Sunday, November 26, 2006

  • Firstly, RIP Robert Altman. (Well, I am too late into this, but, better late than never.)
  • Anurag Kashyap, as part of his film diary at Oz's Passion For Cinema, has started writing a series (hopefully) on the making of RGV's contemporary classic Satya. The first post is up and it talks about how it all started, how Kashyap, Saurabh Shukla joined the team, among other things. Do read. For the uninitiated, there's also The No Smoking Diary where Kashyap writes (regularly) about his upcoming film No Smoking with John Abraham.
  • Among the upcoming movies, we have Mani Rathnam's much-awaited biopic Guru; and, Vasanthabalan's Veyyil on the homefront, which I am eagerly looking forward to. Hope, it's another worthy entry to Shankar's production house. (Bala's Naan Kadavul has been in the soup for a long time now, with rumours afloat about changes in the lead cast et al. Hope it gets made without any further hassles.)
  • It's been a long time since I wrote something on this blog. Nevertheless, a lot of movies were seen. Just that I've been pointlessly busy, which kept me away from any updates.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lage Raho Munnabhai

Note: This one comes really late though I saw the film the day it was released.

When I came out of the theatre after watching Lage Raho Munnabhai, first day matinee show, I could not help but wonder how much of the movie was screwed up so deliberately.

The makers of this film are smart people who know to tell their stories with liberal dose of wit, blending subtlety and goofiness in a rare, seamless fashion.
Take for example, the film’s hilarious start (Boman and Arshad are just superb in this sequence). Or, the brilliant round finish at the end with Lucky Singh posing for a photograph with Gandhi who’s in reality not quite there; just as he usually does, but this time without realizing it, as if to show, he is now acknowledging the presence of Gandhigiri. But, all these moments of wit, craziness and zany humour are just part of a larger canvass – that of the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, as Munna revisits those ideals.
Well, it’s not all that serious, you say. It’s just comfortable storytelling – of the all’s-well-that-ends-well variety. All conveniently delineated secondary characters get the ‘point’ at some point and reform themselves. Agreed, all’s well, but only if it was funny, which it was, but only in patches here and there. And, I couldn’t help but, yawn a bit, cringe awhile, and wait for Circuit or Lucky Singh to crack me up, as the humour took the back seat and one was subjected to profuse pontification.

Agreed, it’s absurd to question the basic premise of the film, that is, Gandhigiri. Not that Gandhigiri, a rather nicely coined term, itself isn’t of any worth. But, it’s the treatment that is shoddy – turning the film into an elaborate sermon, an all-out mush-fest, letting tears flow at every possible moment. It was neither funny, nor honest. In fact, there’s one particular scene in which Munna helps out one Victor D’ Souza over the radio, listening to which everybody cries their heart out. Everybody – a policeman, a barber, Lucky’s daughter, Lucky’s secretary, a gentleman who’s probably the CEO of the FM channel, Circuit – sheds a tear, two or in copious amounts, at some moment or the other in the film, just listening to a radio show.
It was as if we were being subjected to sixth grade moral science lessons in the name of Gandhigiri. And, the film plays all this acute altruism so straight in your face. Not like, say, an Amélie, in which a lonely protagonist goes about fixing others’ problems similarly in a unique eccentric fashion, but in which we see a man being advised to wipe off the pan spit of his neighbour so that his neigbour refrains from doing so.
Quite thankfully, the film doesn’t always look at the Gandhian ideals with stern reverence. It’s the playful wisecracks of the lead characters on Gandhi’s ideals are the moments that brigtens up the proceedings. Like, when Munna quips Gandhi never told what to do after getting slapped on the second cheek – an old joke alright, but it worked. Or, even better, when Circuit asks the astrologer to rise so that he can say “Sorry!” after making him go almost unconscious. But, these bits of light irreverence are too far apart.

I actually liked Munnabhai MBBS despite all the mush and the underlying message, because it underplayed – or, at least, tried to underplay – them quite well, kept them in check (ah, well, only until the climax starts). And, it acknowledged the fact that the message wasn’t an “all-cure”, thus giving us a mix of naïve altruism and modern cynicism, and just asked us to sit back and laugh.
And, more than anything, the film had Circuit and Dr. Asthana. The role of Circuit was essentially a sidekick with not much of space or screen time. But Arshad Warsi was just scintillating in that role. In fact, he did it so incredibly well that the role demanded more screen time in the second edition. Here, he gets more screen presence – and, of course, he’s fantabulous, by and large – evenly throughout the film, alright, but doesn’t leave us with a similar impact every time.

