Friday, March 31, 2006

6 New Reviews

Reviews for Pattiyal, Mercury Pookkal, Kovai Brothers, Sudhesi, Kodambakkam and Amirtham are online @ bbreviews.

PS: Was without a laptop the last couple of weeks and ended up having my reviews and other files scattered around on 3 different computers. Got a new laptop this week and finally managed to consolidate all the bbreviews-related files on it. Hence the delay in posting these reviews.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Emtan Magan

[Pic Courtesy Karthik]

We've had directors like KB and Sundar. K. Vijayan move from the big screen to television so far. Now here's a director going the other way. The movie Emtan Magan, which was launched [link courtesy Sandya] today, is being directed by Thirumurugan, the director of the hit megaserial Metti Oli. Lets wait and see if he makes the transition as successfully as the film directors did going the opposite way (nice to see that none of the characters in the film's poster are crying!).

By the way, who or what is Emtan?

4 Quick Reviews

The Constant Gardener
Part love story and part thriller, the film is consistently involving. For a change, the romance actually aids rather than impedes the thrills. Ralph Fiennes' internal struggle about his faithful his wife was adds an intriguing dimension to his chase. The actual conspiracy at the heart of the film is depressing. After Hotel Rwanda, this is one more movie that showcases the utter disregard that the rest of the world has for Africa.

A History of Violence
A multi-layered film that looks at the part violence plays in a man's life. It is intriguing as long as it keeps us in suspense about the protagonist's real past and doesn't proceed in a predictable manner. Raises many questions about how evil(or good) violence really is but doesn't necessarily answer all of them.

A well-known cast(Clive Owens and Jennifer Aniston) in a really bad movie. It aims to be a thriller but fails miserably as the twists can be seen a mile away. The worst part is that the hero is as dislikeable as the villain since he comes off as stupid and heartless and is a liar and a cheat to boot. Aniston is miscast and should stick with light, fluffy roles in chick-flicks.

The 40-Year Old Virgin
A vulgar, expletive-filled sex comedy that still manages to be sweet and hilarious in equal parts. Big reason for this is the characterization(and performance) of its lead. It is long and definitely drags towards the end. But is filled with great lines and offers many laugh-out-loud sequences.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


'Tamil cinema' is one of the topics that has been least tackled in Tamil cinema. In the recent past, the few films that were set in the filmworld were either fantasies(like Mahaanadigan) or disasters(like Kaatrullavarai). In other words, we've rarely had films that portrayed the cine-field realistically. So Kodambakkam is a rarity - a film that portrays Tamil cinema as it is. By portraying a director's struggle to make his first film, it offers an interesting behind-the-scenes(or is it behind-the-screens?!) look at the tough world of cinema.

Sugavanan(Nandha) arrived in Chennai with hopes of becoming a film director. Praying for his success back in his village are his mother(Kalairani) and his lover Dhanam(Diya), the daughter of a money-lender. After working as an assistant director to other popular directors, Suga is now ready to direct his own film. Titled Neyar Viruppam, it is a different, woman-centric film without the usual glamour and stunts. With help from a production manager Kumar(Ramesh Khanna) and financing from Ramasamy Goundar(Manivannan), a villager, he finally begins the film but soon learns that completing it and getting it to the screens is not going to be an easy job.

Like Mugavari, Kodambakkam's chief attraction is that doesn't sugarcoat the travails of its hero (atleast for the most part). We are with Nandha every step of the way and we get to see exactly how difficult it is for a new director to get his foot in the door. From getting the initial financing to dealing with eccentric stars to waiting for the decision of the censor board officials to getting the prints out the door, the film charts in pretty good detail, the tedious journey of a film director.

At the same time, the director avoids making the movie a sob story where the too-good-to-be-true hero is constantly crapped on by the rest of the world. He makes Nandha a three-dimensional character whose passion for his work is matched by his short temper. Some of the troubles he faces are brought on by himself and he has no one else to blame. He is also surrounded by interesting people like the good-hearted production manager and the producer who is new to cinema. Such characters make his journey interesting.

The director's intention is to make a realistic film portraying the travails of a new film director in Tamil cinema. But he seems to have had doubts about how realistic the film should be (this could have been due to worries about both making the film entertaining and surviving in an industry which he criticizes!). So he resorts to exaggerations at many points and these affect the realism of the otherwise realistic movie. Key among these is the character of the heroine. She doesn't look like she would fit the role Nandha talks so passionately about. And her behavior, which was probably intended to be a take-off on all those Mumbai actresses we've seen lately, ends up making her a caricature.

When Nandha is talking to the censor officials late in the movie, he mentions that he had to add some glamor since it was a small movie and he had to attract the youth who make up the bulk of the movie-goers today. That seems like a confession by the director of Kodambakkam himself. So we get a glamorous song-and-dance clip by Tejasri, crude comedy by Muthukalai and kuthu duets that don't fit the mood of the movie. Take away these and Jagganji would have had a truly different film on his hands.

