Sunday, July 09, 2006

Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi


Any time a producer or director offers something fresh and different, that effort deserves to be welcomed with open arms. And when that effort actually works, its truly time to rejoice. So its time to rejoice since Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi, produced by director Shankar and directed by debutant Chimbudeven, is fresh, different and works very well.

The story is a take-off on Sivaji's Uthama Puthiran. Sangilimaayan(Nasser), the queen's brother, has killed the first 22 sons of the king(Nagesh) of Chozhapuram with the intention of becoming the next king. But when he learns that the queen(Manorama) has now delivered twins and that one of them will be easy to control, he plans to bring up the baby as his hand-puppet and orders the other baby to be set afloat in the river. So one baby grows up to be Pulikesi(Vadivelu), a cowardly king who openly socializes with the British while his twin brother Ukkirabudhan(Vadivelu), brought up in Kanchipuram, turns into a patriotic revolutionary who is saddened by the state of the kingdom. When he gets the chance, he switches places with the king and sets out to set things right.

Right from the first scene where a caption identifies a lizard as an aranmanai palli, the film announces its intention to be a comedy loud and clear. And as it proceeds it proves to be an almost perfect mix of verbal and physical comedy. One can laugh at the clever and funny dialogs just as much as one can laugh at Vadivelu's expressions and all-around ineptness (a poet's first visit to the court illustrates this combination perfectly as the poet's words and subsequent explanation and Vadivelu's reactions to the words result in one of funniest sequences in the film). In fact, the entire first half had me laughing harder than I've laughed in a long time. An additional bonus is that the physical comedy rarely turns into slapstick.

The film also proves to be more ambitious than remaining just a simple comedy. It deftly blends in social commentary and turns into a satire at more than one place, but does all that without losing its comic touch. Thinly-veiled jabs at Pepsi and the associated celebrity advertisements, a brilliant segment that draws associations with a modern-day cricket match(complete with stadium hoardings, tea-breaks and a 'man-of-the-match' award) and potshots at the workings of a government office are all examples of this. In fact, every aspect of Pulikesi's rule, like his collusion with thieves and the bribery, could be applied to the workings of a corrupt government today.

Once the twins switch places, the film loses a little of its comic momentum. With Vadivelu correcting his predecessor's wrongs, the film is forced to play it straight. This is good for the country but not for the film! And the king in prison (even if it is a very casual one) is not half as funny as the king in court. But the director himself has recognized this and interrupts Ukkirabudhan's good deeds with a flashback of Pulikesi on a bear hunt. The long flashback is very transparent as a ploy to keep the comedy flowing but it works since it is very funny and reminds us that the film is still a comedy.

Its official! Vadivelu has completely grown on me! He is a delight as Pulikesi and his trademark expressions(when he is insulted or surprised) are hilarious. Ukkirabudhan is probably the more difficult character since he has to play him straight. Though we laugh initially when we see him, he gradually overcomes that and makes us accept him as who he is. Thats a big accomplishment. One big reason the movie works as a historical also(as opposed to just a comedy) is that many of the supporting actors also play it straight. Nasser is terrific in the role of the Rajaguru. He is adequately villainous in many places and his performance wouldn't be out of place even in a much more serious film. Ilavarasu is the only other actor with a big role and he serves as the perfect foil to Vadivelu, insulting him without seeming to do so. A number of other actors, both old and new, show up on screen in supporting roles.

Technically, the movie is a disappointment. Inspite of Shankar's claims, the movie looks pretty cheap. And that's a big minus for a period film. The sets look ready to fall down at the next gust of wind and the costumes for most of the players look like they were borrowed from a stage play. None of the scenes inspire the sense of awe that period films are supposed to do. The little special effects there are are really bad and the few scenes where the two Vadivelus share the screen are very clumsily done. Song sequences are picturized well with Aadi Vaa... being the pick of the lot just because of its liveliness.

33 Comments:

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Balaji,

Hmmm.. so should I assume that you liked the film overall?.. There is quite a blend of both positive and negative points that you have mentioned and it sounds like neither the positives nore the negatives necessarily outweigh each other in the film.

As Vijay mentioned in your other post "2 New Reviews" from Friday, July 7th.. I have the same problem as he does in trying to match the star rating with your review. Even a 2 star film gets a very balanced review, as you downplay a lot of negative points.. (Another good example of this is your review of Sandakkozhi. I was actually pleasantly surprised that you had so many nice things to say about the film and still gave it only 2 stars!)

and based on this review, will Pulikesi get a 2.5 or 3 stars? I would honestly be very surprised that if it received more than that!