On a positive note, Boman is superb yet again. He plays the same role as in the previous film in spirit, the role that Munnabhai confronts and “heals”. With an awkward looking beard, and nothing short of hurried characterization, what he pulls off as Lucky Singh is just unbelievable - just the casual winks, nods, hugs or the eccentricities. What a fantastic actor he is! One of the very best around.

It was as if the Rajkumar Hirani and Co. thought Munnabhai MBBS worked mainly because it was a “socially relevant entertainer with a message”, and decided to make this film on a larger canvass of the same, in the process making it much less funny. And, they are proved absolutely right at the B.O., all right.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

Though I expected nothing much out of Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, like any self-respecting Kamal Haasan aficionado would do, I watched the film on the first day. (And like any self-respecting bachelor software engineer would do, I watched the night show.)

Note: Some minor spoilers ahead.

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Gautham’s follow-up to Khaka Khaka, is a grisly thriller about a cop on the hunt for a serial killer, and it turned out just the way I had expected.

Firstly, I knew that I had to come to terms with the Gautham’s idea of an episode in a police officer’s life. An episode of Good vs. Evil battle, a battle between a superhero and an equally powerful villain, while the rest of the helpless souls may fall dead at different times and that’s not really the point [1]. Having done that, it still didn’t work as a neat thriller of sorts for me.

The film does start off well, quite serenely, with the investigation of a brutal murder; despite the heroic introduction of DCP Raghavan (Kamal Haasan) and the following “Karka Karka” song sequence filmed with dazzling reverence by Gautham.
But, the script simply fails to sustain enough interest, as the film proceeds on with mayhem of murders, Raghavan travelling to New York to unravel the mystery behind them, an angle of love interest with a divorcee Aradhana (Jyothika), an unnecessary flashback (reusing some elements of Khaka Khaka), every song serving as a hindrance.
Once we are introduced to the serial killer, the film goes completely haywire in the second half with more murders [2], as Gautham tries really hard and fails to engage us in a sort of cat-and-mouse game. And, it was surprising to see some of the plot elements of Khaka Khaka being directly reused in these segments of the film.

Technically, the film carries all the baggage that Khakha Khaka did. Among the actors, Kamal Haasan and Prakash Raj are the only face-saving entries. If songs were hindrances, the background score was so mindlessly awful. And what was with those shots that go upside down and then rotate back doing a 360 degrees turn?

Gautham is evidently heavily inspired by a host of Hollywood serial killer films [3].
One can see what he is trying to do here. Just like the Indian serial killer in his film (a figure much similar to the ones Gautham and we have seen in many Hollywood films) committing series of murders in their own territory, Gautham, an Indian director, is making a film on “their” genre set in their own place [4]. But, like his previous film, this also turned out to be a wannabe-slick film that goes astray instead of an engaging thriller.

[1] - Check out [via] Gautham’s commentary on the alternate ending of Khakha Khaka and why the other “very positive ending” was chosen over it. Well, an ending with Maya (Jyothika) saying, “Ennanga, paathu…” in a “Look! I am so much like Smita Patil in Ardh Satya” manner, just as Anbu Chelvan (Surya) leaves for the day’s work, would have been just as horrible, but killing her just for the sake of “the larger good” is ridiculous.
I’ll definitely become guilty of reading too much into these films, but Gautham’s way of portraying the hero’s suffering by putting his ladylove in a dreaded predicament and the consequent “indifference” towards the woman herself is evident.

[2] - Honestly, how many of you remember one of the Raghavan’s subordinates hanging high tied to a lamp-post or something near a fly-over?

[3] - Here, it’s at least more befitting than Khaka Khaka, where we had a dreaded gangster almost prototyped as a psychopathic serial killer, in a completely undiscerning fashion. (It is one thing to kill one’s parents at an early age and entirely different to sever the head of a policeman’s wife, pack it in a parcel for him to take and place it in a no man’s land, which, of course, was so inappropriately taken from Seven.)

[4] - And, Raghavan, reveals some nuances of Indian police too a couple of times; when he tells his NYPD colleague, “We do this all the time, in India.” and at some other point, “Back home, it’s called the Raghavan instinct.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Note (slightly modified on Aug 18, 09:26 p.m.): This started more as some rambling notes on Omkara after each viewing (I’ve watched it thrice as of now), but turned out to be quite a long take. Apologies, especially for the beginning note below.

A lot has already been said about the film and I am afraid I won’t be able to add much, except some superlatives (which I am doing); but, better late than never on a lovely film.

