Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Chandramukhi in Hindi

Mohanlal, Vishnuvardhan, Rajnikanth… Akshay Kumar?
Shobana, Soundarya, Jyothika… Vidya Balan?
Suresh Gopi, Ramesh Arvind, Prabhu… Shiny Ahuja?

Talks about the Hindi remake of Chandramukhi (which itself was a remake of Manichithrathaazhu / Aaptamitra) have been doing the rounds for a while now. As with all rumors, a bunch of names have been thrown around for the main roles. Initially, Shah Rukh Khan and then Amitabh were mentioned for the hero’s role. The one constant in all the reports was that Aishwarya Rai was approached for the heroine’s role but couldn’t accept due to lack of dates. With her out of the race, Kajol and Rani Mukherjee were supposed to be frontrunners for the key role of the heroine. And Ajay Devgan was tipped to play Kajol's husband.

The latest news has Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan and Shiny Ahuja in the three main roles in Chandramukhi’s Hindi remake. The director is supposedly Priyadarshan, who has made a habit of remaking Malayalam hits (usually directed by himself) in Hindi.

The number of remakes (all huge successes so far) of Manichithrathaazhu simply points to the universality of Fazil’s original story. Expertly paced and tightly narrated, the film is truly a lesson on how a film that deals with the supernatural should be made. Ofcourse, credit also goes to Shobana and Mohanlal for bringing to life the unforgettable lead characters.

If the Hindi remake does happen, Manichithrathaazhu might be the only film to have been remade or dubbed in all the major languages (Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi). I'm not sure if there has been any other story that got made into a film in all these 5 languages? Another universally popular film I can think of is Munnabhai MBBS, which was remade in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada. But no Malayalam remake so far (which, personally, is a huge surprise because I think Mohanlal is the actor perfectly suited to play that role with its mix of seriousness and comedy).

While Akshay Kumar’s name as the hero would’ve made me cringe a few years back, the actor has shown enough comic potential in recent movies to make me think he could carry it off. But then again, the charisma of actors like Mohanlal and Rajnikanth was what lifted their films above the ordinary and Akshay lacks that inspite of being a bankable actor. Vidya Balan definitely has the looks for the meaty role. I don’t know if she is a dancer but Jo did carry her role off with hard work rather than Bharatanatyam talent. So Vidya could do the same even if she isn't a classical dancer. Prabhu’s role is minor enough for any actor to portray and Shiny Ahuja should do fine (though with Akshay as the hero, I’m surprised this role didn’t go to Sunil Shetty). The only question is how Shiny is going to say “Kya Kodumai hai ye, Saravanan!”

The news item talks about the remake as news rather than rumor, with shooting set in Rajasthan and starting in Jan 2007. Will be interesting to see if the Hindi version recreates the success of the movies in the other languages.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dhanush's Next

I always wondered how long it would be before Dhanush tried to leverage some of the fame he achieved by becoming Rajni's son-in-law. I have my answer now! His next film, a remake of the Kannada superhit Jogi, is named Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram. The original revolved around mother-son bonding and its story was about a villager going to the city and becoming a dreaded don. It was apparently recommended to Dhanush by none other than his father-in-law, who as we all know, especially after Chandramukhi, knows quite a bit about selecting suitable films to remake.

Parattai, ofcourse, is the name thalaivar immortalized in 16 Vayadhinile and the role will probably count as one of his most memorable performances. His inimitable style and dialog delivery made the character quite unforgettable and his famous "Idhepdi Irukku?" in the film might well be one of Tamil cinema's earliest punch lines!

At this early point, based on the story and the title, my guess is that Azhagu Sundaram is Dhanush's name when he resides in the village and Parattai is the name he takes on once he becomes the don. So will he stop with using the name or will he go further and try to act like the original Parattai and frequently pose the question "Idhepdi Irukku?" ? Now that will be blasphemy!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu is a police story that places emphasis on brain rather than brawn. It is an involving police procedural that handles a different subject(for Tamil cinema) in a different way(again, for Tamil cinema) and is a worthy follow-up to Kaakka Kaakka for Gautham.

Raghavan(Kamalhassan), a DCP (Crime Branch) in Chennai, is brought in by his friend Arokiaraj (Prakashraj), whose daughter has been brutally raped and killed. With almost no clues to what seems like a random killing, Raghavan is forced to bid a sad goodbye to Arokiaraj and his wife, who leave for New York to try and forget the past. But another tragic news takes Raghavan to New York, where he works with NYPD to apprehend some killers. Meanwhile, he meets Aradhana(Jyothika), who stays in the same hotel, and becomes good friends with her.

