Thursday, September 28, 2006

Little Superstar

No, not Simbhu. That title this time belongs to King Kong, the pint-sized man who acted in a few Tamil movies a while back. I got an email from Daniel Freed, the producer of Current TV, a cable TV station in San Francisco, who said he was working on a piece about this video clip. That clip ofcourse is from Adhisaya Piravi and it, along with King Kong's dance moves, is apparently all the rage on YouTube. I told him what I knew and that information seems to have made it to the latest edition of Yahoo Video's Current Buzz.

First it was Tamil (and Vadivelu and his Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi) on Google Current and now this... Tamil cinema's fame is certainly spreading...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Akeelah and the Bee / United 93

Akeelah and the Bee is an unabashedly feel-good film about a young black girl’s journey to the National Spelling Bee. It faithfully follows most clichés of underdog sports films but still manages to strike a chord because of its likeable characters, simple storytelling and positive message.

The Spelling Bee has been criticized in many places (including this blog) as an essentially useless contest that promotes blind memorization of words that the contestants are unlikely to use in the future. But the film treats competing in it as a learning experience that helps a child achieve self-confidence and develop a love of words. It is seen as a positive experience with the parents, barring one, supportive of their children in victory or defeat.

And that is not the only aspect where the film adopts a positive outlook. This is a film where a rich, white boy and a poor, black girl can be friends without race or social status coming into the picture. And even the gang members living in Akeelah’s neighborhood are good.

Such underdog films usually have only 1 of 2 endings. One of them is predictable while the other boosts the protagonist’s image at the expense of others around him/her. But Akeelah and the Bee manages to surprise us by choosing a third path. By doing so, it generates a little more(though admittedly, not much) suspense than usual and does so in an exhilarating manner. This story arc also allows the film to prove that everybody has some good in them.


Equally good but at the other end of the feel-good scale is United 93, which portrays what could have happened on the one flight that did not make it to its destination on 9/11. It is a gripping, chilling film that is doubly effective because it narrates a true story that is still fresh in our minds.

We’ve usually heard the phrase “like a documentary” used in a derogatory manner when referring to movies. But United 93 is one of the movies where that phrase could be considered a compliment. By avoiding the usual cinematic accoutrements that accompany movies like this, the director gives us the feeling that we are watching things unfold exactly as they happened. There are no unnecessary heroics or theatrics and people do just what ordinary people will probably do when caught in a do-or-die situation like that.

While knowing the ending usually spoils a film, the tragic nature of the ending here adds a new dimension to the viewing experience. We know what the characters in the film do not. So as the flight gets delayed on the runway or chaos reigns in the control center, the film evokes strong emotions since we know what is going to happen but are just mute witnesses and are completely powerless to prevent it. Fully aware of how the movie will proceed, I still found myself involuntarily hoping that the flight gets grounded or the pilots get to hear about the WTC before taking off or the passengers subdue the terrorists before it is too late.

United 93 is an unforgettable film about one of the things that happened on an unforgettable day.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Padmini No More

Very beautiful, incredibly graceful, extremely good actress... I've seen only a few Padmini movies but she would definitely figure among my favorite actresses of all time in Tamil cinema.

May her soul rest in peace...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jaan-e-man - News in Pictures

[Pics Courtesy Rediff]

A couple of interesting pics from Jaan-e-man, the Akshay Kumar-Salman Khan-Preity Zinta - starrer releasing for Diwali. That's Salman Khan, Bollywood's hunky hero, in drag in the first photo above. The film also has veteran actor Anupam Kher playing a dwarf (see 2nd photo). So Kamal's achievement in Aboorva Sagodharargal is no longer gonna be unique. Then again, I guess we can be proud that its taken so long for another actor to even attempt what Kamal did! Unlike Kamal, Kher doesn't seem to be keen on keeping his technique a big secret though. He says in the interview that he played the role by being on his knees.

Friday, September 22, 2006

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Sillunu Oru Kaadhal, Emttan Magan and Aran are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pay It Forward Stalin!

It looks like director Murugadoss hasn't stopped looking towards Hollywood for inspiration. We all know by now that Ghajini's "short-term memory" storyline was directly inspired by Memento. Murugadoss' first Telugu film Stalin, with Chiranjeevi and Trisha, opened yesterday. According to 1 review, Chiranjeevi "... comes with an idea that each person should help three people when they receive help from others so that the chain multiplies." This is ofcourse mixed up with another track pitting his against a corrupt politician but the "help chain" concept is a direct lift from the Kevin Spacey - Helen Hunt starrer Pay it Forward.

