Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Michael Madana Kamarajan

One of the most enduring themes in Tamil cinema is that of twins being separated at birth and reuniting later in life. So its no wonder that every hero, from MGR(Enga Veettu Pillai) to Surya(Vel), has appeared in atleast one movie built on that plot point. Kamalhaasan proved that all it took was one big tweak to make this oldest of plots seem brand new and fresh. And he did this not once but twice. In Aboorva Sagodharargal, he made one of the brothers a midget to deliver a very unique, comedic, revenge saga. And in Michael Madana Kamarajan, he makes the brothers quadruplets and aided by a terrific screenplay and a hilarious script, gives us one of Tamil cinema's smartest and funniest comedies.

The 90s was when Kamal was known to alternate between 'heavy' and 'light' movies as he switched between serious, dramatic efforts like Guna and Mahanadhi and light, more box-office-friendly fare like Singaravelan and Kalaignan. With its familiar, masala-ish premise, cinematic situations and comic overtones, MMKR would probably fall in the 'light' category. That said, Kamal is probably the only actor for whom a film where he plays four roles and which features such a complex and clever plot would classify as a 'light' film!

The prologue, in the form of a song that is played during the opening credits, tells us about the birth and separation of the quadruplets. Born to a rich man and a poor woman, the babies faced death as the rich man's younger brother saw them as stumbling blocks on his way to his brother's riches and ordered them killed. But the killer, whose heart melted after seeing one of the babies, adopted one and abandoned the others. Michael(Kamal), who grew up with the assassin, is now a petty criminal; Madan(Kamal), unknowingly abandoned in his father's car, is pursuing higher studies abroad; Kameswaran(Kamal), abandoned in front of a temple and adopted by a priest, is a cook; and Raju(Kamal), abandoned in front of an orphanage, is now a fireman. Once Madan returns home, a chain of events is set off that brings the four brothers together.

Movies featuring the premise of brothers separated at birth usually bring the brothers together only after they meet. Until they become aware of each other, they lead separate lives untouched by the other. But MMKR links the lives of the four brothers right from the beginning. Though they each lead their lives blissfully unaware of the existence of the other three, their paths cross several times. In the best example of this, Michael crashes the car that causes a fire that brings Raju to the scene, who then offers a moneylender the fish that is thrown on Kameswaran. But there are several shorter instances where their lives intersect. Like when the thugs following Madan end up following Kameswaran instead or the sword thrown away by Madan is used by Raju to fight off the bad guys(who are attacking him thinking that he is Madan!). All this can be seen as fate gradually bringing them closer together or simply as building blocks in a very smart screenplay.

The fun in movies like this increases once the look-alikes switch places. Laughs are evoked from both the attempts of the protagonists to adapt to their new surroundings without raising suspicion as well as the problems arising from those around them treating them in wrong ways. With four look-alikes, the fun during these portions is quadrupled in MMKR. The screenplay is constructed like a chess game in this segment as Michael, Kameswaran and Raju, all looking like Madan, move around in Madan's house. As they wrongly identify each other or are mistaken for someone else by others, we alternate between laughing at the proceedings and admiring the screenplay. Kameswaran's protestations of ignorance with Kushboo and Manorama/Rubini are hilarious, as are Nagesh's attempts to keep things quiet.

Things are complicated and chaotic as everybody congregates in Madan's house but the chaos seems to be controlled. From the time that S.N.Lakshmi begins to engage in fisticuffs, things get a little out of hand. Slapstick and physical comedy gains the upper hand and this continues all the way to the climax in the house on the cliff. It is still possible to admire the tricks employed to switch seamlessly between the roles played by Kamals but the admiration is not accompanied by laughs. The seesawing of the house goes on a bit too long as the situations feel repetitive.

Kamal always seems to bring the best out of 'Crazy' Mohan and the writer's comic genius is in full flow here. Kamal's 3 other roles have their moments(Michael saying kodukkara dheivam kooraiyai pichitu dhaan kodukkum after crashing his car through a garage's roof, Raju referring to the grain of rice with a painting as a kalai arisi) but its Kameswaran who gets the lion's share of the jokes. Every single scene with him is a laugh riot, whether he's arguing with his dad, preparing for his first night with Urvasi or trying to keep a fawning Kushboo at arm's length. The combination of the Malayali accent and the clever wordplays(the way the word meen seems ubiquitous after a fish is dropped in the sambar, the cook/kugraamam linkage, the misunderstandings of Thiruppu, etc.), make Kameswaran's sequences consistently witty and quite unforgettable.

