensuing violence arrives readily justified and as a consolation to the restless audience. 

The term “glorifying violence” has been used by reviewers very loosely. They seem to consider any film that shows considerable amounts of it as glorifying violence. If that is so, all the popular films from the country would be glorifying violence. Does Naan Kadavul glorify violence? Of course, it does. But not in a very different way from the other films of today. But does it have an impact? Bala sets up the situation for accepting violence, but would one actually go on to be influenced? No. You see, by the virtue of the character that the script provides, the film provides us an instant alienation from Rudran. Though it makes the audience support his actions, it never would instigate them to follow suit. Naan Kadavul, like almost all pop films, presents itself in a whole new world and consequently cuts off any of its justification of its actions in the real one. And the audience never carries on its support out of the theatre (as much as it does for its morals). So even though the film (and all films that have a stunt sequence) glorifies violence, it never can offer this as a solution to social problems. As a result, the film isn’t a glorification of violence as much as it is of our strong morals.

To get a measure, consider Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na. This is a film that is much closer to our world. All the violence shown in the film is a single punch. Now, the film presents Jai as a character who is brought up against violence. He sticks to it for a large part of the film even though Aditi’s one-dimensional boyfriend provokes. And finally when the film reaches its match point – Wham! Jai punches him to prove his manhood and his love. The audience applauds.  And since the film mirrors, to an extent, our world and behaviour, the audience reassures itself that violence is a good solution. It would very well take with itself subconsciously the idea that violence is a token of manhood and a good way of dealing with one’s insecurities. Now, compare this with Bala’s film. It oozes with gore and the gore is washed away from our minds once the end credits roll. This is what the world the director builds can do to the film and its responsibilities. This is Bala’s world. He is not interested in normal people. He is interested in the outcast and the outlawed. All the people he deals with are “strange ones”. Look how the “normal” people are indifferent in the temple scenes as they go on with their routine lives. There is much drama happening in the beggar crowd which they seem indifferent to. There is a Jai and an Aditi walking somewhere in that world surrounding the one that Bala’s interested in. And his success is his conviction that what interests him will interest us too.

[Video: Trailer of Naan Kadavul]

In Indian cinema, there is interestingly an addition to the two member “taboo” set above – that dreaded thing called religion. Our films have always alluded to it, touched it, gone around but have never once confronted it. The films that did deal with it extensively turned out to be one-sided duds like Velu Prabhakar’s films or Ramanarayanan’s. No film has explored how deep religion is linked to each one of our words and gestures. Hell, no film has even examined what religion means to the common man. Dasavatharam (2008) teased us with the possibilities, but stopped there. This is the biggest taboo of them all. Our Gods are a part of or daily talk. We make fun of them and we enjoy humourous anecdotes framed around them. We even spoof our gods never once hurting anyone’s feelings. But when it comes to serious discussion, on film or otherwise, we have never strayed away from our comfort levels. Our ideas about God are so complex that we never want to understand them. Instead, we stay in a safe zone but raise our voices when someone doesn’t. In our cinema, no director has ever approached the subject with honesty and without self-consciousness. That brings us to the strongest point and the raison d’etre of Naan Kadavul. 

Naan Kadavul is essentially a mystic rehash of Bala’s own Nandha (2001), but one done with more maturity and confidence. Look how Bala directly “confronts” the issue. This “confrontation” can be very tricky. One has to both make ideas clear and direct and at the same time never stuff them down your throat or be dreadfully didactic. Case in point, Chimbudevan’s Arai En 305-il Kadavul (2008) – an honest but one-sided film that could pass off as a “Sunday school lesson”. Though similar in its ideas about God to Naan Kadavul, it spoon feeds its ideas never knowing when it crossed its boundaries. Take Naan Kadavul. Look at its characters. All of them are like us. They talk about Gods, they make fun of them. For them Gods are no greater than film stars and vice versa. Hell, they are even dressed as Gods but never once take that seriously. For these people, Gods are just another way of livelihood. They beg at places of worship and consider those their “markets”. Oh, but they do believe in Him. Only that they don’t know why. One of the “saints” at the temple quips when another rebukes Murugan for praying regularly “Let him, Why spoil the belief he has?” This is the kind of instinct that these guys have. Not very different from ours, I should say. These are the people who could very well represent a large part our society.