But the film seems to be getting generally positive reviews and will probably be a hit. If that happens, Murugadoss will be breaking the jinx that affected Tamil directors who went to Telugu. Both Dharani and Gautam were unable to replicate their success in Tamil in Telugu and now we have to see if Murugadoss is able to do what those two were unable to.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

For Aish Fans...

[Pic Courtesy]

That's Aish dueling with Colin Firth(who was seen in Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually, etc.) in The Last Legion, her first foray into 'real' Hollywood. It is a period film set in Rome in 476 A.D and Aish is the film's only heroine. Ben Kingsley is also in the cast and more pics can be seen here [thanks Maverick].

Aish predictably also figures in the top 5 in the list of sexiest Asian actresses as selected by the UK publication Eastern Eye. She lost out to both Bipasha Basu(understandable!) and Priyanka Chopra(not understandable!) to place 3rd on the list but did manage to beat Mallika Sherawat.

I've never been a big fan of Aish but she does look gorgeous in this still from J.P.Dutta's Umrao Jaan, where she is playing the title role made famous by Rekha and will be seen with rumored boyfriend Abishek Bachan.

With Dhoom 2(where she and Hrithik Roshan both supposedly have negative roles), Umrao Jaan and The Last Legion, Aish fans have a lot to look forward to...

Monday, September 18, 2006


[Pic Courtesy Sify]

Its definitely crunch time for Ajith. But then again, the actor has faced a lot of such crunch times throughout his career. He has seen more ups and downs than a seesaw and though he has been written off a number of times, he has always managed to bounce back. With a string of flops(anyone remember what his last bonafide hit was?), a long break from acting, problems with movies that he signed on, a mediocre performance by his comeback vehicle Paramasivan and a megaflop in Tirupathi(never mind the 106th day celebrations!), the actor seems to be at another crisis point in his career. The next few months will be crucial but on the bright side, the way things look right now, he does seem poised for another upswing in his career.

His personal life is definitely going great guns. He and Shalini have been married 6 years and seem very happy together. She is by his side at all the public functions he attends and is definitely good moral support. They looked great together at the Surya-Jo wedding and Ajith looked smart and well-dressed.

But the picture's not so rosy when it comes to his career though. We've had quite a few films face problems before release but Godfather would probably take home the prize for the movie that took the longest time to release. It has now been renamed Varalaaru to take advantage of the Government's tax-cut for movies with Tamil names and finally seems set to hit the screens for Diwali. With Ajith playing 3 roles and the usually reliable masala director K.S.Ravikumar behind the camera, Ajith's fans will be hoping for a good thala deepavali!

The actor is now onto his next film Aalwaar. Stills from the film show that the actor has put on some weight again. So he doesn't look as haggard as he did in Paramasivan or Tirupathi and looks as he did in the Dheena days. But I'm hoping this was a planned weight gain that is within his control. Or he's again gonna end up looking bloated as he did in movies like Ji. Aalwaar will hit the screens for Pongal and will go up against Vijay's Pokkiri. The last time the 2 actors' films released on the same day (again on Pongal), Ajith won out since his Paramasivan fared better than Aadhi. Wonder who will be the box-office winner next year...

After Aalwaar, Ajith is slated to act in Kireedam. Based on the name and the news that Rajkiran has an important role as his father, I'm wondering if the film will be a remake of Mohanlal's classic of the same name. That movie was about a constable's son eventually turning into a rowdy. We've had movies like Thamizh tackle the same subject of a regular guy unwillingly becoming a rowdy and if it is indeed a remake of the Malayalam film, Kireedam will have to do something new to seem sufficiently different. But the story does have a lot of potential to be turned into a good entertainer.

One can't talk about Ajith and not talk about Naan Kadavul. Though the whole fiasco is blamed on Bala and the producer and Ajith is credited with having acted like a thorough gentleman, one feels that it is he who suffered the bigger loss. Keeping in mind what Bala's films like Sethu, Nandhaa and Pithaamagan did for their actors, the movie would have been a golden chance for Ajith to prove himself as an actor. That chance has now gone to Arya, who grabbed it with both hands. The publicity stills are intriguing and point to strong spiritual and religious overtones in the film. Hopefully, Ajith's other films turn out to be hits and lessen his regret at missing out on Naan Kadavul.

Good Luck Ajith!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Judge and Jury

Judge and Jury has to be the most un-Patterson-novel-like James Patterson novel I've read. The short chapters, with endings that keep you turning the pages, are the only giveaways that this is a work by Patterson. Otherwise, it is a straightforward thriller without any of the surprising twists that the author is known to throw at us.

