Sunday, April 30, 2006

False Impression

While Jeffrey Archer may not be my favorite author, he is the author of my favorite book of all time. So his books always come with big expectations attached. He's been quite versatile too, penning sprawling epics(Kane & Abel), quickfire thrillers(Shall We Tell The President), novels on con games(Not a penny more, Not a penny less) as well as political novels. False Impression is a thriller set in the art world and though far from being a classic or an epic, it is a fast read.

Behind False Impression is a painting by Van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. After it is the owner of a Finance company, Fenston, who has made a habit out of lending money to owners of great works of art and then finding a way to gain possession of the painting when the money is due. This time he wants to lay his hands on Gogh's self-portrait but one of his own employees, Anna, is determined to prevent that. And the events of 9/11 force them both to change their plans.

The events of 9/11 are closely linked to the story since one of the key characters is actually in the North Tower of the WTC when the plane crashes into it. The consequences of what happened that day make even simple things(like flying to Europe) exponentially more difficult for the people in the novel. So it is used more as a plot point but doesn't feel too exploitative.

All books and movies dealing with paintings have one key plot point and Archer too resorts to the same. So a key aspect of the book is in a way, predictable. But he manages to keep the story moving with a number of smaller twists and surprises. There are also a huge number of characters and most of them have some kind of a backstory(usually with some suspense involved). That helps move the book along too.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let The Mischief Begin!

Now that Karthik's been crawling for a while and has mastered the art of moving around on all fours, he has a newfound sense of independence that I'm sure is rather liberating to him. After all, after all these months of laying in one place and being at the mercy of those around him to get to other spots, he can now get around on his own. More importantly, he must've realized by now that he doesn't have to depend on us to bring him something he has laid eyes on. If he wants something, he can now go and get it (as long as its on the ground!). For us its a real cute sight as he crawls towards something with single-minded determination, his diapered behind sticking out and wiggling in the air.

But this is also the time we've realized how messy our house actually is! Karthik is drawn to anything on the floor like a moth to a light. Pieces of paper, broken potato chips, bread crumbs, broken crayons - his sharp eyes miss nothing. He is pretty much a human vacuum cleaner, zooming to anything on the floor, picking it up and popping it into his mouth faster than you can say "Germs!". So he really keeps us on our toes.

Needless to say, I think the crawling stage is the cutest stage in a baby's growth. But I do reserve the right to change this opinion when Karthik starts walking though :-)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Simbhu - Nayan?

I read somewhere earlier that Simbhu had become Nayanthra's friend, philosopher, guide and mentor on the sets of Vallavan. Now comes the rumor (link courtesy Kaps) that they've gotten married. Could there be any truth to it or is it just another ploy by Simbhu to get some buzz going for Vallavan? Me thinks its the latter. But then again, stranger things have happened in Kodambakkam!

Another plagiarism scandal

Anybody been following Kaavya Viswanathan's story? Kaavya is a 19-year old Indian American student(she was born in Madras and moved to Europe with her parents when she was 3) at Harvard University. She became a literary sensation when she landed a half a million dollar contract for writing 2 novels when she was just 17. Her first book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, about how a teenager's parents help her gain a social life, was released end of last year and quickly found a place on bestseller lists. But the teenage author is now in the middle of a plagiarism scandal as more than 40 passages from her book are said to be similar to passages from 2 other books, also revolving around a teenage girl, written by Megan McCafferty.

Kaavya yesterday accepted the accusation of "literary identity theft" and said that since she loved McCafferty's books, which she read when she was in high school, she must have subconsciously 'internalized' passages from them. She claims that it was unintentional and is altering those passages in her book's second edition. But McCafferty has refused her apology, calling her response disingenuous.

Wonder how this one's gonna end...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Coming Soon - Superman Returns

[Pic Courtesy Rediff]

Superman Returns is one of only two movies I want to see on the big screen among the Hollywood 2006 summer releases (I've written enough about the other one :-). Growing up, Superman was my favorite comicbook superhero and I can't wait to see his latest incarnation on screen.

The earlier Superman movies, especially Superman I and II, retained the spirit of the comics. They were bright, colorful, had simple story lines and were almost children's films. I remember seeing them on the big screen and watching wide-eyed as Superman caught a falling helicopter, saved a child from the waterfalls and lay between broken railway tracks to avoid a train accident.

Christopher Reeve was just perfect as the Man of Steel. His twinking, blue eyes, square-jawed face and helpful smile fit the image of Superman as shown in the comics. He also made an endearing Clark Kent. Walking away from fights and stuttering through conversations with Lois Lane, he brought just the right amount of humor to the role.

Brandon Routh seems to be a good replacement for Reeve though he looks more like Superboy than Superman. Kevin Spacey, one of my favorite actors, plays Lex Luthor, Superman's most famous nemesis. The film is directed by Bryan Singer, who directed both the X-Men movies and The Usual Suspects.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Thiruttu Payale

Thiruttu Payale is one of the victims of Tamil cinema’s unwritten rule that every film must be a masala film. Because of this rule, what should have been a lean and mean noir crime thriller is transformed into an uneven film whose main story is routinely interrupted by comedy and songs. It is still darker than your average Tamil film and so provides a different viewing experience but overall, is just another addition to the list of movies that could have been so much better.