 
At 12:11 AM, Blogger F e r r a r i said...

Wont miss this movie then :)

 
At 1:06 AM, Blogger b a l a j i said...

BB,
that is shankar's formula... he directs big budget movies and produces low budget ones...

the sets might have looked cheap in many places but they served their purpose... in these days, with not many daring to produce period movies, i think the sets were decent enough.

 
At 1:55 AM, Blogger Bart said...

Balaji, I poraamai you.. It was supposed to get released on Saturday in Blore but got delayed. Will check out sometime this week.
Lemme guess the stars based on your review, which I haven't fully read to look out for some freshness when I see. It should be 2.5 stars (Sandya, you should be right).

 
At 4:12 AM, Blogger Prasanna said...

looks to be a gud one. Shld defn check it out.

 
At 5:51 AM, Blogger Simply Senthil said...

Balaji,

You forgot to mention that clever dialogue where VS Raghavan says that he know the twins will be reunited. Absolutely hilarious!!!

 
At 7:04 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

Looks like another noteworthy effort from Shankar the producer with due credit to the artistes involved. Although everyone claims that comedy films are the most difficult ones to make and blah blah, these movies dont often get the credit they deserve at the end. I hope Imsai arasan gets some kind of recognition if the movie is as good as the review indicates, especially since the genre is a new one as well(I got an overall positive impression from the review)

 
At 10:03 AM, Blogger Aravind said...

nice review..
wont miss this movie :)

 
At 10:04 AM, Anonymous ram said...

having been a fan of bbreviews for like seven years now, can safely predict that 23rd LineCase will get three stars...and, if Karthik and Kavya actually have their meals in time or if Mrs. BB approves of new Bose speakers, 3 1/2 stars!! :) just kidding...

 
At 10:52 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

sandya, now i am a li'l confused! i understand the perceived mismatch between review and star rating for the other movies u mentioned since those had both +ve and -ve points and i might not have talked about all of them in the review. but even after rereading this review for 'imsai arasan', i can't see how it is not seen as a ringing endorsement for the film. phrases like "time to rejoice", "fresh, different and it works", "perfect mix...", "... laughing harder than i've laughed in a long time", "ambitious", "brilliant segment...", "delight as pulikesi", etc. didnt make it clear that i absolutely loved this film? from what i can see, the only -ves that i mentioned are the little loss of comic momentum in the 2nd half(which is made up for by the long bear hunt flashback) and the disappointment on the technical side. so i don't see why its not clear that the +ves outweigh the -ves by a big margin...

ferrari, yep. dont miss :)

balaji, shankar's been repeatedly saying that this is an expensive period film, he spent 5 crores, etc. i feel that could've showed more onscreen. and even cheaper films have done the double role scenes much better!

bart, i'm guessing that u would've guessed more stars if u had read the review :)

prasanna, yes defly check it out...

senthil, that was intentional. i remembered a lot of dialogs(like the final line of the movie) but didnt want to mention them in detail so it doesnt spoil the fun.

vijay, yes a lot of credit to shankar for going with this one. i was hoping it would be a hit since the genre was new. now that i've seen it, i think itll be a hit and prove that people will see something thats different as long as it works...

aravind, thanx :)

ram, whew! glad to hear that the positive tone was clear to u :)

for the record, this is a 3 1/2 star movie (and the recent approval of the S3 IS has nothing to do with it!) :)

 
At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Pulikesi declared a "superhit".. according to Sify.com.

Man, I admire the marketing and business sense that Shankar has. He could produce a comedy like this, make it technically below average and still get away with it. But what I've noticed in most of Shankar's earlier films the technically side continues to be quite tacky, unprofessional and forced. With the exception of the Matrix stunt scene in Anniyan, which was very professionally done (but extremely long, tedious and totally unconnected!), the special effects in most of Shankar's films have been highly mediocre, if not cheap and tacky. For every "Ennavale," and "Mukkaala," there is a shoddy double presence of Kamal in "Indhiyan,".. It was so obvious that one of the Kamals was computer generated imaging complete with pisirals, fake shadows and what not. He improved on this quite a bit in Jeans.. but even that had some really horrible and wasted graphics towards the end of that film. The most trying of his visual experiments will continue to be songs like "Maaya Machindra" in Indhiyan, "Ale Ale" in Boys with the freeze frame technique squeezed to pulp and peels added to make the juice sour, "Kurukku Siruthuvale" in Mudhalvane.. the burning mountain serves no great purpose (even though the colors and locales were breathtaking!)..

