Thursday, November 30, 2006

3 Non-Tamil Movies

Saw Mahesh Babu's Pokiri. It is only the 3rd straight Telugu film I've seen(after Peddaraayudu and Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana) and there were a couple of reasons I picked this one up. The film is supposed to be the biggest hit in the history of Telugu cinema and that piqued my curiosity. And ofcourse, I was curious about the film since Vijay is acting in the Tamil remake(it is being directed by Prabhu Deva and slated to be released for Pongal 2007). The film is definitely a fast-paced, racy entertainer but it wasn't the constantly engaging, exhilarating ride that one expects from a film that has become "the biggest hit in history".

On the positive side, the film is quite stylish and has a good pace. The story doesn't amount to much and the big twist is predictable but the presentation is excellent with some sequences(like the way the twist is revealed) getting our pulses racing. Mahesh Babu has good charisma and screen presence. He seems to be very intense and his style of dialog delivery is underplayed but effective. Ileana looks cute and contrary to her role in Kedi, proves that she can carry a glamorous role well. Songs are catchy and nicely picturized. On the downside, the film is quite violent. The body count is very high and most of the deaths are brutal and bloody. The separate comedy track is cheap and unfunny and drags the movie down.

The role will definitely suit Vijay very well. If Prabhu Deva recreates the style and pace of the movie, tones down the violence and eliminates the comedy track(or atleast comes up with a better one), Vijay could well have a big hit on his hands.


Saw You, Me & Dupree. Rented it for only 1 reason - Kate Hudson - and eventually, she turned out to be the only bright spot in the movie. It is one of those weird movies that can't be slotted in any genre. It starts of as a comedy, shows signs of turning into a romance and finally ends up being neither. None of the characters ring true, mainly because they aren't consistent and change according to the dictates of the screenplay.

But the best part of the DVD is actually hidden in the 'Special Features' section. I'm always a fan of the trailers and watch all the previews usually provided in the 'Bonus Features section'. This movie had something called a 'Spoof Trailer'. It turned out to be a very clever bit that, with real scenes that actually appeared in the film, constructed a trailer for a horror film. The way it twisted things around with both characters and their behavior was ingenious and totally hilarious. If you do watch the DVD of the film, do not miss this trailer.


Also watched Corporate, Madhur Bhandarkar's latest film. It was an interesting, engrossing look at the behind-the-scenes workings of big business. With two companies in the food industry, he painted a scary picture of the way things work in the corporate world. It becomes a bit too cinematic and dramatic towards the end with martyrs and pawns that are used to show that big business really is bad. But until that, the film is a fascinating look at what goes on inside the world of business.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

I think I've mentioned before in this blog that there are 2 day trips we always make, when we have guests from outside the Bay Area. My brother and his wife visited us over the Thanksgiving weekend and naturally, those 2 day trips happened this time also.

Based on experience, I'd say Thanksgiving day is the best day to visit San Francisco. Among all my trips to the city, I found it to be the least crowded when I visited it on Thanksgiving day a couple of years ago. So we opted to drive to the city on Thursday this time also. Since we left pretty late, we hit just the main 2 tourist spots in the city. First stop ofcourse was the Golden Gate bridge. The two vista points on either end of the bridge give some good views but they are no match for the view of the full span of the bridge from up the mountains. We then drove up Lombard St. for the winding drive down Crooked Street and walked around a bit for views of the city and the bay.

I've never been one of those early shoppers on the 'Black Friday', the Friday after Thanksgiving, when the stores have those insane deals. The deals never seemed worth the crowds and the long lines. So this time too, I just made leisurely trips to Target and Fry's Electronics late morning on Friday. Picked up computer speakers($8.99) and a couple of DVDs (Batman Begins for $3.98 and Rush Hour for $2.99) just so I wasn't the only one walking out of those stores empty-handed :-)

On Saturday, headed out to Monterey with a stop at Mystery Spot first. The Mystery Spot never ceazes to amaze me though I've been there something like 15 times. Its always fun watching the ball roll upwards and the people lean at unbelievable angles. Be sure to go there if you ever visit the Bay Area. It was a warm, sunny day - perfect for the Monterey drive. The sparkling blue ocean looked great and made for a great drive. Went on the 17-mile drive and stopped at a few vista points we don't usually stop at. Also went to Carmel beach at the end of the drive so Kavya could have some fun playing in the sand.

