Monday, April 16, 2007

Maayakkannaadi


It is understandable when a director whose films haven't been big commercial successes, switches genres or styles. But why would a director whose last 2 films were big hits, switch back to the formula that he used before them and which gave him less success? That's what Cheran has done in Maayakkannaadi. Abandoning the personal and emotional style he used in Autograph and Thavamaai Thavamirundhu, he goes back to delivering a message-based film like Vetrikkodi Kattu. Well-intentioned but long, flimsy and self-indulgent, the film is the weakest effort yet from the director.

Kumar(Cheran) and Maheshwari(Navya), who both work at beauty salons, are lovers. Neither of them comes from a rich family(Kumar's family is back in his village, waiting for him to come back home, and Maheshwari is the daughter of a bus driver) but they yearn for a rich lifestyle where they have enough money to throw around. After unsuccessfully trying their hands at being LIC insurance agents, Kumar decides to try his luck in the film industry. But they find out that opportunities are not easy to come by.

Cheran and Navya aren't a very likeable couple in Maayakkannaadi. While he has essentially abandoned his family and is spending the little money he gets on himself and his girlfriend, she is someone who is pretty selfish and doesn't understand her family's situation. Protagonists don't always have to be likeable but the lack of it is a problem in a film where we follow their struggle to succeed. We end up watching the two of them in a detached mode and so their situation never has the kind of impact that the struggles faced by the protagonists in Mugavari or even Kodambakkam had.

The other factor that doesn't help the couple gain our sympathy is the humor. Subtle humor, like the comments made by Cheran's roommate, is nice and even welcome. But overt attempts at humor, like Cheran's 'training' session, come in the way of him gaining our sympathy. We're never sure if we are supposed to root for him or laugh at him!

Cheran's strengths are clearly the emotions created by familial bonds. A single phone conversation Cheran has with his family back in the village manages to raise sympathy for them, though we never see the family at the other end of the conversation. And Navya's family is a very believable, down-to-earth lower middle class family with understandable problems and conversations. The problem is he doesn't spend much time on them. Instead we are treated to Cheran and Navya, who, I don't think, fit anybody's definition of a cute couple, be romantic and Cheran, who I don't think, fits anybody's definition of a star, appear in a variety of getups as he dreams of making it big in Kodambakkam.

The film traverses a path that's a little unexpected in the second half. Though it doesn't help the film's underlying message much(I couldn't see how Cheran could have avoided this path even if he had continued in his job at the beauty salon and not dabbled in cinema) but it brings in some variety since we finally see something other Cheran trying to become a big star.

Inspite of sounding preachy, Radharavi's final monologue makes some fine points. The examples he gives and the way he brings in his own experiences make sense and it is definitely sound - even if a bit long - advice. Its just that aftet three and a half long hours, even a few minutes of advice, however sound, seems too much!

Cheran the actor overwhelms Cheran the director here. Cheran seems to have indulged in his desire to wear fancy clothes, dance and speak long dialogs. Though he does most of these under the pretense of dreaming, that doesn't make it any easier for us to watch him strut his stuff. But if you discount the unsuitable hairstyle and unflattering getups, Cheran the actor does a decent job. He is able to bring out the initial arrogance as well as the arrogance gradually turning to frustration as he understands that success isn't going to be easy. His experiences have a sobering effect on him and he is able to convey this well. Navya just cannot do cute. She comes off looking a little mentally off-balance when she tries to be sweet or romantic. But like Cheran, she is solid in the emotional scenes and believable when she is scared for him. Radharavi manages to convincingly deliver the last monologue, which the full movie is geared towards but doesn't have much to do otherwise.

Ilaiyaraja's songs are unremarkable but sound good with the movie. Konjam Konjam... is a typical Raja melody and the best number in the album. His voice(or the picturization) doesn't suit Enga Vandhe... but is perfect for Kaadhan Indru... and Kaasu Kaiyil.... Ulagile Azhagi... is a nice melody but the dresses and wigs of Cheran and Navya make sure we don't enjoy the song!

18 Comments:

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Zero said...

three and a half-u hours-aa?!

 
At 10:47 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

zero, yep! i went for the 8 o'clock show and when i came out it was 11.30!! intermission irundhudhu... so u can discount those 10 mins i guess :)

 
At 11:08 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

So, I'll consider myself smart for waiting for your opinion before heading out to the theater! :-) ;-)

But really, let's all be honest with ourselves, Cheran and Navya in all those dreadful costumes and wigs was definitely enough reason to puLiya karachchu-fy in our stomachs (can't doubt that the Sivaji stills scare me an awful lot too! :-)

I had a fear also that Navya's looks were never designed for cute, romantic roles to begin with..

