Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Satham Podaathey


Director Vasanth has had a wildly inconsistent career with some memorable classics interpersed with some equally unmemorable duds. As the flops began to outnumber the hits, he took a self-imposed long break and is now back with Satham Podaathey, a thriller. But hopes that the break served to rejuvenate him and sharpen his directorial skills are in vain. Satham Podaathey is a weak thriller with a predictable story with the only bright spots being the performances of its three leads.

Ratnavel(Nitin Sathya), who is now impotent as a result of excessive drinking earlier, hides his condition and weds Banu(Padmapriya). The truth about his past comes out soon enough but Banu is unwilling to divorce him since he convinces her that his impotency was a cruel stroke of fate and a surprise to him too. But once she learns about the real source of his problem and his deliberate hiding of it from her, she splits up from him. Ravichandran(Prithviraj), a software programmer who works with Banu's brother, is ready to give her a new life. But Ratnavel comes back into her life and wants her back.

The story of a psychotic ex-husband coming back to 'reclaim' his wife is pretty familiar to us (while Julia Roberts' Sleeping with the Enemy probably served as the inspiration most movies with this story, Ajith's AvaL VaruvaaLa is the film I was reminded of the most). Satham Podaathey traverses the same story arc with a heroine on the run, a hero ready to offer a new life to the troubled heroine and the ex-husband turning up at the most inopportune time. Once Nitin Sathya's character is revealed, we know exactly how the movie is going to proceed and Vasanth, unfortunately, doesn't surprise us at any point.

The three key characters are all shaped up pretty well. We learn about Nitin Sathya way before Padmapriya and her family and that helps her gain our sympathy. Her refusal to divorce him initially and her act of adopting a baby are all touches designed to make us like her so that she gains our sympathy later. And it works. At the same time, Nitin Sathya's reactions to these showcase him as a really cruel and cunning psychotic individual. And Prithviraj's kind acts and mature approach to wooing Padmapriya make him almost too good to be true. There are no shades of gray in any of these characters. We want Prithviraj and Padmapriya to get together and live happily without Nitin's interference and that kind of identification is necessary for a thriller to work.

Nitin Satya's plan is quite devious and the matter-of-fact way in which he deals with Padmapriya makes him seem real cold and sinister. But Vasanth handles the whole thing in a rather superficial manner and doesn't give a lot of importance to the logistics behind his plan. A lot of things need to be in place for the plan to work as shown but they are just not touched upon (for instance, apart from working in the Railways and being a hockey coach, Nitin also has to be a skilled carpenter, electrician and audio engineer!). So the tension and the suspense - key ingredients for a thriller to work - are completely absent.

The climax is disappointingly low-key. Granted it is realistic and so in keeping with the serious nature of the proceedings so far. But Vasanth should have made it atleast a wee bit more crowd-pleasing even if it was at the expense of a little bit of realism (the way he did in superb fashion in Aasai, where inspite of the climax being in Poornam Viswanathan's hands, the background of the Rama Navami festival elevated it to a tension-filled level). The climax here has one surprising moment but the rest of it is just too dull.

Its been awhile since such a good soundtrack has been massacred so badly on screen. Every single song by Yuvan Shankar Raja has been picturized in a way that will make viewers skip the song even when listening to them later, afraid that listening to them will bring back memories of the picturization! Badly placed and unimaginatively picturized, they are capable of making even non-smokers take up smoking just so they could leave the theater! Kaadhal Enbadhaa... and Endha Kudhiraiyil... are ofcourse the easiest targets since they are item numbers. But even Azhagukutti Chellam..., which serves as Prithviraj's introduction and is shown as a montage of clips of him playing with babies, is a disappointment.

Prithviraj admirably sidestepped being typecast as a sophisticated, classy villain after his superb debut in Kanaa Kanden but if his last few films are anything to go by, he is now typecast in another kind of role - the soft-spoken, subtly humorous loverboy! He plays the same role he played in Mozhi, gradually charming Padmapriya with his good looks, good heart and good jokes. But admittedly, there are few actors who can carry off the role as well as him. His conversations with her contain a lot of laughs mainly due to his dialog delivery. Padmapriya is one of those actresses who looks good when presented in a simple fashion rather than under a lot of make-up. She delivers a solid performance and is impressive. Nitin Sathya makes a nice transformation to a psycho from his usual humorous roles. He gets the 'wolf-in-sheep's-clothing' portion of his character just right and brings out his psychotic nature well inspite of not talking much.