Nandha seems to be one of those actors waiting for the right break. He looks smart and acts well too. Diya plays the independent village belle well. Manivannan and Ramesh Khanna have important roles and deliver. They also get the best lines taking shots at the film industry. Kailairani overacts as usual and her makeup seems unnecessarily overdone. Sirpi comes up with a very melodious Rahasiyamaanadhu Kaadhal.... But he also makes up for it with a song that rhymes Figure and Mother!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

V(ery) V(ery) (Disappointing) Website

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu now has its official website [link inadvertently provided by Karthik :-].

Official websites for Tamil movies so far have been depressingly unexciting. Maybe because they were all usually created by 1 of 2 companies (Indiaglitz and Galatta), they tended to be similar in concept and were differentiated only in packaging. They all had the same categories like Story, Gallery, Wallpapers, etc., with the only difference being in where the links were placed and what colors they were in. But even by those low standards, VV's website sucks. Considering the innovative puzzle-type invitation for the audio release and the slick trailer, I was expecting a cool website but was disappointed.

First of all, the website seems to have been put together by someone who was overexcited by the concept of Flash. This was probably a guy who had been writing plain ol' HTML for a really long time and just realized how much more he could do with Flash. Every inch of the site seems to have been created using Flash. Result - it takes an extremely long time to load anything, even a simple photo. By the time I tried to see the trailers, I was fed up of the 'Loading...' messages and simply gave up. There's not much variety in the audio or video parts either and the loud clangs and bullet noises got on my nerves pretty fast.

And then there's the English! Isn't there a single person, on Galatta's website design team, who can come up with a proper sentence in English? I knew I was in for some bad English when the initial credits said "from the direction of Goutham Menon's". But the synopsis section really had me ROTFL. These are actual lines from the synopsis...

"Its Kamal Haasan and director Gautham Menon blend in the film Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu."

"He has strived to put in his best efforts to be put into the film..."

"But the producer Manickam Narayanan smoothly sailed the ship in a perfect harmony."

The site starts off well with the whole key trick and Kamal looks cool in the gallery (but why no pictures of Jo or Kamalini Mukherjee?). But beyond that the website offers little and is all style(not very good style either) and no substance. Lets hope the movie doesn't end up being the same...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Star Movies

Last week, Rediff had a nice article on movies that made stars out some Hindi actors. I was nodding in agreement as I read about the movies since they were exactly the ones that introduced me to the actors or made me like them. Along the same lines, here are 5 Tamil actors and the movies that proved to be watersheds in their careers.

Rajnikanth – Thambikku Endha Ooru
In the early part of his career, Rajnikanth was predominantly an action star. Sure he had comedies like Thillu Mullu and dramas like Aarulirundhu Arubathu Varai on his resume, but action films like Billa and Murattu Kaalai were what he was known for. But Thambikku Endha Ooru threw comedy into the mix and showcased him as an action-comedy star – a role that attracted all sections of the audience. With movie’s big success, he knew had hit upon the right formula and he stuck to it after that.

Vijay – Poove Unakkaaga
Vijay started off his career in low-budget, vulgar movies like Rasigan that targeted the front-benchers almost exclusively. While the steady stream of such movies kept him in the public eye, they did not earn him respectability and the A-center and family audiences gave his movies a wide berth. All that changed with Vikraman’s Poove Unakkaaga. It made him a loverboy and gave him respectability. He built upon the movie’s success with a string of movies where he played the loverboy.

Vikram – Sethu
This has to be the most obvious entry in this list. Vikram was languishing in obscurity until then, starring in flops and playing second-fiddle to stars like Ajith (Ullaasam). But he then came out of the dark to take Tamil cinema by storm with Sethu. From a college guy in love to a mental patient, the movie brought out the actor in him and Tamil cinema had a new macho star.

Surya – Mounam Pesiyadhe
For a long time, Surya struggled to find the right break. With a face not really cut out for action, a soft voice and awful dancing, he starred in a series of flops trying to play a regular loverboy. But director Ameer finally found the perfect role for him. He cast Surya as a man of few words in Mounam Pesiyadhe and made the moviegoers (especially the ladies) sit up and take notice of him. After that it became easy to accept him whether he played a cop, a rowdy or a man with short-term memory loss.

Simbhu - Manmadhan
Since his debut, Simbhu was probably the most disliked actor in Tamil cinema. He was seen primarily as a wannabe-Rajnikanth (his tag of 'Little Superstar' didn't help) with his punch dialogs and finger-swishing. But with Manmadhan, he proved that he wasn't all noise. He came up with a good, engrossing screenplay and topped it off with a good performance that hit all the right notes.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ready for a comeback?

Thats Simran at the audio release of Aanai Muganum Aaru Mugamum, which from the looks of the gallery [link courtesy Ram], is a devotional album being released by Vijay's mother Shoba. So is Sims angling for a role in Vijay's next? Personally, I wish she would do atleast 1 more film. As I've always maintained, a heroine with her track record deserves a much better send-off than Kicha Vayasu 16! And based on the picture above, though she probably wouldn't give Trisha or Jo a run for their money, she is still definitely heroine material.

