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.


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.