, Vishal Bhardwaj’s follow-up to the wonderful Maqbool, is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello set among the outlaws in the wild rustic hinterlands of north India, à la the Wild West of Sergio Leone; but retains its nativity, both Indian and ‘Bollywood’, very much; and an outstanding film embellished with great mise en scène, visual moments, wonderful dialogue [1] and fine performances.
plays on a much bigger canvass than Maqbool, which wasn’t as ‘Bollywood’ as this. Quite clearly, and yet very seamlessly, we can see Vishal Bhardwaj playing it to the gallery. (Much has been said about its fate at B.O. too, contradictory in terms, which makes the B.O. verdict quite murky.)

Scenes that I particularly loved in the film:

1. The bridge scene between Langda Tyagi and Rajju (a brilliant show by Deepak Dobriyal [2]; please take a bow!) – The wide landscape, the deserted bridge but for just two drunken men sitting on the middle of it, musing over their respective ill-fates, the reasons of which seem uncannily similar. The setup is striking. It is beautifully shot. It’s just perfect.

2. The “Omkara” title song sequence with a tussle that starts with a leisurely pace and is straight out of a Western.

3. The pooja scene atop a hill where Kesu is chosen over Langda (with nice cuts from shots facing Bhaisaab and Omkara to Langda’s back and later to Kesu’s back), just for Saif’s act.

4. The killing of Inder Singh (?) in a train signal amidst heavy rain. The way the narrative is weaved with killings, which are mostly unrelated to the main plot, but yet serve as an undertone of the characters’ state of mind, is commendable.

5. The climax with the quick fade-outs and fade-ins, ominously portending the imminent tragedy. Not to mention the finely nuanced “ambiguous” act of Kareena Kapoor as Dolly shocked for life at Omkara’s accusation which also appears as if she is trying to save herself now that she is exposed. The way “Jag Ja” song is used here, and the haunting shot with which the film ends.

And, ah, the language! No, I am not going to just call it “appropriate”, “earthy” or “realistic”. It’s all these, but it is too good to be just that.
Call me silly, but it was a real pleasure to hear the characters mouth cusswords in such an unrestrained fashion in an Indian film. (Only a handful of films of the past come to mind that come any close as a precursor.)
Not to forget the classic line with which the film begins – “Bewakoof aur Chutiye mein dhaage bhar ka pharak hota hai, bhaiyya! Dhaage ke unge bewakoof, aur unge chutiya…” (Please correct the spellings.)

Casting Saif Ali Khan as Landga – Though not totally at odds with his image (as many claim to be); he has already played his villain act so well in Sriram Raghavan’s Ek Hasina Thi (The recent Being Cyrus is also worth a mention) – is bang on. In a role which is almost the lead role of the film (so much that the “Tragedy of Omkara” plays in its entirety during the end of the bridge scene), Saif is fantastic as the unruffled and scheming Langda Tyagi, nonchalant (check out the casual way he shoots sitting on his jeep as Omi and Kesu fight it over with Captaan and co.), confidently conniving and unmoved, and walks away with the top acting honours of the film. Konkana Sensharma is just what she can be – impeccable. Ajay Devgan as Omi is an extension of his Malik Bhai in Company, with the characteristic ominous languor and broodiness.
Even the fringe characters turn out be very memorable – Captaan with Omi in the lorry (the one who is “bestowed with a haraam ki kamaai!” Watch out for him) just before the film’s title-song-cum-action-sequence, the old lady in the household.

Vishal, at the surface, stays with the original play (this, I say, from what I garner about the play on hearsay; I haven’t read Shakespeare at all), but adds some very Indian subtexts to his script.
Take, for instance, the gender issues he tackles as passing notes. Captaan places a sharat, or so he says to poke Omkara, with one of his sidekicks that Omkara will ditch Dolly. Omkara silently walks up to the lady who is filling water in a pail from a pump (usage of sound in this sequence and many others are straight out of Leone), fills water for her, places the pail over her head and asks her to tell the village that Captaan has lost his bet.
(This subtext gets more overt later when Indu talks to Omkara on what is pricking his mind and in the film’s climax.)

With such a good soundtrack, it will be quite difficult to place all of them seamlessly in the film, and that shows up. In Maqbool, the songs were almost used as a showcase of the environs in which the film is set. (In this film, if that was the case, the village ladies’ folk songs should have been in the soundtrack.) Where as, this soundtrack, though appropriately rustic, is universally appealing and more mainstream. And hence, some songs play out as independent tracks.

