Wednesday, January 31, 2007


When I saw the Telugu original of Vijay's Pokkiri after news of the remake had been announced, I felt that Vijay would have a real hit on his hands if director Prabhu Deva toned down the violence and improved the comedy track. He has done the latter but not the former. And that violence is the only sore spot in the otherwise entertaining masala film that should help Vijay bounce back after the dismal failure of Aadhi.

Thamizh(Vijay) is a rowdy who is ready to align himself with either of the two big gangs in the city as long as the money is right. Priya(Asin), a dance teacher, is impressed with Thamizh after he helps her and her liking slowly turns to love. Thamizh finally becomes a part of the gang of Ali Bhai(Prakash raj), who is holed up abroad and rarely comes into town. Things come to a head when Thamizh eliminates most members of the rival gang led by Narasimman(Anandraj). Thats when Priya sees his true nature too.

When a movie's hero is a rowdy, how acceptable the romance is comes down to how it is presented and Prabhu Deva, who is no stranger to directing romances, does a good job here. Vijay and Asin have a number of cute meetings and the fact that she develops feelings for him doesn't require complete suspension of disbelief inspite of his 'profession'. Though their track does start off a little vulgar, it proceeds decently from then onwards. The two have good chemistry and encounters like the one in the elevator are good proof of that.

While Prabhu Deva adds something original to the romance and the comedy, he has imported the action sequences almost scene-by-scene from the Telugu version and that makes the movie quite violent. The body count is real high and people are disposed off in gory ways using a wide variety of sharp instruments. But the film proves that the situation and the picturization do have an impact on how the violence comes across. The sequence just before the intermission is relentless, bloody and sustained. But because of the location, the unexpectedness of the violence, Vijay's fury and Asin's horror at his acts, it is thrilling and intense.

By Vijay's recent standards, Pokkiri is quite a classy movie. The entire movie has a nice sheen to it and Prabhu Deva uses techniques like quick editing, split-screens, etc. to add some style to the visuals. Vadivelu is his usual crude self though and pulls the movie's classy tone down. While he does have a link to the main story, he mostly has his own segments and they decrease in quality and laughs as the movie progresses (the water tanker bit is the worst of the lot). But his short dance for Suttum Vizhi Chudare... almost makes up for all his other misses. His near-perfect imitation of Surya's steps for that song brings down the house. Apart from Vadivelu's track, Prabhu Deva's touch is evident in the way Dhamu and his mother, after a hero-centric scene to boost Vijay's image, make appearances in the rest of the movie.

The film's pace is upped a little once Prakashraj makes an appearance. The big twist is quite predictable but manages to be thrilling because of the way it is presented. A couple of other revelations do manage to be surprising(i.e. if you haven't seen the original) though. Like the pre-intermission sequence, the climax is also very violent and bloody. But here, the violence comes across as gratuitous and over-the-top.

Vijay has really cleaned up after Aadhi and probably looks the best he has ever looked. He has obviously tried to imitate Mahesh Babu with a low, understated dialog delivery but it doesn't look very natural since we're familiar with his style and it makes him look less energetic than usual(except in the song sequences). Asin looks gorgeous though she doesn't get a lot of chances to show off her acting talent. Prakashraj has by now perfected the art of combining villainy and humor and makes us laugh when he tries to stave off sleep in jail. Nasser is solid as usual while Mukesh Tiwari makes a really detestable cop.

The combination of Prabhu Deva and Vijay doesn't produce as many sparks as expected in the song sequences. While all the songs have their moments, none of them stand out on the whole. Vasantha Mullai... is the most entertaining of the lot while Dolu Dolu... contains some nice visuals and sets.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

India Trip

Came back Sunday after a way-too-short, completely-packed 2-week trip to India. While the lengths of previous India trips were usually decided by the amount of vacation my wife and I had, the short trip this time was because of Kavya since she can't take more than 10 days of vacation in her school. But we did try and make the most of the short trip. Here are a few notes from the trip...