One only has to see MMKR to understand how the make-up actually robbed Kamal of the opportunity to use his talent in distinguishing between the roles in Dasaavathaaram. Make-up is probably what he relies on the least here as he employs his voice, expressions and body language to create 4 completely different characters. Kameswaran's innocence, Raju's naievete, Madan's sophistication and Michael's toughness are all conveyed in pitch-perfect fashion through a combination of the aforementioned. This is really evident during the climax as they all look alike but their actions tell us who they are. And the attention to detail, like the way Raju always adjusts his glasses showing us that he is not used to them, is amazing. Most of the others are usually reacting to Kamal but Urvasi takes the top spot, perfectly in sync with Kamal. Nagesh once again manages to evoke laughs inspite of playing a slimy, not-very-likeable character. Kushboo is sweetness personified while Rubini isn't exactly memorable.

Ilaiyaraja matches the fun with a collection of light-hearted tunes. Sundari Neeyum... is a wonderful melody and Kamal brings his accent to his singing also. Rambambam... is a fast, fun number picturized in an energetic, colorful manner. Per Vechaalum... is an average tune but is enjoyable more for the humor, cleverness and choreography. It is choreographed very nicely with the actions of the participants matching the tune and the part where Raju and Kameswaran switch places shows that the director's thinking cap was not off even during the song sequences.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Route 1 Day Trip

Since I first drove along Route 1 to Hearst Castle, the drive, along with the stops on the way, has become one of my favorite activities/destinations. So when the cousins' family and we were debating about where to go on Sunday, Route 1 was an easy choice (Oakland Zoo, Yosemite, San Francisco were all options but not for long). In order to keep the trip a bit relaxed, we picked three places in the northern side of Big Sur. Though all three were places we've visited before, they were just as exciting and fun as they were the first time around.

As always, the drive was dreamy with gorgeous views of the sparkling blue ocean and the waves crashing against the rocks. Naturally, there were quite a few spontaneous stops at turn-offs to drink in the view. As for the planned stops, we stopped at Point Lobos State Reserve first. Our itinerary inside the park was identical to what we did the last time. We first walked down to China Cove, a small but pretty beach surrounded by rocks and natural caves; and then we took the path that loops around Bird Rock, a rock outcropping serving as a resting place for a large number of birds(and a few seals too). After lunch, we went to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park after a quick stop at the scenic Bixby Bridge. There we walked the small trail to Big Sur River, where the kids spent some time wading in the water and playing among the rocks. From there we went to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and walked the short hike - which goes through a tunnel under Route 1 - for a view of the beautiful McWay Falls, which falls down to the beach. The original plan was to stop at a beach for the sunset but the one beach we stopped at was too windy and the sun was supposed to set only at 8.29, which was a bit too late for Sunday night. So we headed back home.

A few photos from the trip can be seen here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


The consistency that Pixar has displayed in the quality of their movies is nothing short of amazing. Starting with Toy Story, they've raised the bar, either in the story or in the animation or sometimes, both, with each new film. Up keeps their track record intact. With fully-fleshed out characters, a simple but mature story and fantastic animation, the film is another winner from the Pixar stable.

Aside from the fact that it is a cartoon, there is very little in Up that could make us categorize it as a children's film. From its protagonist(Frederickson, a 78-year-old man) to its story(bonding between the old, lonely man and a young kid, Russell) to the emotions it explores, it is a rather mature film. There are also very few physical, slapstick jokes and no talking animals. There's no doubt that kids will be entertained by the bright colors and the interesting action sequences but calling Up a kids' film will be a disservice to Pixar's high aspirations.