I find it quite surprising that some critics are making a hue and cry over the parts in which the film departs from the original play. Isn’t that part of a reinterpretation? In Maqbool, Mia Maqbool isn’t the lieutenant, consumed by his ambition, who wants to be the king, à la Macbeth, but more consumed by his love for the mistress of his king who is also his father-figure, thus almost giving an oedipal angle to the story; which is, quite simply put, fantastic! But, apparently, it seems, Scorsese can do that to a B-film, but Vishal can’t do the same to Shakespeare.
In one of those many reviews I read on Omkara, Falstaff pointed out a deviation from the original play. Langda Tyagi lets Rajju go and get Dolly even before he is denied the post of Baahubali. This, I think on hindsight, is significant, in the sense that he isn’t particularly keen on Dolly joining hands with Omkara and he is just reluctantly doing his job. Combine this with the effeminate touches he has, it gives a whole new dimension. Langda is very “loyal” to Omkara in his own way, despite betraying him. (Recall what Langda says about his jhoot and sach in the film’s climax.)

Vishal Bhardwaj largely seems to be a self-made filmmaker. (Or, as Tarantino would put it, while some go to film schools, he went to films.) I am saying this because it’s hard to see where Vishal Bhardwaj learnt his art from, as many have wondered already; but for the Urdu lines with a tinge of poetry, which we can attribute to his mentor Gulzar saab.
Here, he was a music director a few years ago. When we heard he is going to make Makdee, it was perceived more as a cineaste’s dabbling effort (at least I did), attempting a new genre quite untouched in India.
But, look at what he is now. This unbelievably amazing transformation is quite baffling given that nobody, and I mean nobody, else around his period has quite made the same impact in Hindi cinema as he has made with his 3 films.

Other random notes:
Vishal refers to his own shelved film Timbuktu, in a nice terse joke which Bhaisaab, Naseeruddin Shah so effortlessly superb that it’s blinding, cracks.
Baradwaj Rangan, in his excellent review, wonders if the shot of a fly buzzing around an idling man was homage to Sergio Leone (I think he is talking about a brief shot of Deepak Dobriyal in his house which doesn’t seem to befit the quintessential Leone setup). I was quite oddly reminded of Will Ferrell in Melinda and Melinda as Saif is here playing Iago “with a limp!” which, again, is much more unbefitting a reference :).

The bottom line: Omkara is certainly the best film I have seen this year, and most certainly, will remain so.

[1] – Vishal, may I add, is one of the best dialogue writers in the country today with his sparkling double-act in Maqbool and Omkara.

[2] – He is given an “introducing” card in the credits, though he debuted in Maqbool. And, yeah, definitely watch out for him!

Cross-posted at

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Yun Hota To Kya Hota

Definitive spoilers alert.

Naseeruddin Shah’s directorial debut Yun Hota To Kya Hota is so good, interweaving four unconnected stories, which themselves are well-told, that, I wished there was no 9/11 at first place.
As far as this film is concerned, the 9/11 tragedy is hardly the point [1]. The director’s intention that the audience be well aware of the looming tragedy is loud and clear. But, when it eventually happens, it becomes a sort of letdown, (perhaps, because it’s played much too explicitly) that I wished it could have been something else.

The film juggles between four disparate threads, each of which has people at crossroads, vying to go to the U.S.A., for different reasons. Tilottima (Konkona Sensharma), a newly wed, who can’t join her husband to the U.S., as her VISA is not ready yet. Salim (Irrfan Khan), a stockbroker, all set to go to U.S., but, wants his girlfriend to come along with him. Rahul (Ankur Khanna), who has got the admission for an M.S. course, but has to take care of his ailing dad. Rajubhai (Paresh Rawal), an organizer of cultural shows, who, in the process, also smuggles people to the U.S.
It’s nice to see the film judiciously switch between the threads, with well-fleshed out characters and well-conceived sequences. For example, though the Salim-Javed [2] story doesn’t play out all that well in its entirety, the sequence of their meeting with the DCP (a superb cameo by Boman Irani) stands out. While, the Tilottima story and Rahul story are sufficiently engaging throughout.

Finally, it’s the individual stories that make the film work. The theme of the impact of blind chance on a person’s life isn’t explored much (though that is supposed to be the film’s central theme). And hence, the film doesn’t come off anywhere close to being a Kieślowskian meditation on chance. (To be one such, perhaps, reflections on multiple paths a person’s life could have taken, à la Blind Chance or Run Lola Run - a masterstroke that Kieślowski “invented” in film - were inevitable).
The films sports an indie look except for the soundtrack. The performances, throughout, are neat and spot-on, not to mention the host of actors in brief roles and cameos (Naseer’s son Imaad who has fun speaking shudh Hindi, Ravi Baswani, Rajat Kapoor, Ranvir Shorey, Makrand Deshpande, etcetera).
Naseer, as the director, deserves applause. I guess the script, by itself, examining the influence of chance incidents and encounters doesn’t have much merit. It’s the drama, humour (the man, sure, hasn’t lost his sense of humour!) and the quirkiness that he brings in, that makes this film worth what it is.

