Monday, December 05, 2005

ABCD


I’ve always maintained that it’s the screenplay that makes or breaks a film. You could assemble interesting characters, burden them with legitimate problems and introduce some suspense with respect to the eventual resolution the relationships between them. But without a smooth, gripping screenplay that ties all these together, the result is a disjoint, uninvolving film. Case in point - ABCD.

Like Pepsi (which was then renamed to Ullam Ketkume), ABCD too is named after the first letter of the names of its four main characters - Anand(Shaam), an unemployed MBA graduate who stays at a rental house; Bharathi(Nandana Kumar), who opts out of her wedding when the suitor’s parents ask for dowry; Chandra(Sneha), who is a widow but a relieved one since she is free from the clutches of her sadistic husband; and Divya(Aparna), an orphan who has been raised by a nun. The three women run into Anand under different circumstances and become his friends.

The very fact that ABCD is a character-driven film makes it different from other recent releases. The characterization tends to be a bit extreme(especially in the case of Shaam) but the director sculpts four characters who are different from each other and makes the events in their life seem believable. In other words, the characters may not be realistic but if they exist, these events could happen in their lives. It is easy to accept the actions of Sneha, Nandana and Aparna and it is perfectly understandable when they fall in love with Shaam. They may be very different from one another but they are looking for the same thing in life.

The relationships Shaam shares with these women are also portrayed elegantly. Sneha gets the most screen time among the three women and so it is natural that her segment has the most effect. It is given time to develop and is the most eventful. Shaam at time appears to be leading the women on but this is necessary since the key question driving the movie is who he will be united with in the end. But the presence of some convenient supporting characters makes the final outcome a little predictable.

Director Saravana Subbiah seems like a man who knows where he wants to go but not how to get there. He has a plan for how the movie should proceed but hasn’t thought much about how to push in that direction. So he comes up with extraneous characters and inane situations that serve no purpose other than to set the stage for the next scene. For instance, he wants to put Shaam and Sneha in an uncomfortable situation. So he invents an uncle for Shaam and makes Shaam worry in the middle of the night about a lie he told the uncle! Scenes like this are scattered throughout the film and pretty much kill its flow.

Further damaging the smooth flow of the film is the way it is structured. Almost the entire story consists of Shaam interacting with the three women. So we get segments that simply portray Shaam’s meetings with Sneha, Nandana and Aparna, one after the other. Added to that is Vadivelu’s comedy track which, though it has a flimsy link to the main story, is essentially a separate track. So the film has an episodic feel. All that is missing is a title card for each segment with the episode number, in Tamil megaserial-style!

A character-driven film like this needs to be fairly realistic for it to work. It needs to give us the feeling that we are watching a slice of real life on the screen. But ABCD fails to do this. The relationships between the protagonists are depicted fairly neatly and without much melodrama but there are just too many unrealistic things (like, a girl has an accident that requires surgery but then goes out on her Scooty a couple of days later!) that jump out at us. These are admittedly small things that I wouldn’t even be talking about in a masala flick. But when the director’s aim is to present a relationship-oriented film where sentiments and emotions have precedence, these things stand out and affect our involvement in the film.

The film has quite a collection of bad performances and Sneha is the only relief. She is as natural as actresses get and her face is able to switch expressions at a moment’s notice. She is easily the best actress working today. Shaam seems to have mistaken ‘good’ to mean ‘pazham’. His voice is strangely nasal and without any modulation and his dialog delivery is irritating at times. Nandana has a rather odd walk and while her voice bristles when delivering all those dialogs, her face fails to match the intensity. Aparna (is she the same actress who was the heroine in Pudhukkottaiyilirindhu Saravanan?) has probably the weakest role among the three actresses but she looks pretty and is adequate. The actor playing Sneha’s father delivers almost every line with a sad voice and overacts.

There are a number of small songs scattered throughout the film. The duet between Shaam and Nandana has the weirdest picturization I’ve seen in any movie this year. Its picturized with sepia overtones and for some reason, includes images of a toddler flying over some buildings. It is actually quite creepy!

37 Comments:

At 8:52 PM, Blogger Zero said...

10 minutes into it, we had to switch it off.
No mention on the movie being the most terrible throwback to the unbearable movies of the 70's and 80's, in the recent times?

 
At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'sneha the best actress workin today'.........ha ha ha ha ha ha . stop jokin man .

