Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Violence at S.R.M

Being an alumnus of S.R.M Engineering College, the news about the violence on campus left me a bit saddened. The violence seems to have started when the students staged a protest to know about the status of approval from the All India Council for Technical Education(AICTE). But this (link via Kaps) news items says that the college has lots its AICTE affiliation and the students would get B.Sc degrees instead of B.Tech degrees.

Is the AICTE approval something that is going on for all colleges now? So far, I've been hearing only good things about SRM since I graduated. I heard that they were expanding, had started new disciplines, etc. So this came as a surprise. Has the standard of the college fallen so much that the approval from AICTE was in doubt? Does the news about the change from B.Tech to B.Sc degree have any validity?

I have a lot of good memories from my 4 years at the college. The long morning and evening train rides, the shared lunches, the parottas at the neighboring eatery, the arattai sessions in the canteen... those were fun times. Even the grilling by the teachers, the last-minute cramming for the exams and the tension-filled wait for the results make for pleasant memories now. So its sad to hear that the college has been shut indefinitely. The students' futures are probably hanging in the air now. Hope this issue gets resolved speedily...


Thambi is like a Shankar film without the huge budget. It is a well-intentioned film revolving around a protagonist who has lofty ambitions for society and a plan to achieve those ambitions single-handedly. But director Seeman could use a few lessons from Shankar on how to beef up his central message with the right commercial ingredients to make it entertaining and not just visionary.

Thambi(Madhavan) is the local do-gooder. He shows up wherever and whenever injustice happens and puts an end to it. Doing this has made him the thorn in the side of Sankarapandian(Biju Menon), a dada, whose only aim now is to get rid of Thambi. Meanwhile Archana(Pooja), a dancer, whose initial impression of Thambi is that he is a rowdy changes her mind after realizing his true nature and falls for him.

The message that Thambi tries to get across is one that many other movies (Thevar Magan is one that comes to mind) before have attempted to convey - that violence begets violence. Its hero is someone who understands that and is willing to be the one to do whatever it takes to put a stop to the endless cycle of violence. Universal peace, rather than personal revenge, is his goal. So his challenge to the villain is something very different from what we’ve heard heroes utter to villains before. And that comes as a big relief.

The problem is that the film doesn’t have much else on its agenda other than this message. Good intentions can take you only so far. The entire first half is taken up with Madhavan fighting with different rowdies in different settings/locations. The romance is perfunctory and barely registers. It starts in a clichéd manner and proceeds predictably. Having a weak and seemingly very ineffective villain doesn’t help either.

Thambi manages to convey its message across without actually resorting to violence. The director doesn’t use the oft-used-excuse that he cannot convey his message of non-violence without actually showing violence. So though there are fights galore, they are relatively bloodless and real violence, when it occurs, is mostly offscreen. Also, the movie remains true to its message until the very end. The screenplay is developed in a clever fashion to put people in situations where they realize their mistakes. So it ends on a positive note rather than a bloodbath. Sure it’s simplistic and even idealistic. But it manages to get its point across.

Madhavan emotes well but fails in the physical aspect of the role. He is fiery when needed and his rolling eyes and loud voice help him deliver his lines with conviction. But he has put on a lot of weight and with a discernible paunch, is unable to execute all those karate-style punches and kicks with the required grace. Pooja looks great but comedy seems to be her weak point. She is a lot more convincing when she reveals her love to Madhavan than when she screams at him for interrupting her dance performance. Biju Menon is a rather weak villain, though part of the blame lies on the characterization of his role too. This movie is probably the movie with the least screen time for Vadivelu among his recent movies. But the absence of a separate comedy track for him does help in making the movie seem more serious about its message.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Cho Chweet

[Pic Courtesy Kaps]

Pic is from the TamilNadu State Film Awards function. According to the caption, Surya and Jo were sitting next to each other chatting and laughing and the crowd's attention was on them rather than on the awards show. They do make a cute couple :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2 Movies

So turns out the news wasn't that far out there. According to Gautham Menon, Sarathkumar is the hero in the hotshot director's next film after Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. Though the earlier news item said Simran would be playing Sarath's wife, the role has instead gone to Shobana, who will be returning to Tamil after a long time. Rounding up the interesting cast is Jyothika, Gautham's favorite actress. The film has a rather poetic title Vilai Uyirendraalum(though according to Indiaglitz, the film's name is Parundhu).