The emotions evoked by the sequence that details Frederickson's life with Ellie rivals those evoked by any live-action film. As the two meet, fall in love, get married and grow old together, they become the kind of 3-dimensional characters that most movies strive to create but never succeed. And Up achieves this in the span of 15 minutes! The sequence also explains why Frederickson has become the cranky old man he is. Up creates the perfect foil for Frederickson in Russell. Exuberant and compassionate, he is really funny too. And this is important because his character is what makes Frederickson's transformation believable.

The film's middle segment almost looks like Pixar wants to make it up to the kids for ignoring them so far. With talking dogs(though these are technically dogs with electronic collars), a colorful bird, a nasty villain and a couple of high-energy action sequences, the emotional quotient during these portions is not much. But it is likely that it is this segment that will have the kids most excited.

Considering that Up is a Pixar film, the top-notch quality of the animation is a given but it is still impossible not be awed by what unfolds on screen. The multitude of expressions on the characters' faces, the bright but natural colors of the things around them, the detailed rendering of the surroundings - all these are impeccable and impressive as always. But its the smaller things, like a character's faint reflection seen in a window or the scattered rainbow formed in the mist at the base of a rainbow, which stand as testimony to the attention paid to details, that really take our breath away.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Debutant director Saba Iyappan obviously belongs to the breed of directors who think that simply throwing together elements like action, romance, sentiments and comedy is all that is required to deliver a successful masala film. He does exactly that in Thoranai, banking on those elements to make up for the wafer-thin story. Unfortunately, none of those individual elements drum up any excitement, and so his approach, which admittedly has worked before, only results in a dull, ineffective film.

In order to comfort his distraught mother(Geetha), Murugan(Vishal) sets off to Chennai to find his longlost elder brother Ganesan, who ran off after a particularly harsh punishment from his mother. It doesn't take long for Murugan to get a taste of the rowdyism in Chennai, as he is caught in the middle of the turf war between the two most powerful dadas Tamizharasu (Prakashraj) and Guru (Kishore). Meanwhile Murugan falls for Indu (Shriya) but ends up rubbing her the wrong way every time.

Thoranai is stuck with a really flimsy story and desperately tries to stretch it out to two and a half hours. This is particularly evident in the first half, before Vishal actually finds his brother. Having decided to make Vishal identify his brother only at the intermission point but unable to find ways to make the search itself interesting, the director makes him romance Shriya and goof around with Santhanam instead. But neither of the two holds our attention since the romance is listless and neither cute nor funny and Santhanam's shtick alternates between being repetitive (like his comments related to movies) and mean-spirited(like his comments about Paravai Muniyamma and others). The only thing they succeed in doing is lessening our emotional involvement in the film by making Vishal's search seem half-hearted and unconvincing.

Like Laadam, Thoranai starts off by placing Vishal between two men who are sworn enemies. As Prakashraj and Kishore both threaten Vishal by asking him to do things that conflict with each other, the film gives him the opportunity to play both of them and makes us wonder how he is going to do it. The stakes are also raised once his brother is thrown into the mix. But the story doesn't play out as expected and that turns out to be both good and bad. While the subsequent development provides the film's lone moment of surprise, it decreases the potential in the story by essentially taking one of the key players out of the equation. So, from a three-way competition, the film turns into another generic 'ordinary man vs powerful dada' tale and we've had quite a few of those.

As Vishal goes up against Prakashraj and comes up with different plans to pull him down, the film reminds us of films like Dhool, particularly when one of the plans uses the same basic idea as one of Vikram's plans. But Vishal's plans here are lacklustre and insipid and Prakashraj ends up looking like a simpleton considering his responses to those plans. Prakashraj's plan to pin Vishal down is, on the other hand, too complicated and doomed for failure from the word 'go'. The climax banks on a string of coincidences and contrivances and is neither convincing nor exciting.