3.5 hours with a fast forward button sounds like the plan from my perspective! :-) ;-).. Unnaale Unnaale could only be better, for your sake, Balaji!

 
At 12:59 AM, Blogger Bart said...

Wish Cheran takes a cue from the response to this attempt of his and restrains his indulgence in acting. I would like to see directors who put in good efforts in scripts, backdrops and creative portion like him (~ Amir, Bala, Selvaraghavan) focus only on that instead of footing in acting. Feels bad that this movie turned out to be a cropper as it was one of the worthwhile movies to look for until it opened :)
Unnale unnale might just manage to be a decent timepass, I hope (with inputs from other reviews).
Chennai 68, Oram po, Satham Podathey are other movies to look out for until "The Boss" appears :)
Meanwhile, "Kuppi" (dubbed from kannada "Cyanide") is getting unanimous positive reviews. Might be worth it.

 
At 2:35 AM, Blogger S.Ganesh Kumar said...

So,yours is not a good start to the Tamil new year.As for me,I've made a great start as far as watching a movie is concerned.It's 300!
Check my review here:
http://sganeshkumar.blogspot.com/2007/04/300unadulterated-and-uncompromisingly.html
The only problem is that it's so great that I may be unable to watch the kind of films which I regularly watch(Like Pokiri,Don etc.) for another 4 months.
Because,I don't think 300 kind of films are frequently made by any film industry!

 
At 6:14 AM, Blogger srivatsan said...

3.5 hrs isn't a big issue. Even his TT was close to 3 hrs and 20 mins. Infact some very good Hollywood films like LOTR, Titanic and Starwars are 3 hrs. We like it or not matters a lot :))

 
At 6:55 AM, Blogger VThinkTank said...

Balaji

check this out on sify
http://sify.com/imagegallery/gallery/index.php?hcategory=13733818&hgallery=14428223&sort_idx=

 
At 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't keep your hopes up for UU. Here is a review that I agree with: http://www.searchindia.com/search/tamil-movies/unnale-unnale-review.html
As in this review, I too watched the movie in North Bergen and the comments from the audience was more entertaining than the movie itself. Maybe the reviewer was in the same show that I was in!
Kumar

 
At 10:05 AM, Anonymous ram said...

bb, nice, detailed write-up...just that the review looks like its gonna end up being a lot more entertaining - as is the case with ur reviews of bad movies - than the movie!

yes, I had a gut feeling that the movie was gonna be a clunker. but i was still hoping against hope coz I remember seeing a still photo of cheran in a bhagyaraj-like costume prior to autograph's release and thinking, "this movie's gonna suck!" but i was happy that cheran instead gave me one of the most fulfilling movie-going experiences of my life...but i guess thaz not gonna happen with boothakannaadi! (given the bloated running time!)

reg. running time and pace of movies, I really go by the emotional (if its a drama) pull that the director can exert on us...something like "sethu" - it had a very slow moving second half but did we care? nope. coz it just shook us up, left us paralyzed and drove us to tears. sure, it was a little manipulative but the direction was so brilliant that we didnt care. some of the best character studies have been a little deliberate, dwelling deeply on the characters and their emotions...be it iruvar, anbe sivam, rhythm, pitha magan, they're all a little "slow" but they're more than steady so they win!

 
At 10:12 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

Even after seeing all the bad stills that were released and even after listening to the very ordinary songs, I really thought that Cheran will prove all of us wrong. But is really disappointing to read that this might be Cheran's worst effort yet. So, how many stars is it going to be, Balaji?

And is there a reason why you do not reveal your star ratings when you review a movie? Just curious. I am sure you would have faced this question before but I missed your answer.

 
At 6:18 PM, Blogger srivatsan said...

ram,

Agree with you on Anbe Sivam, but the movie is way shorter than we think (2hrs 38mins or something) way less than 3.5 hrs. Only thorn in the flesh was *flashback*, really do not know whose idea it was. At least it could have been short!. Inspite of that the movie stood because of last 40 minutes were too good.

 
At 10:28 PM, Anonymous ram said...

srivatsan, i agree. i was talking abt anbe sivam's pace but not its length. i've heard a lot of people describe it as slow and talky. adhaan sonnen.
i was okay with the flashback more than the majority of viewers, incl. BB who'd complained abt it in his review. the flashback did have its high points like the poo vaasam song, kamal's masterful wall painting with its hidden meanings, the uma riyaz khan scene, etc. but yeah, it was the first hour and the final 1/2 hr that made anbe sivam a great movie. here're my thoughts. wrote it in jan 2003 but my opinion hasnt changed much. except maybe i could write a review that reads better, now :-)
http://www.geocities.com/ram_aishoo/AnbeSivam.htm

 
At 12:50 AM, Blogger Zero said...

