Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Chennai 600028

With cricket being the passion and obsession that it is, it is surprising that more movies haven't been made about it. Hindi cinema atleast has Lagaan in the genre of 'cricket movie' but as far as Tamil cinema goes, our only claim to fame so far is I Love You Daa, a film that was an insult both to the game and to cinema itself. Debutant director Venkat Prabhu rights the situation with Chennai 600028, a film about cricket. Fun, youthful and stylish, it is a film that will make fans of both cricket and Tamil cinema happy.

The R.A Puram Sharks team has never won the local cricket tournament and has been beaten in the finals the last 3 years by the Royapuram Rockers team. This year's tournament has just been announced and the Sharks are determined to win it. But the team runs into some issues as its captain Karthik(Siva) and key bowler Palani(Nitin Satya) end up fighting. Meanwhile, Raghu(Jai), a Rockers player, moves to R.A Puram and the Sharks view him with suspicion.

I never thought I'd say this about a director but Venkat Prabhu's wisest decision in making this movie is that he has aimed low. Having picked cricket as the theme, he hasn't tried to make his movie about the game at the international, national or even state level. The logistics for presenting the game convincingly at those levels would have been daunting, leading to amateurishness and silliness. Instead he has focused on local cricket, played in the streets and empty lots in Chennai. Apart from the smaller scale making things easier for him, it helps the movie create an immediate connection with the viewer since almost everybody has played street cricket at one point or another and so can identify with the protagonists.

Chennai 600028 is light-hearted and fun. When other directors are trying to overwhelm us by upping the ante in aspects like sentiments and violence, Venkat Prabhu takes the opposite route and keeps things light throughout. Characters express what they feel through offhand comments rather than in big showdowns. There are misunderstandings, fights and other complications but they aren't tackled as though they are life-or-death issues. And what's at stake in the big final match isn't the guys' lives, livelihoods or loves. Its just their egos and a cup. This light-heartedness without the film being an overt comedy, makes it really stand out.

While the light-heartedness helps almost every aspect of the film, one thing it doesn't help is the romance. Aravind's romance with Cristine is too cursory and appears to have been added as an afterthought. It is cliched and lacks both passion and charm. The other romance involving Vijayalakshmi doesn't fare much better but that can be overlooked more easily since it atleast paves the way for the main conflict in the film.

Inspite of the fun nature of the film, the all-important match at the end does manage to raise some tension and this is solely because of the characters. We may not identify or sympathise with them but its impossible not to like them. They could have been plucked out of any area in Chennai and this realism helps make us feel that it is our friends who are playing. Their conversations are witty but very natural and even the few double entendres sprinkled around don't feel vulgar (as a bonus, we also get a take-off on the most spoof-worthy piece of dialog in Chandramukhi).

The film's ending really reveals Venkat Prabhu's wish to be different. He gives us exactly what we expect but not in the way - nor at the time - we expect it and so manages to finish the film on a wonderfully ironic note. Kudos!

The film is very, very stylish visually. From the casual, conversational introduction of its characters to the final match, the film is glossy and slick and slo-mos, split screens and other camera tricks keep it lively and vibrant throughout. Yuvan's background music also plays a big part in this and after Pattiyal, this is another movie where his fast score goes hand in
hand with the visuals to make up many spirited sequences. A simple case in point is the scene Jai makes his first visit to Nitin's house. Not since Agni Natchathiram has two people simply staring at each other been picturized with such energy!

The cast is made up of both new faces and actors who seem familiar but who we can't really place. All the actors do a competent job though no one stands out in particular. Gangai Amaran's son takes on the role of the movie's comedian. The 2 actresses don't fare as well as the actors. Ilavarasu is his usual witty self. Yuvan Shankar Raja delivers a suitably youthful, fun soundtrack though the movie could have done without atleast 2 of songs. Un Paarvai... is the pick of the numbers with the picturization ensuring that the sequence doesn't feel slow. Yaaro... is also melodious but is one of the numbers affected by occurring too close to another song. Ulle Vaa... is used suitably at a couple of places. Jalsa... and Saroja Saamaan Nikaalo... are fun songs that make us smile.