Vishal seems to be gunning for the slot of poor man's Vijay, considering how much he copies his style, especially in the lighter scenes. From his expressions to his dialog delivery(including the halting and stammering way he mouths some lines), he reminds us of the Ilaya Thalapathy a bit too much. As always, he seems most at home during the fight sequences, though they don't seem to have been choreographed as well as in his other movies so far. Shriya is stuck in a cliched role and exists solely to be romanced by Vishal since we learn little else about her. Prakashraj breezes through another bad guy role while Kishore essentially plays a less clever version of the dada from Pollaadhavan. Mani Sharma's songs have a strong Telugu hint as always. Pelican Paravaigal... is picturized energetically while Vaa Chellam... features some nice locations.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Muthirai Audio

Azhagaana Neeyum...'s start reminds us of the tune of the stanzas in Aan Paavam's Kaadhal Mayakkam... but the similarity ends soon enough, leaving us with a soft, pleasant duet. Naresh Iyer and Manjari Phadnis are an unusual pairing but his stressed pronunciation and her smooth voice suit the song perfectly. July Maadhathil... is like a Harris Jayaraj number - instantly likeable with a catchy tune and simple orchestration. Considering the film comes off as an urban thriller, the folksy Nenjukkulle... comes as a little surprise. The Mangalyam Thandhunaanenaa... bits add a little bit of difference but the rather short song is otherwise very ordinary. The Night is Still Young... is a youthful, groovy number that makes us instantly conjure up images of DJs and strobe lights in our minds. The stronger orchestration, heavier beats and slightly faster pace make the remix even better. Neha Bhasin sounds fabulous, whether she's singing or simply humming, in Om Shanti Om.... The song has good tempo throughout and the Om Shanti Om... refrain is smooth and catchy. Its remix doesn't sound much different though. Uyire Uyire... is a regular romantic number. Javed Ali kills Tamil a bit but then seems to sound better once Madhumita starts singing.

Yuvan has become quite prolific these days, churning out atleast one album a month. Muthirai is another in what has become his trademark these days - a good album overall with more hits than misses but without any numbers that could've elevated it to a 'must-listen' category.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2 New Reviews

Reviews for MeiporuL and Rajadhi Raja are now online @ bbreviews.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Recieve!

I guess someone up there read my previous post :) How else does one explain Jo's photos showing up the same day I lamented about how long its been since we've had a glimpse of her?!

Jo, still looking every inch the pretty and cute heroine we bid goodbye to after Mozhi, made an appearance after a really long time at the 2008 Vijay Univercell awards. Hubby Surya won the best actor award for Vaaranam Aayiram and Jo was on hand for that. While he dedicated the award to her and his parents, she said that she considers herself the luckiest girl in the world. This couple sure is made for each other...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Where's Jo?

Above are photos of Surya at two recent functions - Jayam Ravi's wedding reception and the 30th anniversary celebrations of Sri Sivakumar Educational and Charitable Trust, which was founded by his dad in 1979. He didn't take Jo along for either of those :( Just made me realize how long its been awhile since we had a glimpse of her!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Pokkisham Audio

Four of the songs in the album have the same basic tune but there are enough variations to make all of them quite enjoyable. The pick of the four is Azhagu Mugam... with its rhythmic, train-like beats and philosophical lyrics. Prasanna's subtle voice inflections in this would make even SPB proud. Prasanna also has solo turns in Kanavu Silasimaiyam..., which has some nice humming in the interludes and Siru Punnagai...., which has some romantic overtones. Mahati joins him for Ulagam Ninaivil Illai... and adds some spice with her heavy voice. Mozhi Illaamale..., a pathos number, is soulfully rendered by Madhu Balakrishnan, who manages to really convey heartache during the high pitch sections of the song. Ranjani sings the similarly-tuned Varum Vazhiyengume... with more melody and less intensity. Nila Nee Vaanam... is a beautiful, melodious number sung beautifully by Vijay Yesudas and Chinmayi. Anjal Petti..., sung energetically by Karthik, manages to convey a rather joyous mood with its upbeat tune and lyrics. The same also holds true for Oh Oh Oh Theerndhadhe..., though it is rather short. Aaj Monee Bole... alternates a typical Bengali-styled number and a much slower, pathos Tamil number but neither stands out.