But Tamil cinema does not have a reputation for being very kind to heroines making a comeback, especially if they are now moms. So my guess is that even if she is offered a role in Vijay's next film, it will be as Vijay's anni. Or an item number. The latter might still be OK but hope she doesn't accept the former. Maybe because of her long reign at the top and her sudden decision to wed and quit acting, she still has a certain aura. That would disappear in a flash if she dons the role of an anni to any hero today.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sivaji - New Stills

[Pics Courtesy Maverick. Click pics to enlarge]

Looks like thalaivar's got the retro hairstyle for atleast a few scenes in the film. Not too thrilled about his costume but he does look really youthful, especially in the first pic :-)

The Chennai Right to Information Initiative

"This is a citizens’ initiative whose objective is to spread awareness among fellow citizens about effecting a transparent and accountable government."

A well-intentioned initiative that seems to be along the lines of what Vijay tried to do in Thamizhan i.e. educate the people about their rights. Read more here.

A one-hour meeting has been organized at 5 PM on Sunday, March 26 at

Altius IAS Study Circle
27, Eldams Road, Alwarpet
Chennai 600018

The meeting will be to bring together people interested in this initiative. The idea outlined above will be explained and discussed. Please drop in to the meeting to know more and contribute your opinion. If you know anyone who might be interested in this initiative, please forward this email. At this early stage, we are depending on word of mouth for spreading information about this initiative. If you are interested and would like to attend the meeting, send in an email to chennairti [at] gmail [dot] com (or) guru [dot] subbaraman [at] gmail [dot] com before Sunday so that we can be prepared for your participation.

For more information, contact

Email: chennairti [at] gmail [dot] com


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Reading - The Next Level

As expected, my fears about how Kavya was going to pick up the intricacies in the wildly inconsistent English language are proving to be quite unfounded. The last few weeks have been an eye-opener with respect to how kids improve their reading when they are first starting out. I know learning to read is a gradual process but I think Kavya has reached what could legitimately be called the next level in her reading.

So far for Kavya, reading just meant combining the sounds of all the letters in the word she was trying to read(in other words, ezhuthu kootti padippaa). Whether the final word was a valid word or not was never her concern. Considering the number of variances in the pronunciation of words, especially as words get longer, she didn't get all the words right and ended up with some rather funny pronunciations (she recently gave me a fright when I thought she was swearing with the dreaded four-letter word before I realized that she was just trying to read 'face'!)

But now she has started applying what she hears in the real world to her reading and that has made a world of difference. In the first pass, she still strings together the letter sounds to come up with a word. But now, it doesn't stop there. When it is a word she doesn't recognize, it is fascinating to watch as she thinks hard about what the word could be. And the wide smile of success when she makes the connection and hits upon the right word is truly priceless.

This step seems to have given her that all-important confidence in reading. Words with 5 or more letters were 'long' words before and hesitated to read them. But now the length of the word doesn't seem to stop her and she keeps on reading bravely. And she gets quite a few of them right (I was really surprised, pleasantly ofcourse, when she successfully read the word 'adventure' on an invitation). From school, she has now learned the concept of letters being silent in a word(the letter is supposed to be 'sleeping'). With these two things, her reading ability has had a big jump. She is now able to read complete books on her own and more importantly, understand what goes on in them.

Kavya tries to read everything she lays eyes on right now and I know that's because of the thrill of discovering reading. I'm just hoping that this fascination develops into a full-blown love of books and she gets to experience the wonderful worlds they are capable of opening up...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Best Performances in Tamil Cinema

Rediff has listed the 10 best performances in Hollywood films, as picked by Premiere magazine. Naturally, it got me thinking about the best performances in Tamil films over the years. Picking performances off the top of my head, this is the first list I came up with.

10. Karthik in Mouna Raagam
9. Baby Shwetha in Kutti
8. Revathi in Mouna Raagam
7. Rajnikanth in Mullum Malarum
6. Nagesh in Neerkkumizhi
5. Vikram in Sethu
4. Mohanlal in Iruvar
3. Sivaji in Thiruvilaiyaadal
2. Sridevi in Moondraam Pirai
1. Kamalhassan in Naayagan

Monday, March 20, 2006

Sudhesi - Top 10 Questions

Tonight's Top 10 list! The top 10 questions I had after watching Captain's Sudhesi...

10. How can someone who looks like Vijayakanth make disparaging comments about the appearance of someone who looks like Karunas?

9. Is there really a school where the teacher sends students off to his own house to do the household chores? And then stuffs the boy's body in a bag and throws it in a sewer when he dies accidentally?

8. Does any Chief Minister walk around with a detonator stuffed in the waistband of his veshti?

7. Can anyone simply claim to be a CBI officer and meet the CM with apparently no security checks?

6. Is it really that easy to get the cell phone number of the CM and reach him at any time of the day or night?

5. Why does a bomb detonator have as many buttons(in as many colors) as a TV remote?

4. Is it possible, in the few minutes one gets when someone is getting a box from another room in the house, to install a complicated bomb inside a watch?

3. If a bomb explodes in a house with 2 people inside, is it possible for 1 person to die and another to escape, by being flung out of the house, with just a single injury?

2. After Vijayakanth loses his file with all his certificates, how exactly can he get "another one ready" by working on his computer?

And the number 1 question I had after watching Sudhesi...