The film's editor definitely needs to cut down on his caffeine. Vasanth seems to have been under the mistaken impression that quick editing is all that's needed to give the film a stylish look. So even ordinary scenes, like the one where Prithviraj and Padmapriya are talking on the beach, are presented with quick cuts that have different camera angles and it really hurts our eyes. The movie does look good and a couple of ideas (like the offscreen domestic violence) and angles are quite nifty but the numerous edits simply give us a headache.

32 Comments:

At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Yeh!.. I get to be the first commenter after your break, Balaji!.. Welcome back!.. "Satham pOdaathey"-kku Saththam pOttu review yezhudhinathukku romba thanks!..

 
At 11:00 PM, Blogger KayKay said...

Welcome back Mr.B, have been missing your regular updates and reviews of Tamil Films.

 
At 1:19 AM, Blogger skanda said...

balaji, welcome back!!! Been missing ur post for a long time. hope to see ur post more often now..

 
At 1:29 AM, Blogger prakash said...

Welcome back, bb. Not sure why you were gone, but glad to see you back.

I agree with your review. Decent 1st half, but 2nd half was a downer.

Know the scene towards the end, where Prithviraj deliberately leaves behind his mobile with Aish's pic as screensaver. Neither me nor my family understood why this was relevant. Somebody else who had seen the movie had to explain it to us. Did you understand the relevance of that scene?

 
At 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

abaaada u r back.

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger Maya said...

WELCOME BACK BBJ, My internet browsing hasnt been the same without ur blogs

SirNapper

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger Maya said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see you back

- Ramesh

 
At 6:51 AM, Anonymous Sivajini said...

yeah, your back. Now I can decide whether I want to watch a movie or skip it! :D

 
At 7:24 AM, Blogger VThinkTank said...

Hope you are doing fine and the break helped you with whatever it was meant for.

Good to see you back!!!

Venkat

 
At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

Welcome back BB.

Good, honest review. Btw, was Premji in the film?

 
At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey welcome back. I have been checking this page every day and I had almost lost hope!

I am glad that you are back.

 
At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Prakash,

Before returning Prithiviraj's misplaced mobile, Nitin notices Padmapriya's picture on it. He befriends Prithiviraj's without telling who he is.

In the second half
Prithviraj leaves his mobile purposefully to find out if Nitin became his friend after knowing Padmapriya is his wife. (When Nitin comments on Aish's pic to Prithiviraj: " You've changed ur wife's picture ") shows that Nitin had seen Padmapriya's pic on the mobile earlier.

 
At 12:26 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

sandya, thanx :) sandhoshama satham podara madhiri padam irundhirundha innum nalla irundhirukkum :)

kaykay, thanx :)

skanda, thanx :) will defly try.

prakash, thanx :)
both me and the wife(who saw a different show) had the exact same question. anon's explanation does make sense i guess but a scene shouldn't make us think so hard :)

anon, :)

maya, thanx :)

ramesh, thanx :)

sivajini, sometimes, even i'm not sure of that :)

venkat, thanx :) and yes, it did :)

prin, thanx :) premji had a cameo for an unrelated comedy scene.

anon, thanx :) checking every day? i did say "atleast a month" :)

anon, thanx for clearing that up. for prakash and me!

 
At 2:28 PM, Anonymous ram said...

bb, vasanth-a potu oru kizhi kizhichittengaley! i am yet to watch the movie so will reserve my comments (for the movie and maybe for you!;-) for later...i hope the movie at least does well so that he can make a rhythm or a kk again...but bb, looks like u've kinda "given up" on mr. vasanth!

 
At 3:36 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Actually Ram, I can't think of a time when Vasanth's career wasn't an 'up and down' affair to begin with.. His career struggles were never just purely about box office surprises and blunders.. but also about various grades of quality. He is unpredictable and his films unfortunately reflect that quality in him as well. So, I'm not surprised that Balaji, or anybody else for that matter, who has tracked Vasanth's career, would be ready to rule him out.

He has to really sit down and think about what made Keladi Kanmani, Aasai and Rhythm so compelling, whereas many of his other fares "been there, done that." The question is, is he willing to reanalyze himself ever? That's a million dollar question! :-)

 
At 5:18 PM, Anonymous ram said...

