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After a year's break when I missed the Oscars, I watched this year's telecast yesterday. There were a few fun moments but on the whole, the program was a big bore. There was not a single moment that really stood out and Ellen's jokes, the acceptance speeches and the performances were all uniformly pedestrian.
Reviews for Poi, Thaamirabharani, Pori and Deepavali are now online @ bbreviews.
Tamil cinema romances - even the ones that end in tragedy - are usually lighthearted, candyfloss romances with emphasis on cuteness rather than realism. In this environment of cinematic romances and artificial feelings, the romance in Kaadhal is a real eye-opener. Presenting all facets of love without sugarcoating any of it, the film is a unique experience in the genre of romantic movies.
Watching Kaadhal is like watching the goings-on in our neighborhood. More real than a reality showand more candid than a Candid Camera episode, it feels like the movie is a result of the camera rolling as ordinary people go about their everyday lives. Bharath and Sandhya are two fascinating characters in the middle of this and so its no surprise that we become involved with their lives. We share their happiness when they are with each other, their sorrow as they struggle in the city and their dread as Sandhya's family catches up with them.
When it comes to movies, sadness always has a greater impact than happiness and so Kaadhal is at its most powerful when it throws the young couple into difficulties. The problems they face(and the solutions they come up with) are as real as they can be and movie serves as a realistic epilogue for all those movies that portray eloping as the solution for lovers in trouble (even the troubles faced by Madhavan and Shalini post-eloping in Alaipaayuthey seem cinematic after seeing Kaadhal!). Its only in the climax that the movie abandons its realism and what sounds like a very powerful climax on paper sees its impact diluted somewhat on screen(a big reason for this is Sandhya's overacting).
Among the romances in Tamil cinema, Kaadhal stands out as one of the most realistic ever.
Romance does not offer many opportunities for variation (boy and girl meet each other; they fall in love; the romance faces some roadblocks; they surmount it or commit suicide - thats pretty much it!). So any movie that offers something new within those boundaries automatically catches my attention. Kaadhal Koattai was one of the few movies that presented something completely new and unsurprisingly, went on to become a blockbuster and a true trendsetter.
While we've grown up on the concept of "love at first sight", Kaadhal Koattai threw that idea for a loop by making the hero and heroine fall in love without seeing each other. Just the freshness of that concept grabbed us and took us along as Ajith(for whom the film marked another comeback) and Devayani(in a career-defining role after playing a vamp in Sivasakthi) fell in love just through words. The concept of a love that "begins in their hearts and ends in their eyes" was fantastic and idealistic at the same time and paved the way for a number of other movies where love happened without the hero and heroine setting eyes on each other.
The film also had a climax that lived up to the fresh story. As Ajith and Devayani keep missing eachother, they really have us rooting for them and that is a sign of their romance involving us. I can't remember another movie that generated so much suspense when moving towards a climax that was a foregone conclusion. The suspense is ratcheted up with one lost opportunity after another and when Ajith finally pulls off his shirt to reveal the sweater that Devayani stitched for him, we really do get goosebumps!
With such a wonderful concept, it is frustrating that the supporting characters are so poorly etched. Heera is a caricature and some of her acts are irritating and silly. Karan too had a different philosophy but it was carried to such an extreme that it came off looking artificial and cinematic. Characters like Devayani's sister and brother-in-law and her suitor(no guesses for who plays the role- Raja!) were also artificial inspite of all of them displaying some unique characteristics.
Inspite of these missteps, the fresh story and scintillating climax make sure that Kaadhal Koattai occupies a special place my heart and in the history of Tamil cinema romances.
Last year, I marked Valentine's day by listing my 5 favorite romances in otherwise non-romantic movies. I picked romances in movies where romance was not the main item on the agenda; movies that went on to other things. This year, I'll be more traditional and simply pick my 5 favorite Tamil love stories.
Bharadwaj Rangan has a great piece on Manirathnam. Instead of the usual dissection of Mani and his movies(with a couple of glowing lines about each of them), Rangan writes about how Mani made his best movies when he focused on Chennai(or atleast, Tamil Nadu) and how he seems to have diluted and compromised his art when he expanded his canvas to the whole of India. I couldn't have agreed with him more. But the pleasant surprise for me was the admiration for Agni Natchathiram that came through in the article.
We're all familiar with the trailers for our Tamil movies. The worst ones are simply clips from all the songs but thankfully, we're seeing less of such trailers these days. Nowadays, the trend is to present a collection of short snippets from the film(a dance step here, a flying kick there, a comedy scene here, etc.). But since all our movies have their quota of songs, fights, sentiments, comedy, etc., these trailers end up not looking very different from one other. Barring the occasional Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu or Veyyil, whose trailers gave us a couple of lines about the story of the films, we are none the wiser about a film even after seeing the trailer.
After a rather long gap, here's the second edition of the Cinemakshari contest. As in the first edition, your task is to complete the chain of 10 Tamil movie names below. Starting with the second film's name, the first word of each film’s name is some form of the last word of the name of the film above it (so, if a movie’s name ends in kaadhal, the next movie’s name could start with kaadhal, kaadhalan, kaadhali, kaadhale, kaadhalikka, kaadhalukku… you get the idea!). Unlike the last time, I'm providing the clues right away. Hope they are vague enough to make the contest atleast a little challenging :)
After enough rumors, crew changes, script rewrites and release date changes to put even our Tamil movies to shame, Indiana Jones 4 finally has an official release date. As expected, it will be a Summer release and will hit screens May 22, 2008. As in the previous 3 films, this one too will be directed by Spielberg and will star Harrison Ford in the lead role.