Nick Pellisante, an FBI agent, has just nabbed mob boss Dominic Cavello, his longtime nemesis. Cavello goes to trial and since many of his former accomplices have become witnesses for the prosecution, it looks like he can't escape justice this time around. But he has hired Richard Nordeshenko, a contract killer, to get him out of prison and Nordeshenko is ready to do whatever's needed to help Cavello escape. One of the jurors at the trial, Andie, is dragged into the game as a result of Nordeshenko's plan and now Nick and Andie have to team up to get Cavello.

Judge and Jury works pretty well as long as you can forget that you are reading a book by James Patterson. It has a detestable villain and a couple of protagonists who easy to sympathize with. It is action-packed and has enough chases, fights and courtroom drama to keep the story moving.

The most surprising thing about the novel is the lack of any twists. Patterson always packs in a twist or two in his books and that has almost become his calling card. Not this time though. Judge and Jury is a straightforward revenge drama where the villain is known on page 1 itself. Considering Patterson's previous novel Beach Road where the one big twist overwhelmed the story itself, the lack of twists here actually helps since it allows more focus on the story.

Like most Patterson books that don't belong to the Alex Cross or Women's Murder Club series, this book too includes a cheesy romance(that seems even more out-of-place than usual). Its characters lack depth and focus is only on moving the story forward. So like those other books, it is an entertaining but unmemorable read.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

After the Wedding...

So Tamil cinema’s Wedding of the Year is finally over. From the photo albums, it was certainly a grand affair and was very well attended by the film fraternity. Surya looked smart, Jo was radiant and they made a great pair.

Some big names were absent from the wedding and were immediately noticed. Rumors started rather quickly about the reasons their absence but subsequent events have put many of those rumors to rest. Trisha couldn’t make it since she had to complete shooting for Chiranjeevi’s Stalin. Simbhu’s absence was attributed to atleast two reasons. One was his fancying Jyothika (he has openly expressed admiration for her and called her his favorite heroine on more than one occasion) and the other was his expression of support for Nayanthara, who was not invited. But he was apparently on the guest list for the newly-married couple’s party to friends at Dublin in Park Sheraton on September 12. There ends that mystery! Vikram didn’t make it either and no explanation so far as to why (he did make it to Arunkumar's engagement though!).

While the above absences were mentioned in all reports, I don’t think S.J.Suryah’s absence was mentioned. Since he was the director who first introduced Jo to Tamil cinema (in Vaali) and then made her a top heroine (through Kushi), I would’ve thought he would’ve been there. Wonder if his image had something to do with it.

This time the post-wedding blues are for Jo’s fans. At the press meet the day after the wedding, Surya and Jo announced that she wouldn’t be acting any more since they wanted to start a family. Talk about mixed emotions! I’m not sure if I’m happy for the couple or sad about Jo quitting films.

As I’ve mentioned a number of times before, Jo has definitely been growing as an actress. From the overacting, irritating girl in Kushi to the cute and bubbly heroine of 12B to the beautiful and mature woman in Kaakka Kaakka, she has come a long way (and those RmKV saree ads are enough proof that she’s become more beautiful too!). She’s had her share of big hits and has written her name into the history books, having headlined Tamil cinema’s biggest hit ever. She’ll definitely be missed… Atleast there’s still Silandhi and Mozhi, both with good directors, to look forward to for us fans.

As the couple gets ready to go to Europe for their honeymoon, here’s wishing them a happy married life…

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Happy Birthday Kavya!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sillunu Oru Kaadhal

Sillunu Oru Kaadhal has been made banking solely on the chemistry between Surya and Jyothika. Having made 6 movies together and getting ready to become husband and wife in real life too, the two do make a cute couple and share excellent chemistry onscreen. But chemistry can take you only so far. A movie, especially a romance, also needs an interesting story, an engaging screenplay and a good pace to hold our interest and SOK unfortunately falls short on all those aspects.

Surya and Jyothika are easily the most popular pair(in reel life and in real life) in Tamil cinema right now. SOK got in the news early on when it paired them up just when the rumor mills were working overtime and it truly struck a goldmine of free hype and publicity when the pair, after years of speculation and rumors, announced that they were going to wed. The movie releasing just a few days before the wedding only added to the hype. But the couple deserved a better wedding gift.

Gowtham(Surya) and Kundhavi(Jyothika) get married without a lot of enthusiasm and on Kundhavi's side, the disappointment arises from the fact that hers is not a love marriage. But 6 years later, they are a happily married couple living in Mumbai, completely in love with each other and doting on their daughter Aishwarya(Baby Shreya). When Gowtham goes on a trip to America to present a paper, Kundhavi chances upon his diary from his college days. That's when she learns that she is not her husband's first love and that he and Aishwarya(Bhoomika) had been lovers in college.

