Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Thavamaai Thavamirundhu

'Dad' is a rather sorry figure in Tamil cinema. He is typically the hen-pecked, doormat husband hiding from his wife and pampering his daughter in secret or the strict father chiding his good-for-nothing, teenage son and in return, being insulted by him(and his friends!). Cheran sets things right and gives 'Dad' his due with Thavamaai Thavamirundhu - his ode to a father's love. It is a beautiful, emotional film that touches our hearts and reminds us of the power of meaningful, good cinema.

Muthaiya's(Rajkiran) entire world revolves around his two sons Ramanathan and Ramalingam. His only aim in life is to see them get a good education and towards this end he is forced to supplement the meagre income from his printing press with ever-increasing debts. But neither of his two sons end up the way he wanted them to. Ramanathan moves to the city with his shrew of a wife while Ramalingam(Cheran), whose lover Vasanthi(Padmapriya) becomes pregnant after their moment of passion, takes her to Chennai to attempt to start a life on their own.

Cheran has an uncanny knack of making his films seem like a slice of real life. Thavamaai Thavamirundhu is unabashedly sentimental but presents the sentiments with a quietness and subtlety that touches our hearts. There is no loud melodrama but the silence in many places has a much bigger impact than words or tears ever could have.

Tamil cinema and realism don't go hand in hand but we've still had the occasional realistic film (Kaadhal comes to mind). But Thavamaai Thavamirundhu is effective in its own way because it reminds us of our own lives. By firmly grounding his film in reality, Cheran manages to hold our hands and take us down different points in our own memory lane as his film's characters grow up. When Rajkiran takes his sons to school on his cycle, I could see my dad taking me to school on his scooter years ago. And when Cheran's daughter says that she doesn't want an injection when they are at the hospital, I could hear my daughter saying the same thing just a few days ago. It is this ability to capture real life so accurately that makes the film so special and powerful.

For a director who gave a near-masterpiece of romance in Autograph, the romance here seems to start off on the wrong foot. It feels awkward and cinematic, two words that never applied to any segment of the previous film. But the romance is pretty shortlived as Cheran and Padmapriya soon get to tackle the real world a la Kaadhal. The segment is stark and realistic in its own way but the fact that we want the film to get back to Rajkiran is a testament to the power of the portrayal of the father-son relationship so far in the movie.

Movies with a similar theme usually have the sufferer(usually parents or the elder brother) struggle until the very end or strike out on their own to teach a lesson to the people who let them down. But Thavamaai Thavamirundhu takes a different but very realistic path as Rajkiran and Saranya get to enjoy the sunset years of their life in the exact way they had wished to. This leads to an absolutely exhilarating hour of cinema. We have come to love them so much that we feel happy when they feel happy. I watched this entire hour with a smile on my lips and a tear in my eye.

This is not a movie for the impatient. It has a leisurely pace. But the slowness is necessary for the strong emotions, both stated and unstated, to sink in. This is not a movie you watch but a movie you experience. For instance, as the camera captures the intimate details of the printing process, what we are seeing is not just the process but the hardship Rajkiran is undergoing to make sure he has money at the end of the day. But at the same time, there are a couple of places where Cheran seems a little too self-indulgent. Some judicious editing could have eliminated the few places where the movie seems to be dragging its feet.

Rajkiran is simply phenomenal in the role of Muthaiya. His soft and soothing voice proves to be capable of conveying love and affection by itself and his body language is just perfect. His laughter is guileless and his sadness is heartbreaking. Saranya, though in the sidelines most of the time, provides able support. In a reversal of the usual roles, it is she who is the more practical of the two and her unhappiness with her first daughter-in-law results in more than a few laughs. Cheran is content to play a supporting role but is convincing in the role of a man who only gradually realizes his father's importance in his life. Padmapriya is more convincing as the struggling wife and the dutiful daughter-in-law than as the college girl. Most of the other characters are new faces and they do their jobs adequately.

Sabesh Murali rise to the occasion admirably. Enna Solgiraai... is a beautiful melody and both its tune and its lyrics reflect the moment. The other songs blend well into the film too.

Thank You Cheran!


At 11:17 PM, Blogger மு.கார்த்திகேயன் said...

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At 11:23 PM, Blogger மு.கார்த்திகேயன் said...

TT is doing good at BO also, which is rare for these kinda movies.
is TT running there, as per its first release having 220 minutes or 209 minutes after editing city-life scenes?
Here, the response is awesome and everybody getting align with the film in more scenes.
Even in my hometown, (which is Dindigul), ppl are watching for a long time without coming out in half-the-way of the film.
Hope we can expect more kinda films from Cheran, with having the length of film shorter than TT.

At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last, a good Tamil movie to look forward to.

Tell me again why people think of Mani Ratnam or Shankar as Tamil cinema's best directors!?

At 6:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the film is not so well at the box-office .

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,
I have almost become a fan of your thoughts now. I simply like the way you write. I have seen your views as well balanced and not critical about anything you write about.