The thing about Shankar is.. he serves up mediocrity quite well and layers it even better with a make-believe sheen (and adds dollops and dollops of fire-brand marketing and publicity that all this mediocrity gets lost somewhere!). His stranglehold on the mass entertainment niche of tamil cinema goes to show that we have all become hopeless suckers for the fluffiness and tackiness that he serves up so well, which is not necessarily a bad thing! :-)

Anyways, there's more to his productions though.. with Kaadhal and now Pulikesi (Ram, it's TigerCase, not LineCase or Lioncase! :-).. he continues to showcase a certain difference in presentation (if not technically!) that will hold him well for years to come. Check out the stills for his now-in-production "Veyyil" with Bharat, Bhavna, Shreya Reddy, Pasupathy, with Direction by Vasantha Balan (Album) and Music by G.V.Prakash.

 
At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Balaji, somehow, the two paragraphs that you spent on talking about the negatives in your review of the film, genuinely sounded disappointing to both you as a viewer and me as a reader of your review. This indicated that somehow for all its positives, its negatives will be held against the film. After all, the mediocre sets, costumes and special effects run through the entire film and just don't disappear like the loss of comic momentum in the 2nd half, which may be only a passing aspect. These things affect the overall visual experience of the film and it looks like in my previous comment, Shankar and Director Simbudevan has earned genuine brownie points by covering their technical, costume and screenplay inadequecies with good acting, story and comedy for the most part.

Anyways, I went and re-read your review and will agree that it was more clear than usual that you really liked the film. But there are several films that you have reviewed the last 2 or 3 years that have usually confused me with regards to star rating and reviews that don't necessarily match accurately. Of course, I agree that you can't tell us every aspect of what you liked and didn't like or how similar the film was with another famous one in recent time, but somehow, if you don't elaborate on the negatives much, this confusion will continue for some of your readers (even though many folks may not care either way, as your writing is excellent, which is always the case! :-)..

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger nivas said...

A good review and one of the first ones for the movie too! Social satire is a genre which has not been explored much in Tamil movies, so good to see such different movies come up. I always thought Shankar as a director was too overrated, but that doesn't seem to be the case with Shankar, the producer!

 
At 12:40 PM, Anonymous ram said...

sandya, danks for the correction on the double sodhappal! -- 1. line instead of lion and 2. lion instead of tiger!
chaplin chellapa baashaila, "my thamizh is not doing very well!"

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ram, i thot you meant dot (pulli) instead of line!! pulli vecha kodu pottuteengale nenachen till Sandya clarified :)

 
At 2:10 PM, Blogger Narayanan Venkitu said...

HI Balaji

I watched the 4.30 show yesterday. I felt it was Cheap too. Though 90% of the audience were laughing..I could only enjoy a few scenes.

The subtle messages here and there were good. I am glad that this might set a trend in Tamil movies. Enough of flesh/crime/love etc. We need to laugh more!

 
At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had wanted to see it on big screen mainly to bask in the grandeur. But it seems like Shankar has opted for a cheap way out:-( Truly disappointed. I am surprised though. Kaadhal was a simple film. But for a film of this nature, he should have at least made a decent effort in art direction. Now if this were a Telugu production(sigh...they surely have eclipsed Tamil films when it comes to production quality).

-kajan

 
At 10:35 PM, Anonymous ruchi said...

Hello Balaji,

Long time since I checked in ... How have u been ?

From "Shawshank Redemption" & "Harry Potter" to "Vadivelu" reviews ????? Whither goest thou, bbthots?

Ruchi

 
At 10:58 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sandya, i guess the fact that the last para of the review was -ve led to that impression. after all, its the climax we remember best when we walk out of a theater! but typically, the 1st paragraph should be a good summary of what i thot about the film...

nivas, yes the social satire really surprised me. it added something to the film...

narayanan, guess u didnt make it on friday after all. i'd asked my wife to keep an eye out for u since she went to the fri 9.15 show...

kajan, i was disappointed too. they might've thot that the lightweight art direction would contribute to the comedy too. but some good art direction would've enhanced the effect of seeing it on the big screen...

ruchi, welcome back. and bbthots goest wherever tamil movies go :)

 
At 9:46 PM, Blogger prakash said...