Wrapped up the long weekend with a trip to the mall on Sunday and after dropping brother and sis-in-law off at the airport, caught the 9.30 showing of Sivappadhigaaram.

Overall, a fun weekend that sped by too fast for all of us. Photos from the trips to SFO and Monterey can be seen here.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Some directors jump from one genre to another effortlessly while others make the leap rather shakily. Karu. Palaniappan, based on Sivappadhigaaram, falls in the latter category. After the wonderful Parthiban Kanavu, a sweet, feel-good entertainer, he slips rather badly in this wannabe-social actioner. His good intentions and sincerity are apparent but can’t save the film, which starts off being boring and after the halfway point, becomes familiar.

Ilango(Raghuvaran), a retired professor, moves back to his village along with his daughter Charulatha(Mamta). He wishes to publish a book about the folk songs that are so popular in the countryside and Satyamoorthy(Vishal) joins him a day later to assist him in his task. But we soon learn that the two have a much bigger agenda.

Karu. Palaniappan’s sincerity is not in doubt. His intentions are noble and his attempt to convey positive messages is laudable. But good intentions alone do not make a good film. Popularizing folk songs sounds like a good idea but there not many ways to present it interestingly and it shows. There are too many folk songs (one would become a chain smoker if one walked out for every song in the first half!) and though the first couple sound good, they soon overstay their welcome. Getting real villagers and singers(I think) to participate is a good idea but with no hint of a story, the film meanders, seeming more like a documentary during these portions. The intermission point occurs less than an hour into the movie but it seems much longer.

The folk song track is then completely abandoned as the focus turns to the actions of Raghuvaran and Vishal. We soon realize that the movie has started only after Vishal’s first attack and that everything that went on before it was completely disposable. That realization further irritates us about the first half! The attack itself is completely unbelievable(we are expected to believe that someone can stab a politician who is going to file his nomination for the election and walk out unnoticed) but is welcome since it finally gives some direction to the movie.

As expected, there is a flashback that explains Vishal’s actions but there’s nothing new there. We get power-hungry politicians and corrupt cops doing what they usually do in the movies. And like all movies about vigilantes, we get a personal revenge angle. But the segment does work as a damning indictment of politics with pretty much every politician, right from the Chief Minister down, shown as being completely immoral. As they plot their moves, the depths they sink to are pretty scary and so, quite interesting.

The flashback is mostly set in a college and for once, doesn’t make a mockery of college life. With the Kalloori Saalaikkul… background number, the movie presents a college where students do study(apart from having fun) and the teachers are inspirational and treated with respect. Considering Tamil cinema’s track record when it comes to portraying college life, the segment comes as a relief.

As Vishal goes around executing his plan, the movie begins to resemble other vigilante movies(most notably Ramanaa). All elements of those films - like an officer trying to unearth the vigilante's identity, the targets getting scared of his actions, a flashback detailing the reasons behind his mission, etc. - are present here too. The climax in the middle of the Azhagar festival has the right elements in place but ends up being too simplistic and cinematic.

Vishal definitely has good screen presence and does the brooding role well. But his diction is a big problem and his trouble with the zha sound makes some of his long lines almost embarrassing. Mamta looks beautiful though like most heroines, she doesn’t fit in in the village. Raghuvaran is his usual self. Ganja Karuppu has some nice one-liners that inspire chuckles and the villains are the usual bunch. Vidyasagar, after some disappointing soundtracks, comes back to form here. Chithiraiyil Enna Varum… and Atrai Thingal… are both wonderful melodies that are appealing the very first time we hear them. The former is picturized in a suitably mellow fashion while the latter has the lead pair romping around. The background song that plays when Vishal is on his missions is also inspirational.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So Many Movies...

