Thursday, January 29, 2009

2008 Tamil Cinema - Top 10 Disappointments

While the previous post listed the worst movies of the year, most of them arrived with little or no expectations attached to them. So, while watching them was a painful experience and they collectively represented 25 or so hours of my life that I'll never get back, they weren't really disappointments in the true sense of the word. So this list is made up of the biggest disappointments of 2008.

How much I look forward to a movie depends mostly on the actor and the director. The rest of the cast, the music director, the quality of the soundtrack and other factors do play a part but not as much as the actor and the director do. That is what you'll see reflected in this list.

10. Thenaavattu
Jeeva's previous movies like Raam and Kattradhu Thamizh led us to believe that he might have tried to do something different even within the confines of a masala movie but boy, were we in for a nasty surprise! The film gave us ridiculous characters in a predictable storyline and then proceeded to bore the daylights out of us with a fashion show and song sequences set in a community of transgenders.

9. Sathyam
Vishal, with his pumped-up physique, was perfectly suited to play a cop but that was the only thing we got out of this tired cop story. The film's screenplay was a mess with originality, continuity and tonal consistency not very high on the director's list of priorities and after a different start, the storyline became easily predictable. Nayanthara was at her most irritating in her clashes with Vishal and Harris Jayaraj delivered a lukewarm soundtrack for his 25th film.

8. Indhiralogathil Naa. Azhagappan
The quality of Vadivelu's previous appearance as hero and the genre this film belonged to made us look forward to it. With sad results. A rare entry in the socio-fantasy genre, it was stuck between feeding Vadivelu's ego, incorporating his brand of comedy and conveying a message. As a result, it alternated between cheap comedy, artificial sentiments and confusing messages. Azhagappan may have been in heaven but were in cinematic hell!

7. Aegan
The hero's role in the remake of Main Hoon Na seemed perfectly suited for Ajith at this stage of his career but director Raju Sundaram stumbled badly in this film, revealing a complete ignorance of what made the original work so marvelously. Ajith's larger-than-life heroics felt completely out-of-place, the overt comedy segments were irritating and the Hindi film's effective emotional hook was transformed into an unconvincing, last-minute addition.

6. Dasaavathaaram
Kamal appearing in 10 roles made this the biggest and most-hyped release of the year but the film itself was an unsatisfying effort. As an actor, Kamal sparkled with characters that were meticulously researched off-sceen and well realized on it. But almost all the other aspects of the film - the screenplay that ground to a stop in the second half, the cheesy graphics, the overdone make-up that made some of the faces stiff and inexpressive and the irritatingly whiny Asin - were more than a little disappointing.

5. Kuselan
With Rajni opting to do a quickie before the mega-budget Endhiran, this remake of the Malayalam blockbuster Kadha Parayumbol came as a welcome surprise for his fans, who weren't expecting to see him on the big screen in 2008. But P.Vasu spoiled the surprise, butchering the original by shearing off its subtlety and emotions and replacing them with loud sentiments and cheap, crude comedy. Rajni's stand-alone scenes had no impact because of the lack of background and Vadivelu was plain intolerable. The emotional climax was the sole saving grace in the film.

4. Abhiyum Naanum
Considering the loveably realistic characters, the subtle emotions and the understated humor that were part of Mozhi, we were looking forward to a similarly charming tale of love between a father and daughter in this follow-up from Radhamohan. Instead, we got a one-sided relationship where the father got all the attention and the daughter's character remained underdeveloped. The emotions in the film lacked depth and things turned really cinematic once Trisha's fiance was introduced.

3. Arai En 305-il Kadavul
The way director Chimpudevan balanced satire, social commentary and comedy near-perfectly in Imsai Arasan... led us to expect a lot more from this socio-fantasy that was loosely based on Oh God! and Bruce Almighty. But the director's balancing act with comedy and moralizing didn't work nearly as well. The were only a few laughs scattered among the messages and the messages themselves were muddled, leaving us with nothing.

2. Bheema
Lingusamy crafted one of the best masala flicks in recent times in Run and so when he got together with Vikram, who can bring intensity to any role and has been rather choosy with his films, expectations were that the collaboration would lead to fireworks. Sadly, the film was simply another cliched tale about a rowdy and his mentor, with all the usual accompaniments like fights, dances and an item number. The first half was an exhausting, non-stop fight-fest and the surprisingly downbeat end was too little too late.

1. Kuruvi
Dharani was the director with the Midas touch when it came to masala movies with three of the best entries(Dhil, DhooL, Gilli) in that genre in recent times. So his re-teaming with the rest of the Gilli team - Vijay, Trisha, Vidyasagar - was looked forward to. But the film was a huge letdown without any traces of the pace or the excitement that made Gilli so enjoyable. The few good action sequences had ridiculously over-the-top punchlines and the second half reminded us of Thagappansamy, a film which even its hero Prashanth would probably like to forget.


At 11:43 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...

Dasa *unsatisfying effort*, rightly put. The script even today looks good on paper, might be it started turning awry the day started filming :)

As for Kuselan I had little hopes on Vasu anyway (most overrated director in history of tamil cinema)

At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

" and the second half reminded us of Thagappansamy, a film which even its hero Prashanth would probably like to forget."

LOL. That's a double edged Sword, BB. Good one :)

At 12:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Balaji.