1. Who in their right mind would ever name their son Sudhesi?

If Vijayakanth promises that if he came to power, he would never make another movie like Sudhesi, he'd probably get a lot more votes :-)

Saturday, March 18, 2006


[ Pic Courtesy Sify]

In my review of Arindhum Ariyaamalum, director Vishnuvardhan's much-better follow-up to Kurumbu, I said "If he follows this trajectory, his next film will be something to look forward to". Fortunately, he has followed the trajectory in Pattiyal, his third film. Shifting gears from the light, commercial setting he seemed comfortable in, he gives us in this film a realistic, uncompromising look at Chennai underworld.

Pattiyal presents a side of Chennai that is rarely seen or even heard about. This is not a world where the employers are addressed as 'boss', the rowdies roam around in Tata Sumos and the biggest rowdy walks around in slo-mo with lesser rowdies behind him. The film presents an underworld that is more a loose network rather than an organized group. There are no permanent masters or servants. Loyalties are ever-shifting and its just money that decides those loyalties. In this fascinating environment, the director focuses on two people who are at the bottom of the food chain.

Kosi(Arya) and Selvam(Bharath) are orphans who have been the best of friends since childhood. They are contract killers for whom the targets are provided by Sami(Cochin Hanifa). Beyond Sami, they know nothing about who ordered those killings. Saroja(Padmapriya), who lives in the same area, pursues Kosi inspite of his complete lack of interest in her. Meanwhile Selvam develops a liking for Sandhya(Pooja), who works at a pharmacy. But their professions ensure that the two of them cannot lead normal lives.

The setting of Pattiyal is bleak - as would be expected of a film whose leads eke out their living by being contract killers. But Vishnuvardhan makes it entertaining too without much damaging the underlying realism. A big reason for this is the way he handles the romances. Arya's curt comebacks to Padmapriya's advances are very funny and make most of their scenes together entertaining. The romance between Bharath and Pooja is abrupt and too quick but makes up for it with its sweetness with Pooja's friend contributing to the laughs.

But its not just the romances that make us smile. The script throughout the film sparkles with several witty one-liners, observations, comments and retorts that find their mark because they are delivered in a very matter-of-fact manner. Many of the dialogs, like the comparison between a refrigerator and a gun and the confusion generated by Hanifa's name, would make even 'Crazy' Mohan proud.

The film lags just a little bit in the second half. Though things keep moving, some of the plot developments, especially on Arya's side, get a little clichéd. But luckily it picks up once again, aided by the unpredictability in the plot and suspense about how things are going to turn out. And the movie closes on a wonderful scene that illustrates the vicious circle of life.

Vishnuvardhan has a strong sense of style. His way of picturization and choice of locations, combined with Yuvan Shankar Raja's high-energy background score, lend a certain gloss to the film. The film's characters might be people from a lower class but the film itself is high-class. Some segments in particular, like the sequence where Arya and Bharath acquaint themselves with a newly-acquired handgun and a subsequent chase sequence, are exhilaratingly picturized.

Bharath scoops up the acting honors with a finely-tuned performance. He has a very expressive face and it comes in handy since his role demands that he speak a lot with his eyes and body language. Arya deserves courage for accepting this role at a time when he is talked about as the next pin-up boy in Tamil cinema. He looks unkempt, is perennially drunk and keeps Padmapriya at arm's length. He is good in the role but looks a little rough around the edges sometimes. Padmapriya's character is the opposite of her quiet, homely role in Thavamaai Thavamirundhu but she carries it off very well. Her dress for Namma Kaattula... isn't very complimentary to her figure though. Pooja looks cute as always and impresses when she is required to emote too.

Yuvan delivers a blockbuster soundtrack that, more importantly, gets the respect it deserves. Poga Poga... is the pick of the lot with the casual way it is picturized. Dei Namma... begs us to stand up and join Bharath and Arya as they shake their legs enthusiastically. Kannai Vittu... and Edhedho... are both catchy melodies though the circumstances are different. Stunt sequences match the realism of the rest of the movie and rarely feel like they are choreographed.

James Patterson in Time

Regular bbthots readers know that James Patterson figures among my favorite authors. The latest Time has an article on Patterson, who they call 'The Man Who Can't Miss' and 'world's greatest best-seller factory'. According to the article, his last 18 books have hit No. 1 on the NY Times best-seller list, he has sold about 100 million copies and he earned about $40 million last year.

The article has a few interesting facts I didn't know about him. Before turning writer, he had a successful career in advertising and was even chairman of J. Walter Thompson in North America. He personally shot the TV ad for Along Came a Spider, the first book in the Alex Cross series. He redesigned the book's cover by having the title blown up in huge letters to announce that it was a thriller (it worked for me since thats exactly what made me pick up Kiss the Girls the first time) and since then, has designed all his covers. Harvard Business school even has a case study on his marketing techniques.

His personal favorites among his books are Along Came a Spider, The Honeymoon, the upcoming Beach Road, Suzanne's Diary for Nicolas and Maximum Ride.