VV is probably the closest Tamil cinema has come to a real police procedural. Kamal finds his targets with real, painstaking police work rather than easy-to-find clues or obvious witnesses. We are with him every step of the way as he questions witnesses, uncovers clues and puts the pieces of the puzzle together. We understand his dedication and the scene where he listens to his own notes on the Dictaphone is an insightful glimpse into how he works. But Gautham cheats when its time to put the final pieces together. He connects the initial dots patiently but as he nears the final dots, he relies on the cop’s instinct or coincidence or the bad guys’ bravado to finish the picture.

VV has a protagonist and a villain who are equally matched and nowhere is this more evident that in the tense one-on-one encounter they share in an apartment. Balaji’s psychotic desperation and Kamal’s never-say-die attitude make their meeting fascinating and it is never clear meeting who the hunter and the hunted are. It is a tense, thrilling scene whose rawness and intensity is not in evidence at any other point in the film.

The film is essentially one long chase as Kamal tries to first uncover and then nab, one or more serial killers. Initially, his pursuit seems real as he grasps at straws in his chase of the men, who are little more than ghosts to him. His MO is interesting and the excitement is palpable when he gets closer to them. But as the chase nears the end, the proceedings become more cinematic with the killers indulging in very cinematic activities like moving in and out of disguises and taunting Kamal. It is definitely good movie making with the proceedings being tense and intense. It just doesn’t deliver on the cerebral promise the movie made when it started.

Almost the opposite happens in the relationship between Kamal and Jyothika While we’ve met characters who grow on us in other movies, here’s a relationship that grows on us. The initial meeting between Kamal and Jyothika is straight out of romance novels with a damsel in distress and her knight in shining armor. Their relationship from then on is built almost completely on coincidences (they even manage to get out of their hotel rooms at the same moment!). But it is developed in a way that pushes even the serial killer to the background. Their tentativeness beautifully reflects the heavy baggage each of them is carrying. The two share some wonderful conversations and even more wonderful silences.

One feels that even Gautham understood this shift in importance of the two relationships as the movie proceeds. So, what was a serial killer story with a romance thrown in, becomes a romance with a serial killer sidetrack! While stories about serial killers always throw in a twist or two, it is the Kamal-Jyothika track that gives us a bigger surprise here. The time afforded to Kamal and Jyothika increases as the movie proceeds and in the end, the relationship between Kamal and Balaji is terminated quite abruptly while the closure to Kamal’s relationship with Jyothika takes a lot longer.

It is almost a pleasure to see Kamal looking like Kamal instead of being hidden under layers of makeup or having a different hairstyle or getup for the sake of being different. I’m not sure if the bags under his eyes in the close-ups and the noticeable paunch under his tucked-in shirt are intentional but they do help make him look the part of a middle-aged cop. He plays the part with the dignity it deserves and underplays his emotions. Jyothika once again proves that Gautham brings out the best in her, with probably her best role since Kaakka Kaakka. She displays a quietness that one never knew was a part of her. Kamalini Mukherjee makes a mark in the criminally short time she is onscreen. But it is Balaji who is the scene stealer as the killer. Going against the recent trend of quietly chilling villains, he rants and raves and brings to life, a detestable character. Prakashraj is quietly impressive in a cameo.

The cinematography plays a big part in giving a classy, slick sheen to the proceedings. The Karkka Karkka… number scares us about camera tricks being overused but such opulent visual flourishes are limited to the song sequences. While Paartha Mudhal Naale… is the most romantic number, Manjal Veiyil… is the most attractive visually, with the camera taking us on a tour of New York at night (Gautham shows up in the latter, dancing to the Vennilave… bit). Uyirile… occurs at a rather unexpected but emotional moment and so the picturization is not what I expected at all. Neruppe… is an unnecessary item number that Gautham could well have avoided.

Friday, August 25, 2006

4 New Reviews

Reviews for Uyir, Aachaarya, Something Something Unakkum Enakkum and Thimiru are online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Coming Soon - Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

After all the financial and legal wrangles, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu is finally ready to hit the screens tomorrow (there is a news item [link courtesy Ram] today that Kamal’s asking for a stay on the release since the producer’s check to him bounced. Hope that doesn’t stall the release again!). Right from the day it was announced, the film has created huge expectations. And with good reason. It brings together our best actor, our cutest actress and one of our most exciting young directors and promises to be an exciting ride.