Sabesh-Murali, who get a bad rap because of their association with Deva, completely surprise us with a melody lover's dream album for Pokkisham. The songs sound a little simple and old-fashioned but amidst the loud music and unintelligible lyrics that characterize most albums today, this soundtrack is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vaamanan Audio

Edho Seigiraai... is a nice, standard-issue Yuvan duet with a catchy start and some high-pitch lines in the middle. The interludes that repeat the starting rhythm are appealing and Javed Ali doesn't massacre the lyrics too much. Enge Povadhu... is a pathos number whose style was popular during Ilaiyaraja's times but then seemed to go out of fashion. Looks like its making a comeback under Raja's son! Vijay Yesudas sounds a lot like his illustious father and impresses because of the sparse orchestration. Iravai Pidithu... is almost definitely an item number - probably in a club setting - with new singer Preethi's husky voice, the lyrics that praise materialism and the rap interludes. Preethi has a strong voice and her accent for the English lines sounds natural. Lucky Star... is youthful and catchy. If nothing else, it could give Jai a title ready if Vaamanan becomes a hit! Oru Devadhai... is a slow, captivating number. Roopkumar Rathod hits the high notes flawlessly but his poor diction is definitely an irritant.

The Vaamanan soundtrack earns the same kind of comments that other recent Yuvan albums have earned - a good collection of songs that catch on easily but none of them really make the jump from 'good' to 'great'.

Monday, June 08, 2009

My New Blu-ray Player

Ever since the hi-def DVD format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray was resolved in favor of the latter, I've been shopping around for a Blu-ray DVD player. Finally bought the Samsung BD-P3600 and after using it for a couple of weeks, I'd say I'm totally satisfied.

The player looks minimalistically sleek and cool. Unlike a traditional DVD player, its front is completely smooth and clean and the playback buttons, which are touch-sensitive, have been moved to the top of the player. Blu-ray discs load up at speeds comparable to the loading speed on regular DVD players. The picture is ofcourse noticeably sharper on Blu-ray and watching a movie is now even more of a pleasure. Even regular DVDs look better than they did on my earlier upconverting DVD player.

The improved picture quality is a given for any Blu-ray player but it was the goodies on the BD-P3600 that helped make my decision easier. First, it supports Netflix streaming. Setting up Netflix was a breeze with movies added to the Instant Queue(on the computer) being available for watching immediately. Netflix has a pretty good collection now and the movies can be paused, FFed, etc. Second, the player supports file sharing for photos, MP3s and video. So I can connect to my desktop to flip through photo slideshows, watch movies, etc. No more hooking up the laptop to the TV for this. And the biggest advantage for me is that the above can be done wirelessly since the player comes with a USB Wi-Fi dongle. With the router at the opposite end of the house from the DVD player, the wireless connection isn't the strongest. The Netflix streaming quality, for instance, was only half of what was possible. Still, the movie started in just a few seconds, was eminently watchable quality-wise and played without any interruptions.

Now for two quibbles. While connecting to a computer is easy, the player doesn't save the settings. This means the IP address, folder name, user name and password must all be entered manually each time the file sharing feature is used. With an onscreen keyboard, this is not a fun task. Also, the player has a limited set of codecs and so recognizes only some AVIs. AVIs created with unsupported codecs and other video formats(like MP4s or DVD files) are not playable. I'm just hoping that these, especially the first, will be fixed with a future firmware update.

If you are shopping for a Blu-ray player and you are a Netflix member, this one's a no-brainer. If your answer is "No" to either of those, what are you waiting for? :)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Kunguma Poovum Konjum Puraavum, Newtonin Moondraam Vidhi and Pasanga are now online @ bbreviews.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Happy Birthday Karthik!






Seems like just now that we brought him back from the hospital. And the li'l guy turns 4 today! Time sure is flying :)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Touchy Touchy

When it comes to Tamil cinema, very few things surprise me any more. But one news item that made my jaw literally drop was this one about director Shakti Chidambaram suing Suhasini. Its not like Tamil cinema hasn't been involved in legal wranglings before. Allegations of vulgarity, plagiarism and hurt sentiments have all sent our movie folks to the court. But its the reason behind the case that makes this one stand out. Shakti is suing Suhasini because she gave his movie a bad review!

This is not the first time we are hearing about people associated with a movie getting upset over criticism of their movie. Bala, for instance, refused to meet Bharadwaj Rangan because another reviewer at his newspaper didn't rate Naan KadavuL very highly. It wasn't too long ago that Amitabh Bachan had some very harsh words for Khalid Mohammad after the critic lambasted Bhoothnath. And in Hollywood, director Vincent Gallo engaged in a long war of words with Roger Ebert after the latter's review of The Brown Bunny. But those were all just person-to-person fights. This is probably the first time in the world that a director is resorting to legal means to strike back at a reviewer.