And then there is the contradicting arm of the movie – the character of Rudran. Bala could have easily redone the rational-man-delivering-the-radical-ideologies act, but that would have been one fatal blow to the film. Instead, he chooses a strange man who claims he is God. This instantly makes us repudiate his statements and even ridicule it. As a result, the didactic monologues are avoided and even turned into subtle expressions of Bala’s ideas (The film is called Naan Kadavul and not Naam Kadavul!). Bala is perhaps suggesting this is how every man should be. Every man for himself. Possible, but he never thrusts that idea on us like Arai En 305-il Kadavul. 

The beggar people very well know that they need to make their own lives. Yet, they resort to God as a means of reassurance and security. Sort of Plan-B. What makes Rudran different from the beggar crowd is that he knows that weakness and acknowledges it too, but never calling himself an atheist or a revolutionary. In essence, the film does not make the audience hostile using a “normal” man questioning them, but one that makes it think. “Think” because Bala tantalizes us by not giving but by taking the ideas away from us. And this is how he confronts the delicate theme – through his audience. 

One thing that was running throughout my mind when watching Naan Kadavul was the Slumdog Millionaire debate. No other film recently has generated so much conversations and arguments as Slumdog Millionaire. It has been accused of “pandering to the western fantasies” and “exposing the underbelly of the nation”. Looks at what Bala’s done here. Not better for sure. Even the cheerfulness, hope and escapist mood of Slumdog Millionaire is lost. Naan Kadavul wallows in misery. But it is hilarious and we laugh at all the jokes it makes. Let’s take a look at what evolves.

Naan Kadavul presents three worlds. The first one is the isolated world of its protagonists – one each for Rudran and the beggar team. The second is the world that surrounds them – the “society” in the film. And finally and most importantly, the audience that is on the other side of the screen. See how the behaviour of the three worlds is. Rudran is self-contained. The second world, the one that is around him, is scared of him. There is great satire here too. The police chase away the “saints” that they know are phony.  But when a new one comes in, they are scared. They are unable to come to terms that this one is fake too even if their brain says so. He isn’t, but what if he is? They interrogate him with reverence. We know this is us – throwing in the towel when something seems to transcend reason and more importantly, succumbing to mass hysteria. On the other hand, the audience laughs at these two worlds. Only because it is where it is – the other side of the camera.

Again, the beggar-inhabitants of the first one are self-sufficient. They are occupied with their own work. They cook up their own jokes and celebrate them among themselves. It is a completely different world with its inhabitants challenged in one way or the other. Werner Herzog’s absurdist classic Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970) comes to mind. Bala presents these inhabitants as norms and not anomalies. The difference is brought in only due to the audience’s perception. We see them as a different group. We indulge them knowing that we are “here” and not “there”. The second world is totally oblivious to the first one. They completely ignore the first one and carry on with their lives. They seldom hold a relationship to the first world and when they do, it is only exploitative in nature. And finally, the alienated audience that observes (not without the subjectivity imposed by the cinematic elements) these worlds from a distance. We laugh at the not-so-funny-otherwise jokes made in the first world. We condescend on these characters. We patronize them. We feel good about it. But once we are out of the cinema halls, we step into the shoes of the second world. We have our own hectic lives to worry about. So does that mean Naan Kadavul panders to the needs of the upper and middle class for those three hours? 

Yes, Naan Kadavul is exploitative, but not unlike every other film. Why! Pop cinema by itself is exploitative, for that matter. Happiness, for it, comes only at the expense of misery looming in it somewhere and from the reassurance and distance the film offers the audience. I don’t mean that we should exonerate such films. What I am saying is that one should not zero in on a single film just because it is being celebrated. What we have to go against is the culture that has been aiding to the rise of such cinema. But hey, those are complex functions of everything that has ever been related to a culture and are a part of a larger debate. And for our part, we need to be less sensitive about these issues I guess (I don’t mean irreverence). These things happen. So what? How long do we want to see perfect creatures leading perfect lives that we can only dream of? Not anymore, says Bala.




P.S: If a film can generate elaborate discussion, why not talk about it? I strongly recommend this movie.