When Manikam(Jeevan) becomes too much for his parents to handle, they pack him off to live with his uncle in the city. There he stumbles upon a couple(Abbas, Malavika) having an affair and realizes that they are his ticket to a rich life. He begins to blackmail them and the couple, who both have families of their own, give Manikam what he wants. On a trip to Australia, courtesy the couple, Manikam meets Rosie(Sonia Agarwal), a rich but lonely girl and falls in love. That’s when he begins to realize that there are things more important than money in life.

Thiruttu Payale’s biggest asset is its protagonist. After seeing movies where heroes have squeaky clean images and behave in predictable ways, it’s a relief seeing a protagonist with broad shades of gray. Sure he is true to his heart when it comes to romance but that is his only redeeming attribute. He doesn’t hesitate to blackmail, steal and even kill to achieve his dreams. It may not make him likeable but it does make him interesting and that’s something that cannot be said about too many Tamil cinema heroes lately.

But having shaped such a protagonist, the director fails to place him in a movie that does justice to such a character. The basic story is not at fault but is padded with so much extraneous stuff that the movie as a whole drags at many places and comes to a complete stop at others. The protagonist is made to dance, ogle at girls and indulge in silly comedy. There is also a separate comedy track, which is not really funny to begin with and then becomes irritating as it becomes an unconnected track. The song sequences, which include a belly dance item number, fare worse. The comedy segments and songs simply serve as speedbumps to the movie’s flow.

The movie’s basic plot, while different from run-of-the-mill Tamil cinema stories, isn’t completely airtight either. It has some nice surprises but the plot point that the movie hinges on(which happens just before the intermission) is too weak and raises too many questions. The development would’ve been believable only if the romance between Jeevan and Sonia had been developed correctly. But the romance is developed half-heartedly and lacks passion or intensity. So the actions of both Jeevan and Malavika seem dumb at that point though they both show flashes of intelligence before and after.

The movie finally realizes the kind of film it is only towards the end. It develops the pace that a movie of this type needs, throws in some unexpected plot developments and reveals the unseen side of some characters. The director also adopts a technique where he shows a scene(which we think has concluded) but then doubles back in time to show us that it ended in a manner very different from what we assumed. In a way he’s double-crossing us but it leads to some nice surprises.

The movie contains quite an ensemble of bad actors. Almost everyone seems stiff and goes through the motions rather than really getting into the skin of the character. Jeevan suits the role quite well but is still wooden in many places. Sonia looks almost disinterested and as always, is quite dull. Malavika gets a meaty role but doesn’t add anything special to it. She is clearly a director's actress and hams it up in quite a few places. Director Susi Ganesan, like many with other recent directors, has been bitten by the acting bug too and shows up in the role of a private detective. But he’s not even close to being as irritating as Perarasu was in Tirupathi.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

SJS Image Change

S.J.Suryah seems to have finally realized that he needs an image makeover. With New and A Aa , the director anointed himself the king of sleaze in Tamil cinema and garnered the image of a director who primarily used sex and vulgarity to sell his movies. But looks like he now wants to move away from that image.

I did feel that Kalvanin Kaadhali was adversely affected by Surya's image since I think the reviews of the film were prejudiced by his image. The reviewers probably had a preconceived notion about the film (because of its hero) even before they saw it and walked into the theater expecting it to be a sleazefest. The reviews reflected this. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it was a family film or that it offered clean entertainment. The fact that its hero is a playboy who spends the majority of the film trying to bed the heroine should make it clear that the movie is adult fare. But I feel that the movie wasn't as vulgar as most of the reviews made it out to be. Considering its story, it was rarely exploitative and the vulgarity was limited to double entendre jokes (made mostly by Vivek).

But the reviews probably kept the family audiences away from the film, impacting its performance at the BO. It was still a hit but that was probably because of its low cost and the lack of competition.

So Suryah feels that his image needs some scrubbing and is apparently scripting a film called Pesum Dheivangal, a clean family entertainer. I completely understand his attempt to change his image. But what I found funny was his hope that, with this film, he would get back his Kushi family audience. So Kushi was a family film and had a family audience? That was the film whose story hinged on Vijay staring at Jo's waist and in which a buxom Mumtaj brazenly seduced Vijay while singing Kattipudi Kattipudiaa... and in which Vijay and Vivek indulged in conversations filled with double entendres, right? Just wanted to make sure we were talking about the same film!

I don't think any of Suryah's films has had a family audience. Even Vaali, his best and most successful film so far, was quite adult in both theme and execution. But starting with Kushi, his movies turned vulgar and that's where the problem is. So he doesn't need to necessarily direct a family film. He just needs to direct a non-vulgar(and not necessarily non-adult) film to get an image as a good director.

PS: If he also stopped acting, that would be an added bonus :-)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Big Sister - Baby Brother

We're pretty glad we had a girl first. Her maternal instincts firmly in place, 'big sister' takes of her 'baby brother' just so well. She is always cuddling him or playing with him when he's around and when we explicitly ask her to take care of him, she doesn't let him out of her sight for even a single second.

But that said, if we did leave Karthik completely in Kavya's care, that guy's gonna have some serious identity issues when he grows up! He's already been forced to wear princess crowns, sport pink glasses and play with Barbie. We're not sure what other girly toys Kavya's gonna force him to play with until he can speak up for himself and ask for trains and G.I.Joes. But we do plan to draw the line if she ever starts applying make-up for him :-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Murugadoss Going Places

Murugadoss is really going places. The Ghajini director is now directing Telugu megastar Chiranjeevi in Stalin. And from his Rediff interview, it looks like he might then work with Aamir Khan in the Hindi remake of Ghajini. Considering how selective Aamir is about his projects, this sure is a big compliment for Murugadoss.