Behind the camera is director Gautam Menon, who is just 2 Tamil films old. His Kaakka Kaakka was definitely one of the better cop pictures to hit Tamil cinema recently. It was fast-paced, slick and hard-hitting and proved that a film with those characteristics could still work commercially. Considering that his previous (and also his first) film was the romantic Minnale, it also showed that Gautham was comfortable in more than one genre. For VV, he has again picked a cop story and we have to wait and see what sort of a spin he puts on it this time.

Kamal fans must be salivating at the news that the film is finally making it to the screens. Its been more than a year since their hero’s last film (Mumbai Express) was released and even that was a flop. VV offers a good chance to for him to reverse his fortunes. While Kamal usually swings between experimental films close to his heart and commercial ventures, VV cannot be pigeonholed into either of those categories. It is definitely commercial but is not one of those light comedies he frequently stars in.

Jo is paired with Kamal here. The next three weeks will probably count as the most thrilling in Jo’s life so far since she has two big movies and a wedding to look forward to. Not much is known about her role in VV but it appears that she is not paired up with Kamal. That honor(?) goes to Bengali lass Kamalinee Mukherjee since according to reports, she is the one acting as Kamal’s wife.

A major portion of the film is set in New York and it is supposedly a suspense thriller, a genre in which we've had few worthy entries in Tamil cinema. Expectedly, it is set to open big and has little competition (Sillunu Oru Kaadhal, touted as its only competition, isn’t releasing until September 7). In the USA, Kamal’s films always do well and 2 of tomorrow’s shows are already sold out at IMC 6.

The last time Kamal’s film went through so many hassles before release (Virumaandi), it turned out to be both a critical and commercial hit. Let’s hope the same happens with Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Makeup Maketh Sibi

[Pic Courtesy Sify]

As far as cinema goes, makeup maketh the man! And no further proof is needed than the above photo of Sibi, Satyaraj's son, in his next film Lee.

Sibi has always made me feel that he wouldn't have had even a remote chance of becoming a hero if it were not for his dad. He is tall and lanky like his famous father but is definitely not handsome or cute. And though he has inherited the talent of nakkal from his dad, we've had enough of that with Satyaraj. So it wasn't surprising that none of his films became hits (inspite of Satyaraj trying his best) and he seemed destined for a short innings in Kodambakkam.

But the still above made me do a double-take. When first glancing at the photo, I actually thought it was Arya, an acknowledged pretty boy and the current pin-up boy of Tamil cinema! With a different hairstyle, contact lenses and a beard, Sibi has been turned into a macho, rugged star who one could accept as a hero. Just goes to show how important makeup is in Tamil cinema...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu Audio

Of late, we’ve seen some new director-music director pairs emerging in Tamil cinema. The two not only work perfectly together, but also deliver their best work when working with each other. The Gautham Menon – Harris Jayaraj combo is one such pair and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu is their third outing together. Considering the quality of the soundtracks in their previous 2 collaborations Minnale and Kaakka Kaakka and Kamal’s usual success with his films' soundtracks, great things were expected from this album. They’ve certainly been met. For lovers of soft, melodious songs, this is easily the best album in a long time.

1. Karkka Karkka…
An extremely catchy number starts off the album and I was hooked to this one right from the first listen. The song is in praise of Kamal’s character (looks like he is named Raghavan) but it is soft and very different in style and tone from the usual numbers that sing the hero’s praises. The lyrics are clever, flow smoothly with the tune and nicely convey the strengths of a cop. The rap bits sound out-of-place initially but grow on you and eventually seem like an integral part of the song.

Question: Is the first line KaRkka KaRkka KaLLam KaRkka; Endru Sollum Naran? If it is, then who or what is Naran?

2. Paartha Mudhal…
Like Suttum Vizhi Chudare…, this number too has steady, rhythmic beats and a pace that slots it between a fast number and a slow number. In other words, it sounds just right and so is instantly likeable. Unni Menon, without any noticeable Malayali accent, sings for Kamal. He last sang for the actor for Pon Maane… in Oru Kaidhiyin Diary but one wonders why there was such a long break since his voice suits Kamal very well. Bombay Jayashree, with her slightly husky voice, too sounds perfect for the number.