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

zero, throwback to the 70s and 80s movies? in what way?

anon, thats my opinion and i'm sticking to it. but just out of curiosity, who would your choice be for the best actress today?

 
At 11:29 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

innanum yaarum pirakkalai =P

 
At 11:29 PM, Blogger Zero said...

Balaji,
As I told you I saw only the intros of the A, B, C and D - the typical job-searching youngster who is asked ridiculously difficult questions thanks to the recruitment being 'fixed' (the phone call comes right there during the interview; loads of BS); the battered wife tortured by a drunkard husband using cigarette butts and his friends; the working female hit by dowry problem in an alliance with a 'rich' guy (who earns as high as 8k per month); the inanest interpretation of the K.B. female.
Need I say more why I stopped the movie?

 
At 11:30 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

wait.. i'm not anon by the way..!! athu naan illai!!!

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

zero, i guess those scenes stuck in your mind since u saw only 10 mins. i forgot about them as the movie proceeded. but u're right. we did laugh out loud @ the Rs. 8k salary and groan at the cliched scenes like the interview and the torture...

 
At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

I haven't seen a Sneha movie since Autograph. I guess she could be a female 'Delhi' Ganesh when it comes to performing before a camera. I suppose other actresses might get to perform just as well...if they could only get appropriate scope and experience. ABCD sounds like an inferior version of Azhagan.

 
At 9:40 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

Balaji, is the DVD already out for rent for this film? or did you catch it in a theater?

 
At 10:56 AM, Blogger Raju said...

Not again.. I just posted the review for ABCD and came to visit your blog... too much coincidence.. :-) My blogging policy of 'not more than 1 post a day' made me to post it today though I wrote most of it on the weekend..

We have touched a few common points but of course my review was totally out of irritation.. and u, as usual, have kept up with the tradition of writing long reviews for hopeless movies.. :-)

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger narayanan said...

I watched this movie last weekend (even blogged about it too). The story is too old, the only hope was screenplay and acting. I can discount Nandana and Aparna out, they dont have many scenes to make you irritated. But Shaam could
ve shown a little more involvement in his role, he looked like a dead man walking. I did'nt look at the realism flaws, mebe I should borrow your eye for that :D

BTW did you watch the songs fully :O you have a lot of patience.

-narayanan

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Balaji, I really admire your patience. I made the mistake of seeing 12B and repeated the mistake by seeing Iyarkkai.. and I'm very sorry to say that Mr. Shaam just can't act even if you hold a knife to his neck. Purely by that measure, the newer heroes on the block are much better (you can add anybody else into this group, even Ravi Krishna, if you like! You can see that I really want to insult Shaam! :-).. On occasion, even Abbas and Kunal emote better (and that's probably why they figure in much more films (B and C grade types!) than Shaam could ever hope for..

I will give you the "most patient reviewer" award if there were such a thing.. If I see Shaam's face on a DVD, I look the other direction.. I have lost all hope and patience for him..

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

You got to be kidding me... Abbas, Kunal better than Shaam?

Good grief, what is this world coming to!

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous ram said...

hi all, am back after a hiatus! am yet to see A.B.C.D. though Director Vasanth told me that the movie's very ordinary and that it's "Azhagan retold in an inferior fashion" (not that Azhagan was a classic to begin with!) and that "Sneha was the only saving grace."

BB, indha tharava took a (female, needless to say) friend to meet Maddy...other than that, Vasanth and Crazy Mohan-a paathen...avlothaan celeb meetings...

 
At 2:31 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

gopi, sneha and 'delhi' ganesh? kinda sounds like an insult but since i think 'delhi' ganesh is a very natural performer, i'll assume its a compliment :) i think sneha is extremely natural, something no other actress can boast of today.

vijay, no. and no. saw it on vcd :)

raju, length of the review is more related to how much i have to say about the film. i think the really good and really bad movies will have longer reviews :)

narayanan, yeah saw your post after i wrote my review. that 'dead man walking' was a hilarious comment. brilliant description :)

sandya, hmmm... i'd rate shaam much higher than ravi krishna, abbas and kunal for sure. i think he just hasnt had the right breaks so far. i liked him in 12b, iyarkai, lesaa lesaa, etc. i think ABCD would be his weakest performance so far though...

ram, good to have u back :) looks like vasanth and gopi think alike. i wasnt reminded of azhagan. but my wife did think it was similar to KB's 'sollathaan ninaikiren'.

 
At 2:35 PM, Blogger narayanan said...

sandya I can understand your feelings against Shaam. But Kunal..emote, you must be joking.