Just saw the movie last night. Wasn't *that* impressed. Maybe I shouldn't read your review first, 'cos my expectations were too high. Too many songs, the heroines were unnecessary.

But definitely worth watching at least once. But I didn't find the sets too jarring (even the Sify review mentioned it.)

3-1/2 stars! Wow! I guess a whole star is for the attempt at something different.

***Minor spoiler alert***

The funniest scene was the one where Vadivelu is chained, and discovers who built the chains :)

The funniest sequence was the one where Pulikesi learns that Vallavarayan is coming. Just thinking about this sequence has me in splits :))

 
At 11:52 AM, Blogger Suresh Babu said...

A must see film by all Indians. Lot of similarities between british colonial period and the present neo-colonial situation. Gapsi and Akkamala drinks for Pepsi and Coke. These drinks are degrading the health of the youngsters and culturally destroys the country. Previously one company called "East India Company" plundered the wealth of the country with Queen Victoria as head. Now Multi National Companies are plundering the wealth of the nation through trade agreements(GATT, TRIPS doctrined by WTO, World Bank).

 
At 9:42 PM, Anonymous gouda said...

this movie is against kannada. it has hatred against kannadigas. pulakeshi was a great kannada king who ruled south india,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalukya
and sangalli rayanna was a freedom fighter who fought against british, and that name is put to a character who supports british!!. this shows real tamil hatred towards kannada and kannadigas, what wrong have we kannadigas done to tamil or tamileans?

 
At 9:44 PM, Anonymous gouda said...

long live 'sangolli rayanna' he fought against british... please keep in mind...

 
At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some Tamilians are a breed who hate all others who give them place to live,
best example is sri lanka whee they want a seperate state and even in KGF Karnataka where they demanded it to be joined to Tamil Nadu,
Histories most intelligent and Idiotic persons are Tamils worse than muslims they hate Kannadigas bcause Pulakesi gave them a nice thrash.
They dont have a poper ruler MGR is a Malayali, Karunanidhi a Hajam Telugu and Selvi Idiot Jayalalitha a Kaanadiga and Next CM Rani a Maratha

 
At 10:14 AM, Anonymous Fan of Pulakesin The Great said...

Tamilians u idiot people u live with water we gift you and u hate we Kannadigas.
Learn from History south Indians are laughing stock for North Indians due to Tamil madness.
The madness have gone to such an extent they are defaming Kannada rulers and Freedom Fighters,

British said
North Indians are our enemies
Gujarathis our business partners
Tamils our Slaves

 
At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You Tamilian Hindus u dont have guts Madani Kept Bomb and u people are hatred for Kannadigas if u have guts then how u vote for anti hindu Karunanidhi and u kill lankans who gave u place to live ask malaysians how tamil drunkards create problems
first behave urself and talk about pulakeshi do u have aruler who fought muslims we have Vijaynagar rulers.
U have madani ur next ruler enjoy u tamils idiiots

 
At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuckin tamilians assholes...and that SHankar is a big asshole ..

How could you make a cheap movie demeaning a warrior and a freedom fighter from your neighbouring state and brag about it.

What if we make a shit comedy movie with actors having names of kattubomman and other freedom fighters from TN and showing them in a bad taste..

You tamils and north indians make me feel nothing big about being Indian and slowly every kannadiga will become a naxalite in his own state fighting for the right in his own place

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

kannadiga loosers..

start ur work instead of blaming tamils..

they will fuck you

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

kannadiga loosers..

start ur work instead of blaming tamils..

they will fuck you

 
At 3:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,

Your tamil film industry has made a film insulting a kannadiga king and a kannadiga freedom fighter. So what do you expect us to do ? Sit quietly and take notice of that. And when tamils are beaten in karnataka you people in Tamil nadu make a hue and cry of that. So who is responsible for this hatred between the two states. How about making a kannada film and showing tamilians in a wrong manner just as you showed our ancestors. And then you speak about indianness, unity etc. Shame on shankar for directing such a film...

 
At 7:10 AM, Anonymous Arvind Leo Pereira said...

Sooperb movie, the 23rd Pulakeshi is a good administrator, knows how to cut cost by employing child labor, keep the mighty English at bay.

Had business sense and encouraged sporting.

 
At 11:57 PM, Blogger Vinayak M. K. said...

Well, We will shoot a low budget movie having your kattubomman and few chola kings being beaten up badly.. fuckin assholes we also include your every guy whom you think is super.. be it rajani, vijay (Oh!!! sucks) every one.

 

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