After months of waiting, yesterday was D-Day as I finally saw Chandramukhi at IMC6 in San Jose. A theater packed with Rajni fans, whistes, applause and hoots for the Superstar's appearance and a few showers of confetti all brought back memories of watching movies in Chennai, apart from reminding me how much I missed it all! The full-length review(with most of this post verbatim) will be online at bbreviews in a couple of days but here are a few thots on the film...
The most obvious aspect of CM is Rajnikanth's eagerness to deliver a hit that will erase all memories of the Baba debacle. The film's story cannot immediately be labelled as a trademark Rajni story(in other words, a story revolving around him!) and so has a wider appeal. He has taken extreme care about his appearance, looking both younger and brighter and is always seen in great outfits. There are also no dialogs with political overtones, he doesn't even smoke and there are very few self-hyping or philosophical lines. But this merging of a woman-centric story and the Rajni image is not always successful. Coming after Baba, CM is definitely a step in the right direction but not as big a step as hoped for.
CM is paced quite erratically. The first half is breezy enough with emphasis on comedy and just hints of something more serious and thrilling down the road. Vadivelu is the butt of jokes on two threads - he is scared of ghosts in the mansion and is eternally suspicious of his wife's attraction for Rajni. Though the latter is a bit crude, both threads are quite funny with Vadivelu's facial expressions and body language right on the mark.
But P.Vasu lets the movie flounder in the second half by not cranking up the pace. The comedy sequences here seem repetitive and unnecessary since they intrude into the main story. It becomes increasingly clear that several of the characters are unnecessary and so scenes with them make us fidget in our seats. Some editing in the hour after the intermission would have gone a long way in making the movie gripping. There is also a twist in the proceedings here but all the pre-release publicity about the movie and the information about the roles played by the stars make this grand revelation by Rajni rather anti-climactic.
I have always thought that climaxes can make or break a movie and CM ends with a bang because of a strong climax. The Ra Ra... song works very well on screen with the lakalaka... bit(uttered by two characters) adding quite an effect. The scenes from the past are captivating with Rajni obviously enjoying himself and the way the main issue is resolved is satisfying.
Rajni's aging is evident only in a few close-ups and a lot of credit for his young(er) look goes to his make-up man and costume designer. His trademark speed is definitely lost but the fact is masked by the simple, light steps(which still look good when coordinated with the group dancers) in the dance sequences and wire-fu techniques in the stunt sequences. Jyothika has worked hard and is good in the meaty role though she seems a little over the top occasionally. Prabhu stays in the sidelines but his emotional performance towards the end evokes guffaws. Nayantara looks homely but not exceptionally pretty. Vadivelu comes up with one of his best performances but Nasser overacts in playing for laughs.
Picturization of songs is average. Apart from the effective Ra Ra..., Annanoda Paattu... is energetically picturized though Vasu should have stuck to picturizing it in the engagement hall(with all men in the visually appealing white dhoti-shirt combination) rather than moving it to the cheesy club setting with all those women. Rajni looks his best in the pleasing Athinthom... though. Even for viewers used to seeing foreign locations in song sequences, the locations(in Turkey) for the Konja Neram... song are breathtaking.