"His career struggles were never just purely about box office surprises and blunders.. but also about various grades of quality." I totally agree with you. Its just that all of his movies, save Appu, have always given me at least a few minutes of screen time where I've felt, "If Vasanth could do this for 2 1/2 hrs, he would've had a classic in his hands." I dont know if you remember "Nee Paathi Naan Paathi." The 45 mins or so leading up to the intermission features some superb drama, dialogues and acting (cannot forget Manorama saying, "Ponnuku Appa irukaa-nu kekaren...thappa?") but the 2nd half was so poorly done that hardly anyone remembers the movie except for the "nivethaa" song...thats the reason why i would never rule out vasanth...of course, "poona kutty viswaasam" is another reason :-)

 
At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Ram, I agree with your sentiments somewhat.. only that, Vasanth has really done that in almost every film in varying degrees. Adhu dhaan problemE..

Idli maavu evvaLavu naNNaa vandhirukku-nu kaamikardhu-kkaaga vegaadha idli-ya saappida solla mudiyumaa?.. AdhE kadhai dhaan ingeyum!..

 
At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's nice to see you back on the blogosphere. :)

-San

 
At 7:33 PM, Anonymous ram said...

the idly maavu comment was hilarious, sandya! :-)) LOL!

 
At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Idly maavu reply was super...kudos to Sandya


- Ramesh

 
At 3:18 AM, Blogger skanda said...

i've some all of Vasanth's film but only "Aasai" and "Povelum Ketupar" were my favortes. "Povelum Ketupar" is such underated comedy. i was so shocked Balaji, that u gave such a low review for it!!

All other Vasant's movies were average at best. But i do admire this guy for not sticking with the same type of stories like other directors. But all his efforts, i've seen is half baked only!!

 
At 5:12 AM, Anonymous ram said...

skanda, u remember this from poovelaam ketupaar?

"Nethu paathathu krishna-naa inaiki paathathu yaaru...inaiki paathathu krishna-na nethiki paathathu YAARU?"

"enenge idhu?! kodi asaindhadhum kaatru vandhadhaa kaatru vandhadhum kodi asaindhadhaa-nu kekreenge!"

 
At 7:48 AM, Blogger skanda said...

ram, who can forget that scene between Kovai sarala and her assiatant in the car! it was so hilarious. Kovai sarala's absent mindness added to the entire madness

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the credit for PEKP should go to Crazy's script. All Vasanth had to do was not screw it up.

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger Arun said...

Balaji, last post was on Aug 19, next post on Sep 19, you said about a month, exactly on dot. Thalaivar style is it? sonna timekku correcta varuven! :-)
Typically good analytical insight in this review.
By the way, no birthday post?

 
At 7:33 PM, Anonymous Shwetha said...

Hey Balaji,
Good to have you back in blogland. As you can see, we've missed you and your blogs much!

 
At 8:07 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...

BB,

Bang on target start, looks the director is struggling and nowhere near his best.

 
At 10:26 PM, Anonymous Krishna Sivaramapuram said...

Hey Sandya,

"Idli maavu evvaLavu naNNaa vandhirukku-nu kaamikardhu-kkaaga vegaadha idli-ya saappida solla mudiyumaa?.. AdhE kadhai dhaan ingeyum!.."

So thalaivar Kamal influence romba jaasthiyaa irukku... :)

Remember "pattathukku vaalu irukkungarathukkaaga kurangu parakkuma?"

Krish

 
At 10:36 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, yes was disappointed with this one. but not sure i'll ever given up on any director. with those who've given us some classics in the past, there's always the tiny hope that they'll regain their magic touch :)

San, thanx :)

skanda, from what i remember, i was pretty bored with the 1st half and liked the 2nd half. hated the song picturizations too esp. since i loved the songs so much, especially 'senorita' :)

arun, thanx :) and whose bday? dec 12 is still more than a couple of months away :)

shwetha, thanx :) i missed blogging. and u guys too :)

srivatsan, thanx :)

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger Filbert said...

Welcome back, Balaji!! Feels so good to have you back. I really thought the prolonged break would have rejuvenated Vasanth. But apparently,looks like its not the case :(

BTW, happy 100th day :)

 
At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ram, Inspite of "poona kutty viswaasam" you do admit the truth that in so nice

 

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