They have captured his writing style perfectly when they say he "dispenses with any flowery bits or extraneous details" in an approach that "emphasizes action over style and pace over everything". Thats exactly what I'm looking forward when I lay my hands on The 5th Horseman in a couple of weeks time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Coming Soon - Pattiyal

[ Pic Courtesy Sify]

For any director who makes a successful debut, the second film is considered the acid test. It is the film where he has to prove that the first film was no flash in the pan and that he can consistently deliver on his promise. Tamil cinema has seen both cases - directors who slipped up in their subsequent movies after an initial hit and slowly slipped into oblivion; and directors who went on to follow up their first hit with more successes and cemented their position as good directors.

Pattiyal director Vishnuvardhan has had a slightly different track record than either of these. His first film Kurumbu was a disaster. A remake of a Telugu hit, it was cheap, vulgar and had an overactive hero who got on our nerves. But he recovered nicely to deliver a big hit with his second film Arindhum Ariyaamalum. The film was completely different in theme, tone and handling when compared to his first film. It mixed romance, sentiments and action cleverly and smoothly handled a complete shift in tone between the first and second halves. A few other things clicked too, with Arya becoming a sensation(and the latest pin-up boy) and Yuvan Shankar Raja delivering a hit soundtrack, and the film hit the bull’s eye at the box-office.

He is again attempting a completely different genre for his third venture Pattiyal. This time around, he is tackling the Chennai underworld and the publicity stills and pre-release word of mouth point to a raw and gritty take on it. The fact the film has gotten an ‘A’ certificate is further proof of the violent nature of the film.

In the lead are two heroes who could really use a hit. Arya, after a dream start with both Arindhum Ariyaamalum and Ullam Ketkume becoming hits, faced big flops in both Oru Kallooriyin Kadhai and Kalaaba Kaadhalan. With unkempt hair and a beard, he definitely doesn't look like pin-up material here. Bharath too, after being launched by Shankar in Boys, had a string of hits like Chellame, 4 Students and Kaadhal before February 14 put the brakes on his run. Paired with them are Pooja, the really pretty girl who is yet to find the right kind of break, and Padmapriya, the homely heroine of Thavamaai Thavamirundhu, who, based on the publicity stills, seems to be going in for a change of image. Yuvan has helped out Vishuvardhan even more this time around. The soundtrack is youthful and lively and has both great fast numbers(Dei Namma... and Namma Kaattula...) and catchy melodies (Edho Edho..., Kannai Vittu... and Poga Poga...).

The film is being released this Friday at IMC6 and I am definitely looking forward to catching it on the big screen. It’s been a while since a movie that was eagerly awaited lived up to its expectations and went on to be a big hit. Lets hope Pattiyal breaks that trend. In other words, Pattiyal pattaiyai kelappumnu edhirppaarpom :-)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thee by Encore

I got an email from a Tamil pop band Encore last week. They introduced themselves in the email as "... a group of five engineering students who wanted to make a difference in the non-existent Tamil pop scene. The result- Thee, an album with technicians like Sivamani, Keith Peters etc... among the credits."

They have a website with teasers from a few songs on the album. I've never listened to any non-film Tamil album so far but gave this a shot and was pretty impressed. There is good variety in the songs and some great orchestration. Like YSR, they manage to slip in some unexpected familiar tunes in the middle of the songs. I really liked the title number, which has great beats, nice lyrics and plays like one of those inspirational numbers. Any of our heroes could sing it while facing the camera :-)

Suresh, who has listened to the full album, has a more detailed review here. Looks like he's giving it a big thumbs up.

Who's the Boss?

Got this as a forward from my uncle...

My guess as to what the lion is thinking - "I may be the king of the jungle but in here, she's still the boss!"

Singamondru Bayappattadhe... :-)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Chithiram Pesudhadi

Sometimes, a small movie comes out of nowhere to take us by surprise. Movies like Kaalaatpadai and Amudhe would belong to this list and Chithiram Pesudhadi is the latest addition. It is helmed by a new director and a mostly fresh set of technicians, it has a couple of unfamiliar faces as its leads and it arrived completely unheralded into theaters. But while movies with big stars and famous directors have, for the most part, fallen by the wayside so far this year, this movie turns out to be a nice little gem.

On paper, every aspect of the film’s story is clichéd. Its hero is a rowdy who works for a dada (who everyone ofcourse calls Annaachi!). Its heroine is a richer girl with a loving family. The two of them clash with each other whenever they meet. And so on… But the screenplay helps the movie rise above these clichés. It makes the hero and the heroine interesting characters and develops their romance in a sweet and engaging fashion.

But it is in the second half that the movie really scores. There are three aspects that make me rate a movie highly – unexpected plot developments, good suspense and a strong climax. Chithiram Pesudhadi scores on all these three aspects in the second half.

The film announces the intermission on a key scene that makes us eager to know what led upto it. But it makes us wait and keeps us in suspense about the happenings. In fact, the acts of some of the characters don’t make much sense as the story keeps moving. But when the suspense is finally broken, it doesn't disappoint. There have been a number of movies where the flashback doesn’t do justice to the build-up. The grand revelation turns out to be some silly and contrived misunderstanding that could have been cleared up easily. But not here. The reason behind the turn of events not only surprises us but justifies everything that went on before it. It answers all our questions. It is the best kind of revelation – one that surprises but also makes us wonder why we didn't think of it before.