3. Manjal Veiyil…
The song’s tune is awesome and Hariharan sings the high pitches just right. The low-pitch Vennilave… bits continue naturally from the high pitches and serve as catchy interludes. My only complaint is with the lyrics. They seem too conversational and not poetic enough. They also don’t flow smoothly with the tune and so some of the words feel unnaturally stretched.

4. Uyirile…
Probably the most melodious number in the album, the song is almost haunting with its slow pace and minimal music. Srinivas sounds a lot like SPB and does a neat job.

5. Neruppe…
The only fast number (even that is only relatively speaking) on the album, this one is a folksy song in typical Harris Jayaraj style. Reminds us of Rangola… almost immediately but that is more because of the type of song it is rather than similarities in any particular sections of it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

Snakes on a Plane (or SoaP, as it is being called) delivers exactly what it promises. It is cheesy, campy entertainment and you will know whether you will like it or not, even before the film starts.

The film's title is pretty much its plot. Samuel Jackson is an FBI agent escorting an eye-witness to a crime, from Honolulu to LA. The eye-witness has seen a mobster kill a lawyer and so the mobster has arranged for crates of snakes to be loaded on the plane and released when the plane is in mid-air. The passengers' leis have been sprayed with pheromones that make the snakes more aggressive and once they're out of the crates, all hell breaks loose.

Soap is a by-the-numbers disaster film and so is completely predictable. Once we've met the characters, we know exactly who will be living by the time the end credits roll. So the question is not who will die but how they will die and when. And with a variety of scary snakes, the director has a lot of options. Some of the deaths are pretty nasty but the director never makes us forget that we aren't supposed to take the film seriously.

The film helped me see for the first time, the concept of 'fans' in USA. Seeing a Tamil film with a big star the first few days is fun mainly because of the hero's fans. You may not hear most of the dialogs but you will get caught up in the festive spirit and enjoy the film, whatever your opinion of the hero may be. Hollywood has its own stars and superstars but the concept of fandom doesn't exist there. So seeing SoaP was a rather unique experience.

Outside the theater, a bunch of kids were playing with toy snakes and one of them was wearing a T-shirt with the film's name on it. Samuel Jackson's first appearance was treated with claps, with the loudest noise being reserved for his most famous line (which appears pretty late in the film).

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kamal Fans, Rejoice!

Fans of Kamalhassan finally have something to smile about! The actor's last film (Mumbai Express) was released over a year ago and was a flop in both Tamil and Hindi. Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu too kept getting delayed and with all the financial and legal troubles, there were doubts if it would ever make it to theaters. But the hurdles seem to have been cleared and there are reports that the film could be released as early as next week.

Kamal's ambitious Dasaavathaaram, where he plays 10 roles, was also launched last week. With Asin (in a double role) and Mallika Sherawat as heroines, K.S.Ravikumar as director and Himesh Reshammiya as the music director, that's going to be a movie to look forward to. Kamal looks really young in the publicity stills and I thought for a moment that I was seeing a still from Pushpak!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Coming Soon - Snakes on a Plane

In a summer filled with superheroes, superstars and pirates, it is surprising that the movie I am most looking forward to is a B-movie that is releasing at the fag end of summer and is headlined by Samuel Jackson! That movie is Snakes on a Plane and it lands in theaters tomorrow. How can I not look forward to a movie whose tag line is “Sit back, relax and enjoy the fright”!

Snakes on a Plane is a film whose hype has been fueled by its fans rather than the studio behind the film or the film’s actors. It marks a new trend in that many parts of it have been developed based on its fans’ wishes and requests. For instance, the film was initially rated PG-13 but was ‘upgraded’ to R (by including swear words for Jackson, a mile-high sex scene and more violence) because of requests by fans. Even a title change was vetoed after an uproar from the film’s fans. And the fans for their part have been busy, coming up scripts, trailers and posters for the film.

But for me, interest in the film is because of its subject matter – snakes. Snakes have long held a morbid fascination for me. I am scared of them and hate their slimy, smooth looks. Just the sight of one slithering on the ground, with its forked tongue moving in and out of its mouth, is enough to make me queasy. At the same time, I can’t help looking away when I see them. It’s no wonder then that I’ve been among the first in line for movies featuring snakes, like Anaconda. I’ve even watched obscure, made-for-TV movies (anyone heard of a film called Rattled? It was shown on USA and was about rattlesnakes showing up in houses after a blast in an abandoned mine) if they featured those reptiles.