In an interview P.Vasu said he often advises his son to take up character roles first because any mass heroes today are best remembered for their character roles back then. Going by what he said, I think character role has often been a precursor to mass appearance. So, what guys like Jeeva, Bharath,Vishal etc did is more of a gimmick before turning into a mass hero. On the other hand, the girls start off with generous outfits followed by skimpy outfits.

When it comes to the directors, their novelty wears off after their first few movies. Then, they either go into ridiculous movie making or remake.

We should give it some time before having expectations on new crops.

At 2:44 AM, Blogger *chutz* said...

hi balaji!

this list resonates with my own sentiments about movies from 2008, particularly kuruvi and bheema. both vijay and vikram had been consistently delivering entertaining movies hence the raised expectation for kuruvi and bheema. although i must disagree with dasavathaaram, it did have its flaws (asin being the biggest) but i found the subject entertaining and intriguing. kamal did an impressive job, i felt.

i've been quietly following your blog for nearly a year now but this is the first time i've decided to leave a comment. looking forward to reading more of your reviews in '09 :)

At 3:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering that
Disappointment = Result/Expectations
Considering that the expectations would be lower for a Vikram/Vijay movie than Rajni/Kamal, this tells me the result of Bheema/Kuruvi was so bad that the ratio was less for it even though Dasa and Kuselan's denominator would have been higher than its denominator!

At 7:07 AM, Blogger Rubygal said...

Balaji sir this is so cool.but i have a doubt..a tiny little one..10 is te worst or 1 is the worst?? cos if one is the worst i totally disagree as i strongly feel that kuruvi is way better than Aegan and Bheema and the rest in the list lar..

I didn't enjoy Kuruvi as much as I enjoyed Gilli..and the VJ-3SHA chemistry looks fake in Kuruvi compared to Gilli..

At 5:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would choose to disagree for Dasa. Expectations for Dasa as an entertaining film was met. As Kamal said, Anbe Sivam's vetri is Dasa's tholvi; Dasa's vetri is Anbe Sivam's tholvi. Just think!!!!!

At 5:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting list, BB...I remember back in '05 you had "oru naall oru kanavu" at the top of your list...not surprised to see "kuruvi" heading the list here...if I were to create a similar list, "kuselan" would be much higher on the list...personally coz i loved rajni's turn as rajni in "anbulla rajnikanth." so, was really looking fwd to another "glimpse at the real rajni" kinda film...but kuselan was a terrible disappointment to me...the "humor" was pathetic...the sentiments were as real as an artificial flower...and the rajni portions (except for the sundarrajan interview and the climax) were so uninteresting...and what the f--- was prabhu doing in there?!?!

At 11:21 PM, Blogger MJith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11:36 PM, Blogger MJith said...

Sathyam was probably the worst movie ive seen in a theater since SJ Suriyah's gem Anbe Aaruyire. The music was horrible. I was fooled by the fact that the director worked in Kakha kakha and decided to give a treat to my friends.... It should be in the bottom 10.

Plus Dasavatharam was a huge disappointment for me. The film had huge expectations and it even drew out foreigners in a local LA theater where i watched it. But Kamal tried to do too much and left us wondering what the bid deal was about..

At 12:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch villu review in hasini pesum padam.

enna kobamo.. unmaiya potu thaakiduchu..

At 9:11 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

srivatsan, on 'Dasa' I think the script was dumbed down. and I shared ur unenthusiasm on vasu :)

anon, thanx :)

anon, defly looks like jeeva, bharath, etc. r thinking along those lines. once our heroes get a taste of mass masala movies, they seem reluctant to get back to good roles. our loss :)

chutz, wasn't particularly impressed with the last movies of vikram/vijay. but it was their combinations with the directors that raised my expectations for 'kuruvi' and 'bheema' :)
glad u finally decided to comment, btw :)

anon, well-put. thats exactly right and I don't think I could've explained it so clearly :)

rubygal, #1 is not the worst but it IS the most disappointing. 'kuruvi' might've been better than some in the list but I expected so much from dharani that it was really disappointing :)

anon, for me expectations for 'dasa' even as an entertainer were not met since I found it boring in part. only expectations that were met were from kamal as an actor :)

ram, as i mentioned many times in posts on 'kuselan', my expectations were really tempered by the fact that p.vasu was behind the camera. thats why it is lower on the list :)

manoj, lets just say i've seen worse films than 'sathyam'. then again, i didn't see it in the theater and so my irritation might be less :)

anon, will try to watch it :)

At 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Manoj - When in LA, we are the foreigners. BB - have been reading your reviews from 2000. Never realized you were back after your sabbatical after marriage. Now I am back to reading your blog for the past year - also finished all the reviews I missed. Keep up the good work. - Rajesh Krithi

At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the bheema part. One mistake directors are making these days is the thoght that if everyone dies in the end, the movie can be considered an offbeat or art film. I mean, there was NO point to everyone dying in Bheema, and no sad feelings resulted from these deaths anyway. So what was the point?

At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i will tell one thing to tamil cinema directors pls dont miss us the technisien like R.D.RAJASHEKAR cameraman,ANTHONY eiditer,they both work for a many films like Kakhakakha ,Manmadhan,Gajini,thottijaya,kaalai,bheema,satyam etc.pls select the good story to the tamil cenima dont spoil names


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