I too watch Cheran movies and enjoy them. I have seen the entire web for the review/comments on TT. To be frank, still I was looking for your view on it. I have not seen the film yet, as I could not do from my present location.. but looking at your review, I am staisfied that Cheran has done a good job again. And your review is simply superb!!

Keep it up, Balaji..

At 12:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is a slightly different take on the movie, but a well written one nevertheless by another Balaji, in case you are interested

do you agree with this?

At 4:16 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

Thank you Sir. Is it showing in the Bay area yet??

Going by all the reviews all around the NEt...looks like Rajkiran might get the Best actor award.!!

Sabesh-Murali's songs are good indeed.!

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

prakash, thats a good question. taking just manirathnam, his movies and cheran's movies are completely different. i think mani's films are more of a complete package.

selvam, thank you :)

v, as u said, its well-written but barring a few points, i naturally don't agree with it. let me talk about just a couple of points here...

a movie being emotional doesn't automatically mean it has to take tamil cinema to the past. IMO, moving forward doesn't automatically mean lesser dialogs and fewer emotions. cheran proved in 'autograph' that he has a great grasp of the visual medium. so i think the seeming lack of the same here is just by choice.

cheran did dwell on things as the author says. but those were necessary in order to convey the depth of the feelings. and comparing this to manirathnam is comparing apples to oranges. manirathnam's movies appeal to the senses while cheran here appeals to our heart. barring 'anjali', none of mani's movies have affected me emotionally the way TT did. cheran here sticks to what he wants to convey. and does so with depth.

and the movie may have been emotional and sentimental but did so with restraint. contrary to what the author felt, i felt the sentiments were underplayed to perfection. let me give an example... there's this scene where rajkiran asks cheran not to get a loan from his office. the kind of movie the author talks about would've made cheran launch into a speech on how much his dad did for him and how he wants to repay him, etc. but here all he says is "OK-pa. I'm sorry!" it is a powerful scene and that's what i meant when i said the silence has more impact than words or tears.

narayanan, it was screened last week.

venkat, i'm not sure if i can say the length is justified. but the 3+ hrs did pass by real fast for me. most movies i see felt much longer than TT did!!

At 3:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the movie sucks big time and u guyz r all prasin it . oh my god . plz help these people.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Raju said...

Very-well balanced review, Balaji. It is not necessary that all emotional movies come out good. ABCD and PS, to name two in this year.

Rajkiran was superb. Cheran was bold enough to allow someone else steal the limelight. Has taken great care to get the timeline of events. Saranya-Rajkiran b/w foto, songs being played in the background etc. are minute details executed well.

Even Saranya had a good year.. Ram and TT.. as a mom of 'troubling' sons, she has shown great versatility.

At 5:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really happy to see a director using the powerful cine media to deliver some good lessons to youngsters in tamil nadu. Cheran should get National Award for the film and I dont think 3+ hours matters here.
Even James Cameron took 3+ hrs to make us cry at the climax of Titanic. If he would have should Titanic movie in just 2 hours then it would have been a normal movie.
People go and Watch TT !!

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

its sorry to see tht the film is not well at the box office

2005 year end report


There is a lot to celebrate, as 2005 turned out to be the year of blockbusters for the Tamil film industry.

Never before have there been so many hits and super hits. Out of 97 films released in 2005, there were three blockbusters, two super hits, four hits and at least five films that broke even.

The combined gross worldwide from just two blockbusters "Chandramukhi" and "Anniyan" is said to be around Rs. 110 Crores, out of a likely box-office gross receipt of Rs. 400-500 crores.

Tamil cinema is the second biggest movie industry in India after Bollywood, with a total gross touching $100 millions.

Good news

The good news is that the overseas market is booming and the Indian domestic market (for dubbed Tamil blockbusters), mainly Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and multiplex audience in Mumbai and Delhi have brought in more revenue to the industry.

Added to that, new revenue streams have opened up. The mobile entertainment content like ringtones, internet rights, satellite and television rights for blockbusters are being snapped up at astronomical rates. Banks, private equities and corporates are coming forward to fund Tamil cinema produced by reputed banners at reasonable interest rates.

Amitabh Bachchan said recently in New York: "Indian films, mainly Hindi and Tamil, are being noticed worldwide as the country has become economically stronger and this is one of the reasons why anything coming out of India is getting attention."

Says Sanjay Wadhwa, a leading overseas distributor of Tamil films: "Overseas market for Tamil cinema is growing, though it is superstar driven and depends mainly on Sri Lankan Tamils."

Apart from "Chandramukhi," and "Anniyan," "Ghajini" is the third blockbuster (Together they collected three or more times their total cost).

The super hits (collecting twice its cost) were "Tirupachi," "Arindhum Ariyamalum" and "Sivakasi," while the hits (films which are profitable) included "Ullam Ketkume," "Thottijaya," "Kanda Naal Mudhal" and "Englishkaran." The rating is purely based on the box-office collections and cost of the film, as per trade sources.