Airplanes have been the setting for many fun films (Air Force One, Executive Decision, Turbulence, etc.) and Snakes on a Plane throws snakes into the mix. So I hope it’s gonna be a fun ride…


Regular readers may have noticed that my blogging has been rather erratic the last couple of weeks. That's because the past month will probably count as one of the busiest months I’ve ever gone through. The main reason for this was that we sold our old home and bought a new home. There were a huge number of things that needed to happen for both those to occur simultaneously (the timing was really important since we were banking on proceeds from the sale to fund the purchase!) and they kept us busier than we’ve ever been.

We also had Kavya starting kindergarten at a new school in the middle of this and the back-to-school shopping and other preparations for the big event took up a lot more time that we had planned to spend on them. And then there was the Seattle-Vancouver vacation, which required a lot of planning and took up 6 days right in the middle of all this.

We officially moved into our new home yesterday and so I’m hoping that yesterday was the last day of this particular busy phase. Then again, we have to get things set up at the new place. And going by the packets and fliers we’ve received from Kavya’s school in the first week, they’re planning to keep us parents real busy. So it doesn't look like things are gonna slow down any time soon…

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sun TV's Independence Day Programs

Sun TV programming is completely dominated by megaserials, films and programs that, under different names like Neengal Ketta Paadal, Ungal Choice, Comedy Time, etc., show the same bunch of film songs and/or film clips. So I’ve pretty much stopped watching the channel except on festival days or when they telecast special programs like award shows. But of late, even the programs assembled together for festival days have lost their appeal since they lack imagination and show no variety.

This Independence Day will see another bunch of lackluster programs on Sun TV. The only one I’m even mildly interested in is the interview with A.R.Rehman (since it’s on at 7.30am, I can hopefully catch it before I leave for work tomorrow). A program where Surya meets some army men seems to be the only program that could be considered remotely patriotic and hence, is a suitable program for Independence Day. And then there’s the pattimandram (which has produced some stars like Raja) but it doesn’t look like the topic is related to patriorism.

Other than that, there are interviews with cine personalities like Namitha, ‘Jayam’ Ravi and Vishal, none of whom look like they would have anything interesting to say. A song-based program including Manicka Vinayagam and Vaazha Meenukkum… fame ‘Gaanaa’ Ulaganathan and an interview with Vadivelu are also scheduled but the clips that were shown made me feel like I’d already seen these 2 programs (maybe for April 14?). The movies for the day are Kushi and Arindhum Ariyaamalum – 2 films that do not even tangentially address themes like freedom, patriotism, etc.

My complaint is not about the quality of programs in general but about the type of programs that are being telecast on this day. Considering that it is our Independence Day, is it so difficult to come up with even a few programs that are connected in some fashion to the historic day? Even accepting that only film-based programs attract viewers, we’ve had enough films with patriotic themes to feed several programs. How about a collection of patriotic songs? And a program that analyzes specific patriotic films or looks at patriotic films over the years? Since the first film of the day is a repeat, why not pick a film that deals with patriotism (there are enough popular films like Roja, Indian, etc.) instead of a film whose key scene involves the hero gazing at the heroine’s waist and which includes a song that goes Kattipudi Kattipudidaa….

We’ve been having the same kind of programs on such holidays for so long that the viewers are probably bored. Wish Sun TV would try something different just once. It just might turn out to be popular…

PS: I think the only I reason I'll watch Sun TV tomorrow is to see how many times I can catch Jo in that new ad for the RMKV reversible saree :-) She looks absolutely fabulous.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Terrible Twos, Fascinated Fives

The 2nd year of a child is frequently called the ‘terrible twos’ and with Karthik about 2 months into his 2nd year, he reminds me everyday, why that phrase came about. With Kavya almost 5 years old, I’d also like to propose that the fifth year be called the ‘fascinated fives’.

Physically, a ‘terrible twos’ baby is always on the move. Having learned the wonders of not being stuck in one place not too long ago, these babies don’t stay at one place for more than a second. A day spent running behind Karthik is enough to tire me out. Most lethal is the combination of not being potty-trained and being mobile. It makes diaper changes truly dreadful.