[Edit]: I’ll be posting worthy articles on the film whenever I come across. Here is one from The Hindu today. Interesting, though I disagree at places. Mr. Srivathsan doesn’t find the film to be exploitative or manipulative. Here, I must clarify why I feel the film is exploitative. It doesn’t exploit its characters as much as it does the audience. It offers us distance and hence elicits from us a patronizing look on its characters. Ald this is the same way most exploitative films work. If Slumdog Millionaire was exploitative, it is in the same way. But that doesn’t mean the problem is with us. Essentially what is happening is that the filmmaker exploits both the characters and our gaze of them. And the artifice lies in showing them to be happy and self-sufficient. The exploitation would be seen through if the characters were portrayed to be regretting their situation



Saroja: From Class to Crass...

Riding on the huge success of Chennai 600028 and on huge expectations from the young crowd, Venkat Prabhu has set out on his new flick Saroja. Much has been spoken about the closely knit team and the boundless enthusiasm that they share. That is a good thing for with a good team comes a great working atmosphere. Unfortunately, Saroja seems to be caught between the choices of being so fascinatingly funny as in Chennai 600028 and the “need” to be different from its predecessor.

The plot spans one day in the lives of four laymen visibly heading towards their thirties, Ajay (Shiva), Ganesh (Premji) and the Babu Brothers (Charan and Vaibhav), who have planned to see a cricket match in Hyderabad. They set out on their bizarre vehicle on to the Hyderabad highway carrying along with them booze in hand and songs on lips. All is fresh and fun at this point and one can be hasty to label it the Indian reply to Easy Rider (1969) or more recently Little Miss Sunshine (2006). The group comes to a scene of accident and is forced to go through a different route. Thanks to the chutzpah of the lead, they take a wrong turn and so does the story.

There is also a parallel thread involving troubled businessman Viswanathan (Prakashraj) whose daughter, the nocturnal titular character, gets kidnapped and solicits the help of police officer Ravichandran (Jayaram) to save her. As events go from bad to worse, the four try to save their skin and return home, in the process meeting the hostage Saroja (Vega), at a pirate factory run by the hoodlum Sampath (Sampath). Additionally, there is a sub-plot involving Sampath and his lover Kalyani (Nikita) using which the filmmakers perhaps intended to portray the character’s depth. And that don’t work man! He is nothing but a textbook stereotype and a photocopy of himself from Polladhavan (2008) and Velli Thirai (2008).

After this point the film goes on. And goes on. And goes on. And goes on…And by the time the supposed-to-be all important scene nears, nobody cares. If you repeat a bad joke over and over, it eventually becomes hilarious. And if you repeat a good one over and over, it becomes sickening. Premji’s typically Kodambakkam attitude and surreal visions are amusing to begin with but as the film meanders, his lines are totally out of place and one feels that he should have had a “I’m just the token jackass required for comic relief” T-shirt on. The Dil Chahta Hai-esque magic that the friends shared in the first half hour is completely lost and one craves for those moments again.

I get the idea that a hand held camera enhances the restlessness and the thrill of a scene, but come on. Almost whole of the hour long showdown is presented in the headache inducing format and the clichéd rapid cuts are nothing but nauseating. And the editor’s scissors seem to be jammed at the most important places. On the positives, everything that takes place in daylight seems so close to heart and has the power to charm any audience. Only the end credits offer any consolation for the unwarranted kidnapping of those moments.

It is saddening to see a film that sets out as a fresh concept and ends up in the gutter of the bandwagon. In some ways, I am reminded of Chimbudevan’s decline after his charming debut in Pulikesi (2007). Venkat Prabhu looked consistent with his couple of films before this one and has ended up, fortunately, marginally better than the former. Let’s hope his penchant for depicting effortless ease among friends remains unmitigated and we get to see a real stunner next time around.


(Warning: No spoilers in the review. However, storyline and characters are revealed. Proceed at your own risk)

DasavatharamFinally here. Passing through its quota of controversies, production delay and legal attacks, Aascar Films’ Dasavatharam has finally made it to its destination. Dubbed as the most expensive movie made in India, the film has been in the making for over two years. If it was Sivaji – The Boss for 2007, it is very much Dasavatharam for this year. Apparently, the time between consecutive movies of Kamal Haasan has been larger than that of Superstar Rajnikanth‘s. The promos have been, surprisingly (for a Kamal movie), extremely low key. So, have the team’s efforts paid off? Let’s see.