Now I'm not sure if I should be happy at a Tamil director getting fame and recognition at a national level or sad that we are losing, atleast for a while, another promising director (while we are stuck with the likes of Perarasu). Speaking of promising directors, Murugadoss would've definitely deserved a place in the lineup of 'directors of today and tomorrow' that Gautham assembled on stage during the VV audio function.

Oh Sh*t!

Got this in an email with the subject 'Situations where "Oh Sh*t!" is appropriate'. Probably some Photoshopping involved but still, had a good laugh :)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

VV Audio Function Snapshots

The Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu audio release function was telecast on Sun TV as one of the special programs on Tamil New Years day. I'm pretty sure Indiaglitz would've had a gallery of it but I don't remember seeing it. Anyway, here are a few images that caught my attention during the telecast.

Azhage Azhagu Dhevadhai...

Kamal, Gauthami, Kamal's daughter and Gauthami's daughter made a nice happy family. His daughter looks like a xerox copy of Sarika...

Gauthami with her daughter...

Revathi was present too though she wasn't invited on stage nor did she give a speech...

The most promising directors of today had been invited to the function and Gautham called them on stage, calling them the today and tomorrow of Tamil cinema before he himself joined them for a photo. Was a nice photo-op.
From left to right: Dharani, Lingusamy, Selvaraghavan, Saran, Hari and Gautham

Any idea who this is?

This wasn't part of the function but still worth a pic! Sridevi showed up in an ad for Shanthi Masala and looked dazzling. Still every inch a heroine...

Monday, April 17, 2006


Flavors is an interesting look at a week in the lives of a group of Indian and Indian-American software engineers and their friends and families. Like Crash, the screenplay eventually surprises us by making the lives of these people criss-cross in unexpected ways. But Flavors has a smaller number of characters, which gives them more depth and so, their stories manage to stand on their own too.

The film has a positive vibe that makes it enjoyable. Its intention is to entertain and not complain about the lives of its characters. So though the characters do not always lead happy lives, the movie doesn’t revel in their sadness. And though they may not always do the right things, the film doesn’t point fingers at them. The characters understand each other and make the best of the situation they are in. So though it doesn’t seem so at first glance, Flavors is definitely a feel-good film.

This characteristic also helps make the film quite unpredictable. We’re never really sure what the characters are going to do next and characters that we initially think are introduced for a few laughs end up playing a much bigger role. Even the track we think is the most predictable in the film doesn’t proceed as expected. The unpredictability extends right upto the end as the characters are linked in unexpected ways. Some of the links (one in particular) are sprung on us very unexpectedly and point to a very clever screenplay. Sure its gimmicky and maybe even a little overdone but it was still fun as each new link was uncovered.

The movie has great fun pairing up people who are quite unlike each other. So we get a traditional Indian mother coming to terms with her American daughter-in-law. We get a guy pining for a girl paired with another who thinks every girl who looks at him is in love with him. Even small scenes, like an American manager failing to understand if the engineer is nodding his head to mean “Yes” or “No”, derive their laughs from this difference in culture, thoughts or dreams.

Actors are chosen perfectly. First place though goes to the groom’s parents, Anjan Srivastava and Bharati Achrekar, who make a couple that is both lovable and very much in love (the latter is conveyed in a matter-of-fact manner through a lovely little scene). Bharati, in particular, is phenomenal as she tries to bond with her American bahu. The actor who plays the guy who has realized his love for a classmate rather late and the actress who plays the lonely housewife also make an impression because they slip into their roles so perfectly.

The film makes frequent jumps between the different tracks and this quick editing keeps the film moving. Dialogs are not particularly clever but are pretty snappy and there are some good comebacks. Other techniques like split screens and a constantly shifting timeline also help the film keep our interest.

PS: Thanks Deepa, Ram and Filbert for the recommendation.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


After two movies based on personal vendetta, director Perarasu throws a little social consciousness into the mix in his third film Tirupathi. So, while the hero is still on a mission at a personal level, he also attempts to provide the antidote to one of the wrongs prevalent in society. Not that this makes much of a difference to the quality of the movie. It is just as crass, crude and commercial as his earlier movies though the second half, which focuses solely on action, fares relatively better than the vulgar first half.

Tirupathi(Ajith) runs a sound service shop, providing audio sets and pre-recorded songs for functions and other public events. Soori(Riyaz Khan), a minister's son is his close friend and Tirupathi doesn't hesitate to do his dirty work for him. When a doctor's greed leads to tragedy in Tirupathi's life, he goes after the doctor. When Soori stands up for the doctor for his own reasons, Tirupathi turns against his friend also.

Tirupathi makes us wish that Perarasu could be banned from including romance in his movies. Ajith's romance with Sadha plays absolutely no part in the film and Sadha's role is completely expendable. I mean, she is not even kidnapped so that she can be saved by Ajith nor is she used by the villains to threaten him. But inspite of this, Perarasu is compelled to include her to make Tirupathi a complete masala film and gives us one of the most distasteful romances in a long time. The whole romance is developed around something that needs to be kept completely private and treated with decency but instead, is brought out into the open and treated in a vulgar manner.