Emotionally, that is the time when characteristics like stubbornness manifest themselves in kids. Younger babies are content to reach out for things they want and look on quietly when we take it away from them. Not so with toddlers. When Karthik now locks his eyes on something (usually wires, TV remotes or telephones), he goes after them with single-minded determination and doesn’t rest until he has it in his hands (and then his mouth!). Any attempt to move the item out of his reach or God forbid, take it out of his hands, is met with a puppy-dog expression of sadness that quickly changes into tears and high-pitched crying.

Based on personal experience, I’d say that the ‘terrible twos’ is also the time when sibling rivalry rears its ugly head. All this while, Karthik was a sweet little thing who loved to be cuddled by his big sister. But lately, he has started needling Kavya in his own ways. He always has his eyes on any toy she is playing with and is willing to hit, scratch and grab to gain possession of it. Poor Kavya, with a mixture of affection and fear, ends up giving up her toy or worse, crying.

Not that Kavya is completely maintenance-free. Turning 5 pretty soon, she is in the phase where she is fascinated by everything around her, which leads to an almost non-stop barrage of questions on every topic she can think of. The tough part is that it’s not easy to get out of these questions. An answer that doesn’t completely satisfy her leads to a chain of questions that exponentially increase in difficulty.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the questions were straightforward ones like “Who is the President of America”. The combination of curiosity, being able to read and partial knowledge leads to questions that are strangely logical but practically unanswerable. Consider this recent set of questions she posed when she spotted a car dealership sign when I was driving along 101…

Dad, is that Infiniti?
Are those cars all Infiniti?
Are they the biggest cars in the world?
Then why are they called Infinity?

With one kid in the ‘fascinated fives’ and the other in the ‘terrible twos’, this is turning out to be one interesting year!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Something Something Unakkum Enakkum

Remaking successful films from other languages carries its own risks. While the already-packaged story and screenplay give the director a head start, the pressures of remaking a proven success, inevitable comparisons to the original and the task of smoothly introducing changes to suit Tamil tastes and the hero’s image ensure that directing remakes is not a walk in the park. But director Raja seems to have mastered the art. He delivered hits with his first 2 films, both remakes of Telugu hits. And with SSUE, he makes it a hat-trick, presenting a film that packages all commercial ingredients well and so, has something for everyone.

Muthupandi(Prabhu) is a doting brother, having raised his sister Kavitha(Trisha) ever since their mother died when they were kids. Kavitha in turn thinks the world of her brother, doing nothing without his consent. When Kavitha’s friend Lalitha(Richa Pallod) is getting married, she takes Kavitha back to her house in the city. That’s where Kavitha meets Santosh(Ravi), Lalitha’s cousin, who is settled in London and is there on vacation to attend the wedding. Sparks soon fly between Santosh and Kavitha but his money-hungry mother(Geetha) is determined to not let the union happen.

Raja’s previous films Jayam and M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi were both good entertainers but since I never saw the originals, I do not know how much of the credit goes to Raja. But having seen Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana, SSUE’s original, I can say that his contribution is rather meager in this case. Barring a few scenes, the film is an almost frame-by-frame remake of Prabhu Deva’s hit and more credit is due to Prabhu Deva for making a film that is entertaining even on the second viewing. But on the positive side, by being so faithful to the original, Raja has managed to retain its spirit, charm and entertainment value.

The film manages to keep us smiling throughout. Sure, its characters cry, fight, utter inane dialogs and go through hardships. But through it all, we never stop smiling. There is an undercurrent of humor flowing through most of the film, which ensures that we keep smiling, even if the smiles never turn into loud laughs. And even when it is absent (like in the sequence where Ravi and Trisha fight over a kiss), the movie works because it is just so darn sweet! In that sense, this is a real feel-good movie.

As I mentioned in my review of the original, the film is little more than the merging of two Hindi film staples – romance in the middle of a wedding and boy trying to impress the girl’s family. So the movie is chockfull of clichés that accompany these 2 stories. But the miracle is that the screenplay manages to blend these 2 familiar stories into a movie that somehow seems fresh. This is because interesting situations are developed even within the familiar scenario while familiar and clichéd sequences don’t go over-the-top or drag on endlessly.