Chithiram Pesudhadi is definitely the best film of the year so far and makes its director Mysskin, one more new director to keep an eye out for.

Anti-Vaiko Poster

Poster in Nellai on Vaiko's volte-face :-)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sivaji's Bad Guy

Actor Suman has been chosen to play the villain in Sivaji. Considering that actors like Mohanlal were talked about as candidates for the role, this comes as a bit of a disappointment.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Dollar Wise Penny Foolish

Dollar Wise Penny Foolish would make a nice textbook for an MBA Finance class. The book, written by Siva Nara and Priya Raghavan, presents financial concepts in an easy-to-understand fashion through fiction. The fiction part of the book is understandably a little weak but the financial part of it makes it a worthy read for someone looking for an introduction to the stock market or some guidance on investing.

The book essentially provides tips to long-term investors on what to look for when picking the companies to invest in. It stresses the importance of research in investing and points us to the metrics we need to look for in each company before investing our hard-earned money. It starts off with simple terms like profit and EPS before moving onto margins, yields, etc. Interspersed with this are some interesting facts, nice trivia, historical details and famous quotes that provide some extra knowledge too. For instance, inspite of looking at the index everyday, I didn't know what the acronym NASDAQ stood for until I read this book (it stands for National Association of Securities Dealers and Automated Quotations).

The book follows a nice template for explaining each of the things we should look at before investing. It first provides a simple example with smaller numbers to show us exactly what the term means. It then provides numbers for real companies in the real world to back up its claims of how that particular term determines the suitability of the company for investing. In this way, it comes up with a set of conditions a good company has to meet to be a good target for investing. Ofcourse hindsight is always 20/20 but its still interesting how troubled companies that we're familiar with(Enron, for instance) were actually unsuitable investment targets when one really digs into their past numbers.

The 'fiction' part of the book comes from the way these financial concepts are presented. We get a finance whiz Sam, who explains the concepts to his friends(and eventually, a lot more people). and we follow Sam as he woos Jessica, gets into an accident, attends a job interview, etc. He delivers his talks in a variety of situations like casual conversations, seminars, job interviews, etc. and throws in some quizzes too. The authors add something nice at the end by providing three different scenarios for how the romance between Sam and Jessica ends. One of the scenarios has a really neat marriage proposal that fits the book's subject too.

I just wish I'd read this book before I made all those investments during the stock market boom 7 years ago :-)

Friday, March 10, 2006

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Kalvanin Kaadhali, Chithiram Pesudhadi and Madrasi are online at bbreviews.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Pudhuppettai Audio

The Selvaraghavan-Yuvan Shankar Raja combination epitomises the next generation of Tamil cinema. While the former has blazed a new track with his raw and earthy filmmaking style, the latter, after experimenting with a number of styles, finally seems to have found his groove and his own style. With two blockbuster soundtracks behind them, the duo's next collaboration, Pudhuppettai, was eagerly awaited and is definitely worth the wait. It is an album that cannot be slotted into any genre and is unique in many respects.

1. Survival of the Fittest... (Instrumental)
A leisurely, slow piece which doesn't have any beats. Not particularly catchy but quite haunting when you listen to it.

2. Neruppu Vaayinil…
Having Kamal sing this song is a stroke of pure genius. His slightly raspy voice and vocal gymnastics (familiar in numbers like Kadavul Paadhi…) suit the song very well and add a nice edge to many of the lines. The interludes at different places are paced very different and rarely end up being the way we expect them to. A number of styles are evident too, like the humming in the middle, which wouldn’t be out of place even in an 80’s duet.

3. Enga Area…
This is a rousing, high-energy number that is a rather unique but exhilarating combination of duppanguthu lyrics and western beats. The tune of the 2 stanzas remind me of Macarena (the original Spanish number and not the Kushi song!) just a little bit. And an already great number is made greater by the sudden and unexpected merging of a line from an old MGR song(from Padakotti?) in the middle. The way it is brought in as part of the song before playing the original line itself and then continuing with the song is just brilliant. Kudos YSR!

4. Selling Dope... (Instrumental)
Another slow piece without any beats. Towards the end it sounds like the background score for one of those Mickey Mouse or Tom & Jerry cartoons!

5. Oru Naalil…
YSR’s singing ruins this song for me. It has a nice tune and the places with a high pitch are definitely good. I’ve even started to like YSR’s nasal voice and unlike earlier songs he has sung, he sings the high pitches quite well here. But his bad pronunciation (especially the Tamil l and L sounds) gets on my nerves. And he lacks the voice modulation that would give the other parts of the song some energy.

6. Going thro Emotions… (Instrumental)
The catchiest of the instrumental pieces, this one blends a number of sounds in a very interesting manner. Interesting the way the music fits the prayer chants at the end perfectly.

7. Pul Pesum…
Reminds one of Theeppidikka… at the start because of the orchestration, the way the singers sing and the way the song is constructed. Its not clear from the lyrics what kind of situation this song is going to be placed in.

8. Variyaa…
Its impossible not to shake your legs to this one. Catchy beats, a steady tone and strategically inserted “Variyaa”s make this a fun number. The section sung in a high pitch near the end seems unnecessary and lowers the class of the song just a little bit.