Its not difficult to understand why directors are so upset when their movies get a bad rap. Their movie is their baby, their creation, the fruit of their labor. They work on it for months - sometimes years - and its natural that they get attached to it. So they see an attack on the movie as a personal attack and get upset.

But directors also need to understand that they are producing a commodity. They are creating something for public consumption and need to be ready to take what comes with that. It might be a work of art for them but in the end, its just another product. And just as everyone who uses a product feels differently about it, everyone who watches the movie is likely to have a different opinion about it. And the directors have to be mature enough to accept the good and the bad.

As for Suhasini, she was just doing her job. A viewer is going to spend time and money at a movie and deserves to know beforehand if it is going to be worth it. Thats why he turns to reviewers and its upto the reviewers to give their honest opinion about the movie. That's what Suhasini did in this case. There is no right or wrong. As long as she was honest about her thoughts on the movie, she did her job. That's what she gets paid for and that's what people trust her for. Shakti just has to understand that. And suing her for that is just plain ridiculous.

So we can only hope that Shakti's case is thrown out for the frivolous case it is. Then again, if he wins the case, maybe we can start suing him for the films he makes :)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bee Season

Every time the Spelling Bee comes around, there are a bunch of posts - and ofcourse, associated comments - criticizing the event. They are quite mean-spirited, making fun of the kids and blaming the parents. So I just felt that someone should stand up for them.

The posts disparagingly call the kids geeks and social misfits. The funny thing is that these posts are not written by Olympic medallists or NBA players. They are penned by engineers and other professionals whose 'geekiness', so to speak, led to the academic achievements that helped them enter these professions in the first place. And is keeping them there. So ridiculing the kids in this fashion is plain hypocrisy on their part and a case of the pot calling the kettle black. That said, this post is more about the kids who participate in the Bee and other similar competitions.

The kids are seen as nerds and bookworms who spend their time memorizing the dictionary . Nothing could be further from the truth. These are kids who love the English language. They love reading, learning new words and understanding the way the words actually came about. It should be obvious that it is impossible to memorize all the words in the language. What these kids do is discern patterns in the words presented to them and then make educated, intelligent guesses about the spelling based on the language the word is derived from, the pronunciation, the definition, etc. Doing this in front of a big audience can't be easy and the kids display great poise and confidence when they do so. Belittling what they do as memorization is a colossal insult to their talent and ability.

The kids also don't focus on this at the expense of everything else. Kavya, this year's winner, learns the violin while Ramya, who tied for fifth place, teaches Tamil informally to other kids in her area. They are kids with great personality, a good sense of humor, nice friends and a wide range of ambitions and goals in life. Language is just a passion for them and being passionate about something does not automatically equate or translate to a neglect of everything else in life.

Now on to the parents. They are called pushy and are characterized as hard taskmasters who exhort their kids to do this. I can only assume that the people who see it this way don't have children. So they haven't experienced the thrill one feels on seeing our child do something well and haven't experienced the pride that comes out of our child winning something. It could be anything. When our child likes doing something, we let them do it. And when the child is also good at that, we do what we can to develop the talent. That's natural and that's what these parents are doing. What's so wrong in that?

Let's say the child of one these bloggers displays an affinity for spelling(which is quite possible because of the 'geek' gene they would undoubtedly inherit :). Is he/she going to be dejected, downplay the child's talent, dissuade him/her from honing the talent and getting recognized for it since its geeky and persuade him/her to enter sports? I don't think so for thats exactly what they accuse these parents of. And when they are melted by the pride on their child's face and cheer him/her on as he/she displays her talent, will they realize the errors in their remarks and insults? I sure hope so.

Not everyone shares passions for the same things in life. But that should not stop us from acknowledging and appreciating talent in others, especially kids, whatever area the talent may be in.