In the first half we get Ravi and Trisha falling in love in the middle of a wedding, a setting that allows for a number of characters and an atmosphere of fun. Romance and comedy have the upper hand here and Tejasri, as Ravi’s suitor, provides the humor with her insistent wooing (the track from the original, where the hero and his friend are suspected to be gay, has been removed, probably because it has already been seen in Saravanaa). In the second half, once Ravi and Trisha are separated because of their social status, we see Ravi trying to earn Prabhu’s respect by completing a big task. Here we get an almost perfect mix of comedy, sentiments and romance as Ravi tries to fit into the village lifestyle. The humor in his antics at the cowshed and the field, the romance in Trisha copying his lifestyle and the sentiments in Prabhu's handling of him are all nicely done.

Ravi’s biggest triumph is that he doesn’t get on our nerves. The role of the foreign-returned, energetic loverboy is ripe for overacting but Ravi manages to make it likeable. His initial run-ins with Trisha are fun and his sincerity comes through once he falls in love. Trisha is in full ‘cute’ mode, pouting her way through the movie. She is far from natural but her artificiality (kinda like Aishwarya Rai played the Brahmin girl role in Jeans) suits the light tone of the film. She looks very pretty though. Bagyaraj and Mallika get a few laughs, the former as Geetha’s hen-pecked husband and the latter as Prabhu’s accident-prone maid.

Almost all songs are catchy but you can feel even as you are listening to them that they won’t last through many hearings. Considering that it’s a romantic film, the presence of only 1 duet is a surprise and it’s the weakest song of the lot, both in timing and in melody. The outdoors are captured very nicely in Poopparikka… while Something Something… features some energetic dancing by Ravi. Kiliye Kiliye... is probably the most catchy number of the lot.

Monday, August 07, 2006


The quality of Indian movies that tackled romance and patriotism has ranged over a wide spectrum with movies like Roja at one end and movies like Majnu at the other. Fanaa falls somewhere in the middle. Its high-wattage, charismatic stars manage to elevate the weak romance to an entertaining level but even they cannot make us overlook the outrageousness of the patriotism/terrorism aspects of the film.

Fanaa has a poetic love story in the literal sense of the phrase since Aamir and Kajol develop their romance almost entirely by exchanging couplets! There are one too many of the poems and we frequently wish the two would get back to talking normally (though I have to admit that reading the subtitles could have robbed them of their original charm). The romance itself is completely cinematic and Aamir, as the loveable rogue, and Kajol, as the woman who thinks she has found Mr.Right, pull it off only because of their talent, charisma and chemistry.

Roja worked because Manirathnam never lost sight of the personal aspect of the story. The story moved to Kashmir and brought terrorism into the picture but the question was always whether Arvind Swamy would be reunited with Madhubala. Not whether Kashmir would stay with India. But other films treat the romance and the terrorist angle as 2 different films. And more often than not, the intimate, personal love story and the big, jingoistic patriotic section never jel.

Fanaa does the same mistake. The relationship between Aamir and Kajol is obviously the centerpiece of the film. And with cuteness, strong emotions, passion, betrayal, etc., it has enough strength to carry the entire film. Inspite of this, the terrorism angle is portrayed as if it is part of a James Bond film. The segments are loud, overblown and silly with elements straight out of a 80s thriller. So we have a bottle-shaped trigger for a nuclear device that can destroy a city, terrorist meetings, undercover missions and anti-terrorist units. The intensity of the feelings between Aamir and Kajol, as they meet under very different circumstances, is all but lost because of the insipid nature of this track.

Aamir has to be admired for taking on this role. It is not your typical loverboy role and his character has many more shades of gray than I expected. But he has still not given up his image completely and that leads to a weak climax. What could have been a tense climax along the lines of the one in Eye of the Needle is turned into a predictable, lame affair.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

1 in 10?

[Pic Courtesy Prabhu]

One of the 10 avathaarams? Cool, dude!

Wedding Bells

[Pic Courtesy Kaps]

The wait(for them and for us!) is finally over! Surya and Jo, seen above at the TamilNadu State Film Awards function, are going to tie the knot next month. There have been a few rumors before but this time it looks like its official since the announcement has come from none other than Surya's dad Sivakumar, long considered the final hurdle to the couple marrying. Their wedding, for just close family members, is set for September 11 and the reception will be on September 12.

Advance best wishes to Kollywood's cutest couple... Its about time!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Netflix's Rolling Roadshow

I've always admired Netflix's creativity. Inspite of the limited options for expansion afforded by the business they are in, they have always managed to come up with something new that keeps them in the news. No wonder they've been able to stave of challengers like Blockbuster with ease.