Once the personal vendetta part is set up, the movie completely pushes romance to the background to focus on action(Sadha appears in only 1 song sequence in the entire second half). And Perarasu proved in Tiruppaachi that he is a halfway decent filmmaker when it comes to picturizing action. As the film shifts to a one-on-one battle of wits between Ajith and Riyaz Khan, Ajith's plans turn out to be a good mix of both brain and brawn. Though exaggerated and simplistic, they are based on some crowd-pleasing, good ideas (the way he uses a bomb and a pill to achieve one of his aims is especially clever). But Perarasu doesn't know when to stop and the climax drags on for way too long.

The tragedy in Ajith's life paves the way for the social angle to the film as he begins trying to get a new law passed. The law itself seems sensible and topical and adds some respect to the film. But Ajith doesn't make himself too likeable when he opts to go with his friend instead of his pregnant sister. And its not too convincing when Ajith and his family, after their tragedy, go to a play where Ajith ends up dancing on stage with Laila(she has an item number)!

One thing Perarasu did well in his earlier movies was provide a good buildup for his hero. But even that is lacking here. Ajith's entrance is disappointingly low-key and amateurishly picturized. His punchline lacks power too. Perarasu actually gives himself more buildup as he ill-advisedly appears as an auto driver and fights with some bad guys. He looks ridiculous as he shakes his hands and delivers punches and kicks and his monotonous dialog delivery doesn't help either. After seeing Perarasu here, we can say that S.J.Suryah has a serious contender for the title of 'The Most Egotistic Director'.

Apart from romance, the other thing Perarasu badly needs some training in is how to picturize song sequences. Sure Bharadwaj has delivered some unremarkable tunes but the director has no clue on how to present them on screen. The duets all have Ajith and Sadha(more the former than the latter) wear ridiculous costumes(big coolers, thick-lensed glasses, bell bottoms and floral-designed shirts, to name a few) and execute ridiculous steps in the name of dance. The song sequences in Tirupathi would make a non-smoker take up smoking just so he could take a cigarette break!

Ajith doesn't look as haggard as he did in Paramasivan but still has to put on some weight to look naturally healthy. But he looks more convincing mouthing all those threats and punchlines than before. Sadha looks good in the few scenes she is present. No one else in the cast really stands out and Riyaz Khan, 'Pyramid' Natrajan and Livingston fit their roles.

Dave Barry's Money Secrets

Dave Barry is my favorite humor writer. I've read almost all his books and he never fails to make me laugh. His Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, where he differentiates 'men' and 'guys', is probably the funniest book I've read ever(though my wife was pretty disappointed when she realized that she had married a 'guy' and not a 'man' :-) and I've enjoyed books like Dave Barry does Japan and Claw Your Way To The Top thoroughly. He has a unique style and an interesting perception of common, everyday things and in Dave Barry's Money Secrets, he turns his attention to finance. Maybe because I've become used to his style or maybe because the topic doesn't lend itself to much humor, this book didn't tickle my funny bone as much as his earlier books.

This book is probably the exact opposite of Dollar Wise Penny Foolish since it takes a funny look at everything related to finance. Barry touches on everything from finding a job to saving for retirement and talks about, among other things, personal finance, insurance, the stock market and traveling on a budget. The book is not completely laugh-less ofcourse. Each chapter guarantees atleast a couple of laughs but that is just not enough for a writer of Dave Barry's stature.

I think Barry is at his funniest when he tackles men and women and the relationship between them (I think this is the funniest piece I've ever read on how men and women view relationships). So the chapter on how to argue with your spouse about money is the funniest in the book. Among the other chapters, some, like the chapter on companies' annual reports, find their mark while others, like the guide to tipping, are humor dead zones.

I think there are a few reasons why the book didn't work for me. With all the financial scandals we've heard about recently, companies and their CEOs have become rather easy targets. So that dulls the effect of some of the potshots Barry takes at them. The repeated mention of people like Donald Trump(again, too easy a target) and Suze Orman gets a little tiring. And there's always the possibility that I've had too much of (or grown over) Barry's style.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Chandramukhi!

[Pic Courtesy BehindWoods]

Its been a year since Chandramukhi was released last Tamil New Year's day. The film, after breaking all possible box-office records in Tamil cinema, completed its 1 year run at Shanthi theater yesterday. The event was celebrated by thalaivar's fans at the theater. Its being screened at IMC6 too this weekend to celebrate its birthday. At a time when a movie still drawing crowds after its 25th day in the theaters is considered a big achievement, Chandramukhi has enjoyed a 1 year run. What a glorious achievement!

So, a happy birthday to Chandramukhi and a happy Tamil New Year to you all :-)


Short Story by Ram

Ram, one of the regular bbthots readers and commentors, is also a budding short story writer. Do check out his story A Way of Travel. He would love to hear your feedback since he is working on his next story. You can write to him at ram_aishoo [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Imsai Arasan Trailer

If someone had told me even a few months ago that I would look forward to a film that had Vadivelu as its hero, I would've responded that they were crazy. But from the day it was announced, Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi, has slowly inched its way into the list of movies I am awaiting this year. Its trailer [thanks Sandya] has further whetted my appetite. With impressive sets, good music, some nice visuals and an interesting cast, the movie certainly looks to be different.

I know we've had historicals before but have we had a full-length comedy/historical film in Tamil cinema? Or is 23aam Pulikesi treading on completely new ground?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

AIBI Audio

Yuvan Shankar Raja's definitely on a roll these days with two excellent albums, Pattiyal and Pudhuppettai, back-to-back. Azhagaai Irukkiraai Bayamaai Irukkiradhu's soundtrack sees him continuing his good run. It is an interesting album that is once again geared towards listeners who prefer some variety in their songs. It will appeal more to people who are looking for something other than the traditional 2 duets-1 pathos-1 melody-2 duppanguthu - kinda albums.