There are a few reasons why the movie would be something to look forward to. If it is indeed a love story as Gautham claims, it would be a welcome change in genre for Gautham after two cop films back-to-back. It would also mean Sarathkumar is putting his money where his mouth was, when he said he wouldn't mind going for an image change. It'll be nice seeing Shobana onscreen again. IMO, the actress was underrated and not utilized well in Tamil cinema. And ofcourse, any project with Jo automatically gets on my radar :-)


Meanwhile, Cheran has quietly launched his next film Maayakkannaadi. With Autograph and then Thavamaai Thavamirundhu, the director is definitely on a roll right now and the film will have high expectations attached to it. It is said to be a city-based subject and pairs the director with Ilaiyaraja again after Desiya Geetham. Navya Nair is the heroine. One of the publicity stills shows Cheran in front of a mirror, with a similarly attired Rajnikanth as his reflection and is certainly intriguing. A socio-fantasy perhaps?

Friday, February 24, 2006

3 New Reviews

Reviews for June. R, Idhaya Thirudan and Dishyum are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Street Cricket

A recent forward from Maverick took me back to the days when we played cricket on the streets. Since our house was on one of those residential streets without much traffic, 'street cricket' was an everyday happening and the words below were part of my everyday vocabulary.

When it came to 'street cricket', playing the game was the only priority and real-world limitations didn’t matter. Cricketing rules were meant to be bent as long as we could squeeze in some cricket. If there wasn’t enough time, we played a “fixed-overs match” and if there was no space, we played an “underarm match”. Everything from broken sticks to lines drawn on a compound wall or tree to the street kuppai thotti served as stumps. Buying rubber balls was responsible for the single biggest slice of my pocket money pie and when I decided to splurge, I bought a brand-new tennis ball.

It wasn’t without hazards though. Square cuts and lofted drives that went awry usually resulted in broken windows or dented scooters and cars. Unsuspecting passers-by received nasty bruises or came close to having an accident on their bikes. And our zeal to stop a speeding ball or effect a spectacular catch threw us in the path of a speeding vehicle many times too.

Every street had its own game but our street's game had a little added glamour. Remember actor Suresh, who paired with Nadhiya in a bunch of movies? His sister-in-law, i.e. Anita's sister, lived in the ground floor of our house and so he used to join the game whenever he visited them. Naturally, the number of onlookers increased when he played. That, I think, is the closest I came to playing before a crowd :-)

So here are the definitions from the mail that took me down memory lane... (the mail has been edited both for content and to fit in the space allotted)

Mattai - The piece of wood to be used as the cricket bat. Need not confirm to geometrical trivialities.

Gaaji - The indian reference for an 'inning'.

Double Gaaji - An exceptional scenario wherein a batsman can bat twice if there are a shortage of players in the side.

Osi Gaaji - A scenario where some stranger wants to bat for a couple of balls just for fun and then carry on with his work

Bongu - The slang word used if a team unfairly cheats the other team while playing.

Full Cover - A situation where in a batsmen is taking a half stump guard thereby covering the complete stumps from the view of the bowler. Since street cricket typically do not have a LBW it is very difficult to get a batsman out, if he covers the stump fully

One pitch catch - A rule where a batsman gets out when a fielder catches it even after the ball pitches once.

Full fast - Since street cricket pitches are a few yards long, a ball which is thrown with full pace and energy is considered a no ball as it will be impossible to handle such pace with short distance
Waiteees - When batsman/any fielder gets distracted from the game due to highly technical reasons like a vehicle crossing the road when a ball is bowled

Common Fielding - Due to lack of number of fielders, it is possible that people from batting team who are not actually doing batting have to field or do wicket keeping or for that matter even umpiring

Dokku - A derogatory term for a defensive shot.

Baby Over - When a bowler has no hopes of completing his over with lots of wides and no balls he is substituted by a better bowler and the over is called a Baby Over.

Uruturadhu - When the bowler is unable to extract any meaningful bounce from the pitch. Sometimes used as a defensive tactic.

Thadavuradhu - When a batsman is not able to make any contact with the ball using his bat.

Suthuradhu - Same as slogging in cricket.

Trials - This is the first ball bowled in the match. Usually claimed after the first ball is bowled.

All-reals..first ball - This indicates the actual start of the match.

Andrum Indrum

Pics - Thanks Sandya

As George Costanza would say, "If this is what happens to Arvind Swamy when becoming older, what chance do I have?!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Looks like we are not the only ones thinking Daniel Craig would make a bad James Bond. Longtime fans of James Bond have now created a website to protest Craig taking over the role of the superspy. The webmasters' sense of humor matches their dislike of Craig. Hilarious stuff...

