Happy New Year!
Wish you all a very happy New Year! Here's hoping for a wonderful 2006...
On movies, books, music, technology, family, humor, travel and everything in between
Reviews for Sandakkozhi, Kanda Naal Mudhal, Thavamaai Thavamirundhu and Vetrivel Sakthivel are online at bbreviews.
'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!
A conversation between my wife and me when we were on our way to lunch on Saturday...
Thank you for the enthusiastic response to the quiz (I did get a few more emails than I expected). One of the pleasant surprises was getting responses from people who I didn't know read my blog. I enjoyed reading the answers and have individually responded to everybody who sent me an email. So do let me know if you sent me the answers but did not get a reply.
Reviews for Aanai and Anbe Vaa are online at bbreviews.
Sify has come out with the final box-office tally for 2005. No surprises on the first four entries in the list. We know that Chandramukhi has been breaking BO records and the fact it is the biggest hit in Tamil cinema history made sure there was no suspense about the top spot on the list of 2005's moneyspinners. The fact that Anniyan and Ghajini were superhits was no surprise either and with reports (and claims from both Vijay and Perarasu) that Tiruppaachi was an even bigger hit than Gilli, its place on the list was a given.
When IMDb turned 15, quizmaster Anti commemorated the same with an interesting 5-question trivia quiz. I did participate in that one and got all 5 answers right(with IMDb's help ofcourse). To celebrate the same, here's my attempt at an Anti-style quiz on Tamil cinema. For all 5 questions, intermediate or final answers can be found on bbreviews.
Ever since Kavya and Karthik were born, our movie watching has been restricted to the small screen except for the high-profile Tamil releases and the occasional Hollywood release. But 'tis the season for wishing (and hopefully, getting!). So in the spirit of the season, here are 4 movies that I wish I could catch on the big screen before the year-end.
Reviews for Aaru, ABCD and Kasturi Maan are online at bbreviews.
Unscramble the 4 words to fill in the boxes. Now unscramble only the circled letters to answer the riddle at the bottom.
For most readers of fiction(including this one), and quite a few non-readers too, I think, the most anticipated movie of 2006 is definitely going to be the movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. The first full-length trailer of the film is finally out and it looks gorgeous. But I'm still not convinced Hanks will make a good Langdon.
Businessweek has come out with their choices for the best products of 2005. Barring the iPod Nano and the XBox 360, none of the other products on the list were very obvious choices. And even more surprisingly, many were products I wouldn't buy even if I had the money(like a $350 golf ball finder!). But there are a few neat things in there. Here are 5 that sparked my interest...
"The Unmasking" - Baasha
While Annamalai may be my favorite Rajni movie, Baasha is probably Rajni's most popular movie among fans and non-fans alike. Though featuring a larger-than-life role as always, the film had realistic violence rather than cartoonish stunts and lacked his trademark comedy or politics, which probably makes it the most universally liked Rajni film among his recent films.
While Rajni films are usually dismissed as disposable entertainment, it is undeniable that Baasha is a real trendsetter. Its story of a man living in anonymity before his very different past is revealed, has since been copied numerous times. But none of the imitations have come close to matching the power of intensity of the original.
My favorite is the pre-intermission scene where everyone finally learns that there's more to the meek auto-driver Maanickam than meets the eye. Everything in the movie builds up to this scene and it doesn't let us down. From the moment Rajni sees the blood on his sister's lips, the adrenaline starts flowing. And it never stops. We almost feel the impact of the punch as Rajni lashes out at the first henchman who approaches him and as he flips his shirt back and stands with his hands on his hips, we get goosebumps. The "Ulle Po!" to his brother is uttered with such fierceness that we flinch and the subsequent fight sequence is pretty raw and realistic. Finally, as Rajni utters the immortal line "Naan oru thadavai sonnaa... nooru thadavai sonnaa maadhiri" with the streetlamp shining only on him, the film announces the intermission on an incredible high.
"The Election Result" - Annamalai
Annamalai is my favorite Rajni movie. It follows the Rajni formula but still manages to seem well-grounded in reality with memorable characters and non-melodramatic relationships that don't seem over-the-top. The hilarious comedy, great stunt sequences and measured political double entendres make it a really complete film.
My pick from a number of great scenes is the one where Rajni wins the Hotels Association Chief election and the fact that it has no dialogs is testimony to Rajni's charisma and screen presence. The scene has great buildup as we see only Rajni's feet walking up to the room even as the results are being announced and the door opens on cue, as his name is announced, to show him standing behind, smoking his cigar. He has our full attention as he walks up(in slo-mo ofcourse) to the head of the table and in a move that spells arrogance, blows smoke right into Sarathbabu's face. And he then sits down, crosses his legs and leans back in victory. Whew!
Whatever music director Deva's faults may be, he really had no equal in composing the background score for Rajni. This scene has mindblowing, soaring BGM that heightens the impact and perfectly hits the peak at the end.