1. Kanave Kalaigiradhe...
This is the kind of melancholic, soulful number that Yuvan does best. Like most such songs, it is a slow number interrupted by bouts of high pitches. The song is very catchy and had me humming the tune after a couple of listens. But his singing is really horrible. There are places where his voice actually seems to break and inspite of the high pitches, it is completely monotonous and lacks energy. To make things worse, his pronunciation is horrid as always.

2. Ilaiyudhir Kaalam...
Yuvan goes into experimentation mode here. The song starts off as a fun group song(with the lyrics making it sound like a song sung by a lady Tarzan!) before slowing down with the kind of music that accompanies royalty. The couple of lines that start with Pulli Maanin... remind me strongly of Karka Karka... from Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu.

3. Kaadhalai...
Possibly the song with the most number of singers ever, this number seems to have a bit of everything. There's some radio DJ stuff, there's 70's twist music, there's some hardcore duppanguthu, there's some folk singing, there's a bit of an old song and there's a lot of talking. All that doesn't blend together too smoothly though. So the number is more interesting than catchy.

4. Odivaa Kaadhale...
A very interesting male duet that very short and makes us want more. While we've heard songs and their remixes, this presents them both in the same song! Starts off as a melodious number(sung by Karthik) and then turns into its own remix(sung by Yuvan) with a faster pace and heavier beats. Unfortunately its over almost as soon as it begins.

5. Orampo Nainaa...
Another interesting number that alternates between fast and slow music in surprising ways. This is almost an instrumental piece with a little singing between long instrumental segments. The music ranges from jazz to sax to twist music while the tune of the song itself is closer to duppanguthu. Naturally, it makes for a very unique(and very listenable) blend.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bluffmaster / Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana

2 entertaining non-Tamil films that I really enjoyed...


Bluffmaster is probably one of the remakes I’ve enjoyed the most. Its central concept is borrowed from a 2004 Hollywood flick and it even borrows lines of dialog verbatim from other films (Ocean’s 11, to name one). But with a likeable cast, well-developed characters and enough changes to the main story, it is able to stand on its own as an entertaining feature.

Abishek plays a classy conman while Priyanka, unaware of his activities, is his girlfriend. When she does come to know of his real job, she breaks up with him. Meanwhile, Abishek befriends Ritesh, a particularly inept conman. When he learns of Ritesh’s real target, the man (Nana Patekar) who cheated his father, he decides to become his mentor and help him divest Nana of his wealth.

At heart, Bluffmaster is a heist movie. Central to it is the elaborate plan that Abishek sets up to con Nana Patekar. We are drawn in as he and Ritesh trail their target, plan their moves, set their bait, etc. At the same time, the movie avoids being as complicated as movies in the genre usually are and doesn't bury itself in double-crosses and triple-crosses. It brings sentiments into the picture expertly as Abishek is forced to examine his choices in a rather unexpected fashion. And things are brought together beautifully in the end without any loose ends.

Abishek fits the role perfectly. He is cool without seeming to try too hard and puts his self-effacing smile to good use in a few places. Priyanka and Ritesh are adequate. Nana plays a role that he could sleepwalk through while Boman Irani plays it mostly straight. Song sequences are picturized very differently from the usual format and their style really caught my eye.


Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana

As I mentioned in the post on my favorite screenplays, a good screenplay is capable of making even a familiar, cliched story seem fresh. There couldn't be better proof of that than Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, Prabhu Deva's directorial debut in Telugu. Inspite of a tired, old story and cliched situations, the film is fresh and delightful.

For Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, Prabhu Deva has simply blended together two halves from 2 different Hindi movies. While the first half sees the lovers falling in love and then being separated like in Maine Pyaar Kiya (this is according to my wife since I don't remember MPK all that well), the second half sees the hero worming his way into the heart of the heroine's brother using a scheme remiscent of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. But by fashioning likeable characters and never going over-the-top, whether in romance, comedy or sentiments, Prabhu Deva presents a film that keeps us smiling throughout.

The film is completely light-hearted and completely eschews violence and glamour. Though the film is populated with stock characters(the money-hungry mom, the girl in love with the hero, the heroine's suitor, etc.), small touches make most of them believable. So the relationships between them, whether the affection Srihari and Trisha share or the romance Sidharth and Trisha develop, are believable too. The romance is developed naturally with an undercurrent of humor(which peaks in the scene that perfectly uses the number "Who let the dogs out?"). Non-vulgar and very effective comedy takes the upper hand in the second half and there are a lot of laughs, mixed expertly with mild sentiments, as Sidharth tries to earn Srihari's love. Some sentiments creep in towards the end but they are mild and don't feel out-of-place.

Sidharth, with his energetic performance, is the movie's life. He is hyperactive without making it seem like overacting. Srihari is restrained but is just as effective. Trisha is pretty much an onlooker between the two of them. There are some nice, eye-catching visuals, especially in the initial sequences. Prabhu Deva makes his mark in the song sequences. They are bright and picturized in a vibrant manner and the dances are choreographed very well to be perfectly in sync with the music.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Coming Soon - Tirupathi

Typically, the second film is the most important film for someone entering the cinema field, whether he is an actor or a director. By that standard, Tirupathi is an important film for Ajith since it will be his second film after his much-heralded comeback. With Paramasivan, the more serious, much-thinner actor proved that he still mattered at the box-office. Tirupathi, where he plays the owner of a sound service station, will show us if he is here to stay.