"As you can-a clearly see, Connery's face degenerate massively as he becomes Craig. When we tested dis effect on little babies, dey all begin-a cry whenever he start to look like Craig again. Dis-a no good news for Craig."

"In fact, his blunt features are more suggestive of a pugilistic victim of Rocky Balboa than of suave secret agent."

"...he is much more the type to play one of Bond's deranged nemeses, ala Robert Carlyle, than anyone remotely resembling the handsome, athletic and sinisterly smooth agent 007."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Song of the Moment

At any given time, there's always one song that catches my fancy more than the others. Inspite of having a CD with 16 of my current favorites, its the song I always skip to when I start driving the car. And its the number I play first when I power up my iPod. So I end up listening to the song a few times everyday. I always sing along and it always makes me feel just a li'l bit better. Sometimes it has been a song that caught my fancy on the first listen itself(Aararai Kodi... or Khajuraho...) and sometimes it has been one that gradually grew on me(like Suttum Vizhi Chudare...).

Right now, that song is Dhaavani Poatta Deepavali... from Sandakkozhi. It is a rather old-fashioned song with minimal beats and simple lyrics but is one that has grown on me. Almost all the sections in the song are very catchy and sung without any frills by Vijay Yesudas and Shreya Ghoshal. The brief gap followed by a nasal Haaa during the interlude and the line that ends in Angelu... are particularly attractive parts.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Yosemite National Park... Not!

A lesson learned during this past weekend was that a trip can be fun even when you never make it to the intended destination! Since it was a long weekend and my brother was stopping over on his way back to India, I had booked a trip to Yosemite National Park for 2 days. I booked it a couple of weeks ago when it seemed like spring had arrived prematurely in the Bay Area. But that was not to be. After a week of spring-like weather, winter came back with a vengeance.

Fully aware of forecasts of rain and snow over at Yosemite, we left yesterday morning. But the dreaded "Chains Required" board stopped me 4 hours later, about 10 miles outside the park. I wasn't about to attempt driving with chains for the first time with 2 kids on board and so I turned around.

The amount of snow in the area almost made us think we had driven to Lake Tahoe by mistake. But this also meant that there were a bunch of places by the roadside with freshly fallen snow. So we stopped at a couple of these. Kavya had a whale of a time playing around in the snow, trying to build a snowman and having snowball-fights with us.

We then decided to drive to Bass Lake. That turned out to be a really beautiful drive. With trees coated with snow lining both sides of an empty, smooth road, it was a sight to behold.

But then it started snowing and within a couple of minutes, started coming down real hard. The road became wet and in what was becoming a familiar routine, we decided to turn around again. But driving back in the snowfall was an exhilarating experience. The falling snowflakes were sheets of pretty dots all around us before they zoomed in and smashed on the windshield. So we simply ended up stopping at a couple of more snowfields for more fun for Kavya.

Today morning was warm and sunny and we drove again to Yosemite but the chains requirement still stopped us a few miles outside the park. So we again drove to Bass lake and with the weather helping, managed to make it to the lake this time. The sparkling blue lake looked heavenly.

We then stopped by a cute little town called Pines Village. A typical seaside town, it had a number of houses right by the lake.

We took a walk down the snow-covered docks right upto the lake.

So I would say our trip to Yosemite National Park was great... except for the tiny fact that we never went into Yosemite National Park :-)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Royal(e) Cast

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Curious George

Guest post by Kavya

My dad took me to the theater to watch Curious George on Sunday. It is a very cute movie about the famous cartoon monkey and I really enjoyed myself. I've read a few books based on Curious George but the film had a different story. It shows how George comes to America with the man in the yellow suit and then helps him save the museum that he works in.

The film is created by old-fashioned animation rather than the computer animation used in movies like Shrek and Madagascar. People say that this kind of animation is going out of fashion but I actually like it better. The animals look sweeter and cuter this way.

The movie is very bright and colorful throughout and a lot of fun whenever George is onscreen. The scenes where he plays with Ted are so cute. And he does a lot of funny things that made me laugh. But there are also a number of scenes without him which are kinda boring and I kept asking my Dad where George went. And the scene where is separated from Ted and locked in a cage made me cry.

The movie didn't have much for my dad though. He smiled and chuckled a bit during a few scenes but for the most part, his only entertainment was watching how much I enjoyed the movie. He said that one scene, where a famous shot from King Kong is recreated, was the only scene in the entire movie that was clever.