The movie opens in a non-traditional fashion (for Indian cinema) with a preface that recounts the spat between the Shivites and the Vaishnavites of the south during the 12th century. Rangarajan Nambi (Kamal Haasan) is a staunch Vaishnavite who does not wish to relinquish his ideology even at the cost of his life. Rangarajan is portrayed as a very strong person, physically and mentally. As a result, he is dumped into the sea along with the prime Vishnu idol. Cut to the 21st century, where the remainder of the story is to take place. It is December 2004. Govind Ramasamy (Kamal) is a biological scientist in the US and is involved in developing a powerful biological weapon for the military of the country. Govind decides to hand over the formula to the FBI when he senses that the weapon sample is all set to reach unsafe hands. Things take a difficult turn when the package is couriered to India by mistake. Govind manages to track down the package in the intention of returning it to the officials. He is closely tailed by Chris Fletcher (Kamal), an ex-CIA and a mean trigger-happy machine and Jasmine (Mallika Sherawat). This character, with his near-invulnerability and I-don’t-stop-at-nothin’ attitude , is reminiscent of T-1000 of Terminator 2: The Judgement Day (1991).

The rest of the film follows Govind’s attempts to retrieve the weapon and escape the gunpoint of Chris. He is assisted by Andal (Asin), the grand daughter of Krishnaveni Srinivasan (Kamal) who does no help by dropping the package into a Vishnu idol. Andal is not only a love interest for Govind but also his antithesis. The atheistic, borderline-scientologist Govind is balanced by the whole-hearted theist Andal. She completes him, romantically and ideologically. Chris and Govind are also being followed by the local police led by Balram Naidu (Kamal), a true-blue “Andhrite”, who provides a rip-roaring comedy both with his accent and his lines. And there are Shinghen Narahasi, a Fujitsu master and the brother of Govind’s dead friend Yuki, Kalifullah, an overgrown yet innocent Pathan, Avatar Singh, a Punjabi pop star with a Tamil Nadu connection, Vincent Poovaragan, a Nagercoil-based activist and environmentalist and George Bush, the president of America (played by Kamal, Kamal, Kamal, Kamal and Kamal respectively!) whom Govind meets on his pursuit. The most appealing character is definitely of Vincent Poovaragan, the most humanitarian of all the characters in the film. He stands against the unquestioned plaguing of the nature by humans for monetary benefits and faces trouble for the same. The script draws a parallel between Rangarajan Nambi and Vincent Poovaragan (apart from the more obvious adversarial relation between Govind and Rangarajan), both of whom go down fighting for their principles and what they think is the meaning of their existence.

The film’s narration is fraught with twists and suspense but can be boiled down to a large treasure hunt. As a consequence, it is action right from the word “go” with no questions asked. Hand-to-hand combat, gunfight, car chases, daredevil stunts – you have them all. With the characters consisting of a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Sikh, a Buddhist and even an atheist, it is but inevitable that the story has slight religious overtones. The film, however, does not hurt the sentiments of anyone and even silently calls out for religious tolerance in the society. Believers and non-believers would just have reinforced their respective faiths at the end of the film without contradicting each other, which itself is a success for the movie.

Though all the ten characters are given considerable screen time to make it seem like they all have equal weights, only a few of them actually contribute to the plot and take the story forward. In fact, one feels that a couple of characters could have been entirely done without. As a result, many scenes involving the non-pivotal characters become fillers for the shallow central motive. But one does not complain because something new (a new character for most of the time) pops up regularly to keep you engaged. Only after the ten characters are familiarized that you realize that the film has been extended needlessly. After this point, the film is nothing but overlong is spite of the adrenaline that’s oozing out of the screen. It is now a unanimous feeling that the climax could have been trimmed down.