He has certainly teamed up with the right director in his attempt to notch up another hit. With two hits, Tiruppaachi and Sivakasi, under his belt, director Perarasu is apparently the hottest commercial director around (Dharani’s absence and K.S.Ravikumar’s lean patch probably helped!). The two films have helped him quickly gain the image of a director who knows the pulse of the viewer. In what is now his calling card, he has named his third movie after a place too. So he is expected to deliver another fast-paced, racy masala entertainer with the right mix of action, comedy and sentiments. And when done right, that kind of a film always works at the BO.

The gradually increasing amount of time Perarasu is showing up before the camera can probably be construed as a sign of his increasing confidence. While he stayed behind the camera in Tiruppaachi, he showed up in a single scene, completely wooden, singing Vijay’s praises in Sivakasi. In Tirupathi, he is supposed to have a longer role as an auto driver (Is this going to end with him taking on the mantle of hero? Then S.J.Surya would no longer be the worst-looking director-turned-actor around :-)

Sadha, who has probably the most-punned name in Tamil cinema, pairs up with Ajith for the first time in Tirupathi. She’s been quite lucky so far with hits like Jayam and Anniyan and Ajith must be hoping that she proves to be lucky for him too. Bharadwaj has tried hard to do a Vidyasagar with songs that are big on beats and small on melody. Can’t say he has been too successful since none of the songs made much of an impression on the first listen.

Ajith has always been considered the ‘king of opening’ and his teaming up with Perarasu has led to brisk advance ticket sales for Tirupathi. With no other biggies releasing for Tamil New Year’s day, the lack of competition would help too. So the signs are positive for the movie hitting the bull’s eye at the box-office. Let’s wait and watch…

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Favorite Screenplays

The Writer's Guild of America, in its first ever best-of list, has chosen Casablanca as the best screenplay of all time. The news led me to think about screenplays in general. I think the screenplay is the most important aspect of a film since a good screenplay can make us overlook deficiencies in most of the other departments of the film.

I know that the screenplay is what makes a story suitable for the big screen. But beyond that, I am not clear about exactly what makes up a screenplay. I'm never sure where the story ends and the screenplay begins. I'm not sure how much of the script is part of the screenplay. I'm not even sure in what state the director gets a screenplay in hand or how much of it he can change as he directs the film. With such vagueness about what the screenplay is, it didn't seem fair coming up with a list of any sort. So I thought I'd just write about some of my favorite screenplays in Tamil movies. And I found that all my favorites could be thrown into 1 of 3 categories.

Tamil cinema, for the most part, has seen stories being told in a linear, chronological timeline. The only break in the timeline occurs when there is a flashback. So any movie that attempts something different from this straightforward narration catches my attention. One of the few movies that attempted this among older movies was Andha Naal. It juggled its stories skilfully as each person came up with his own version of how Sivaji could have been murdered. We've seen more such narrations recently ofcourse. 12B threw up the question of how different a man's life would've been if he'd caught a bus instead of missing it and presented both versions of his life in a fascinating manner as they converged and diverged at various points. Virumaandi presented the same story(with slight embellishments in one case) from two different points of view, showing us how the truth can be spun. Aaydha Ezhuthu presented a key incident in the lives of three youth and then moved back in time to show their lives as they led to that point.

A good screenplay is capable of presenting the simplest of stories in an engrossing manner. And it can make a cliched story seem completely fresh to us. My favorite example of the former is Agni Natchathiram. Manirathnam blew up a 1-line story about warring step-brothers into a stylish and entertaining affair. The sheer energy in the meetings between Prabhu and Karthik and the cuteness of their romances made the film slick and thorougly entertaining. Films like Dhill, Dhool and Gilli would be good examples of the latter. Dharani presented the same 'common man against powerful man' story in each of movies but made it seem fresh each time with the help of his screenplay.

Sometimes a screenplay amazes us with its cleverness in developing its plot points. Two movies that immediately spring to mind in this category are Aboorva Sagodharargal and Michael Madana Kamarajan. As I've said several times before, the screenplay developments(like the puli - puliyaattam connection) that made Raja the suspect for Appu's crimes in Aboorva Sagodharargal are simply amazing. Michael Madana Kamarajan's screenplay was almost a wonderfully choreographed dance in the way it fashioned interactions between the 4 look-alikes 2 or 3 at a time, before bringing all 4 of them together at the end.

I'm sure there are several more wonderful screenplays in Tamil cinema over the years. But the 10 movies I've listed above would probably be the ones that make it to the first draft of my top 10 list in this category.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The 5th Horseman

I think some phrases like "quick read", "fast-paced", etc., will be part of the review of every James Patterson book. And so's the case with The 5th Horseman, the 5th book in his Women's Murder Club series. This series, set in San Francisco, has 4 women from different jobs putting their heads together unofficially to solve crimes. While definitely not great art, the book does the job by keeping us turning the pages and surprising us with some nice twists along the way.

The Women's Murder Club becomes involved in two cases in this book. Lindsay, the cop, with the help of Claire, the Medical Examiner, tries to track down the murderer who is killing young women and then leaving them in fancy cars for the police to find. Meanwhile Cindy, the reporter, and Keiko, the lawyer and latest member of the Murder Club, become involved in a malpractice suit against San Francisco Municipal Hospital, where patients recovering in the ICU are being mysteriously killed.