I can't wait for this movie to be released on DVD :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Favorite Tamil Cinema Romances - I

Mouna Raagam – Karthik, Revathi

A true trendsetter, the romance between Karthik and Revathi in Mouna Raagam is one for the ages. Manirathnam crafts a memorable character in Karthik – an always playful, supremely self-confident, loveable rogue. And pairs him with the level-headed Revathi for a truly classic romance. Karthik's approach to wooing Revathi is non-typical and borders on brashness. But it is undeniably cute and the parked bike stunt, the college intercom declaration and the “Mr. Chandramouli” routine are all true classics.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime role for Karthik and he really aces it. His cocky style and dialog delivery, now an irritation, were fresh at the time and fit the role perfectly. If there is a woman who didn’t fall for him after Mouna Raagam, I’m yet to meet her. Revathi ofcourse is brilliant as always, portraying perfectly a girl gradually falling for a rogue.

Favorite Tamil Cinema Romances - II

Vaali – Ajith, Simran (& Jyothika)

S.J.Surya, in his first film as director, gave us a wonderfully fresh romance track in Vaali. Though it begins with Ajith predictably falling in love at first sight, Simran’s wish that her lover be “a smoker who has quit smoking, a drinker who has stopped drinking and a jilted lover” helps the track proceed in a unique fashion. Ajith’s narration of his love story with a fictional woman is brought to life with Jyothika’s help and some nice touches(like the changing dress colors when they are jogging) make it a very imaginative segment.

The characters and the actors do complete justice to the romance. Simran is loveably naive as she eats up every word that Ajith throws at her and falls for him in the process. Ajith does the cute loverboy role to perfection. One particular sequence where the two talk on the phone(she speaks in a barely disguised voice, he acts as though he falls for it, she is proud) is absolutely hilarious.

Favorite Tamil Cinema Romances - III

Ghajini - Surya, Asin

Director Murugadoss proved with the Ajith-Laila track in Dheena that he knew how to fashion a cute romance. And he confirmed it with the romance between Surya and Asin in Ghajini.

It is built on the cute premise that Asin doesn't know that Surya is the businessman who she claims is her boyfriend. Asin's bombastic chatter is very funny while Surya's quiet admiration of the same leads to many sweet sequences. Her suggestion that he model for sudarmani jattigal and his stunned reaction make up the funniest of the many funny high points in the track. Having Surya act as himself is a very clever twist that ensures that the interest in the romance never flags.


Asin's tragic end and the fact that she never knows the truth about Surya until the end make the romance bittersweet and add a touch of immortality to their love.

Favorite Tamil Cinema Romances - IV

Dhill - Vikram, Laila

The romance between macho man Vikram and dimple-cheeked Laila here defines the term 'cute'. The entire sequence where the two start a new trend for women riding on the backseat of bikes is hilarious and director Dharani cleverly makes their future meetings happen naturally by fixing up the marriage of Vikram's sister with Laila's brother. Her cooking show on TV(with a bunch of funny quips by Vikram's friends) and the resulting 'kulfi' nickname are other sweet segments.

Comedy usually feels like an unwanted intrusion into romance but this is one case where the comedy is an invaluable help in making the romance sweeter and funnier. Vivek's reaction, expression and comments, when Vikram innocently asks him what his plans are once he decides to take Laila out, are truly priceless . And his subsequent imitation of Laila really brings down the house. Many other sequences(like their trip to the jewellery shop) are also made hilarious by Vivek's comments.

Favorite Tamil Cinema Romances - V

Sathya - Kamal, Amala

I guess it’s only fair to kick off the series with Tamil cinema’s true kaadhal mannan. Sathya, inspite of the grimness of the rest of the movie, finds Kamal at his romantic best. And a very pretty Amala is his perfect match.

The way unemployed Kamal and poor Amala try to hide their real state of affairs from each other gives a sweet start to their relationship and the romance proceeds naturally from there. There are some very cute and funny sequences like Amala imagining Kamal and his friends as divine beings and Kamal revealing his knowledge of Malayalam after Amala and her aunt converse freely in the language in front of him. And Amala, especially in the simple Malayali saree, looks great.

Ofcourse the Valaiyosai… song alone would qualify this romance for a spot on this list. Intricately choreographed (especially considering it’s a non-dance song), Kamal and a very pretty Amala make a cute couple romancing perfectly in sync with the music. And Amala looks gorgeous in the film (did I say that already?!)

Valentine's Day Special

Its Valentine’s day, the day dedicated to love the world around. So, similar to what I did on Rajni's birthday, I’ll be posting my top 5 favorite romances from Tamil movies during the day today.

Romance is ofcourse inseparable from Tamil cinema. I mean, there have been movies without fights, comedy, songs and even dialogs. But I don’t think there has so far been a Tamil movie without love.