At 10:36 PM, Blogger Rajesh said...

I watched this movie last night and it is one of the best feel-good movies I have watched. It also is one of those very few movies I have watched before reading your review of it.

"Characters express what they feel through offhand comments rather than in big showdowns" - completely agree with you. The chandramukhi dialog spoof was hilarious.


At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

for your info, the background score is by Premji - the comedian of this movie

At 3:01 AM, Blogger srivatsan said...


Hmm.. Tamil Cinema back to some good movies after all :-) Sivaji releasekku ready agiteengala :), with ur permission,

Thalaivar English styleaa thani..

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone figure out why the song starts with "Saroja saamaan nikaalo" ?

The only connection I see is that it is a "Settu" wedding, so I can understand why they say something in hindi. But why this particular line ?

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Munimma said...

athu yaaru, paatukku meaning ellam kekarathu? Tamizh cinemavula ithellama sagajam.

Will be sometime before I can get to see this movie. Sounds interesting!

so does the stare (a la Agni) have the rin (or was it surf?) super shakti power? :-) That scene in Agni always seemed like that Rin Ad and I can't help connect the 2.

I love un paarvai...

At 7:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is to answer anon#2's query.

At 8:05 AM, Blogger Veer said...

The entire crew of chennai-28 was on koffee with anu not that long ago.

Just watching the show was so much fun on how venkat prabhu made the folks act as most of them belonged to the actual teams which they played and were always playful.

the other hidden person who got more out of venkat prabhu itself was the movie's producer SPB.Saran

Can't wait to see the movie and am glad that they turned out with a good flick in the end.

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't watched this movie yet, but seems like a cross between Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar and The Mighty Ducks.


At 9:31 AM, Anonymous ram said...

i am very happy that the movie's being received well. looks like the movie oozes freshness and style...real good stuff. will check it out this weekend.

i am so glad that the movie restricted itself to gully cricket and didnt show (from what ur review says) anyone joining the indian team! remember vikram almost making a mockery of indian cricket with maddy and vineet in priyamaana thozhi.

am happy that a very nice movie pops up once in, just realized that there're only 2 *** movies for the year till now, on bbreviews. hopefully this one will be *** and not a high 2 1/2! bb, konjam dhaaralam-aa irunge...just like curving the scores on an exam! PEAS paathutu u better be in a generous mood for a good movie, while awarding a star rating!

At 9:32 AM, Anonymous ram said...

i meant, vikraman.

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

To be honest, I actually enjoyed "Unnai Saranadhaindhen" quite a bit even though Venkat Prabhu & S.P.B.Charan restricted themselves to acting in that film.

Not to take away anything from Gangai Amaran, but at least some of his films have deserved considerable merit over the years (then what they may have gotten at the time of release!), so it's no surprise that Venkat Prabhu has a little bit of those genes running in him..

Overall, good to hear that Chennai 28 gets such a nice review from you, Balaji. :-) ;-)

Ram, if the film was that superlative, I'd bet you top dollar that Balaji would give it the 3 or 3+ stars that it rightly deserves. IvlO recommedation-E thevai illai! :-).. (This may sound like a cinema dialogue: "kenji vaangara star rating romba naaL thaakku pidikkaadhu" :-))

Actually, I'd like to think we are on track to see the same kind of star ratings as last year at the pace at which things are going currently. I'm sure this year's films haven't fared much better overall since last year. (For every Chithiram Pesudhadi, there has been a Mozhi, and for every Pattiyal, there has been a Paruthiveeran, matching timeframes last year and this year!) I'm sure Balaji will agree! :-) ;-)

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon, tamil cinema-le 'saroja saaman nikaalo' maadri dialouge vantha, yean yethuku-nu kelvi ketka koodathu, chumma anubavikkanum.

balaji as usual fantastic review. watched it yesterday and you are spot on esp about jai's visit to nithin's house. the matches were picturized quite well. some scenes felt like the guys were playing for real.
i felt this movie sort of made up for our cricket team faring badly at the world cup.