The movie draws us in right away when Surya and Jyothika enter wedlock with long faces since the hero and the heroine getting married at the start of the movie and doing so unhappily are both rare occurrences in Tamil cinema. It is a little disappointing when it quickly fast forwards to 5 years later and shows them as a happy couple since their journey to reach that stage would have made interesting viewing. But they make us believe that they are a couple still very much in love and completely open and honest with each other. The few snapshots we get of their life are sweet and fun-filled.

The story demands that their romance be cut short as we flashback to the romance between Surya and Bhoomika. That by itself is not such a bad thing. The problem is that everything that was right in the romance between Surya and Jyothika is thrown out the window as Surya and Bhoomika meet and fall in love. It is a nice idea to contrast the two romances (initial dislike vs love at first sight, Chief mechanic Surya vs rowdy college student Surya, chatty Jo vs quiet Bhoomika, etc.) but it makes the Surya-Bhoomika romance very weak. It is barely convincing and never cute. And for the record, Bhoomika's line that reveals her love has to count among the worst ever. It would have been vulgar if it hadn't been so silly.

The 2 hour mark is simply too late for a movie to get into the meat of the story, no matter how good it is. But that’s exactly what happens in SOK. The one big plot development occurs so late that we've lost all interest in the film by then. The plot point is interesting and even a bit daring and has some potential but considering that it is a Tamil film and knowing the characters(and actors) involved, it is completely predictable. Still, the director does manage to generate some interest in the proceedings and though it eventually turns out to be a cheat using a very familiar technique, it is convincing while it is happening and manages to keep us guessing until the cheat is revealed.

I've mentioned before that Vadivelu has grown on me as a comedian but he is still a completely wrong choice for a film aiming to be a classy, slick and youthful romance. Though he isn't onscreen for long, his separate segments are crude and distasteful and the entire segment where he and his relatives camp out in Surya's house is painful. Santhanam, on the other hand, is very funny and has a number of hilarious lines.

It is clear that Surya is better suited to play a loverboy than a rowdy but he slips into both roles easily. With a pleasant face and a ready smile, he is easily likeable. Goes without saying that Jo looks great and makes a great pair with him. After Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, she once again displays a quieter persona here and is convincing as the wife dealing with her husband's past love in a rather new way. Bhoomika looks more comfortable as the shy, quiet girl rather than the modern rebel she turns into later. Sukanya has a miniscule role(and she better fire her makeup man!).

New York Nagaram... is inexplicably not pictured in New York. It starts off right as Surya misses Jyothika but the bright picturization with all those camera tricks and designer clothing somehow doesn't suit the spirit of the song. Jo looks like a doll in the song though. Munbe Vaa..., thankfully, is picturized just right - romantically and softly. Kummi Adi... starts the film off on a high while Machakkaari… feels unnecessary. Majaa Majaa… is probably the best example of the chemistry between Surya and Jo and is sensuous without being vulgar.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Surya Weds Jo

[Pic Courtesy Sify]

Looks like the Surya - Jo wedding has happened. Best wishes to the couple.... They do make a great pair :-)

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Daniel Balaji

According to my mom (usually a reliable source of such information), Daniel Balaji, who played the psycho killer so well in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, is actor Murali's brother. Can someone confirm or invalidate this piece of trivia?

S.J.Suryah's Next

S.J.Suryah seems to have turned into a bonafide hero in Tamil cinema. After Kalvanin Kaadhali's success, he is acting as a hero in many movies by other directors. His stills with Meera Jasmine for Thirumagan gave credence to the rumor that he was going for an image change from the sleazeball image he currently holds after films like New and A Aa. But if the stills for his next film Vyaabaari are any indication, he is back to his old ways. The film is being directed Shakti Chidambaram and has Namitha, Malavika and Tamanna as the heroines.

The funniest quote is provided by Shakti Chidambaram though. Giving us a set of completely glamorous and vulgar stills, he claims that the film will be "a rollicking fun movie for the whole family"! That would be have to be one dysfunctional family!!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Sillunu Oru Kaadhal Audio

Though A.R.Rahman seems to be reserving his best work for Hindi films these days, any soundtrack from him is still eagerly expected. After rather mediocre work in films like A Aa and New, Sillunu Oru Kaadhal sees him in slightly better form. The numbers are quite eclectic and prevent the album from being branded as a completely romantic soundtrack. There are not enough great numbers to place this album alongside Rahman's previous classics but a couple of numbers do remind us of the Rahman of old.