So Little Time!

2 Tamil movies releasing this weekend here in the US. In the Bay Area, both are being screened at the Century Theatres, Beryessa location. Better theater than IMC 6 for sure but also a longer drive for me. Atleast its closer than the new Park theater in Fremont, where Varalaaru was screened.

Rendu starts tomorrow. Madhavan is supposed to have a double role in the film and has 2 heroines, Reema Sen and Anushka, for company. His last film Thambi apparently did well and this one, considering its credentials, has an even better chance to be a hit. The film is helmed by Sundar.C, who has had pretty good success when it comes to masala entertainers. He’s dabbled in a number of genres but masala films, with emphasis on comedy, have given him his biggest hits. Vadivelu has been a staple in his films for some time now. Vadivelu’s comedy track in Sundar’s movies like Winner and Giri have been among his better ones and played a big part in the movies’ success. Not surprisingly, he is acting in Rendu also.

The catchily-titled Sivappadhigaaram releases Friday. Vishal, with 3 hits in a row, is undoubtedly the fastest rising star today and will be looking at this film to solidify his position. Mamta Mohandas is the heroine and Raghuvaran, who we haven’t seen for a while, is in the film too. The film is directed by Karu. Pazhaniappan, the director of the wonderful Parthiban Kanavu. It will be interesting to see how he handles an action film this time around. Vidyasagar’s songs have received good praise though I’m not sure how big a hit the audio is.

Dhoom 2 also starts tomorrow in the US. The first Dhoom was a stylish, racy entertainer with a good cast, great music and nice stunts. Abishek and Uday Chopra are back and with Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai(as the baddies) and Bipasha Basu(as a cop) joining the cast, the stakes are definitely much higher in this sequel. The trailer looks great and points to an extravagant, fun film.

None of the Hollywood films releasing this weekend have my interest and I’m guessing that I’ll be watching only one of them(Déjà vu) even when the DVDs are out. But Casino Royale is still going strong and carries great reviews. The stunts are supposed to be less fancy and so more real and Daniel Craig has earned high marks for his portrayal of the superspy. Wouldn’t mind catching that on the big screen. 2 other movies I wanted to watch were The Departed and Borat since both got fantastic reviews. But since they are more than a couple of weeks old, the excitement has kinda died down and I’ll probably just wait for the DVDs.

Happy Thanksgiving and more importantly, happy long weekend!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Good vs Bad

As far as Tamil cinema is concerned, 2006 has been the year of the bad guy. This is ofcourse not the first year that we've had movies with rowdies and other assorted baddies as heroes. But as I’ve mentioned in many a review, the films we saw this year were quite different in tone from the films on rowdies and other baddies that we got a few years ago. This time around, the films were darker and grittier and did not romanticize their protagonists’ lives. From paid henchmen to blackmailers, our heroes were painted in broad shades of gray and did not walk around with haloes around their heads.

Considering just the more high-profile among such movies so far this year, we've had 3 hits - Pattiyal, Thalainagaram and Thiruttu Payale - and 2 flops - Pudhuppettai and Vattaaram. I found something common between the 3 hits and something common between the 2 flops.

The 3 hits share the fact that their protagonists do not succeed at the end of the film. They all journey down different paths and are even ready to make changes in their lives. But their sins eventually catch up with them and they meet violent ends. On the other hand, the protagonists of the 2 flops are still standing at the end. While one is just launching a career in politics, the other has achieved everything he set eyes on and drives away as a happy man with his lover.

So is it possible that our moviegoers do not want to see evil triumph in the battle between good and evil? Maybe they don’t mind watching bad guys as long as they pay for their sins at the end? Considering our hero-centric film industry, films with negative protagonists are not all that common. Have we had any big hits with such anti-heroes? How about big hits, with anti-heroes, that have a happy ending?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Collectors

The Collectors is a typical David Baldacci novel - complicated, quite implausible but still a good read.