Just for the record, folks, my getting horrified (in PKS style) at knowing that the movie is three-and-a-half hours has to be taken in context; that vital context being the fact that it's a Cheran film. (Even though, his last film was also just about that long as well.)

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Sanjeevi said...

Same thoughts here :)

When I am watching Charan & Navya pair in the movie, I feel the same what we get from two fools are talking. Pathatic attempt by Cheran.

Today I saw an interview of Cheran in Jeya TV (Starudan oru naal). It seems, still he did not take a lesson from this failuire. He blame to media/reviewers who gave negative review to Mayakannadi. Some samples of his speech - "Naan oru nalla message solli iruken, aannalum message solra intha padatha kuda mosama vimarsikkuranga", and "Padmapriya, Gopika en padathukku appuram nalla padangalla nadikkavillai"

 
At 10:53 PM, Anonymous raj said...

bb, to be fair, it seems to be Cheran's intention that Cheran-Navya pair is not likeable. He said as much in the jaya tv interview yesterday and the horrifying hair cut also seems to be deisgned to invoke the irritation that we get at 'wannabe cool' , 'wnnabe rich and stylish' elements. As such, your complaint that it is not a likeable pair doenst cut much Ice. However, that a Cheran movie was underwhelming is something I can understand, and unlike many here, I thought Autograph was an ordinary movie. So was TT. It is no suprise that his sermonizing sessions masquerading as movies have lost their appeal. What is surprising is that a Sermon like TT caught public imagination at all. P{robably, it is the neo-day paasa malar or any other yester year tearjerker, a sure-fire formula with the tamil masses, as despicable and sencod-rate as Vijay's masala formula.

Having said that, I wouldnt question Cheran's intentions - I think all of his movies reflect his personal sensibility sincerely without compromise and thats something to be appreciated - if I cannnot appreciate TT or Autograph or now, MK, it is because it hasnt been made for my sensibility. I dont think Cheran has got carried away with his hero image here - it is just that his sermon this time choose a topic that needed these distractions. To attribute MK's failure to Cheran's newly-acquired megalomania is to inaccurately attribute merit to his previous movies. He has continued in the same mode as DEsiya Geetham, Vetri Kodi KAttu and even TT. Only, he didnt get the mix right.(for commercial success)

 
At 11:14 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sandya, yes very smart decision indeed. as for UU, the leads and the locales will surely be more pleasing to the eye :)

bart, well put. i'm not against anyone acting but if it affects what they are basically good at, then acting better take the back seat.

ganesh, '300' seems to be becoming a blockbuster anywhere it gets released. it was a surprise hit here in the US :)

srivatsan, yes, its how the 3 1/2 hours pass that decides whether the movie is good or not :)

ram, wouldn't go as far as calling this a bad movie. but can't call it a good one either :)

filbert, 2 stars.
no, there's nothing deliberate about not revealing the star rating. just haven't been doing it thats all. though its been fun seeing readers guess - and sometimes argue - about how many stars i would be awarding :)

sanjeevi, my parents said he was on 'koffee with anu' and spoke pretty well. guess u're not talking about the same program?

raj, the fact that it was his intention doesn't make it any better. i felt that since they weren't likeable, i couldn't be emotionally invested in their struggle. as i said, protagonists dont have to be likeable(for instance, 'kokki' kumar) but if not likeable, they better be interesting. cheran here was neither...

"it is just that his sermon this time choose a topic that needed these distractions" - i don't agree with that. the movie could have been made without his dance or the duet in foreign locales with those atrocious clothes and wigs. those, IMO, were a result of cheran wanting to be a 'hero' :)

 
At 9:53 PM, Anonymous raj said...

bb, I spoke too soon. I spoke without watchign even a bit of Mayakkannadi. It was purely based on Cheran's previous record. On watching a single moment of a song from the movie, I take back my words and agree with you whole-heartedly. Yes, those songs should never have been shot. Navya was never made for such roles. Chidamabarathil...is exactly the kind of role God sent her into this world for.

Well, it seems like Cheran wanted to break out from the TT, Autograph mould, a good thing in itself, but he seems to have gone the Desiya Geetham path back again, which can only be dreadful.
Atleast, Desiya geetham had a couple of lovely songs...

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger rajanikanthj said...

I saw this movie in Chennai last week at a theater.

Although she did not look cute when she makes some of her facial expressions, I feel Navya looked natural for the role. She is young and a very good actor. I agree that Cheran is the one who was not fit for the young person's role. Although the movie was a little boring, I think they captured the current CellPhoneWorld very very well.

What's the deal with the loud volume at all indian theaters these days. Or have I grown old.

-rajani

 

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