At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Shwetha said...

Ok now, im totally curious about the film. Hopefully will get to watch that and Mozhi one of these days. Very curious about the star rating too! My bet is 3 stars, going by the happy mood in which BB has written!

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

rajesh, yeah would definitely call this a feel-good movie :)

anon, checked the credits again after ur comment and yes, background score is by premgi. now i'm even more impressed! thanx for pointing it out :)

srivatsan, as always we can only hope that this is the start of a good streak rather than a flash in the pan :)

munimma, lol. i'm pretty sure i'd have never made that connection :)

zero, thanx :) the discussion on this in a prev post died out after ram pointing out that it was sushma and not saroja in that 'mudhalvan' scene. but looks like it was still the inspiration :)

veer, yeah i can imagine that would've been a fun show :)

kumar, hmmm... actually u can probably point to many other sports movies. but i think the light-hearted nature of 'chennai' kinda makes it different from the others :)

ram, yep, as i said, his decision to stick to gully cricket was his wisest decision :)

and this is a 3 star movie. a high one too i'd say :)

sandya, i think i kinda liked 'unnai saranadaindhen' too. nice theme but the third act was a letdown.

yes, so far this year seems to be about on par with 2006. and a number of heavy hitters r still in the pavilion :) most surprising to me is that there's been just 1 2.5 star movie.

gayatri, long time no hear :) and thanx!

my dad went for a preview show and met venkat prabhu and a couple of cast members. he said they were chatting very nicely and had some interesting tidbits about the film too :)

shwetha, haven't seen 'mozhi' yet? hurry up and watch it :)

At 2:37 PM, Blogger Filbert said...

This is one movie whose DVD I am eagerly looking forward to. Now, that you have declared 3 stars for it, the stakes just got higher :)

I think 2007 is going to be a lot better year, when compared to last year. Like you very aptly said, there are some heavy hitters that are sitting in the pavilion. So far this year, MK has been the only disappointment.

At 3:03 PM, Blogger giri subramanian said...

Looks like a fun movie. Good review as usual and it has made me more curious to watch the movie.

At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Prin said...

Ye , agreed, 2007 is to date better than its predecessor however there has been the share of Veerasami's and the Kaanal Neer's around.

Filby, Mayakannadi was a disappointment but so was Pachaikili Muthucharam - Derailed was an amazing novel and the first have of PKMS was top notch but then Sarath took over kinda like his previous venture VV, when Kamal apparently hogged the limelight for the second half. Was Aalwar a disappointment for anyone and Parattai?

Balaji, have you watched Guru yet?

If not here: Watch it please and review it.....

At 6:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched it last night and it was definitely a feel good movie..
Kamakshi Krishnan

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous sriram said...

This movie makes me nostalgic :)

At 12:48 PM, Blogger anantha said...

Informed sources say that "Saroja Saaman Nikalo" was apparently a play on the "Sushma Saara Saaman Nikalo" line from Mudhalvan :D

At 7:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bb, you should watch iqbal directed by nagesh kukunoor. It plays out at the ranji trophy level and was very enjoyable. unlike 600028, iqbal has minimal camp.

At 4:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not Sushma saaman nikalo but the same "Saroja saaman nikalo". I read that in Anandha vikatan interview with Venkat Prabhu

At 9:50 PM, Blogger bharathi said...

1-- yes that saroja saman nikalo was a slight parody of the seth tellin his wife and kids, 'sushma saman nikalo' in mudhalvan.

2-- the rerecording was by PREMGI AMAREN. and jalsa-- was composed by him too.

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

siva in this movie was so cute!!!&his character 2,, its a fantastic movie abt friendship & sport , a gr8 movie every1 shud watch, i lurved it!!!!


Post a Comment

<< Home