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!


At 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

bb, as i wrote in my mail, i felt the same way abt the movie as u did...I think the movie deserved a decent, if not spectacular run at the b-o...I cherished the small moments and telling observations like nanda apologizing to an elderly person who's just a part of the crew and so, has to put up with his tantrums...nanda was brilliant in that scene where he apologizes to the crew for his temper which is just another side of his extreme passion for filmmaking...the other similarity with mugavari is the fact that nanda realizes that success in one's career is undeniably pyrrhic if it comes at the cost of one's loved ones, in this case his mother...
has its flaws but is a very sincere effort... 2.5/4 for kodambakkam and 3.5/4 for nanda, mani annan and ramesh kanna!

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Rajesh Thiagarajan said...

I have not watched this movie yet but after going through Balaji's review I have decided to watch it.

"Oru Veedu Iru Vaassal"(2nd half) by KB was also a very realistic(that was the first time I realised how difficult the lives people, who play dupes and extras would be). The main story(an extra's family life) was exaggerated which IMO helped the realism of the other features of the part.

At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, i'd watched this one too & had similar observations as u. was surprised that this Nandha was the same person who acted in Mounam Pesiyadhe... i thought he looked very different in that movie.

i hope this is no major spoiler - for once it'd have been nice to see a happy ending in terms of family. always find it strange that in movies ppl seem to die just cuz things dont happen as they'd like them to. imo, it'd be much more fulfiling & positive to show them hang on a little longer inspite of adversities & relish that final triumph! this is a minor quibble in context of the big picture but wud be nice to steer clear of the cliche...

At 12:16 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

ram, yep that was a standout scene. initially i thot that no director would shout at his producer like that. but nandha's apology then made so much sense. those 2 scenes helped define his character so much. and he was very natural...

rajesh, not sure if i've seen OVIV. wasnt that the 1 with 2 different stories in the same film?

'kodambakkam' is not too realistic but isn't overly cinematic either.

deepa, he was all modern in that film since he played a college guy with a roving eye.

i think directors feel that losing a loved one adds that extra bit of sentiment. but u're right... its definitely become a cliche.

1 of the movies where they do relish the final triumph is 'thavamaai thavamirundhu' and thats a big reason why i loved that film that much :)

At 2:00 AM, Blogger Kaps said...

the movie is just OK....some commercial elements could have been avoided.
BTW, it got some good reviews in the media...but didn't do too well in the B.O

At 2:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rajesh, the 2nd half of OVIV is a great piece of cinema...i had met KB last year (thro' Director Vasanth who's a close friend of mine) and b4 going to the Kavithalaya office, I prepared a doc which had my fav KB's what i wrote abt OVIV:

“Oru Veedu Iru Vaasal”—I liked the second episode (involving junior artistes) more than the first one which was reminiscent of Saratbabu’s acts in “Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu.” Though “Moondru Mudichu” briefly touched on the plight of junior artistes, this is the movie that plumbs the emotional depths of those behind-the-scenes artistes, uncharitably referred as “Kodambakkam extras.” Livingston turns in a great performance as the agent who holds a torch for one of them. The final image of the movie (the lady turning back to chase the dog) is as inspirational as it is innovative.


At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes Balaji, TT is a good example of the opposite - but then it was a crucial part of that story.

parents sitting back & enjoying after their kids being well settled was picturized beautifully & was sentimental in a different way :)

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

Take away these and Jagganji would have had a truly different film on his hands.

Very true Balaji, particularly the comedy which got on my nerves. Everytime the movie cried itself to be taken more seriosuly, the unneccessary comedy would take the feel away. Curious to see how many stars you assign for the movie.

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

kaps, actually a lot of commercial elements could've been avoided. but deserved a better fate at the BO.

deepa, yep and thats why i loved it :)

filbert, yes and it wasnt good comedy either. the director must've felt he was lightening the mood since the main story was kinda downbeat but it didn't work that way...

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