Their latest gimmick is something they are calling the Netflix Rolling Roadshow. It is an interesting idea for movie buffs, offering them the chance to see 10 classic films in the same locations that they were filmed in. So you get to see Jaws on the beach in Martha's Vineyard, The Shining in Estes Park, Colorado and so on. Each screening is being conducted as an interactive event and some will include original cast members (for instance, Kevin Costner is returning to Iowa for the screening of Field of Dreams).

The closest I get to the roadshow is on August 26, when Escape from Alcatraz is being screened on Alcatraz. This seems to be the coolest event among the 10 since you will see the film in the prison chapel and then spend the night in Cell Block D, the maximum security wing of the prison! Since seats are limited, this is not open to the general public and tickets will be given out through special, yet-to-be-announced promotions.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Seattle-Vancouver-Victoria Trip

My vacations are usually rushed. My theory is that it’s better to see everything that a destination has to offer since we never know if we’d be able to go back there. But with my parents (who didn’t have Canadian visas), 2 kids and a wife who thinks vacations are for relaxing and not running around, I didn’t think I’d do as much as I would like to, on this trip to Seattle and Vancouver. But eventually we did everything that we had planned and then some!

Day 1
With Vancouver as the ultimate destination, we flew to Seattle since we had to get the Canadian visa for my parents. Getting the Canadian visas turned out to be a smooth affair and my parents had the visas in their hands by 1 pm. We then visited the Space Needle and Pike Place Market in Seattle. The former afforded some great views of the city and the surrounding areas (though Kavya had more fun at the ‘Fun Forest’, with a bunch of kiddie rides, that was right next door) while the latter, a market open since 1910, offered a nice walk and a slice of history (the original Starbucks is located here and some of the shops, open since the market opened, have photographs of how the place looked back then).

Day 2
We had originally planned to drive up to Vancouver but based on Filbert’s recommendation, we decided to spend another day in Seattle and drove to Mt.Rainier National Park. It was a great day and so we had some gorgeous views of the snow-capped peak of the mountain and as a bonus, got to see a couple of nice waterfalls too (Narada Falls was really beautiful and the 0.7 mile walk down to see it in its full glory could technically be called Kavya’s first hike!). We then drove to Vancouver that night.

Day 3
In Vancouver, our first stop was the Capilano Suspension Bridge, where walks across the swaying bridge and between tree tops were rather unique experiences. We then drove to downtown for a walk through historic Gastown, the oldest area in Vancouver. The Steam Clock, which runs on steam and whistles every quarter hour, was the highlight of the relaxing walk through the streets there. Kavya’s favorite though was a ‘Dinosaurs in Gastown’ exhibition, where she dug for fossils at a dig site and saw dino skeletons and an animatronic T-Rex.

Day 4
Rain confined us to our hotel rooms in the morning but it cleared up by the afternoon and we went to Grouse Mountain, which is called Vancouver’s peak. A cable car took us to the top of the mountain for great views, a lumberjack show (where Karthik, by virtue of being the youngest member of the audience, got to go down and win a cute, hand-crafted chair!) and a grizzly bear habitat. There were a couple of other shows we wanted to see but it got really chilly and we opted to head back. We then drove to downtown again where this time, we drove around Chinatown and stopped at the Dr.Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese garden.

Day 5
We made a 1-day trip by ferry to Victoria. There we visited Butchart Gardens, which was truly a feast for the eyes. The different varieties of plants and flowers, in dazzling colors, were truly stunning. This was the only place where Karthik sat in his stroller quietly for 2 hours straight since the bright colors really caught his attention! Our next stop was the Butterfly garden, which had a lot of free-flying butterflies in some colorful settings. After that we drove to downtown Victoria, where we visited Miniature World. It was a place we strolled into only because we had time but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The miniature recreations of famous wars, the Canadian railways, castles, fairy tales, etc were really cool and the recreation of an entire fair with working ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, etc. was stunning.

Day 6
We had planned to drive back to Seattle in the morning but decided to visit Stanley Park, which is pretty high on the list of must-visit Vancouver attractions. The word ‘park’ doesn’t really do justice to the place though. We drove around the huge park for some nice views (the best view coming from Prospect Point, the highest point in the park), went for a ride on a miniature train and took Kavya to the farmyard (a petting zoo). From there, we drove back to Seattle. The long wait at US Customs and the Seattle traffic put us through some tense moments and after rushing through the airport, we made it to the gate just as the boarding announcements started.

Some photos from the trip can be seen here.