Though both tracks start in parallel and the book keeps shifting between the two, one ends well before the other. That came as a bit of a surprise since the track that gets closure first seems to have more legs at the beginning. More disappointing is the fact that it ends in a rather straightforward manner with no trademark Patterson surprises. It is developed in a rather interesting manner with the killers having an intriguing MO but the end does not match the build up.

The other track packs more of a punch. It starts off slowly as it seems to play a secondary role. But it eventually picks up steam and contains a couple of really unexpected surprises towards the end. At the end we feel that this track was all the book was about and that the other track was added just to fill up the pages.

But the book is more like a regular police procedural rather than a book in the Women's Murder Club series. Lindsay investigates her cases in a regular manner and her meetings with the other 3, of which there are only a few, don't add much. The other members don't help her much either with Cindy simply attending the trial as a reporter and Keiko only bringing an emotional attachment. There is almost nothing 'unofficial' in their participation.

Dave Barry's Money Secrets

Dave Barry is my favorite humor writer. I've read almost all his books and he never fails to make me laugh. His Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, where he differentiates 'men' and 'guys', is probably the funniest book I've read ever(though my wife was pretty disappointed when she realized that she had married a 'guy' and not a 'man' :-) and I've enjoyed books like Dave Barry does Japan and Claw Your Way To The Top thoroughly. He has a unique style and an interesting perception of common, everyday things and in Dave Barry's Money Secrets, he turns his attention to finance. Maybe because I've become used to his style or maybe because the topic doesn't lend itself to much humor, this book didn't tickle my funny bone as much as his earlier books.

This book is probably the exact opposite of Dollar Wise Penny Foolish since it takes a funny look at everything related to finance. Barry touches on everything from finding a job to saving for retirement and talks about, among other things, personal finance, insurance, the stock market and traveling on a budget. The book is not completely laugh-less ofcourse. Each chapter guarantees atleast a couple of laughs but that is just not enough for a writer of Dave Barry's stature.

I think Barry is at his funniest when he tackles men and women and the relationship between them (I think this is the funniest piece I've ever read on how men and women view relationships). So the chapter on how to argue with your spouse about money is the funniest in the book. Among the other chapters, some, like the chapter on companies' annual reports, find their mark while others, like the guide to tipping, are humor dead zones.

I think there are a few reasons why the book didn't work for me. With all the financial scandals we've heard about recently, companies and their CEOs have become rather easy targets. So that dulls the effect of some of the potshots Barry takes at them. The repeated mention of people like Donald Trump(again, too easy a target) and Suze Orman gets a little tiring. And there's always the possibility that I've had too much of (or grown over) Barry's style.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Brown Vindicated

The copyright case against Dan Brown was decided in his favor today. Two historians had accused him of plagiarizing their non-fiction book for The Da Vinci Code. But the judge ruled that though Brown did copy bits from the historians' book, it did not amount to breach of copyright.

For movielovers, this means that the film version of the book can open as planned at the Cannes Film Festival on May 17 :-)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

April 14 Releases

Sify lists 6 movies - Tirupathi, Thiruttu Payale, Azhagaai Irukkiraai Bayamaai Irukkiradhu, Pacha Kudhira, Thagappansamy and Perarasu - as being in the race for release on April 14. They also say that 4 films (I'm guessing these are the first 4 in the list) have booked theaters and are expected to release on 14th. So I guess neitherVettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu nor Pudhuppettai is being released :-(

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Technically slick but amateurish in plot and execution, Dus is a big-budget race-against-time thriller. Its completely simplistic story is jazzed up with today's technical wizardry, leading to a rather odd concoction. You never know whether to laugh at its plot or admire its style.

Sanjay Dutt, Abishek Bachan, Shilpa Shetty and Zayed Khan, members of an Anti-Terrorist Cell, learn the bare details of a plot by a terrorist Jambwal. Now the team has just 7 days to learn about Jambwal’s plan and break it up. The investigation takes Abishek and Zayed to Canada, where they are joined by Suneil Shetty, a cop, and Esha Deol, another agent, in the race to foil Jambwal's plans.

Considering Dus is an action film, emphasis on stunts and thrills is to be expected. But still, logic and plausibility are pushed to the background to a pitiable level. The glossy look and fast editing and fancy camera tricks try in vain to hide the amateurishness of the underlying plot and its lame execution. Strip away those and all you have is a movie filled with outrageous plot points and laughably silly setups.

So you have heroes romancing agents in the middle of a serious mission, agents joking while diffusing bombs, a villain using a silly codename that pretty much reveals everything about his plan and gun-toting foreign extras looking like they were hired from the nearest Home Depot. Secrets are uncovered based purely on intuition and the little planning that is done is haphazard. Not to mention grenades (fired from what looks like a rocket launcher) exploding harmlessly near our heroes and supposedly powerful explosives causing as much damage as a Diwali firecracker.

Like Paramasivan, the film’s only chance of working is if it is seen as camp. Unfortunately, the technical expertise makes that tough. But the story does contain two very good surprises that rise above the juvenile nature of the rest of the plot. One is a little predictable, especially if you’ve seen a particular Hollywood flick. But the director still does a good job of keeping us in doubt about it. The other twist, though smaller, took me completely by surprise.