- At Chennai airport, by the time we made it to the immigration counters, the line for visitors had about 75 people while the line for citizens had just 3 people. I'm not sure if this is the case every day, but it was definitely a telling sign of the impact of outsourcing and the growth of businesses in Chennai/India.

- The increase in traffic since my last trip was immediately evident once we got out of the airport. On the drive back home, I kept wondering how I ever rode a bike in this traffic. But once I actually sat on my bike a couple of days later, the doubts vanished and in no time at all, I was weaving in and out of traffic. Pure exhilaration! I think the key difference between driving in the US and in India is who you trust. In the US, you trust yourself. You check for other vehicles and you make sure that you are driving correctly. In India, you trust others! You go however you want to go knowing that others will see you coming and do the needful to get out of the way. And that works too!

- Made a day-trip to Pondicherry. Visited the ashram there and on the way back(via ECR), stopped at Crocodile Park and Dakshin Chitra. The sheer number of crocodiles they have at the Crocodile Park is pretty amazing and they also have a cool show where they show how they extract venom from snakes. Dakshin Chitra has models of houses from the old times and offers an interesting look at life in those times. Have to walk a lot though!

- Visited Bangalore over the weekend. Made the trip mainly to see friends and relatives and so made only 1 sight-seeing stop at the Shiva temple. The giant statues of Pillaiyaar and Shiva were wonderful and the temple also had a neat walk through a tunnel whose walls are lined with small models of different incidents in Lord Shiva's life.

- Saw only 1 movie - Pokkiri - in the theater, which is probably the best indication of how busy the trip was! It was fun watching the movie in Udhayam and since it was just the 2nd week, the there was a lot of screaming and whistling from Vijay fans. Really wanted to visit Sathyam or the new INOX multiplexes since I've read so much about them but never got the chance.

- Saw a cricket match on TV after a very long time. The icing on the cake was that India won the match I saw (the 2nd ODI with West Indies). Caught only snatches of the Indian innings in the 3rd ODI since I was busy packing. But did manage to see Rajni (with his family) in the stands.

- The only TV program I watched regularly was Yaar Manasula Yaaru on Vijay TV. It was the popular '20 questions' game, which used to be a staple of the school and college cultural programs. The 'grandmaster' tried to figure out the personality that a guest was thinking about by asking 21 questions with yes/no answers. Very interesting and the grandmaster's knowledge of trivia was very impressive. The show was compered by actress Maheswari and had a couple of celebrity guests like Naren and Vijay Yesudas. Also caught the first couple of episodes of the SRK-hosted Kaun Banega Crorepati?. Seemed like he was being a lot less formal than Amitabh.

- Attended two functions - my wife's dad's sashtiabtapoorthi (completion of 60 years) and my wife's grandparents' sadhabishekam (completion of 80 years). It was a get-together of sorts for my wife's relatives and so it was nice meeting many of them after so many years. Kavya and Karthik had fun dressing up for the functions.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Off to India...

... for 2 weeks. With 2 kids and a packed itinerary(including a weekend Bangalore trip) over there, it seems highly unlikely that I'll be able to post anything new until I get back. So, Happy Pongal... And see u all in a couple of weeks :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tamil into English

Saw Prashanth's Thagappansamy yesterday. It has Karunas and a couple of others trying to make us laugh but for me, the biggest laughs actually happened during the opening credits.

The stunt master for the film is somebody who goes by the name of 'அனல்' Arasu. Like all Tamil movies, the opening credits for this movie too listed people's names in English. As a result, his name became Anal Arasu! Poor guy's name has been changed to something that looks like the assumed name of a hero in a porn movie. Just goes to show that a little more thought should go into the literal conversion of Tamil words to English :)

The Descent

I'm not a big fan of the horror genre and I usually limit myself to PG-13 fare like The Grudge and The Ring. While such films are a bit creepy and have their share of "Boo!" moments, they have never really thrill me or get my pulse racing. No such problems with The Descent! Incredibly bloody and gory, the film is nevertheless a breathless, intense ride of the kind only a horror movie can deliver.