And then there is the fourth story with Paresh Rawal, who has come up with an amazingly nuanced performance, in the lead. Every time the film cuts back to this story, it works wonders. Be it, the man’s ex-ladylove, made up literally as a beggar in a shooting spot, pleading with him, or the “sensual” sequence between him and his love, or the silent shot of the girl, dozing off sitting on a chair, about to fall over her “dad”, this one’s a sheer delight!
Just for that, this film is highly commendable and worth every penny.

[1] - Though, Mr. Taran Adarsh, in his review, says it’s “the first Hindi film that makes an effort to present the 9/11 tragedy that struck America and had repercussions the world over.”
[2] - A cool reference, that one! One can’t help but chuckle when they introduce themselves.

Cross-posted at

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Madhur Bhandarkar’s films seem to follow a certain pattern. All his films expose some thing to the audience; exposé on various systems, structures, lives etc.

Exposé. That’s the word. He keeps making film after film exposing something or the other, and he categorically states so, himself.

“Here, I show you the page 3 world as it is,” it was in Page 3.
“Here, I show you the corporate world as it is,” it is in Corporate.
In his next film, it is going to be, “Here, I show you a Traffic Signal, in and out, with all its intricacies.”

In Page 3, Madhur Bhandarkar not only lacked the finesse to portray celebrities for what they are, but was so judgemental on them that it could have given S P Muthuraman’s Sakalakala Vallavan a run for its money. It even had a police inspector telling an upper-class party dude, “First, be a good Indian!” or something to that effect.
Thankfully, Corporate, by and large, stays away from that sort of stuff. (But, just like in Page 3, every now and then, some peon or security guard pops up and tells his associate what and how corporate world is. So disconnected, out-of-place and irritating, to say the least.)

revolves around the business rivalry between two companies, both of them big players in the food industry. Every element one could think of in this genre - money, power, politics, treachery, foreign investments, and shamefully shady deals – finds a place in the plot.
And, that is all there is. There is no emotional thread that ties the proceedings; nor, is there any revelatory moment that makes us connect to the characters. The result is a dull, long-drawn film that diligently documents the goings-on in the two companies which play it all dirty to beat each other, and goes nowhere else. The corporate log, the politicians, the middlemen, roll their dice on and on, sometimes losing to, sometimes striking back at, and sometimes winning over their counterparts.
It’s late into the film, when the pesticide scandal episode surfaces in the plot, the film engages us, despite the oh-so-naïve ethical stand some characters take in the meeting when the issue comes up.

Among the actors, Rajat Kapoor was really cool, as only he can be. Kay Kay Menon was very good too, but he is getting stereotyped for the role of a brooding man. It’s high time he reinvents himself in some other kind of role.

Towards the end of the film, Atul Kulkarni, in the voice-over, says that, the junta forgot about the pesticide scandal very soon. That is pretty much our reaction to the film too.

Jul 27, 12:08 p.m.: Cross-posted at (Also, slightly modified the post.)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Swords of Chennai, Now

I am not sure how much I liked Pudhupettai. After watching the movie twice, that is. The first time I walked in to the theatre to see the film, at the end of a terribly tiring day, I really wanted to like it (Ref: a preview of the film in this blog). But, when I came out, much as I was impressed with some parts of the film, I was disappointed on the whole.

The film is about “Kokki” Kumar, born in the slums of Chennai, who joins the shady world of the city due to adverse circumstances, and eventually rise to dizzying heights of the Chennai underworld. Straight off the bat, Selvaraghavan gets some brownie points for his no-holds-barred depiction of the lead character as a basically ruthless person, a vile man, striking back at his fate blotted by some unpleasant situations with all fury. The complementing red and green color tones suggest that what’s a “red” for some (and for most of the audience) is actually all “green” for him and that conventional morality has no place in this world - The title, “Pudhupettai”, comes up as he runs away from his house, escaping his father who killed his mom accidentally last night and who might possibly kill him. As is Selvaraghavan’s wont, he doesn’t shy away from the brutal reality. Instead, he revels in it, be it the brief scenes silently fading in and out, montage sequences, or the subtle dark humour.