The Collectors features the return of the Camel Club, the unofficial club made up of the 4 conspiracy theorists who we first met in The Camel Club. This time they smell a connection between the deaths of the United States Speaker and the director of the Library of Congress, which houses the rarest books in the US. Meanwhile, a woman is preparing to con the head of the biggest casino in Atlantic city. Expectedly, the two tracks converge pretty soon.

The Collectors has everything one expects from a Baldacci novel - high intrigue set in and around Washington D.C; a huge number of characters among whom even the most insignificant ones have a big part to play; and a complicated plot where only pieces of the puzzle are revealed on the way and the way they all fit together isn't clear until the very end. It is grand and overblown and quite some suspension of disbelief is necessary but as long as one doesn't question the plausibility of the happenings, it provides an entertaining read.

While CIA agent Alex Ford helped out the Camel Club in the previous novel, they get a new partner in the scam artist Annabelle Conroy this time around. And she is definitely the more interesting of the two. Her initial scams are quite clever and her talents are put to full use as she helps the foursome get in and out of some tight spots. The reactions of the four in her presence leads to some light humor along the way too. Her adversary is actually the scariest of the bunch and the way the book ends ensures that she'll be back. That's good!

The book is a long read but its impressive that Baldacci makes every one of those pages count. There is almost no fluff. He doesn't introduce any romance that could slow down the pace and even seemingly minor characters end up playing a big role by the time the book ends. As in his previous novels, he reveals only a little bit of the plot at a time but does it a lot less overtly than he did in The Camel Club. All these things together make sure that the book never slows down and that we keep turning the pages. There are only a few minor twists towards the end but they are satisfactory rather than sensational.

Friday, November 17, 2006

4 New Reviews

Reviews for Varalaaru, Vattaaram, Thalaimagan and Dharmapuri are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Vattaaram is probably the best example of the shift in the tone of gangster movies in Tamil cinema. When Saran made a movie with a rowdy as hero in 2002, it was Gemini, a complete masala entertainer with the familiar rowdy-with-heart-of-gold as hero, an over-the-top villain, diluted violence and large dollops of comedy, sentiments and romance. But Vattaaram, his return to the genre, is darker, has a larger canvas and features a protagonist painted in broader shades of gray. It is fast-paced and entertaining but also familiar. And Saran's unwillingness to go the whole way makes it less effective.

Ever since he was a boy, Burma(Arya) has nursed the ambition to be like Gurupaadham(Napolean), a rich, powerful dada and the ambition is now tinged with a desire for revenge since Burma's father was unjustly kicked out by Gurupaadham. Burma bides his time until he gets a chance to join Gurupaadham's gang and quickly becomes an important henchman. Gurupaadham's trusts him fully against the warnings of his liteunant Iraa('Kaadhal' Dhandapani) while Gurupaadham's daughter(Kiran Bhattal) falls for Burma too. But Burma hasn't forgotten his goal.

Vattaaram take awhile to get up to speed. With a number of characters, all played by new or relatively unknown actors, things even get a little confusing as we're not sure who loves whom. Contact between Arya and Kiran is also brought about in a rather convoluted way.

Revenge stories, where a son avenges what was done to his father, are a dime a dozen in Tamil cinema. But the path of the revenge is usually overt and straightforward. Even if the villain doesn't know the identity of the hero, he knows that the hero is gunning for him. But things are a little different here. Arya is part of Napolean's inner ring and is trusted by him but inwardly, he is constantly plotting Napolean's downfall and his own rise to that spot. So his actions have to be on the sly and that makes things interesting. The way he executes some of his plans(like the lorry accident) are clever and a couple of them are surprising even to us.