A couple of points… I’m keeping away from full-length romances(since the list then would begin and end with Idhayathai Thirudaadhey!). In other words, I’m sticking to romances in movies that then went on to other things. Also, ‘cuteness’ is the primary attribute I’m focusing on in the romances. So cute and sweet romances will have the edge over mature, serious or deep love stories.

Let the lovin’ begin…

Monday, February 13, 2006

Poi Audio Release

The master and his two brightest pupils… That’s from the audio launch of Poi, Prakashraj’s next production, which being directed by KB. Prakashraj, also one of KB’s numerous finds(his first film was Duet, which is also why his company is named Duet Films), invited all the actors ‘discovered’ by KB so far to the launch.

Prakashraj’s previous two productions Azhagiya Theeye and Kanda Naal Mudhal were both directed by newcomers. They were both relatively low-profile movies that made it big primarily by word-of-mouth after release. But he is changing track on both counts with Poi. It is being directed by probably the most experienced of directors in Tamil cinema. And such a well-attended, well-publicized audio launch makes the film kinda high-profile too.

But Prakashraj’s heart is in the right place. This is his way of paying tribute to the man who introduced him and is responsible for who he is today. For his sake lets hope his dream of producing another hit doesn’t become a poi!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Better Late than Never...

The Tamil Nadu State Film awards for 2003 and 2004 were announced yesterday - in February 2006! The Government really moves fast, huh?

Barring a couple, the awards are generally along expected lines. But what is it with Best Actor awards and controversies? While Saif Ali Khan got the award at the National level, 'Jayam' Ravi wins the State award for best actor in 2004, the same year that saw Kamal in Virumaandi, Surya in Perazhagan and Madhavan in Aaydha Ezhuthu. But they atleast got things right in 2003, awarding Vikram for Pithaamagan.

A Local Sunset

@ Shoreline Lake in MountainView

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Dishyum is the latest example of how a good director can make even a familiar story seem fresh. The film treads the familiar path of a rich girl-poor boy love story. But strong characterization, avoidance of cliches and small tweaks in the screenplay make the movie an entertaining affair.

Recent movies like Aaru and Aadhi were packed with violence. So it is ironic that a film titled Dishyum, a word that signifies a well-delivered blow, serves as a respite from the violence overload. Especially commendable is director Sasi’s decision to keep away from violence(and even the usual fight sequences) inspite of the enormous opportunities offered by the choice of the hero’s profession. That said, the movie has been given an 'A' certificate while bloodsoaked films like Aadhi get by with a 'UA' certificate! Strange are the workings of the censor board officials' minds.

‘Risk’ Bhaskar(Jeeva) is a stuntman in the movies. As the prefix to his name indicates, he is a daredevil with no fear of death and for this reason, is the stuntman of choice for the most dangerous stunts. Into his life comes Cynthia(Sandhya), a student at an arts college. He falls for her and is quick to express his love. But she sees him only as a friend.

The problem with most rich girl-poor boy love stories is that they gloss over the differences(that would actually matter in the real world) between the lovers and base the romance on trivial things like fights and sentiments. So they rarely ring true. But Sasi doesn’t do that here. He makes us, and more importantly the two of them, understand that they are different. There are some lovely scenes that bring out the contrast in many aspects of their lives. The question then becomes whether they can rise above those differences. So the movie is more believable and even manages to be a little suspenseful. Dishyum is no Kaadhal but is a lot more realistic than other movies that portray such a romance.

The romance is held up by the strong characterization of the two involved in it. Jeeva’s innocence and naiveté are not overdone. His honesty and willingness to speak his mind make us smile sometimes and sympathize with him at other times. He is a simple man who knows what he wants. Or atleast thinks he does. Sandhya, on the other hand, is a complicated woman who is not sure what she wants or even how she feels. There are times she shouts at him but there are times she goes against her own family to stand up for him. Like the heroine in Devadhaiyai Kanden, she is practical about her romance. With two such strong characters, Sasi’s job in delivering a lively relationship is half done.

Both of Sasi's earlier movies, Sollaamale and Rojakkoottam, had some plot developments designed to surprise us. While Dishyum has no such big twists, it does pack a number of small surprises that make it quite unpredictable and make us get involved in it. The screenplay proceeds in a way that keeps our interest. And there are a number of sequences that don't exactly end the way we predict them to.

But the surprise is not maintained until the end and the climax is as cliched as it gets in terms of both dialog and location(which is probably the second most popular location, after the railway station, for the climax in Tamil films!). There are atleast two points before the climax where, if the movie had ended, it would have been really surprising and as a result, had a greater impact.