Monday, June 01, 2009


While we've had several films set against the backdrop of college in Tamil cinema, our directors have been unwilling to travel further back in time to explore life in school (the fact that featuring school kids as protagonists effectively rules out the chance to incorporate romance and other masala elements probably has something to do with it). So Pasanga, which deals with the lives of a group of children, truly stands out from the crowd by virtue of its subject matter. With a loveable set of kids giving us an interesting peek into their lives, it is refreshingly fresh and fun fare.

Jeeva(Sriram), along with his two friends Pakkada and Kuttimani, has just moved to 6th grade. Anbukkarasu(Kishore), joins the class after moving from a different school and soon rubs Jeeva the wrong way as he impresses their teacher - who also happens to be Jeeva's dad - and becomes friends with Manonmani, Jeeva's cousin. Meanwhile, Anbukkarasu's uncle(Vimal) and Jeeva's sister(Vega) fall for each other even as the enmity between Anbukkarasu and Jeeva extends to their dads.

The kids in Pasanga definitely make up a fun bunch and the director succeeds in capturing all facets of that age through them. From the games they play(like the popular one where we twist our hand, cross our fingers and then uncross them on our nose) to the emotions they experience(like jealousy at the new guy who is undermining them) to smaller things like their love of movies(not shown directly but inferred from their recreating scenes from movies like Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu), they make us fondly remember scenes from our own childhood.

Pasanga understands that the problems and issues that kids encounter are important for them. So it focuses on them without belittling their experiences. It shows us that the emotions - jealousy, spite, anger, etc.- they experience are the same that adults go through. Its just that the ways these emotions are expressed aresuitably childish. So, when a kid plans to rub honey on his enemy's hair, its the equivalent of an adult throwingacid. And when he wants his friend's older brother to scare the other kid, its the same as an adult hiringa rowdy to rough up an adversary. By doing this i.e. making the kids' world a microcosm of the adults' world, the film makes its protagonist kids well-rounded, genuine characters rather than uninteresting caricatures.

When its kids, supporting characters become even more important since it is they who guide and control the kids' lives. Director Pandiraj understands this and makes the people around the kids - their families and their teachers - fully fleshed-out also. Kishore's parents perfectly bring out a couple unwilling to adjust and make sacrifices inspite of all the years together. So their bitterness bubbles up to the surface given the smallest chance. Sriram's parents don't get enough time to make the same kind of impression but his dad's narration of his married life shows him to be someone who is at peace with the route to deal with his problems. Similarly, the romance between Vimal and Vega is charming and developed in a very believable fashion and the conversations, whether its between the lovers or the lovers and their families are very natural.

But the realism of the movie takes a beating towards the end. The advice and sermonizing is understandable and even acceptable since it is delivered naturally and in a self-deprecating fashion. And a couple of messages are almost a given in a kid's movie. But the artificial attempt at adding some tension feels unnecessary and the climax is straight out of a masala movie as a plot point introduced obviously - but in an undeniably humorous fashion - just a few scenes ago is used in a very cinematic, unbelievable fashion.

Pasanga is a movie about kids but it can't be called a kids movie. There's nothing childish about the technical aspects of the film. The director employs slo-mo shots, fast edits, interesting camera angles(like the POV shot behind a kid's glasses. The camera even shakes as he adjusts is glasses) and eye-catching shots(like the sun shining through a boy's closed fist) to keep the film vibrant and lively. James Vasanth does his part with an energetic background score, especially during the sequences where the kids clash with each other. Kids are bundles of energy, always active and full of life and the same can be said about the movie too.

Child actors are usually camera-conscious kids who try to be cute but come off as overacting and irritating. Not so here. These kids here could put many of our adult actors to shame. Whether its Jeeva's roguishness or Anbukkarasu's sincerity or Pakkata's naievete, the kids' expressions and body language convey their characters perfectly. If we feel that we know these kids intimately by the end of the film, a large portion of the credit goes to these actors. The rest of the cast also fits their roles perfectly. Vega, looking very different from her Saroja persona, is sweet and makes a good pair with Vimal, who is also sweet in a down-to-earth way. The actors playing the kids' parents are also natural. James Vasanth tunes another melodious number in Oru Vetkam Varudhe..., which reminds us of Subramanyapuram's KangaL Irandaal... in both melody and the picturization, with its mix of romance and humor.