Now that we have acknowledged that Selvaraghavan’s capability and intention of such story-telling, we obviously expect more. But then, he gets a little too self-conscious of what he is doing. Much original as the film is, he throws in all the standard elements, sometimes clichéd, of a “raw, gritty” gangster film. A reason why many sequences appear forcibly thrust into the film and we don’t care much about what’s happening onscreen.
Take for instance the mandatory “Baptism Sequence” in the film. How inappropriate! In Coppola’s masterpiece (or Mani Rathnam’s Nayagan, or even RGV’s Sarkar), the sequence is the high point, a grand climax for the tussle between the protagonist and his foremost enemies/competitors. And here, it’s just a couple of meek men who won’t stand up against him and another local goon (Yes, there is one big-shot, a qualified stronger enemy, but you still wonder why he is clubbed along with the rest.) And to top it all, once all the acts are completed by his men, we see the don doing his hair and muse in a pensive mood, tears in his eyes (when the intermission is declared). We never quite get this “tragedy” of Kumar.
The dark humour that’s strewn throughout the film is commendable and works well for the most part. But, it does get a little too overt or tedious at some points. (Some sequences are – e.g.: the politician scolding his sidekick hurriedly, before starting his senthamizh speech, Kumar assessing his henchman’s slashing skills – amateurish and out-of-place.)

Another problem is that the film tries to tackle multiple genres; a derivative of martial arts genre, for instance. I am not a sucker for realism, but this marriage of martial arts genre with the gangster genre didn’t really work for me. What was with all those swish-swashing of multitude of flashy swords, all of them looking exactly alike? (Or even, the “code of conduct” which Kumar abides to before killing his enemy.)
Why concoct Goodfellas and Kill Bill together?
In RGV’s Satya, Satya points a knife at Bhiku Mhatre, an underworld don and says, “Mauka sabhi ko milta hai!” Here, Kumar has some sort of a magical persona and wins over everyone by his sheer grit and perseverance. Not that I complain, but this “heroic” quality seems quite incompatible with a realistic narrative.

The film starts wandering in the second half further exploring his personal relationships, “love” life (or rather the lack of it) and his rise in politics. In these parts, the film seems to ramble on till the point when Kumar learns about his own progeny and that’s when you see the actual emotional side of the man. (“SeyyaradhukellAm oru artham vennum’la!” he says.) Then again, the film stretches into one long bloody battle between Kumar and his enemies. The denouement, though surprising, rather comes off as a weak trick.

A round of applause for the majority of the cast with some good fresh faces! Be it, Kumar’s father (superb; is he related to Pasupathy?), his mentor (neat), his associates, Balasingh, Azhagam Perumal (superb), all of them play their part well, their looks, dialect and just about everything is flawless. Dhanush, though has given a sincere performance, is miscast. He doesn’t look his part; the lack of age clearly shows up.

Selva knows the medium well and exhibits an exhilarating visual style, but at times when he intends to examine and explain the psyche of a gangster, he does get a little verbose and theatrical. The film is shot very well, and despite using color tones heavily, it didn’t come off as a showy exercise. But, Yuvan’s symphonic background score is, by and large, inappropriate and I wished there were more silent moments or solo pieces. Of the film’s soundtrack, which I immensely liked, only some songs (“Neruppu Vaayinil”) gel well with the film’s narrative while the rest (“Enga Area”, “Varriyaa”) don’t, but are yet enjoyable (“Enga Area”). And the best song of the album, “Oru Naalil”, isn’t even played.

And did anybody notice the numerous instances of Dhanush’s hair (and beard) drastically varying in its length between consecutive shots of the same scene? A case of re-shooting some parts of the film?

Probably, I am taking the good points of Pudhupettai for granted and being picky about its shortcomings. The film had some fine moments - raw, gritty, in-your-face, deadpan, darkly funny, but the film, in its totality, didn’t quite turn out to be a definitive thumbs-up venture.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Some nice stuff

A note to myself:
I know that it’s been really long since I posted anything new here. But, I myself am surprised that 2 whole months have passed away since my last post was written. In my very first post in this blog, I had a note to myself, in which I had written,
The post will, of course, be a review on any (and that means ANY!) movie(s).

It’s time to read that note again. From now on, I intend to do a little justice to that statement.

  • At NaachGaana, Rohit has put up an excellent interview he has had with Anurag Kashyap (for whom I have been lamenting for a long time now) in Los Angeles.
    Less than a fortnight ago, Oz had met Kashyap (his earlier lament for Kashyap) during an Indian Film Festival which was screening the yet-to-be-released-in-India controversial film “Paanch” and made 2 related posts; one, a nice conversation that he had with Kashyap and the other, his take on “Paanch”.
    There is also this post about a theatre workshop by Kashyap and his latest incomplete film, “Gulal”.
    George has an assorted list of posts related to Kashyap that he has had made in his blog.
    And, here’s my take on Kashyap’s brilliant second film, “Black Friday”. Do read.

  • Jabberwock revisits Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup. A real good write-up, I suppose. I intend to read this one day; after I watch the movie, I mean!