It is just a formality to speak about Kamal Haasan’s performance. Right from the impeccable accents (especially the Nagercoil accent) to the don’t-tell-me-he-is-acting body-language (George Bush and Krishnaveni noteworthy), Kamal has put in more than everything to realize the film. It is not that his performance is worthy of such a grand movie, but it is his performance that has made Dasavatharam a grand movie. I, however, would personally like to see him in roles such as Shaktivel (Devar Magan), Balu (Sagara Sangamam) and those of Erland Josephson and Philippe Noiret, without much concentration on make-up. But nobody nowadays has the guts to produce such films. Asin‘s performance, which is like a torchlight amidst a Supernova, is going to go unspoken. She has done justice to the charater(s), to say the least. The (remaining!) minor characters are done satisfactorily by Kamal regulars Nagesh, Santhanabharathi, Ramesh Kanna and Vaiyapuri to name some.

K. S. Ravikumar‘s midas touch is alone what Kamal needed for this otherwise one man show and he has got that. With long pseudo-takes used at proper places, the movie “appears” to have larger than life cinematography. Himesh Reshamiyya‘s music is at times melodic, at times bubbly and at times jarring. Devi Shree Prasad‘s inspired but spirited background score has nothing to complain about. It is a known fact Kamal gets carried away with prolonged stunt sequences and Dasavatharam is no exception to that. Some illogical scenes corrupt the otherwise decent stunt sequences that are saved by the CG most of the time. A special mention for the CG that is seamless in scenes where multiple characters appear and also in many shots in the initial and final part of the film. Much is talked about the make up which is really fantastic agreed, but the harsh lighting exposes the prosthetics’ and makes one a bit alienated from the character. The editing is so prudent about the run-time that one can feel how large the original footage was. Huge production values in the preface speak for themselves.

There are two things Indian cinema has always been haunted by – Religion and Science. No one (fabulous exceptions always there) has dared to pass a judgement or even to make a documentation of these two issues. Dasavatharam, though superficial, tries to blend these two concepts into the simple narrative and that too, in such a risky venture. For this reason alone, one can argue for the movie. It is not something new to the medium altogether, but is definitely like nothing that Tamil cinema has never tasted before. Dasavatharam may not be what Kamal wants, but is very much what his fans want.

P. S.: Be alert to spot the brief homage to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) in the film!


DISCLAIMER: People with weak constitutions/heart problems please stay away from this post. Contains graphic violence and thematically disturbing images.

The year was 1990. There was an unusual crowd at the theater. Upon investigation, it was found that it was the occasion of the release of next film by Ramanarayanan, the master of “religious thrillers”, if they exist. Aadi Velli (1990) had set high expectations in the minds of the film fanatics and they did not want to miss the rare chance of seeing it in theaters. The whole crowd got in. The show finally began. But only half the people returned.

The whole film has such exhilarating moments that people went numb watching it. The climax which tops all the scenes is one that was jaw-dropping (minus the drool) and will be cherished by generations to come. I had the chance of seeing it on VHS about 15 years ago and boy did I love the film! I recently got hold of the original VCD. As a service to mankind, I have cut out the best parts from the climax and uploaded it on you tube. I am presenting the same below. (If you have hurried to this point, read the disclaimer above)

Notice the time-slice photography in the duel, later copied by The Matrix. Also note how easy it is to generate King Katari. But please kids, these stunts have been performed by expert programmers and professional monster-creators. Do not try this at home.

Though King Katari is defeated, it will remain as the best villain in the memories of the audience for its efforts, intimidating acts, courage, shape, size, colour, cost, elastic coefficient etc. As a Cinemaniac and responsible human being, I request all of you viewers to spread the word and ask as many people to watch the video so that we do not miss one of the best moments in world cinema history.

P. S. : Please do not compare with Narasimma or Yaarukku Yaaro. I hate such comparisons.

While watching Polladhavan, I realized that almost every other Tamil movie that releases today is based on underworld and organised crime. Gangwars, Hooligans in love, Rise to power of a henchman, common man pulled into violence and what not. We may even see a Dada learning bharatnatyam or a Gunda turning into a priest very soon. I then traced back to the movie that perhaps started it all, Mani Rathnam’s Nayakan. Released way back in 1986, the movie has inspired a whole new generation of filmmakers in the state.