We've been used to Tamil cinema's heroes being good for a long time now and so any hero straying on the dark side automatically captures our interest. Arya here is one such hero. He knows what he wants and is willing to go to any lengths to achieve that. But Saran isn't ready to paint him completely black and so makes a couple of concessions. The story of Arya's dad feels tacked on just to give his actions a moral reason. Its like Saran thought that Arya couldn't be seen doing all he does just to take Napolean's place and so throws revenge into the mix. So though Arya is pretty coldblooded at a couple of places, it isn't as shocking because Arya has a motive. Similarly, Arya's romance with Kiran is not your everyday Tamil cinema romance. But the film's last line feels odd and erases the uniqueness that came before it.

Saran has never had much luck with comedy. The comedy sequences in his movies, usually involving the likes of Charlie, Dhamu and Vaiyapuri, are terrible and serve no purpose other than interrupting the flow of the movies and slowing down their pace. Here he employs Ramesh Khanna and Vaiyapuri but the results are the same. Ramesh Khanna has come funny comments when he tags along with Arya but his segments with Vaiyapuri, brought in on the pretext that they run a store, are plain bad. In fact, since the movie is less lighthearted than usual Saran efforts, the effect of the interruptions on the movie is more than usual.

Arya's weak voice is a real downer the first time we hear it. But he gradually makes us get over it. Thankfully, he isn't made to utter any punch dialogs. Kiran Bhattal appears to be another of those one-film heroines and doesn't make an impression. Napolean is dignified but his dialog delivery at times belies his high-class living. Adhisaya catches our eyes based solely on her dialog delivery. She is refreshingly casual when talking. Idhu Kaadhal Kaadhal... is a nice melodious number while Yaar Tharuvaar... plays as a nice situational song at a few places.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Remakes - 2

In the previous post on remakes, I looked at remakes from other languages. This one focuses on remakes of old classics. While we are yet to have an official remake of an old Tamil movie, it appears imminent considering the success of such remakes in Hindi and the advantages of going in for such remakes. Not that these kinds of remakes are any easier. Remaking an old film from the same language just leads to a different set of problems than what one would encounter when remaking a film from another language.

The biggest problem ofcourse is the perception that the makers are besmirching a classic. Many old films are viewed very affectionately by moviegoers and they may consider it blasphemy that the film is going to be remade. Considering that most films from previous eras were clean and family-friendly and looking at the content of movies today, fans of old movies will no doubt be alarmed by news of remakes. This will lead to the film getting a negative image even before it is launched. Worse, our Tamil viewers being an emotional(and easily-swayed) bunch may lead to more problems than just bad publicity(case in point - the troubles faced by the Dhanush film just for naming the film Thiruvilaiyaadal).

There is also the question of how to handle the remake. While the new version should have the same basic storyline to identify it as a remake, it should incorporate enough changes so that the film isn't completely predictable and boring to people who have seen the original. This could be a change of setting, minor changes in the screenplay, etc. Again, these changes, however good they may be, run the risk of being criticized simply because they make the movie different. "If it ain't broken, don't fix it!" may be what the moviegoers are thinking.

Once the film is released, there are the inevitable comparisons that will arise. Assuming that only successes will be remade, they will probably have been seen by a large number of viewers. This is essentially what drives the remake since the curiosity factor alone will bring in all these viewers to the new version. At the same time, these viewers have a benchmark for the same film and will constantly compare the new film with that (this is very clear from all those reviews of Don by reviewers for whom the older version is still fresh in their minds). And since they view the old film so fondly, the newer version will almost definitely compare unfavorably and lead to bad word-of-mouth.

Inspite of all these problems, it probably won't be long before this phenomenon hits Tamil films. The guaranteed publicity that the launch of a remake will bring and the aforementioned curiosity factor will make a remake hot property. And as always, if one succeeds, it will open the floodgates to a slew of remakes.

A couple of factors could be used to decide what film to remake. An obvious choice would be a film that was ahead of its times. One film I can think of in that category is Rajapaarvai (though I don't think any of the current actors is capable of the kind of performance Kamal gave in that film). There are also films that have aged. There was recently talk of remaking some of Rajni's old films like Billa. But I think we should look back even further to pick a film to remake. Rajni is still going strong as a hero and most of his past films(atleast the successful ones) are still entertaining and haven't aged. The re-releases in the smaller theaters and the countless reruns on the TV channels have also helped them remain fresh in people's minds. But MGR films have probably been seen by a lot less viewers of the current generation and he has acted in enough police thrillers that would work well if updated with the current technology.