The film follows 6 women who go cave-diving together in the Appalachian mountains. One of the women suffered a tragedy about a year ago(the nature of this tragedy is the first hint that the film is going to be bloody) and her friends are hoping she comes out of her shell. While the group thinks they are exploring a previously-visited, documented cave system, the daredevil leader has actually picked a hitherto-unexplored, new cave system in the hope that they will get to name it. So when the way they came in is blocked by falling rocks, they have to find another way out of the place. And they soon learn that they are not alone.

The real horror doesn't start until almost an hour into the film but it is surprising how much tension the movie generates even until then. The claustrophobic atmosphere has been exploited terrifically as the women realize their hopeless position and move on ahead in the hope of finding an exit. The lights from flares, lighters, etc. are used to light the way and the different colors have quite an eerie effect. And since that light is the only light, we see only as much as the women do. So we are almost constantly at our seat's edge since we never know what's just round the corner.

The tension is ratcheted up to a whole new level once the creatures are unveiled. They are very creepy and terror-inducing and the tension in some scenes is simply unbearable. There is a lot of gore but it is not explicitly shown because of the darkness and the feeble light sources(one of the women uses the night vision mode of a video camera to find her way). Needless to say, there are some very effective "Boo!" moments to further rattle us.

The movie doesn't rely on just these creatures and uses the conflicts between the women just as effectively to keep the atmosphere tense. In fact, some of the most shocking moments in the movie happen between the women. The end eschews the usual climax of horror films and by lulling us into a false sense of hope for a little while, ensures that it is riveting and surprising right until the last moment.

A must-see for horror afficionados!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Coming Soon - Pokkiri, Aalwaar, Paruthi Veeran

The last few festival days have been rather lacklustre on the cinema side with my personal, pre-release expectations being high for a maximum of two films. But this Pongal seems to be an exciting one for movielovers. It is starting off 2007 with a bang with 3 movies releasing with high expectations and even a couple of the remaining ones providing atleast a few reasons to look forward to them.

Expectations are high for Pokkiri for quite a few reasons. It is a remake of a film that turned out to be the biggest hit of Telugu cinema and since the tastes of Telugu viewers are pretty close to our tastes, the movie has a good chance of entertaining us too. It is also Prabhu Deva's first Tamil film as director. The dancer/actor proved in Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana that he is a director with an eye for nice visuals and the ability to craft an engaging entertainer and both those should come in handy for his behind-the-screen debut in Tamil. Ofcourse, things are quite different for him now since his last film(Pournami) flopped and unlike NN, Pokkiri is a masala film with a big star. So we just have to hope that he can switch genres successfully.

Its been a year since we had a Vijay film since Aadhi released last Pongal. Since the long break was attributed to his re-examining his script choices after the dismal failure of Aadhi, we can expect that Pokkiri has shaped up to his satisfaction. The actor has had a long history of successful Telugu remakes with his biggest hits like Priyamaanavale and Gilli being Telugu imports (then again, Aadhi was a remake of a Telugu hit too!) and will be hoping for another hit. But however the film turns out, with Vijay's dance skills and Prabhu Deva's choreography, we can atleast be sure that the dance sequences will rock. He is paired with Asin once again after Sivakasi, which was a hit, and hopefully, they can repeat their success.

On the other hand, Aalwaar has only 1 reason for us to look forward to it - Ajith. The actor loudly claimed that he was making a comeback to Tamil cinema in 2006 and now those words ring very true. His comeback vehicle Paramasivan(which was released alongwith Aadhi) was only an average hit and his follow-up Tirupathi, was a flop. However his Diwali release, the long-delayed Varalaaru, is now the biggest hit of his career and his performance, especially as the effeminate dancer, has been appreciated all-around. Based on the stills, he looks good in Aalwaar and seems to have finally hit the right spot between the flabby look in Ji and the sickly, haggard look in Paramasivan. He is once again being paired with Asin, his heroine in Varalaaru, and hopefully, the pair is lucky this time around too.