"The Warning" - Maappillai
Maappillai had a few firsts for Rajni - he spoke long lines for the first time, had his first dance sequence with fast steps(Unai thaan...) and appeared in a different getup(for the opening sequence) after a long break. Rajni, the mappillai, and Srividya, the mamiyar, have several confrontations in this box-office hit but the movie saves the best for last.
With no one but her money-hungry relatives around Srividya, Rajni warns her about the pitfalls ahead. But Srividya still harps on money and answers all Rajni's questions (about the things she can buy) with a "Vaanguven" until Rajni stumps her with a zinger on whether she can buy manjal-kungumam with money. And the following final line of the meeting is destined to make any Rajni fan go delirious
Srividya: Maappillai, naan thamizh naattukke Rani madhiri.
Rajni: Athai, neenga thamizh naattukke Rani madhiri. Naan thamizh naattukke...*wearing glasses after twirling them*... adha en vaayalaye solluvaanen!
"The Challenge" - Padaiyappa
Padaiyappa had enough scenes to satisfy Rajni fans who had been waiting 2 years too see their thalaivar on the big screen again. Ramya Krishnan as Nilambhari was perfect as the fiery, haughty temptress and Rajni's confrontations with her sizzled.
In this scene Rajni and Ramya meet after she blocks his way with her car and Rajni puts her in her place as only he can. Ramya challenges him that she would wed him and Rajni warns her to keep away. As Ramya removes her sunglasses and Rajni wears his with a flourish and a smile, it is pretty clear who the winner is. The film's oft-repeated one-liner "En Vazhi Thani Vazhi" provides the perfect finish to their conversation.
"The Return" - Uzhaippaali
This scene occurs when Rajni returns to his house after learning that he is indeed the rightful heir to the house and its riches. To start off, he looks dashing in his suit, with his trademark sunglasses and the tilak on his forehead.
Uzhaippaali is rather lean on political double entendres but this one sequence makes up for that. The dialogs, which match what his character has been through, also manage to wonderfully parallel his real life ("Naan nethu koolikkaaran; innikku nadigan; naalaikku..."). And when he says, with his characteristic smile, "Naan saadhaarana manushan illa. Eeswaran... Kodeeswaran", its impossible not to clap!
Birthday wishes to Rajnikanth, the Superstar of style, the king of Kodambakkam, the Baa(d)sha of the box office. But most importantly, the trendsetter who has been imitated but has never been(and will never be) matched.
Happy Birthday to the one and only thalaivar...
Yep... today, December 12, is Rajnikanth's birthday. Though he has already celebrated [thanks Kaps] it, its my turn today :-) So to celebrate the occasion, I will be counting down my top five favorite Rajni film scenes today. These are scenes that show us why he is the star that he is; scenes that showcase the larger-than-life (super)star in him; scenes that, for me, were well worth the price of admission.
Devi Sriprasad has so far stayed on middle ground. His albums like Maayaavi, Sachein and Mazhai have all contained some good numbers. At the same time, very few numbers have been good for repeated listens and none have reached the level where they could be called “among the best songs of the year”. He continues the same in the Surya-Trisha starrer Aaru. There is good variety and the album has a couple of decent numbers. But its nothing to be excited about.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith is in the same league as After the Sunset. Its story is thin and incredulous and its action sequences are standard. But the movie chugs along powered simply by its attractive leads and the chemistry between them.
John(Brad Pitt) and Jane Smith(Angelina Jolie) are the Smiths - a couple whose marriage has lost its spark after 5(or 6) years. Though he's a contractor and she's a consultant on the surface, the two are in fact professional assassins working for different agencies. Their secret lives come to light when both of them are assigned the same target to take out.
The film works more as a comedy than as a romance or an action flick. Pitt and Jolie trade some delicious lines between them and the script has a number of zingers that make us chuckle. While most of these take off on the state of their marriage, there are some general one-liners that would've made directors like Quentin Tarantino proud(my favorite: "Happy endings are just stories that haven't finished!"). But whenever the two start uttering romantic lines(which thankfully isn't all that much), it sounds fake. And the action sequences are uninteresting and only the funny moments interleaved with them help relieve the tedium.
The film is guilty of unnecessarily raising our expectations and not meeting them. The way some of the initial scenes have been mounted(like the secrecy around the agency's boss) led me to look forward to some nice twists or plot developments later on. But nothing of that sort happens and the movie is content to concentrate on its leads. The ending too is sudden and there's no sense of closure.
But Pitt and Jolie have the charisma, screen presence and chemistry needed to carry such a thin story. Place any two other actors in these roles and the movie would've been a damp squib. I've always thought Pitt has great comedy timing and that comes in handy here. His deadpan expression as he utters some of his lines is great. Jolie is pretty much Tomb Raider without the costume. She has the best last lines and has an edge over Pitt in most scenes. Vince Vaugn is the only other actor with significant screen time as he plays kind of the comic sidekick for Pitt.
Reviews for Adhu Oru Kanaakkaalam, Pambara Kannaale and Kundakka Mandakka are online at bbreviews.