If I see Shaam's face on a DVD, I look the other direction

:))))

-narayanan

 
At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

See... I knew if I wrote something like Abbas and Kunal are better than Shaam.. you would all be up in arms supporting Shaam.. But really, give me one good scene where Shaam has actually acted from any of his films.. I stand by my statement: He can't act even if you put a knife to his neck.. A stone is a stone and always a stone.. You can throw it and hurt someone, or place it with bunch of other stones and make it a landscape feature in your garden.. but it can't do more than that.. You can polish it nicely and keep it in your showcase inside your home.. but it ain't gonna do much more than look nice.. Sorry for the over-the-top comparison.. the day an ordinary stone emotes, is the day Shaam starts acting. If this ain't gonna happen, that ain't gonna happen either! :-)..

Okay, can I say Dhanush (Kaadhal Kondaen), Simbu (Manmadhan), Bharat (Kaadhal), Arya (I haven't seen AA, KK or OKK, but figure he's probably better than Shaam! (There's another controversial statement that's gonna get me in trouble!)) and Ravi Krishna (7G RC) are much better actors than Shaam.. Would that be acceptable? :-) ;-).. Can you name one film with an above average (if not superlative) performance by Shaam?

As you can see, I'm just playing devil's advocate just for the heck of it. Moreover, I'm enjoying your gasps: "I can't believe she said that!"..

 
At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

It should be "UK" for Ullam Ketkume" besides the comment about Arya in my previous posting, not "KK"...

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger Me too said...

'A'nother 'B'ayangara 'C'onfused 'D'irector-a? Paavam Shaam!!

 
At 6:47 PM, Anonymous ram said...

sandya, i thought Shaam was quite good in Yei! Nee Romba Azhagaa Irukkey and 12B but then again, I think I liked the two characters he portrayed more than the performances themselves...yes but I agree- dont think there's a "powerhouse scene" of his that sticks out in memory...poruthirundhu paarpom...
but I also dont think he's as horrible an actor as you portray him to be...I think he brings a certain amount of dignity and sophistication to his roles...

 
At 7:05 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Ram,

If anything, he's fair skinned and looks educated.. but that I don't think that is really going to get him anywhere.. The problem with him is this: none of the films that he has acted in are really very different from one another.. Neither "Yei," "12B," "Iyarkkai," "Lesaa Lesaa" "Girivalam," "Ullam Ketkume" or "ABCD" are expecting him to do anything different except be the modern sophisticated person that he already has established himself as. Not as a comparison or anything, you'll never see him in a role like Surya's in Pithamagan, or even something as challenging and interesting like what Arvind Swamy did in "Pudhaiyal."..

Shaam is just plain Shaam and nothing different, exciting or ecstatic will ever come from him.. That's what bugs me about him!

 
At 7:08 PM, Blogger giri subramanian said...

Man whatever you guys say,the most boring movie in recent times.I was laughing throughout the movie.

Shaam has to start doing some good movies to attract youngsters to succeed in tamil film industry and stop doing movies for people who existed before his birth.Sorry to say what I said but it was a pain to sit through the movie.

 
At 7:11 PM, Anonymous ram said...

Pudhaiyal-- that was the Aravind Swamy-Mammooty movie, right? Remember a couple of really cool songs and a totally wacky performance by Swamy...was a flawed but fun movie...just that Mamooty had precious little to do! Remember the AS-Coundamani-Manivannan scenes being a lot of fun...

 
At 7:28 PM, Blogger Orange Fronkey said...

I dont think Shaam deserves the crap way you lay him out to be Sandya.

He comes off as a natural actor in my opinion, I liked all of the movie he was in and most of the movies were bearable because of him...

Then again he's one of my fave dudes so *shrug*

I suppose you like ppl like Vijay and Ajith who are oh so cool.

 
At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Actually, I find Vijay bearable and Ajeeth is alright.. I would prefer Surya, Vikram, Madhavan and maybe even Srikanth on occasion over Shaam, Vijay or Ajith..

I don't know if you read the comments under the "Thambi Mangal" post, I have vehemently defended Madhavan in the fact that he isn't just a pretty face and his versatility lies very much in the diverse roles that he has taken in the last few years and remember this was a comment about how Maddy was an "A-center Vijay." So, I don't like Vijay that much enough to defend him against Maddy.

I was initially very nice to Shaam and gave him the benefit of the doubt until I realized that he hadn't improved or even tried to improve.