This movie is the follow-up to big, talked-about roles for both Jeeva and Sandhya and both of them deliver. Jeeva slips into the stuntman role well. With close-cropped hair and long sideburns, he looks the part and his expressions, body language and dialog delivery help make him believable for the most part. Sandhya seems like a very natural performer. She has expressive eyes and is especially convincing when angry. She is able to sound angry without shouting. Badhru, a midget, is responsible for the comedy. Though it initially feels a little awkward, the actor and the characterization of his role help us get over it and lead to some good laughs(and a couple of tears). Nenjaankoottil... is a very melodious number. A couple of tracks that play in the background sound catchy too.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Moneyback Guarantee!

Exhibitors are now demanding that they be compensated by Vijay for losses they incurred by screening his home production Aadhi, which is now being called the actor's biggest flop since 2003's Pudhiya Geethai. Whatever my thoughts on the film, this demand seems pretty unfair to me. Cinema is a business like any other and people who are part of it are definitely aware of the risks involved. So how can they demand to be compensated for a gamble they willingly undertook? By the same token, can viewers demand a refund if they didn't like the movie?!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi / Oldboy

These two movies might look like strange choices to be paired together but inspite of the differences in language, theme and content, they do share some important traits. They both take risks and emerge unscathed and successful. They turned out to breaths of fresh air considering recent films I've seen in their respective languages. They aren't for everyone. And they feature the best third acts I've seen in movies in a long, long time...

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

At heart, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is a familiar love triangle. We have a boy(Sidharth) and girl(Geetha) in love with each other and another boy(Vikram) pining for the girl. But the unfamiliar background, and the effect it has on their lives and their loves, makes for very interesting viewing.

HKA takes place in the turbulent 60s and 70s. While not detailed enough to provide a history lesson, the happenings of the time are always in the background. The political awareness among students, the naxalite movement, the emergency - all these shape not just the country but on a smaller level, the lives of the 3 protagonists. The time period guides the trio’s decisions and fashions their lives. Throw them into a different decade and we would get a completely different - and probably uninteresting - story.

All 3 protagonists are painted in shades of gray. If Sidharth is almost too idealistic and stubborn, Geetha doesn’t mind pursuing her passion whatever the moral repercussions and Vikram's only aim is to climb up the economic ladder. There are times when we applaud them and there are times when we don’t approve of their actions. This kind of characterization lends a certain unpredictability to the proceedings and I was rarely sure of the direction the movie would proceed in.

The movie has a great script(you anticipate this right at the beginning when it starts off finding a horological mistake in Nehru's 'Freedom at Midnight' speech!) with several gems scattered throughout. And it succeeds in making us laugh at the most unexpected moments.

The last half hour of the film is really amazing cinema. The screenplay is almost delicious as it gets the lives of the protagonists to intersect in very imaginative ways. And the way it leads us on with a familiar-sounding letter before showing us that the tables have turned is simply mindblowing. The final denouement is tragic in more ways than one since it marks the death, not of people, but of love, passion and dreams.



OldBoy is a psychological thriller like no other I’ve seen. This originally Korean film is suspenseful, violent and moving in equal parts and is most certainly unforgettable.

OldBoy is the cinematic equivalent of a roller-coaster ride. While it runs, it makes us hold on tight, close our eyes, scream, laugh and even throw up as it zooms through highs and lows. And it ends with a steep dive that is exhilarating and sickening at the same time.

On the way to give his daughter her birthday present, Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped. For 15 years he remains locked up in a room, with no idea why he was kidnapped or who did it. And then just as inexplicably, he is released. With his wife dead(he is the prime suspect) and his daughter adopted by a family in another country, Oh Dae-Su's only aim in life is to track down his kidnapper and kill him. A waitress Mido helps him in his quest.

The film is like Memento in that it places the protagonist in the middle of a huge puzzle and then puts us in his confused shoes. We know only as much as he does. We don’t see his kidnapper(s) and we don’t know why he was abducted. So we understand his single-minded drive to uncover the reasons behind his ordeal and we are with him as he painstakingly unravels the puzzle piece by piece. The suspense moves the film forward even and takes us along with it during the slow portions.

A movie like this, that thrives on suspense for the majority of the running time, must surprise us for all the suspense to seem worthwhile. And boy does Oldboy surprise! It delivers a knockout as it reveals the villain and his diabolical plan. I wasn't sure whether to applaud the audaciousness of the director or be shocked by the actual proceedings. Rarely have I felt so bad about the plight of a film's protagonist. And the movie continues to surprise as it doesn't follow even the usual resolution of the battle between good and evil. But then it doesn't know when to stop and goes in for a convoluted, weird close.