Heavily inspired by the Coppola classic The Godfather (1972), no doubt, Nayakan still has the power to sweep you off the ground. This may not be Kamal Haasan‘s best performance or Mani Rathnam’s best venture, but Nayakan has provided something Tamil cinema has longed for – a milestone. Organized crime has never been shown before with such authority and vitality in Tamil cinema. A commoner who has the guts to stand up against the tyranny of the police, a boy-next-door growing to become the biggest don, a godfather you can rely upon for help – what more could the audience ask for? Velu standing against the water spray, Nayakar defending Selva after his daughter witnesses murder, the scene at the hospital where a child is to be treated, the death of Surya, the now-classic climax – these images will linger in minds of everyone who wants good Tamil movies.

No other “don movie” has even thrilled audience like Nayakan (excepting Basha, credits fully to Superstar), leave alone making an impact. This shows how stale the state of the Tamil cinema industry is. Why do the filmmakers go in search of another Nayakan? Why don’t they try reforming the present state? The answer, some may say, lies in the “Critical Vs Commercial” debate. But haven’t many other films been both critical and commercial success? So why are we stuck up with these gangstas? Are we lacking talent? Are we devoid of new ideas? I think not.

The present state of the industry may be attributed to the producers who want to play safe. The small ones want to use the time tested formulas (2 rooba pottu 3 rooba sambathikardhu) and are afraid to produce new ideas. The big players, on the other hand need stars who in turn do not want their image to be hurt by new ideas. So what is the solution? It is up to the veteran directors and actors who want to provide good cinema to persuade their producers to take a bold step forward. Shankar’s S-pictures, for one, is doing that. Also, if the small-timers can collaborate or if the senior directors can contribute for more such production houses, Tamil cinema can proudly give birth to new Nayakans.

What do you get if you cross a Vijaykanth script with Vettaiyadu Vilayadu? Yes, You are right. Captain catching Kashmir-born Tamil terrorists (Theeviravadhinga) in Canada. That is exactly what happens in Captain’s 150th, “Arasangam“. After giving epics such as “Chocklet” and “Madurai”, R. Madhesh is back with this rib-tickler…oh sorry, nerve-wracker.

Arivarasu (Captain Vijaykanth) is called for action after the kidnap of Manoj (Biju Menon), a friend-cum-police inspector who was on the trail of a bunch of terrorists who were instigated by Chandru (Rahul Dev), a Tamil terrorist led by Martin, a Canadian mafia who resembles Manoj (Whew!). So all Captain has to do now is to go to Canada, talk in Tamil to all the Canadians, catch Martin admist lots of bombings, come back to India to diffuse a retina-authenticated bomb that is on a train travelling miles away from Captain.

Though the film is predictable to the extent that one can countdown to the song and fight sequences (believe me, I did), the movie does offer a few twists and turns to make you believe that there has been a serious effort put in. The scenes where Captain blushes before his love are 30 years too late for him. The film goes through the loop song-speech-fight-sentiment interspersed with the twists and proceeds to the ending one is longing for.

The pick of the cast is Biju Menon, who does a good job both as Manoj and Martin. The imported heroines Navneet kaur and Seril Brindo are props, period. Rahul Dev (yet again) can rename himself “the actor who plays terrorists in Captain films”. Another typical performance by Captain.

Madhesh seems to be a very liberal director. He has allowed all the actors to speak in the languages they want. The editing too, has been a culprit in exposing the sickening re-recording. Srikanth Deva‘s background music (at times) is in the same league as Braveheart and other great Hollywood scores. This is because they are the same. The stunt sequences are not all that bad.

Do not go for the film if you want to see the turning point of Tamil cinema or even if you want a hi-octane thriller. But if you are game for some clean mean fun, Captain-style, then “Lets Start The Mizzon“!


This is it. One of the two movies I was looking forward this year is here (The other one OBVIOUSLY being “Dasavatharam”). After having seen V. Priya painful fall from “Kanda Naal Mudhal” to “Kannamoochi Yenada”, I did not want to see another successful debutant taking a hard second step. But “Arai Enn 305-il Kadavul” is a large disappointment from a person who gave the genuinely comic “Imsai Arasan, 23-am Pulikesi“.