1. Munbe Vaa...
A slow, melodious, romantic number that grows on us easily. Its been a while since Rahman tuned a really melodious song and here he proves that he still has it in him. The group interludes are catchy and add some pep to the song. Shreya Ghoshal chalks up another beautiful number that suits her glorious voice.

2. New York Nagaram...
A very different and unique number, this one is almost dreamy in both its tune and its lyrics. Its a rather strange mix in that the tune and the singing are quite upbeat while the lyrics talk about loneliness and the like. Rahman's slightly gruff voice suits the song perfectly. This one should rule the charts for a while...

3. Jillendru Oru Kaadhal...
This is a jazzy number that reminds one of Vennila Vennila... from Iruvar because of the instrumentation, the voice and the kind of song it is. It is sung energetically by Tanvi though all those meow sounds could have been avoided.

4. Kummi Adi...
This folk number has a rather unremarkable tune but it is listenable because of the lyrics. Not that they are very meaningful but they are just plain fun to listen to. They are fast and roll nicely off the tongue. So it is a fun song to sing along with.

5. Maaricham...
Some spirited, accented singing rescues this otherwise average number. There is some new age stuff in the middle that is nice if you like the music of bands like Enigma.

6. Machakkaari...
Vasundhara Das sounds husky and great in this song and the always-dependable Shankar Mahadevan gives her good company. The number starts off great with a catchy tune but falters midway with the stanzas being very ordinary.

7. Majaa Majaa...
SPB Charan sounds a lot like his father but that is the only noticeable aspect of the song. It is a song along the lines of A Aa's Thazhuvudhu Nazhuvudhu... and depends a lot on the vocal talents of the singers.

The Namesake :-)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Tamil Cinema Teachers

Teachers are usually not treated with much respect in Tamil cinema. They are, more often than not, present as comedy elements in movies that are set in school/college campuses. Usually played by comedians like ‘Venniraadai’ Moorthy and ‘Typist’ Gopu , they are little more than caricatures, becoming the target of pranks and being scared of the students. The lady teachers don’t fare much better. They are usually harassed by the ‘bad’ students and in the movies that really sink low, they are treated as sex objects and become victims of vulgar comments from the students.

Thankfully, our heroes and heroines have come to the rescue of the profession a few times. When they play teachers, they are honest, upright teachers who are trusted by the students, are friends with them and are ready to lead them to a better tomorrow. And they reflect the real world since those are the kinds of teachers I’ve had in school and college. On the occasion of Teacher’s Day, my thoughts went to characters in the teaching profession portrayed by our leading men and women.

If the professor Rajni played in Dharmathin Thalaivan had appeared in a better movie, he might have become a much more popular character. Aimed squarely at the children, the good-hearted, absent-minded professor was a sweet and very likeable character. But he was stuck in a boring movie with a ridiculous plot. On the other hand, the professor in Naan Sigappu Manidhan was serious and had only revenge on his mind. Kamal is on record saying that Nammavar is one of the movies he wished he had not done. But it did allow him to take on the role of a teacher who brought some errant students in line. Ramanaa, where our Captain played a professor, was the only movie in recent times where he played a down-to-earth character. That character was probably the most action-oriented among the teachers we’ve had so far on the big screen. Bagyaraj played the teacher twice – in Mundhaanai Mudichu and Sundarakaandam – and in both cases, he added his own brand of self-deprecating humor, allowing the students to go one up on him. That resulted in a lot of laughs.

I don’t recall many of our actresses playing teachers. Rekha played a teacher in her debut film Kadalora Kavidhaigal. It was a good film but I remember my biology teacher in school saying that she didn’t like the movie since it would give every guy the idea that he could say “I Love You” to a teacher! Nadhiya in M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi was a feisty teacher who put the rowdy students in their places. And Simran exited Tamil cinema after playing a headmistress in Kicha Vayasu 16.

More than the people in any other profession, its our teachers who are responsible for shaping tomorrow's world. Wish our movies would treat them with a little more respect...

Monday, September 04, 2006


[Pic Courtesy Prasanna]

I think Surya and Jo have definitely earned a place in the Tamil cinema 'great pairs' hall of fame (the hall would also include Sivaji-Padmini and Kamal-Sridevi). The upcoming Sillunu Oru Kaadhal is going to be just their 6th movie together (after Poovellaam Kettuppaar, Uyirile Kalandhadhu, Kaakka Kaakka, Perazhagan and Maayaavi) but it does seem like they've acted together a lot more!

I don't think they've had a regular marriage scene in any of those movies though. So this pic is probably from Sillunu Oru Kaadhal. Could qualify as a complete dress rehearsal for September 11 :-)

Friday, September 01, 2006

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu and Yugaa are online @ bbreviews.