This trend clearly indicates the total domination of the star system in Tamil cinema. People worldwide pay money only to watch their favourite stars in packaged entertainment format, which consists of peppy music, glamour, sentiment, comedy, action and above all a good story with the required twists.

Our audience is also technically savvy and if the director is able to churn out something innovative within the commercial format, it works.

Another new concept is to make every film a brand by creating awareness about the product in print, television and on internet, as marketing is of utmost importance, to catch the attention and get re-call value for the film.

It is this awareness, created among the audience with hoardings and television ads by a mobile company, that made "Chandramukhi" a brand, which worked wonders for the film at the box-office.

It is surprising, but slowly the box-office trends in Tamil Nadu seem to be following the Hollywood and Bollywood pattern. All the hits of the year have come due to excellent opening weekend collections, thanks to maximum number of prints and wide release. The idea is to milk a film during the first week when the marketing campaign and the hype are at their peak. Tamil film producers have realised that a film is like a parachute — if it fails to open, it leaves you dead. And the only way to fight this is to flood the market with as many prints as possible. Five years ago, Rajnikanth's "Padayappa" released with 11 prints in Coimbatore area, whereas this year "Chandramukhi" opened with 23 prints and after 100 days it was ahead by Rs.1.45 crores at the box-office by comparison.

Today a big Tamil film opens with 250-300 prints worldwide and the new mantra is how much it can collect and how fast! The number of days a film runs is immaterial to its box-office success. And in most cases after 50 days, the occupancy rate is just 15 to 20 per cent and the theatres run the films just to soothe the ego of the star! Another growing trend among filmmakers is to write scripts that suit a global audience. Movies that base their stories in the Tamil village milieu are slowly losing their flavour and more city-based tales, with an eye on Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and the overseas market, are being filmed.

The year 2005 has been a landmark one for the Tamil film industry as content and business changed like never before. The young audiences (16- 25 years) have become all-important as they form the chunk of the opening weekend collection as proved by the success of movies without stars such as "Arindhum Ariyamalum" and "Kanda Naal Mudhal."

According to a recent study, Tamil cinema is poised to grow globally with bigger movies slated for next year.






totti jaya
kanda naal mudhal
ullam ketkume

Thisd article has said tht 6-7 wud break even
my guess is tht films like TT, sachin and aaru wud come under this category.

At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Balaji.. it looks like I was right with my response to the comments by your wife and parents that the film did not deserve the "high praise" that it truly deserved.

I knew that you would definitely feel the same emotions that Krishna and I felt. If we don't support a film like TT, we are writing off Tamil Cinema to its doom.

Thank goodness that Cheran continues to hold the torch high in his efforts to preserve good Tamil cinema that is genuine, honest and something that can be considered an 'art.'

BTW, Narayanan, TT is showing in the Bay Area this weekend and next week. Check IMC 6 for showtimes!

At 11:46 PM, Blogger Arun said...

Balaji, I read your comments and came to the conslusion there are still people who love a really beautiful movie in the way it should. If you have the time, read my blog at kaapi.blogspot.com on the movie.

At 9:57 PM, Blogger Bart said...

First, Thanks for putting me on the centum list ;)
Second, I watched two of the '5 films to watch' list, during last week. Thanmatra and Thavamai Thavamirundhu.
Do watch Thanmatra, IMO, it is the best movie for last year, even better than TT.
TT was a nice, emotional movie which is a life-breather to Tamil filmdom. The negatives are few - Like cheran justifying / putting his character on front towards the end, the cinematic "have seen" romance portions et al. The film could've focussed only on Rajkiran and Saranya.. Cheran can stop taking big roles.. His range of expressions are limited.
Positives are many as you pointed..
TT welcomes Tamil Cinema to 2006..
Happy new year to one and all!

At 1:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Balaji,
finally got to see this movie with weeks of hype being built around it and I was not let down. I think a lot of props needs to be given to the technical aspect of the film. It was shot so beauitfully from the simplicity of village life to the gritty beginnings of city life. There were even a few scenes where Cheran adopted micheal mann's style used in collateral which I thought just enhanced the city. I will venture to say that TT has been one of the few significant Tamil films of the past few years and it was a film that displayed Cheran's every capability as film maker . Is it safe to say Tamil cinema has found it's Mani of the new generation??

At 2:53 PM, Blogger rajesh said...

had the same kind of views abt thavamai thavam irunthu :)
wish u a happy new yr.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger nivas said...

I seemed to have missed this review earlier. Watched the movie last weekend and agree on most of the points.
What i really admire is the way in which a strong message has been told without getting didactic.

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TT is a good film for those who are not self-centered and kind-hearted..TT will not be a good film for those who expect some peppy numbers(like vijay films).
opinion differs and taste too...but hats off to cheran for bringing out a film like this in the good-film-starving tamil industry.


At 1:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OUTSTANDING review Balaji! Agree with everything you've said!!

My review below




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