9. Clash of the Titans… (Instrumental)
A soaring, inspiring piece that sounds more like part of the background score in a war movie.

10. Oru Naalil…
A faster remix of #5 that at many places sounds just like you played that number in x2 speed on your CD player. But the speed does hide the imperfections in YSR’s voice, which was my biggest problem with that number. The fast beats fit the high-pitch sections of the song very well. A perfect number for the workout playlist on the iPod :-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


As I mentioned in my Book Tag post, Shantaram figures among my five favorite books in recent years. It is written by Gregory David Roberts, who has led a life more interesting than that of most fictional heroes. He was a drug addict and a bank robber (from Australia) who ran away to Bombay and ended up living in the slums there and writing a book about it! And it looks like he has now set up a trust whose mission is to rid the slums of tuberculosis. Talk about a roller-coaster life! One of Rediff's staff members has met him in person yesterday and her talk with him reminded me of the book.

I usually stick to fast-paced, light crime thrillers but Shantaram, at around 950 pages, is the biggest book that I've read so far. It starts off with the protagonist's arrival in Bombay and follows him as he is pulled into a life of crime and drugs and becomes one of Bombay's sons. He has dealings with everyone from the Bombay mafia to the film industry and makes an equal number of friends and enemies. It is a fantastic read with very few slow moments. According to Roberts, Shantaram was the second book in a series of 4 planned books.

But what made the book a really great read for me was Roberts' love of Bombay and its people. His feelings about the city seem true and from the heart. Even when he writes about things that are probably strange and even disgusting to a foreigner(like spitting out paan juice), he does so with a touch of admiration that, for us, usually translates into humor. And he really admires the good-heartedness of Indians (he says that if this many Russians or French had been packed into an area the same size as India, they would have killed each other by now!)

The book is supposedly being made into a movie with Johny Depp in the lead role. But if you are a reader, don't wait for the movie and pick up the book right away. The movie, however good it may be, just can't do justice to it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Thank You

When I started blogging, I didn't think I would keep at it for more than a few months, let alone a year. I had enough things going on in my life with a full-time job, an attention-demanding 3 1/2 year-old girl, an even more attention-demanding pregnant wife, books, music, movies, and ofcourse, writing reviews for all the Tamil movies. With my wife already saying that I spent way too much time on the computer, I predicted that my blogging would die a quick death once the initial fascination wore off.

But as of today, its lasted a full year. And complete credit for that goes to you readers. Its doubtful if I would've continued blogging without all the feedback and the increasing number of hits(that's on the site and not from my wife :-) So thank you for continuing to visit inspite of my staunch, self-imposed resolution to focus on the trivial and the frivolous. And thank you for the interesting discussions, entertaining arguments and fun trivia.

For the statistically-inclined, this is my 452nd post and the maximum number of hits in a single day so far was recorded on December 12 last year (you know what that day was, don't you?). And for a little flashback, here, based purely on the number of comments received, are the 2 most popular posts so far on this blog...

Sivakasi Review
Most Memorable Lines in Tamil Cinema

On to Year 2 :-)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Last Scene Standing

Hotel Rwanda had a great last scene. It also made me remember 2 other really great closing scenes - in Say Anything and Sideways. But such scenes are difficult to come by. A good closing scene is deliciously(and not irritatingly) open-ended leaving us to ponder about what could happen after the end credits roll. But most movies typically like some kind of closure and closure usually means a regular, cliched ending.

Its even tougher to dig out a memorable closing scene in Tamil cinema. With directors striving to provide happy endings, the hero and the heroine(either alone or with their families) smiling at the cameras is the most popular closing shot. More unimaginative directors simply use a clip from one of the earlier duets, signifying a ‘happily ever-after’ life for the hero and the heroine.

But there are always exceptions. Here are three of my favorite closing scenes in Tamil movies.

3. Kannathil Muthamittaal
The only ‘happy’ ending in this short list, the final shot is a testament to the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. As Nandita Das walks away and Keerthana kisses Simran on the cheek, it signifies the end of her search and the fact that she has achieved closure. She is finally ready to let go of the past(and her ‘real’ mom) and accept Simran as her mom whole-heartedly. No amount of tears or hugs or cries of “Amma” could’ve conveyed this as effectively as that simple kiss.

2. Sethu
The final shot in Sethu caps an exquisite climax that first leads us on and then shocks us with the turn of events. As a cured Vikram turns to voluntarily step into the van, he tells us, without speaking a word, that life without Abitha is meaningless to him. The world has nothing for him now and he is ready to return to the very place he escaped from. And in an ironic twist, it is a mentally retarded girl who realizes this and runs after the van, pleading with him to return.

1. Kutti
Easily the most unforgettable closing shot ever for me(and for anyone who has seen the film, I would guess). Kutti boards the train with high hopes, thinking that she has finally escaped a difficult life and is about to go back to her village. But when we see the train’s destination, we know the fate that awaits her at the end of the journey. As her face lights up with a wide smile in the moving train, our heart goes out to her.