At the same time, I think some films should be left alone. These movies have a special place in our hearts and and their characters are inseparably associated with the actors who played them. Veera Paandiya Katta Bomman, 16 Vayadhinile, Naayagan and Mouna Raagam are a few I can think of right away, that should be left untouched.

So what old movies would you like to see remade? And what movies do you think should be left alone?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

ARR in 'Lord of War' / Spiderman 3 Trailer

When Inside Man was released, I remember reading a lot about Chaiya Chaiya... having been used in the movie. I watched Lord of War over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised to find another of Rahman's numbers being used in it. This time it was the theme music from Manirathnam's Bombay.

A quick search revealed that I wasn't the 1st to stumble upon this. Here's a video of the scene(pretty amazing one where an aeroplane is stripped down to its skeleton) where the music is used.

As for the movie, if you're in the mood for a dark, depressing, scary film with a wicked sense of humor and a dislikeable hero, Lord of War fits the bill perfectly.


Btw, Spidey's back! We finally have something more substantial to stare at until May 4, 2007. A 2 1/2 minute trailer for Spiderman 3 was released Friday and gives us more clues as to the conflicts and villains Spidey is going to be going up against in the third instalment. With some great images and emotions, it's gonna be one helluva ride. Can't wait...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

2 Trailers

A couple of new trailers that have whetted my appetite for the movies...

Veyyil - Its been a while since I've looked forward to a movie because of its producer. But Kaadhal and Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi have marked Shankar as a producer willing to take risks and delivering near-masterpieces. Hope Veyyil continues the trend. New age music always makes for good background music and it accompanies some nice images in this trailer. The theme("life journey of 2 men, 1 blessed and the other cursed") sounds intriguing and different too.

Sivappadhigaaram (Look under the Sifymax videos section) - While Vishal's current status has made this film hot property, another reason to look forward to it is its director Karu.Pazhaniappan. He is the director behind Parthiban Kanavu and though his second venture Sathurangam hasn't seen the light of day yet, it looks like Sivappadhigaaram won't have any such problems. The lines uttered in the background are quite inspirational and some of the scenes make it seem like this might be a different kind of an action film. Vishal himself looks a lot more presentable than before.

There are a bunch of movies slated to release before this year ends and right now, these two are definitely the ones I'm most looking forward to...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happy Birthday Kamal!

I may be a Rajni fan but I’m also definitely a Kamal admirer. In fact, if not for my cousin sister, I might’ve well been a Kamal fan today! She was(and is) one of the most avid Kamal fans I’ve known and it was primarily to needle her that I joined the opposite camp and became a Rajni fan. And the rest, as they say, is history…

But the movie buff in me has always liked Kamal. I’ve taken part in many of the Rajni vs Kamal arguments in my school days but at the same time, I was always first in line when a Kamal movie opened. I look forward to all his movies and have rarely been disappointed with what he delivered. I’m amazed at his talent and his dedication to his craft. And most of all, I’m thankful for his incessant efforts to raise Tamil cinema to the next level.

Happy Birthday Kamal!

Monday, November 06, 2006


Aboorva Sagodharargal proved that unique characterization and a smart screenplay could transform even a familiar story into a classic entertainer. K.S.Ravikumar has remembered the first part of that lesson but not the second part. With Ajith’s considerable help, he creates a memorable character capable of holding up a movie in Varalaaru, but throws the character into a predictable and eventually confusing screenplay.