Bharani(Vishal) lives with his uncle(Prabhu) and thinks the world of him. The family's arch business rivals are Shakuntala(Nadiya) and her brother(Nasser). When Bharani thinks that Shakuntala's daughter Banu(Banu) is trying to make him fall for her as part of a bigger plan to besmirch his family's reputation, he plans to insult her. But the act has bigger repercussions that drive a deeper wedge between the two families.
Films set in villages always involve two warring families constantly trying to upstage one another and so the proceedings in Thaamirabharani have a very familiar feel to them as Prabhu and Vishal repeatedly clash with Nasser, Nadiya and Vijayakumar. The characters involved are all stock characters(the respected elder on the 'good' side, the villain on the 'bad' side who wants to keep the enmity festering for personal gain, the old woman who wants to see the families united, etc.) in such films too. So the film rarely presents something new.
Thaamirabharani is all about conflicts. With a large number of characters on either side, two or more of them seem to be fighting, either verbally or physically, most of the time. Though this makes the movie quite loud, it also gives the movie a lot of energy. We might simply be seeing different facets of the same conflict but things happen and so the movie moves along at a good pace. Some of the words thrown around in the arguments are raw enough to make us flinch but that adds some realism and provides a strong reason for the continuing enmity.
The big twist in the story doesn't come as a very big surprise considering the characters involved. But because of what it exposes, the rest of the story becomes quite predictable. We know exactly who will be still standing at the end of the film and in a film like this, that takes away a lot of the involvement. It also points to a tame ending that doesn't go too well with rawness of some of the earlier proceedings (again, as in Ayyaa, it is a toss-up between a violence-laden climax and a soft one and Hari has chosen the latter route). But the small revelation at the end is a good surprise and ends the film on a nice note.
'Ganja' Karuppu has now graduated to having his own comedy track but is annoying most of the time. The confusion that arises because of the dog sharing his name isn't funny the first time around and so, really irritates when it is used repeatedly. His segments unrelated to the use of his name(like the incident at the police station) don't fare much better and are silly and unfunny.
Vishal, not surprisingly, already seems stereotyped. He tries some comedy but it is not very effective and he really needs to work on it. No such problems with the stunts though as there are some impressive leaps and kicks scattered around. Debutant Banu is definitely on the flabby side and rumors about her looking the same as Nayantara are way off base. But she delivers a competent performance. Prabhu is dignified and the same goes for Nadiya. Nasser reminds us of Devar Magan in both getup and performance. Thaaliye Thevaiyilla... is a nice melodious number from Yuvan Shankar Raja.
A couple of news items from the world of fiction...
Reviews for Nenjirukkum Varai, Thagappansamy, Adaikkalam, Pokkiri and Aazhwar are now online @ bbbreviews.
Shiva(Ajith), who lives in a mansion, works at the Government mortuary. Asin, the granddaughter of the woman who runs the mansion, is intrigued by Shiva's serious nature and tries to woo him. Actually, Shiva is a vigilante who, disguised as various Gods, kills dreaded rowdies. Both the police and the rowdies try to find out who is eliminating the rowdies.
The romance between Ajith and Asin is developed with the seriousness that Ajith's story deserves. Considering the emotional baggage he carries, romancing and joking around with Asin would have seriously damaged his character and the director wisely avoids this. Ajith here is a man of few words and fewer smiles and this earns him our respect. No such luck for Asin though. Hers is a half-baked character whose love for Ajith has little basis and her lying doesn't help either. Eventually, her job is limited to indulging in some artificial conversations that serve as take-off points for the songs.
We've had more than a few revenge movies where the hero eliminates the bad guys while wearing some kind of disguises. But Ajith's godly getups here have to figure among the silliest disguises ever thought up. The sheer logistics involved in him wearing the costume and other accessories, putting on the makeup and moving around unnoticed are difficult to overlook. The line he utters "Kadavul... Naan Kadavul" lacks punch and comes off more like a cheap shot(at who, I'm not sure) for losing the role in Bala's Naan Kadavul. So the murders, intended to be thrilling affairs, end up being sequences of unintended comedy. Worse, the silliness isn't even consistent. The elimination of one of the most important bad guys is done with him out of disguise only so Keerthi Chawla can spot him walking out of the house.
When the hero is on a mission, his alter-ego is usually shown as timid or cowardly in order to differentiate his two personas and divert suspicion away from him. But Ajith here in his daily role is not much different either since he goes around bashing goons and saving interns from lecherous doctors. These sequences proceed without any real purpose and the happenings are actually confusing. The policemen on his track are thankfully not turned into comedians but their chase itself smacks of amateurishness.
Ajith's flashback manages to overcome the cliched and predictable nature of the proceedings to be quite touching. It presents a loving family with likeable characters but doesn't overdo it. Since the number of characters is limited, they do not become cardboard characters present solely to increase the body count. We come to know and like them and so their fates have an effect on us. More importantly, the flashback manages to minimize the silliness of Ajith's earlier acts since it provides quite a few valid reasons for Ajith's choice of disguises (and even his ineffective punch dialog).
Ajith finally looks handsome and healthy with neither the flabby look he had in movies like Ji nor the too-thin, haggard physique he sported in Paramasivan and Tirupathi. He is his regular self mostly and is likeably naieve and simple in the flashback. Asin looks great and shows her comic aptitude in a couple of places. None of the villains are around long enough to make a mark, with the main villain showing up only towards the end. Its nice to see Vivek after a long gap but he isn't given any standout material. A few funny one-liners and wordplays are all he manages. The duets fail to impress mainly because they are inserted so awkwardly and actually interrupt the film's flow. Pallaandu Pallaandu... is the only melodious song and is picturized in a deservedly soft, mellow manner.