Merino, you are probably right.. I am being harsh in Shaam's case, but the truth is, the more 'so-called "nice"' people are with him, the more repetitious his roles will be.

As Ram mentioned earlier, Shaam has not given any reason for any of us to defend him at all in the last 5 odd years that he has been around.. If there is an iota of 'exceptional acting' that Shaam has demonstrated in the handful of films he has done, we have an argument, otherwise my criticism stands..

Merino, being stone-faced in front of the camera is easy.. anybody can do it.. you can and I can.. there's no doubt about that!

 
At 8:20 PM, Blogger king94 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger king94 said...

Seriously disappointed about the reviews this movie has got. From earlier previews this year I came to believe the story revolved around shaam, sneha and widowhood, which sounded so exciting and different. But wow, what a letdown.

I thought 12B and Iyarkai were both top films in their respective years. I am surprised you didn't like them Sandya

I've always been a supporter of Shaam, though it does get exhausting at times. But he just has "it" and I do think he shows promise. I do agree with Sandhya that the man does not takes risks and has just settled.
I think the only reason he acts the same way in each film is because every film asks the EXACT same thing from him. 12B and Iyarkai were a departure from his norms and it worked out very well for him. Hopefully 2006 is his year, but I say that every year.

 
At 1:10 AM, Blogger giri subramanian said...

Shaam is a good actor and I dont deny that.I really like is performance in movies like 12B,Iyarkai and YNAI but the guy is poor in choosing good scripts.

In tamil you just cant survive by being good.Acting in movies which highlights your strong point is very important as no one is a perfect actor in this industry.

In a recent interview I saw of kamal,he said that the success of an actor lies in making movies which highlight your strong point as everyone cant do every role.Thats the reason I got lots of respect for vijay as he knows that his strength and weakness quite well.

 
At 6:25 AM, Anonymous Gopi said...

I thought Shaam fit the role perfectly in Iyarkai. He was quite good in the light weight roles required in 12B and YNRAI. For me YNRAI stood out because of Sneha, Vivek and a decent attempt at addressing the futility of suicides and related compulsive behavior amongst inexperienced lovers.

If ABCD bites the dust at the BO, it is quite possible that Shaam will be more specific about the scripts he chooses going forward. But I am unsure as to what he will be basing his decision on. It definitely looks like he has been playing breezy roles for a long time. But given his experience, I am not sure if he even knows what his strong and weak points are since most of his roles (except perhaps the ones in Bala and Iyarkai) have been similar in type.

Does Shaam want to be as commercially successful as a Vijay, remain a "working" lead character like an Arvindsamy (whatever happened to him?) or find a middle-ground like Vikram has? Shaam will have to experiment before he can find something that will work very well for him.

 
At 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont know about you all but I honestly agree with Sandhya about Shyam...he is STONE FACED and DOESNT KNOW HOW TO ACT! I sincerely hope that this movie will slowly push him out of the league...

 
At 9:00 PM, Anonymous Krish said...

Iyarkkai... Such a lousy movie with such a hype... I wasted $10 on that... Such a C rate movie... With two big time duds like Shyam and Arunkumar and such a bad screenplay, I wonder how people like that movie...

Oh! BTW I really cannot stand Shyam. The very first time I saw him, the scene where he supposedly cracks joke while talking to his landlord (M. R. Krishnamurthy, I think), he lost me as a fan... Usually first impression makes or breaks an actor. Very rarely people improve drastically.

As in any other art, you cannot teach a person to act. You can only polish their talent. But on a screen a person can make himself look good, if he has the smarts... There are a few beings in tamil cinema in the second category... Prashant falls in that category... But Shyam is completely different... He has very minimal acting talent like Prashant... But he doesn't know how to derive the maximum out of the minimal talent on screen... Well, hopefully he will learn something in the next 15 years... Vijayakumar did do that and became a huge character when he grew old.

 
At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Krish said...

> 'A'nother 'B'ayangara 'C'onfused 'D'irector-a? Paavam Shaam!!

"Me too"... Of course... With Shyam at the helm, there is no other recourse for a director... ;)

 
At 11:36 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sandya, i don't think any1 could say shaam's a great actor. i think what got to people what u saying kunal and abbas r better than him :)

i'm pretty neutral on shaam. i think he's done his job well in the movies so far. been pretty unlucky though since even movies he did with known directors like vasanth, priyan, etc. did pretty badly.

 
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