Shiva(Ajith), a rich businessman, has had his share of sorrows. He lost his wife and his legs in a car accident and is now wheelchair-bound. His son Vishnu(Ajith) is a happy-go-lucky chap, determined to enjoy the wealth his father has accumulated for him. On a trip to a village, Vishnu meets Divya(Asin) and soon, the two are ready to wed. But Vishnu starts behaving strangely, insulting Divya and her family, making advances on her cousin and even trying to kill his own father. He is admitted to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation but actually, its Shiva’s past that has caught up with him and is behind all this.

Varalaaru is a film that could have used a little less publicity. Though the story eventually reveals itself to be a familiar one, that is not so obvious initially. As Ajith starts behaving erratically, there is potential for real suspense about how the story will proceed. But all the advance publicity about Ajith playing 3 roles (even if you’ve been hiding under a rock and didn’t know about the triple role, it is proudly announced at the beginning of the credits) drains the suspense right out. We know exactly why he is behaving like that and the question simply becomes when KSR is going to reveal it.

But though the big reveal is expected, KSR still manages to throw couple of legitimate surprises at us after that. One revelation is a complete surprise(and has been presented well too) and who the effeminate character is, also comes as a surprise. The screenplay goes through a lot of convolutions to bring about these surprises but they work at their moments.

Considering he is the kaadhal mannan, Ajith has been getting stuck in some pretty bad romances these days. Though not as distasteful as the romance in Tirupathi, the way Ajith and Asin hook up here comes pretty close. His intent and her plan mark them as not-so-nice people and double entendre dialogs and unfunny comedy abound in the whole segment. Not surprisingly, no one comes off looking good at the end of it. KSR fast-forwards to the marriage right after the romance but one wishes he had fast-forwarded through the romance too.

The other thing Varalaaru shares with the last couple of Ajith films is that it seems very old-fashioned. Sure it was delayed more than a year but some concepts in the film make it seem like it was delayed by a couple of decades! When a woman’s rape is almost justified or the woman’s mom wants her to marry the rapist, the film seems dangerously regressive. The only relief is the way the woman’s character itself is shaped. She is spirited, independent and brave. But eventually, even she is beaten down enough to want to get back together with her rapist!

Its Ajith’s show all the way and not having to play superman and utter punch dialogs, he delivers. The effeminate dancer is obviously the showier role and it is a rather unique one. He has two left feet when it comes to the actual dancing but the exaggerated expressions and feminine gestures during other times are nicely done. Like most actors who get to play a bad guy, Ajith also enjoys himself in the psychotic, revenge-obsessed role. One of the roles always loses out when an actor plays a triple role and here it is the hero, who is rather uninteresting compared to the other two roles. Asin shows glimpses of her comic timing in the little time she is given but is handicapped by poor characterization. The film has a huge supporting cast but few others get enough screen time to make an impression. A common complaint about films with an A.R.Rahman soundtrack is that the picturization of the songs doesn't do justice to the songs. No such problems here though. None of the songs make an impression and only Dhinam Dhinam... is slightly hummable.

Friday, November 03, 2006

4 New Reviews

Reviews for Vallavan, E, Kedi and Ilavattam are now online @ bbreviews.

PS: I was reading the review of Ilavattam on Indiaglitz and saw this line - "While accepting the award, he informs everyone that he was a life-convict serving a term in prison." But this is actually not true! Navdeep goes to school with police escort and explains it after receiving his medal, but the reason behind that is not that he is a convict. So are the Indiaglitz reviewers now writing reviews without seeing the film?!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

Considering that Karan Johar’s previous films(both his directorial efforts and his productions) reinforced – maybe even banked on – Indian traditions and values, Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna is a brave change of track for him. While his trademark touches make sure that the presentation is sugarcoated, the film still works as a difficult look at the affairs of the heart.

The film’s biggest surprise is its characterization. When someone (especially when that someone is portrayed by a big star) strays in a marriage, we’re used to sympathizing with that person. We’re used to believing that they were driven into the arms of another by an unloving or uncaring spouse. That’s not the case here. SRK and Rani clearly are the guilty ones. While he is a bitter, egotistic man not able to come to terms with his not being the “man of the house”, she is a woman who is unable to reciprocate the feelings of someone who genuinely loves her. They are the ones who come off looking bad in arguments with their spouses.