Abishek slips smoothly into the action persona and is the most convincing of the actors. Zayed Khan, on the other hand, is irritating and his seemingly playful personality gets on our nerves, especially when he is casual in the middle of something serious. Sanjay Dutt wears his usual doped-up look and Suneil Shetty is wooden as usual. Pankaj Kapur catches our attention, making us laugh even as he is scared. Shilpa Shetty looks good even in fighting attire but Esha Deol looks almost masculine with her atrocious wig and bad dress sense.

Netflix Sues Blockbuster

When Blockbuster launched its online rental service, I wondered why Netflix didn't sue them since Blockbuster seemed to have copied every aspect of Netflix's business model. They had a monthly subscription fee, they allowed the renters to hold on to movies for an unlimited number of days, they had the concept of a rental queue, etc. But instead of suing them, Netflix went in for a price war.

But 18 months after Blockbuster launched its service, Netflix has sued it for patent infringement. The company is asking for a shutdown of Blockbuster's online service and for damages. Better late than never!

But an analyst says the challenge probably won't be upheld by the court since Netflix is suing so late. There's another interesting line of thought. With Netflix being threatened by video-on-demand through the internet, another article says that the company is just trying to make itself more attractive for a buyout by Amazon (which has already rolled out an online rental service in the UK) before the video-on-demand threat becomes bigger.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Happy Birthday Simran!

I know there's been an overload of Simran news the past few days. But I just couldn't let this important day pass by, especially since I just knew about it today :-)

Unlike Jo, who grew on me rather slowly, it was love at first sight with Simran. Though I did not see Once More, her first film, I was smitten ever since I first laid eyes on her on the big screen in VIP. While we went to the film for Prabhu Deva's dancing and Rambha, all we could talk about when we came out of the theater was the 'new heroine'. After that I sought out movies she acted in, even seeing movies like Poochoodavaa in the theater.

She has been my favorite heroine ever since. I swooned(with the rest of TamilNadu) when she shook her hips to Manam Virumbudhe... in Nerukku Ner, I laughed at her loveable naivete in Vaali, I was surprised in her villainous turn in Paarthen Rasithen, I enjoyed her comic flair in Pammal. K. Sambandham, I admired her matured performance in Kannathil Muthamittaal and I enjoyed her dancing in New.

Happy Birthday to Simran...

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sim Watch

[Pic Courtesy Indiaglitz]
Simran, baby in hand, met JJ yesterday and expressed her support for the AIADMK. Wonder what prompted this...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Paavamya Navya

Apart from the fame and the fortune, one of the attractions of making it as a heroine in films has to be the opportunity of being paired up with some good-looking guys. In that respect, Navya Nair is probably the unluckiest among the recent heroines, as far as Tamil films go. Considering just her peers from Malayalam, Asin has already paired up with Surya, Vijay and Vikram, Nayanthara has hooked up with the Superstar and Surya and Gopika has acted with Srikanth. Even the latest arrival, Padmapriya, has managed to get paired up with Arya.

On other hand, Navya has so far had as her heroes, Prasanna (Azhagiya Theeye), Thankar Bachan (Chidambarathil Oru Appasamy) , Vineeth (Paasakkiligal) and Ganesh (Amirtham). Now, to keep her streak going, she just has to be selected as the heroine in the next S.J.Suryah flick :-)

Dearly Devoted Dexter

The serial killer genre has been done to death(pun unintended!) since there's not much you can do with a story where a good guy goes after a serial killer. So I've always wondered what could be done to shake things up. Jeff Lindsay, in his first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, seemed to have hit upon a good way to provide variety. He made Dexter, the protagonist in his book, a serial killer too. This, along with a macabre sense of humor, made that book a great read. But in Dearly Devoted Dexter, the follow-up, the freshness of the concept is absent and the level of gore has been raised up. So it fails to live up to the standards of its predecessor.

Dexter Morgan, the protagonist, is a 'good' serial killer who in his day job, works as a blood spatter specialist in the Miami police department. His father, sensing the urge to kill inside Dexter, had channeled his feelings and so Dexter kills only the truly vile like homicidal pedophiles. He is drawn into a new case when a new serial killer, whose method of killing make Dexter's MO look like child's play, shows up. Driven partly by admiration and curiosity, Dexter goes after the killer. Meanwhile he now has a girlfriend, a single mom with two children, and to his surprise, finds himself actually enjoying 'regular' life.

The book's biggest strength is the first-person narration by Dexter. We get a unique perspective into a killer's mind and the way Dexter deals with his inner demon(whom he calls 'Dark Passenger') is very interesting. Lindsay also has a dark sense of humor which comes in particularly handy considering the nature of his narrator. Some of Dexter's comments about his life with his new girlfriend and they way that track proceeds are hilarious.

Dexter going after the serial killer follows the usual trajectory with clues leading to him being uncovered gradually by the police. We also get another track as Dexter himself pursues a pedophile with very little to go on. So pace is not a problem and the book is a fast read. But the climax is disappointingly low-key and throws no surprises.

Having read enough books in this genre, I always thought that I was hardened to the description of torture and murder, atleast in fiction. But the killer's actions in this book were very gruesome and quite unsettling. Dexter's own killings, though they eliminate rather unsavory characters, are described in fair detail. And the direction one of the tracks(involving one of the persons in Dexter's new family) seems to be taking, is scary. So this is a rather downbeat book to read and it definitely left a bitter taste in my mouth.