But a word of caution. This movie is certainly not for everyone. There are a couple of scenes of brutal, sadistic violence that made me avert my eyes. A particular dinner scene is sure to make you gag. One scene skirts close to soft-porn. And even the ending, while surprising, will definitely offend those with certain sensibilities.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Netru Indru Naalai

[Pic Courtesy Rediff]

That's Simbhu and Simran dancing to the classic Raakkammaa Kaiya Thattu... at Netru Indru Naalai, a show organized yesterday in aid of The Banyan, a home for the mentally challenged (more pics here and here). Created by Manirathnam, Vasanth, Rajeev Menon and Sabu Cyril, the program featured today's stars dancing to the tunes of yesterday(and the day before!).

Would surely have been interesting to see Simbhu dance to Raakkammaa... and Thillaana Thillaana..., Shaam shake his legs to Ilamai Idho Idho..., Ramesh Arvind snap his whip for Naan Aanaiyittaal..., Vineeth and Shreya twist to Cha Cha Cha..., Shilpa Shetty dance to Chaiya Chaiya... and ofcourse Kamal sing Thenpaandi Cheemaiyile.... Set designer Sabu Cyril gets high praise and from the sets in the photos, it looks like he sure deserves it.

Wonder if they'll show this on Sun TV any time soon...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Image Trap

Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire) – A fun-loving, affectionate father who, when denied the chance to be with his children everyday, shows up in drag and becomes their housekeeper.

Sy Parrish (One Hour Photo) – A lonely, disturbed man who is psychotically obsessed with a family whose photos he develops and stalks them

Two characters that couldn’t be further apart. But played by the same actor.

I watched One Hour Photo recently and it once again highlighted the complete lack of image for actors in Hollywood. And even if they do develop an image, they consciously take on roles that go against their image in the interest of expanding their range and versatility. So you have an action hero playing the villain (Batman and Robin). You have a romantic lead playing a cold-blooded assassin (Collateral). You have a comedian playing a psycho (1-Hour Photo). And you have an actor playing a President in one movie (Air Force One) and a killer in another (What Lies Beneath). Amazing!

MGR carefully cultivated a do-gooder image in cinema before using it to propel himself into politics. Is that what started the image game in Tamil cinema? Since then, most actors in each generation have pigeonholed themselves into acting within the boundaries of their image. So we get characters that are indistinguishable from one another and cookie-cutter movies molded to suit the hero’s image.

Bollywood stars slowly seem to be getting out of the image straitjacket. I’ve seen movies where Akshay Kumar and Akshaye Khanna have played bad guys. I was pleasantly surprised to read that heartthrob Hrithik Roshan will play a baddie in Dhoom 2 and even Aamir Khan is slated to play a negative character soon.

But Tamil cinema seems to be going the other way! Actors in each new generation seem to be trying to cultivate an image even earlier in their careers. And the producers and directors are only too happy to help them in this. Credit is definitely due to actors like Kamal, Vikram and Surya for not falling into the image trap. But even they have boundaries as to how far they will go. Would Kamal have done the Nandakumar role in Aalavandhaan with another famous actor playing the hero? I don’t think so. And there was news that Vikram recently postponed the planned Malayalam remake(where he would have to act like a woman for half the film) since the producers thought it would affect his macho image.

The actors conveniently place the blame on the fans saying that the fans will not accept them as bad guys. Is this really true? I personally feel the reason is fear. The actors fear that if they act as a villain and are accepted (i.e. the movie becomes a hit) and praised, they would continue getting similar offers, be typecast as a villain and not be accepted as a hero again. I can’t think of any other reason for even second (or lower) rung actors like Satyaraj and Murali not attempting to play bad guys.

Karthik is now playing the bad guy in a Satyaraj-starrer. And Sarathkumar, in an interview in Kungumam a few months ago, wondered how exciting it would be if a movie had Rajni as the hero and Sarath as the villain or Kamal as the hero and Vikram as the villain. He also tantalizingly said that he might kick things off himself. Oh if only that were to really happen! Maybe actors shrugging off their image cloaks and taking risks will kick Tamil cinema out of its current low.

Friday, February 03, 2006

4 New Reviews

Reviews for Paasakkiligal, Paramasivan, Aadhi and Saravanaa are online at bbreviews.