  • And finally, there is Baradwaj Rangan’s interview with Shaji N. Karun. Again, I intend to read it after I watch at least one film out of Mr. Karun’s oeuvre.

  • Last updated, with more nice stuff, on May 3, 2006 at 10:13 10:35 10:50 a.m.

    Friday, February 24, 2006

    Mixed Doubles

    Sunil: “Tumne Spiderman – 2 dekhne kyon gayi thi?
    Malti: “because Avi loves it baba!
    Sunil: “See??” [seriously expecting her to understand]
    Malti: “See what?

    Here’s a man who is completely convinced that his idea of swapping wives is as much a simple desire (and and act of “copying the west”) as his son wanting to watch Spiderman 2 and also that it’s entirely independent of his love for his wife. (It could definitely be argued that he assumes this naiveté to meet his need.)
    Rajat Kapoor’s latest venture Mixed Doubles (after his film-noir debut Private Detective: Two Plus Two Plus One and the black comedy Raghu Romeo) is a largely enjoyable flick, very well written (with imaginative oddball scenarios) and supported by all-round good performances.
    The film, which by and large works as a fine comedy, quite deftly explores the love relationship between a man and his wife married for around 10 years and the lackluster entity that sex has become in their lives. The first act of the film, in which the director introduces us to the family and the lack of zest in the mundane daily proceedings, is absolutely hilarious embellished with quirky dialogues (by Anurag Kashyap and the director himself).
    Sunil Arora, the husband, in trying to bring back a fresh allure to his sex life, suggests something; which outrages Malti, his wife, to no end. He, by some crooked means (this part is totally unconvincing), has it his way; and the rest of the film is about how the couple handles the situation. As the movie proceeds towards a simple denouement (sans comic exaggerations), it succinctly examines the ramifications of such an idea in the lives of the couple, whose love for each other hasn't diminshed a bit nevertheless.
    Ranvir Shorey is fantastic and exhibits superb comic timing (as one might have sensed even in the ads he has acted in; though am not able to recall any particular one) as the quintessential middle-class confused Casanova-wannabe and takes the top honours. Konkona Sensharma, all of 27 years or less, gets to play a variety of roles which nobody else in Hindi cinema could even think of. Needless to say, she has done extremely well here too playing somebody much elder to herself. Rest of them (Vinay Pathak going over-the-top in a hilarious sequence, a calm and clean Saurabh Shukla, Naseer in a very short cameo, Koel Purie and Rajat Kapoor himself) all play their parts very aptly.
    The movie does go a little too oddball at times, like some characters behaving eccentrically, to achieve the desired comic effect (also achieved by showing the proceedings in fast-forward Chaplin-esque mode), but is delightfully funny nevertheless.
    All in all, Rajat Kapoor remains a director, whose movies this blog will eagerly await for; just as it used to.
    P.S.:- I also stumbled upon a blog on the film and later found out it’s the movie’s official blog. Only that it hasn’t got many sensible posts. The Film Diary available in the director's official site (a small part of which is available in the movie's official site) are really worth reading, though!

    Wednesday, January 25, 2006

    The Guns of Chennai

    Pudhupettai could well be Selvaraghavan's best flick yet (though I am really wary considering how he botched up much of 7/G Rainbow Colony, and some parts of Kaadhal Kondaen too). The key point in which he differs from many other directors is how well he knows the people from the middle and lower strata of the society. Hence, I expect a realistic portrait of Chennai gangsters, rather than stuff that is insipidly inspired from the Bollywood gangster genre. Chennai mafia is not the same as Mumbai mafia. For example, guns. Chennai mafia, unlike Mumbai underworld, is not equipped with surplus guns. But, we see guns galore in many movies claiming to protray realistic mafia. The case in point, is Gautam's Khaka Khaka. I have argued at length (with my friends and other bloggers; not to forget the long discussions in Lazygeek's blog :)) about the movie lacking the Chennai nativity completely. IMO, Gautam's effort was an over-stylised wannabe-slick flick. As if to echo my thoughts, Selvaraghavan himself tells this here in a Rediff's feature on his new film {Rediff's regular blooper: Selvaraghavan's first movie was mentioned as Kanaa Kandaen instead of Kaadhal Kondaen; now it stands corrected}.

    Today, this blog completes a year. This is the 51's post I make :).