Rajni at Chiranjeevi's Daughter's Wedding

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda could be called an African version of Schindler's List since it is about a man who saves the lives of more than a thousand people during a civil war between two tribes in his country. It is a powerful, moving and intense film that shines light on both the merciless and the humane nature of man.

Paul(Don Cheadle) is the manager of a 5-star hotel in Kigali, Rwanda. He is someone who knows how to keep everyone happy, whether they are important guests or the local police. When the peace between the Hutus and the Tutsis breaks down, the Hutus begin exterminating all Tutsi people. Paul's hotel, which he calls "an oasis of peace", becomes home to many Tutsis running away from the carnage.

What happens in Rwanda is universal (something similar is happening in Iraq even today). As friends turn into foes, neighbors become enemies and employees become traitors, we are witnesses to people turning into animals. And the historical reason behind this division of Rwanda's people into two tribes is so trivial that if it weren't so sad, it would be funny.

The film is more a story of one man rather than the examination of a tragedy. We see the events only as they affect Cheadle and this gives the movie a personal touch. Since we come to care about Cheadle and his family, there are some heart-stopping moments as they get caught in dangerous situations. And Cheadle's transformation itself is fascinating. He is a man who initially refuses to intervene on behalf of a neighbor since he might some day need to cash in his favors to save his own family. But as the movie proceeds, he becomes ready to separate himself from the same family to be with people he barely knows. We learn that just as war brings out the animal in some people, it also brings out the human being in others.

Hotel Rwanda is non-violent inspite of its subject and a few longshots of massacres and fleeting glimpses of corpses are all we get (it is rated PG-13). But it manages to convey the horror of the happenings inspite of this. The atmosphere of hatred and fear is conveyed succintly through those who are alive rather than those who are dead. The film proves that words can be just as powerful as images. Two conversations in particular, one where an American peacekeeper describes a massacre and one which Cheadle has with his wife regarding their actions if he dies, are horrific and make us conjure up images worse than anything that could be shown onscreen. But the movie ends on a positive note and has the perfect closing shot and line.

Do not miss!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

In possibly the most sensational news so far in the run-up to the TN Assembly Elections, Vaiko has aligned himself with the AIADMK. This is just the latest example of the ever-shifting allegiances of political parties in TamilNadu.

With the AIADMK and the DMK having a stranglehold on state politics, the other parties have little choice other than to align with one of them. This way they can win atleast a few seats by holding on to Karunanidhi's or Jayalalitha's coattails while if they contest the elections on their own, they will most likely end up empty-handed. So I think all parties like the Congress(I), the BJP, etc. have had alliances with both the DMK and the AIADMK in the past. So Vaiko's move is not particularly surprising, inspite of his closeness to Karunanidhi and spats with Jayalalitha in the past.

But what surprised me was the stated reason for the move - more seats. There is no mention of "similar policies" or "shared objectives" or any of those phrases that are usually thrown out as reasons by political parties forming an alliance. It is perfectly obvious that Vaiko's alliance with AIADMK is only because Jayalalitha is promising him more seats. Shameful!

Friday, March 03, 2006

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Thambi and Kalaaba Kaadhalan are online @ bbreviews.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2 Gangsta Pics

[Pics Courtesy Rediff, Sify ]

Pudhuppettai and Pattiyal... 2 eagerly anticipated movies with a number of things in common. Both movies are based on the Chennai underworld - a setting that hasn't been portrayed realistically on screen so far. Both are helmed by directors who are coming off of big hits but have ventured into a different genre with these movies. Both feature music by Yuvan Shankar Raja. Both have heroes who could really use some help with their careers right now. And for now it looks like both would hit screens in May.

Pudhuppettai trailer is available here. Has a rocking background score. Trailer follows the usual format of a bunch of scenes thrown together giving no clue about the story. But some of the scenes are real nifty though(check out the shot where Dhanush looks through the barrel of a gun). And from the looks of it, Dhanush has given a really manic performance.

Pattiyal gallery can be seen here. Arya looks unkempt and Bharath looks the same. But the real surprise is Padmapriya who seems to be going in for an image change from her homely look in Thavamaai Thavamirundhu. But she does look much better than she did in TT though :-)

iPod HiFi

That's the iPod HiFi, a home stereo for the iPod, unveiled by Steve Jobs yesterday at Apple headquarters. The size of a long shoebox and designed to look like a speaker, it has a dock on top for all varieties of iPods and is priced at $349. Like most other iPod home stereos (including my iHome), the HiFi charges the iPod when docked and comes with a remote. But unlike my iHome, it features molded handles, a removable front grille (you can expect personalized skins real soon!), touch-sensitive volume control buttons and a built-in power supply (IMO, the best part) . According to Jobs, it delivers “breathtaking acoustic performance and room-filling sound unlike any other speaker system designed for the iPod in an innovative, all-in-one design.”

Having captured the digital music player market, Apple looks like it now wants a slice of the pie of the burgeoning iPod accessory market. The HiFi is definitely a step in that direction and the company is soon going to come out with its own leather cases for the iPods too.

Also introduced yesterday was an iMac Mini, running on Intel chips. Two models, with a single-core chip and with a dual-core chip, were introduced priced at $599 and $799 respectively. They come without a monitor, keyboard or mouse.