Rasu (Santhanam) and Mokkai (‘Ganja’ Karuppu) are two roomies living in a wretched part of the city. Their life follows the highly predictable path of humiliation-humiliation-humiliation. With no consolidated job in hand and a love life that is strictly one-sided, Rasu is left with no other option than to curse his creator. And ho! look who’s here…it’s Him (Prakashraj). With the usual “Still don’t believe I’m god?” conversation followed by some gimmicks, God reveals the source of His power – a completely portable, rechargeable galaxy controller box* (*Batteries not included). Our mortals turn green-eyed and steal the galaxy box from God himself!. What follows is their realization that you don’t need superpowers to solve your problems and superpowers don’t solve all your problems.

With an offbeat storyline such as this, what you expect as a follow up to “Imsai Arasan…” is something that is uniquely rib tickling and perhaps even slightly satirical. Not only does “Arai Enn…” fail to maintain a consistent streak of humour but also breaches the thin line between thought-provocation and preaching. The film does intend to create a festive atmosphere with its battalion of characters, but fails to handle them with equal sincerity. As a result, these characters become nothing but props that act as targets to God’s kind deeds. Also, the toying around with the galaxy box goes on for too long, thoroughly hampering the already hurt second half.

Santhanam is not able to emote. You tend to expect a Lollu Sabha punchline (like “Yenna Goinda, nethu rathiri kottaru ashtu full tight pola…”) every time the camera focuses him. Not to mention ‘Ganja’ Karuppu who takes ages to deliver the punchline. Surprisingly, it is the underdogs (Buvana’s mother, ‘Java’ Sundaresan and Mokkai’s nephew) whose performances are commendable. As usual, the heroines (Madhumita and Jyothirmayee) are punctual for their duets and both of them do have an unexpected “twist” at the end.

Vidyasagar‘s score is passable with “Kadhal Sei” being one of the better ones. The biggest technical fall for the movie has to be in the editing department. The first half hour has scenes where you are left puzzled about what’s going on and the meddling around with the galaxy box comes way too late in the second half. A lot of effort has gone into the special effects and it shows (except for some fleeting shots).

In all, “Arai Enn…” is far from interesting and way too short of the standards set by Chimbudevan‘s debut. The movie takes much liberty in endorsing its views than in providing entertainment throughout. Without doubt, Chimbudevan has ideas that could well save a drowning industry, but those are like fine works of glass. Even if one breaks, it is a great story unfortunately wasted. Chimbudevan has to clean up the remains of “Arai Enn…” and move ahead carefully.


vellithirai.jpg“Oh, Prakashraj and Prithviraj with Viji at the helm?”, I thought, “It’s Duet movies, it must be good.”. Generalizations suck, don’t they?. It doesn’t matter how famous the cook is, it’s all about the recipe. Vellithirai becomes a cinematic embodiment of this statement.

In one of the best Tamil film openings of recent times, Vellithirai pays tribute to all the stalwarts of Tamil cinema. The film then takes us into the lives of all the unfortunate beings trying to climb the massive tree of Filmdom. The dialogue and the film itself is at its best in their period. All is well till the first plot twist where Kannaiyan steals the script of an assistant director Saravanan and hence becomes a star. The rest of the film tracks how Saravanan wins the battle fair and square and fixes his private and professional life.

The movie suffers from a very inconsistent tone with a very light-hearted first part, a depressing middle where Prakashraj seems to be the only comic relief (At this point, the movie comes to an extent where the protagonist breaks out of the diegesis to comment on the nature of the scene) and an end part where there is no breathing space with Prakashraj himself turning evil. The climactic sequence portrays Prakashraj as if he was a dull head and removes all the weight that could have been associated with his character.

Prithviraj is the pick of the actors and does a good job as the struggling assistant director. Prakashraj turns what could have been the performance of the year into a farce. Gopika is a totally needless add-on that just hampers the movie. M. S. Bhaskar is funny all right, but not memorable at all. Yes, it is a great cast sadly misused. This could well be G. V. Prakash‘s biggest disappointment so far with no song worth humming. The song sequences themselves create excuses for appearing. My guess is that all this is a compromise they have made during the translation from the Malayalam original Udayananu Tharam.

In all, the movie fails to cast the same effortless charm that Mozhi did and exerts itself for nothing. The film becomes a victim of the clichés it mocks and falls prey to its own ideologies. Ironically, the film is dedicated to all the people who have tried to make good films!. This is definitely a step down for Duet movies and I hope it will more than compensate for this in Abhiyum Naanum and Mayilu.