    Monday, January 09, 2006

    Thavamai Thavamirunthu

    [Published sooner than I expected in response to a comment here]
    Cheran's last film, Autograph, got rave reviews. AV gave it a high-brow 49. I was not expecting anything great. When I saw the film, I was quite surprised to see him come out of his mould to make his first ever movie which did't carry a "social message". To be fair, Autograph had its moments, mostly in the first story with an earthly narration (I didn't get the Azhagi hang-over then, coz I had not watched the predecessor). Second story was a regular filler love story. The third part was plain boring. The Tamilnadu audience was able to identify itself with the ordinary man reminiscing his various love failures. The movie worked wonders in the B.O. and won the national award for the best popular film (which is dubbed as the "sirandha makkal thiraippadam" in the promos of the Thavamai Thavamirundhu).
    Now, he comes up with his next venture structurally very similar to his previous film. And, critics are singing hosannas for this movie (AV gives it 53 this time), discussions on possibile national awards have started rolling...
    But when I saw the film last week, I wasn't really surprised that I found it otherwise. Thavamai Thavamirundhu is plain mediocre. Cheran attempts to tell his audience the greatness of fathers. In the beginning, one of the lead characters, Ramalingam(Cheran) asks his car driver about his father. The driver, in a nutshell, says how great his father was (that it's because of his father, he and his siblings are well, blah blah). If you think the driver is taking the question a little too emotionally than required, wait for what Ramalingam (the other son in the car) has to say in the next 3 hours. As this review written by Balaji points out, Cheran leaves no stone unturned. Not a single one.
    In the flashback, we see Muthiah(Rajkiran), Ramalingam's father; his efforts and sacrifices in bringing up his sons. It starts with a complete account of one day in the father's life. So far so good. Then, the story rambles on showing various incidents. It's the son reminiscing. But, it's the father in focus. After the sons grow up and attain good positions, they do not return the favour all that well. As against the general opinion that the film works as Muthiah's story, the one moment I found the storyline gripping (for a fleeting moment, that is) was when Ramalingam is helpless, when his brother chooses to leave the house, just after realising that he had committed a much bigger blunder.
    Eventually, Ramalingam realises his folly and pays his due respects to his parents. It's really not a bad story, you say. But, it's stretched needlessly as more and more "emotions" are captured and put forth on screen; and the treatment is overtly sentimental and judgemental to the core. The most intriguing part in exploring real relationships across generations is the inherent contradiction in beliefs and interests. But here, the good samaritans don't (and shouldn't) question their fathers.
    The actors were mostly adequate. Rajkiran's performance is restrained, but was nowhere near, say, his superb performance in Nandhaa. But the critics are already predicting a national award (Disclaimer: Since things like this do happen often, I am not ruling out the possibility). The woman who plays the first daughter-in-law is simply superb. We could see the director holding the I-show-real-people-in-real-life baton high while capturing her expressions, when she carefully examines her brother-in-law's new plush house. We chuckle, "been there, seen her". But, she had to be shown in bad light. So that you could see how good the second son's family is to the ageing parents.
    The areas where Cheran's movies are really improving are in the technical departments. The camera captures the essence of rural life. The movie, at times, falters in reflecting the right period the story is set at different junctures. But, that's hardly a case of concern. Coming to music of the film, Cheran seems to be tone deaf. The lesser said about those elongated pieces of theme music, the better. Same for Cheran's acting skills. He is completely miscast as the college student ogling at "bad" wall-posters (and a strange out-of-place BGM is played when he looks at them, perhaps to suggest the evils of a hostel life).
    Things are going so sour for Tamil cinema that we tend to call a movie great just because it doesn't have a hero carrying an aruvaal and heroine showing her navel; also perhaps, because it shows the "real human emotions". Sigh!
    • I am quite certainly not doing well in this blog. I have quite a lot of drafts in the pipeline; a bunch of write-ups on Bluffmaster, Kanda Naal Muthal, Thavamai Thavamirunthu and a few other films of the past. Never mind!
    • Pudhupettai music album rocks, like no other Tamil album did in the recent past.
    • RGV can sure give us a jolt any day. Here, he does it pretty well. But again, somebody tell me he was making fun of the questionner?
    • Balaji comes up with the lists of the best and worst of 2005. Needless to say, I have seen none of the films he had picked for the "Worst of 2005". On second thoughts, I remember I was forced to sit through quite a lot of Iyer IPS, a movie which grates on your mind and ear, back home when my dad was seeing the movie. As for the "Best of 2005" are concerned, at least I have seen all of them :). Jokes apart, if Kaadhal is to be considered (it was released in 2004), it will hands down win the top spot in my list. Balaji also tells how much he struggled to come up with 10 movies for the "Best of 2005" list. I would rather have at least 5 spots empty :).
    • From what I perceive after seeing the club dances and scantily-clad women in the promos, this Fight Club ain't that one. Thankfully!
    • George nominates one Mr. Shekhar Salkar for the Bharat Ratna award.