Friday Jumble - 13

Unscramble the 4 words to fill in the boxes. Then unscramble the circled letters only to answer the riddle at the bottom.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Chills & Thrills - Part II

Has way less action than you look forward to in a Jet Li-flick. Li plays a slave who has been brought up as a fighting machine. When he gets away from his master, he is taken in by a blind piano player (Morgan Freeman) and his niece. The long second act is devoid of action and makes us restless. The fights themselves are energetic but because of Li’s character, turn out to free-for-all affairs rather than the graceful martial arts fights Li is known for.

Red Eye
Loopholes in an implausible plot are somewhat hidden by the non-stop but routine action here. Cilian Murphy befriends Rachel McAdams at the airport and ends up sitting next to her on the plane but she soon finds out he has more on his mind than romance. There is very little setup and once the action starts, it almost never stops. That is a good thing since if it does, we will realize how silly the plot and Rachel’s actions are.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Bad marketing led to this being seen as a horror movie rather than the courtroom drama it actually is. Tom Wilkinson, a priest, is on trial for causing the death of Emily Rose and Laura Linney is defending him. He says she was possessed but the prosecution blames her death on lack of proper medical attention. Few scares(and almost all of them are shown in the previews) but the proceedings in the court are interesting.

Cry Wolf
A typical teen slasher flick but without much sex or gore. A bunch of school kids invent a serial killer when a woman is killed on-campus but it looks like their fictional creation might have spawned a real killer. The movie never really gets going till near the end. But at the end it throws in a couple of twists that manage to be surprising but only because they are so complicated and implausible.

Takes off as a gripping psychological thriller but crash-lands after turning into a routine action thriller. Jodie Foster plays a recently widowed single mom whose daughter goes missing on a plane she helped design but as she looks for her, it begins to look like the daughter might be a figment of her imagination. Some good tension as an increasingly worried Foster looks for her daughter. But we eventually get a ridiculous plot and loopholes large enough to fly the same plane through.

The Transporter 2
Has even more unbelievable action than the first one but is enjoyable in a cartoonish way. Jason Statham is now a chauffeur to a young boy and so jumps into action when the boy is kidnapped. Most set pieces are over-the-top and defy all known laws of physics. But the hand-to-hand fights have a lot of energy and a fight involving a hose had some truly amazing choreography.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Chills & Thrills - Part I

Too many movies and too little time. To review them. So here are capsule reviews of a few Hollywood chillers and thrillers I've seen in the last couple of months...

The Fantastic Four
A very lame superhero(es) story that almost seems like a children's movie considering the straightforward story, lacklustre special effects, tepid romance and amateurish jokes. Four persons, exposed to some kind of cosmic rays, turn into the Fab 4 while a millionaire, exposed to the same rays, has more diabolical ideas. The lameness of the film is a surprise considering the success of recent superhero movies like Spiderman and X-Men. Eventually, its the personal interactions - romance, competition and camaraderie - between the four that lead to atleast some interesting moments.

The Island
A great concept brimming with possibilities is turned into a routine, big-budget action thriller. It’s the future and Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johanssen live in a pristine, controlled environment since the air outside is dangerous to human life. But when they break free, they realize that it’s all a great, big lie. The movie had an interesting and surprising twist that opened up a lot of avenues. But it chose to turn go the action flick route with routine chases and fiery blasts. A few clever scenes do give a hint of where the movie could’ve gone.

Skeleton Key
A creepy thriller with a surprising, unexpected ending. Cute Kate Hudson plays a caregiver to an old man but realizes his life may be in danger from his own wife. Proceeds along expected lines for the most part with ‘Boo!’ moments, weird characters, a creepy flashback and light scares. But throws in a few good surprises towards the end and doesn’t cheat us.

The Cave
The dullest, most boring thriller I’ve seen in a while. I could call this “Aliens in an underground cave” but that would be a huge insult to the James Cameron classic. The movie is about a bunch of cave divers getting caught in an underground cave and being chased by some creatures. Its amazing that the director couldn’t deliver a single exciting moment with this setup. Fast cuts barely let us see the creatures and when we do, they turn out to be poor Alien clones. Zero thrills and zero chills.

Dark Water
A little too atmospheric and slow, this one ends unexpectedly but not very satisfyingly. Jennifer Connelly, a single mom, moves into a New York apartment with her daughter but the plumbing in the complex doesn’t let her live in peace. Jennifer does the usual stupid things that characters in horror movies, especially moms, usually do but her performance makes us sympathize with her anyway. The supporting actors make up a suitably creepy bunch. Good suspense but resolved in a cliched manner but the movie does end on an expected note.

Part II coming tomorrow...