Preity and Abishek are, on the other hand, good, decent individuals. Preity initially comes off as one of those work-obsessed women but she gets to justify that pretty convincingly in a couple of scenes. And she makes it clear what her priorities are. Abishek doesn’t have even that problem of explaining him. He is this cute, adorable, loving guy who any gal would love to have as her husband. Their initial banter about having an affair reveals their honesty too, apart from being ironic considering the later turn of events.

So when SRK and Rani are questioned by Preity and Abishek about the affair(in 2 terrific scenes, especially the one between SRK and Preity), SRK and Rani are the ones who are speechless and are unable to justify their actions. They know – and we know – that they have erred.

Johar has this grand, operatic touch that is not suited for a human drama of this sort. His characters look great, are always immaculately dressed and meet at these great locations with nobody around. That worked for fun, fantasy-like movies like KKHH and K3G but here it makes things rather impersonal. And that’s not good for a story like this. There are a lot of emotions but the movie isn’t emotional and we watch the proceedings with a sense of detachment. And then you have characters like Amitabh’s Sam, who are a step away from being a caricature. Veering between being over-the-top and delivering moralistic lectures, the character never lets us take the movie seriously.

On the other hand, Johar’s touch is perfect for the light-hearted initial portions. There are some very funny set pieces, like the confusion in SRK’s and Rani’s houses when they think Abishek and Preity are having an affair, that feature nice choreography, dialogs and editing. Rani’s S&M appearance too is hilarious even though we know exactly what’s coming. These are sequences that make me wish Johar would, just once, make a full-length comedy, without all those darn sentiments getting in the way.

The way the screenplay proceeds towards the end reveals Johar’s mindset. He has taken a harsh theme but is unable to deal with it harshly. So the movie goes on and on until he is able to fashion what he feels is a happy ending where all the characters come off looking nice. But there is an overload of sentiments, some of them being gag-worthy.

SRK, looking quite old, hams it up as always. He always overacts but a serious film like this brings it out more(as compared to, say, an over-the-top, fun movie like Main Hoon Naa). Rani looks gorgeous but she is just required to look sad most of the time. Abishek has no problems portraying the ‘perfect husband’. Preity’s character is not as well-defined as the others but she definitely has the best lines. Amitabh makes his character enjoyable even if not convincing. Songs definitely have a hangover from previous Johar films but are picturized well. Rock n Roll Soniye… and Wherez the party tonite… are great dance numbers and Abishek shows off from rather cool moves. Mitwaa… and the title song are nice melodies that manage to be catchy too.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trick or Treat!

Kavya and Karthik went trick-or-treating yesterday night to cap off a fun Halloween. Kavya was Ariel, the Little Mermaid, while Karthik, true to his nature, was dressed up as a li'l Monster. Had some trouble getting him to wear the headgear but he let it stay on for a while once he got used to it. Needless to say, they looked extra-adorable :-)

After the costume-preview during our party last weekend, Kavya got another chance to dress up yesterday afternoon since she had the Halloween parade in her school. That was a fun affair as always - a sea of color with the kids(and their teachers) dressed up in a wide variety of costumes.

In the evening, they raided the houses in our neighborhood for candy. Our neighborhood is mostly made up of older families with kids in high school or older. So my li'l ones didn't have much competition and got a pretty good haul. In a couple of houses, the inmates had simply left the front door open and laid the candy out in the living room. The kids were expected to simply go in and help themselves... Haven't seen that before! Must be a really safe neighborhood.

As expected, Kavya turned out to be shy one. She took a few steps back once each door opened and barely whispered the traditional "Trick or Treat!". But Karthik strode forward purposefully once he realized that people were giving out something! The usual anxiety in the presence of strangers was nowhere to be seen as he actually smiled at people, stretched out his hands and came out of each house with a candy clutched tight in both his tiny hands!