I always thought it couldn’t go below Narasimma. But then it has happened. In the end of 2007 came “Yaarukku Yaaro“, taking the state by storm. Though not more than a handful of people knew that it released, the following it has amassed has taken it to a cult status (Imagine, this thing has torrents floating around the internet!). In spite of a lot of hindrances by friends and well wishers, I watched the film. I just didn’t want to miss out the experience of watching the worst Tamil film ever made. I must confess I was not disappointed at all.

Davit is an automobile engineer/scientist who has always aspired to make the most inexpensive four wheeler (I don’t know if the car was inexpensive, but it was definitely cheap!), affordable by all. In his quest, he is caught between the love of two women in his life. Dheeba, a doctor who has helped him financially to set up his industry and Manjoo, his college mate who returns from Canada to take him along. Davit is torn apart by the moral questions that surround him. This is one of the rare gems that completes the climactic showdown in just 8 minutes and the final twist in around 6 seconds. To add to the agony, the film has an intentional “comedy track” which, needless to say, fails utterly.

Sam Anderson is primarily the reason for the film’s present status and has excelled in scenes he doesn’t appear in. My hunch is that the poor thing was kidnapped and threatened to play the role. Varnika (Hence forth called as “Dream girl 1”, DG1) and Jothi (“Dream girl 2”, DG2) play the love interests (OMG). DG1 has not done what she was asked to do while DG2 has done more than she was asked to.

The film could have hidden behind Narasimma if it were not for the <any derogatory adjective> technique. I wonder why Joe Stanley has taken all the blame for the movie. Produced by Universal Thavamani Cine Arts (No way related to the Hollywood production house), the film has Christianity written all over it, with sin and redemption portrayed in the most distasteful manner. Special mention to the tradition-defying song-sequences (all shot around the same landfill) which has to be seen to be cursed.

However, this film actually shows one thing: How a technical failure is magnified in contrast to a failure in script. That is why Narasimma seems like Indiana Jones in comparison. I should be kicking myself for writing a blog on this piece of junk, but my duties as a responsible film-goer overwhelms.


After his previous winner “Chittiram Pesudhadi”, Mysskin is back with “Anjaathey” starring Prasanna and Naren. With Prasanna in a never-seen-before role, the film was one of the films to be watched out for. So, here I am, writing my thoughts and opinions on the film.

The plot of the film is fairly simple. Krupa and Sathya are two friends who are headed towards different lives. By a small inciting incident blown over, their fates take a U-turn and their lives proceed unexpectedly, thanks to Daya. What follows is the realization of their lives by the friends and the moral questions that surround them. With the exception of the slightly overlong climax and about 2-3 overdone scenes containing stereotype situations (M. S. Bhaskar cursing his son, Sathya, for one), the flick boasts of uninterrupted and fast screenplay.

Naren is the pick of all the performances and is all set to set a firm foot in Kollywood. The scene where he realizes the rights and privileges of a policeman oozes with good performance. Prasanna’s portrayal of an eccentric but meticulous baddie with his own set of idiosyncrasies is commendable but not very memorable. Though Pandiyarajan remains for almost the whole movie, he seems to be there only as a comic relief.

Not only Mysskin’s name seems to be Russian, but his techniques too. The extreme close-ups and the montage flow of action in the film are reminiscent of the pre-war soviet cinema. The brilliant use of non-diegetic sound for almost the whole climax provides the grandeur a showdown must have. The cinematography of the film is a very strong point. However, the unrestrained use of free-cam becomes distracting at times. Also, the experimental rapid cutting during the early part of the film does no good to the film. Though the film is very racy through out, it is almost completely humourless. The film cries for relief in the first half with even the costumes and the lighting being dark. The dialogues would have been hard-hitting only if it were not mixed with English in a tasteless manner. The background score has aided the movie big time, except for some obvious emotional manipulation.

The film could have avoided the love track completely, but how else will the director push in one more song?. And where was Krupa’s sanity and composure (that he maintains when he is with Daya) when he failed the IPS test?. All said, the film certainly tells us three things: 1. Naren is here to stay, 2. Mysskin is a bankable director and 3. Prasanna can do more than run around trees and can say more than “Kudunga aunty, naa bag-a thookittu varen…”!


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