Unlike the above 2 films, Paruthi Veeran's expectations are based on the name of its director Ameer. The director first caught our attention with Mounam Pesiyadhe and then gave us the very different - but still successful - Raam. Paruthi Veeran is his next film after almost 2 years. The film introduces Karthi, Surya's younger brother, as hero and his heroine is Priyamani, the talented actress who has so far not had a good break in Tamil cinema.

As far as soundtracks go, there is no contest and Paruthi Veeran is the clear winner. Ameer and Yuvan proved they had a good rapport in Raam and they have worked well again here. Ariyaadha Vayasu... and Ayyayyo..., are wonderful numbers with great tunes, wonderful lyrics and perfect singing. The folk songs don't stand too well on their own but should work much better on screen. Both Pokkiri and Aalwar albums are very average(when was the last time Vijay or Ajith had a truly blockbuster soundtrack?!) with a variety of songs but barely a couple making an impact. In Pokkiri, Aadungadaa... is a typical Vijay introduction number but has a lot of energy, especially in the Pokkiri Pongal... bits. En Chella Peru Apple... and Dolu Dolu... offer good opportunities for dancing while the Vasantha Mullai... remix sounds like fun. Aalwaar offers a very surprising classical, devotional number in Pallaandu... but other than that, provides the usual mix of duets (Anbulla Kaadhali..., Solli Tharavaa...), a duppanguthu number (Mayile Mayile...), etc.

Hari's Thamirabharani is also hitting screens this Pongal. While the director has disappointed after strong starts in Thamizh and Samy, he can't be completely written off. Vishal too finally had a flop in Sivappadhigaaram after a string of hits and so will be looking for the film to be a hit. Hari is introducing Bhanu, who has been called a Nayanthara look-alike but based on the stills I've seen so far, I see absolutely no similarity. And then there's Guru, Manirathnam's Hindi film that is also being dubbed in Tamil. A Manirathnam film in any language is always something to look forward to but I'll probably be watching the Hindi version and not the Tamil dubbing.

So who will be the winner this Pongal? Will it be a Pokkiri Pongal? Will Aalwaar rule the BO? Will Paruthi Veeran be victorious? Or will dark horse Thamirabharani overflow at the cash registers? Lets wait and see...

Monday, January 08, 2007

2006 Movies - The Top and Bottom 10

With the recent posts(and comments) on 2006 movies, these 2 lists are probably not gonna be a big surprise to most readers. Still, in keeping with the usual year-end tradition, here are my picks for the 10 best and 10 worst Tamil movies of 2006...

The Top 10

10. Something Something Unakkum Enakkum
This film's Telugu original was a very cute and charming love story that mixed romance and brotherly sentiments to deliver a complete entertainer. Since it was an almost scene-by-scene remake, director Raja didn't deserve much credit for originality. But by being faithful to the original, he did manage to retain its spirit, charm and entertainment value. Very familiar cliches were blended to create a film that seemed surprisingly fresh and Trisha was cute inspite of being artificial.

9. Kodambakkam
Kodambakkam was a rarity - a film that by portraying a director's struggle to make his first film, offered an interesting behind-the-scenes (or is it behind-the-screens?) look at the tough world of cinema. The hero's travails aren't sugarcoated and we get an insider's look at the travails of a director - from dealing with eccentric stars to getting the prints out the door. The director's clever explanation about adding elements to attract the youth still didn't make the item number or crude comedy acceptable though.

8. Paarijaatham
Bagyaraj proved that he is one of the few directors from the previous generation who can adapt to the tastes of the current moviegoers with this film, where he also introduced his daughter Saranya. He applied his well-known talent at mixing sentiments and humor to a youthful love story and added enough screenplay flourishes to deliver an entertaining film. The story-in-a-story concept was a clever idea to help him inject humor in the otherwise-serious story and the second half carried us along inspite of the familiar proceedings.

7. Dishyum
This is another film that proved that even a rich girl-poor boy love story, probably the oldest story in Tamil cinema, can be made to look fresh. The movie highlighted, rather than glossed over, the differences between the lovers and so managed to be believable and even a little suspenseful. The cliched climax was the only disappointment in the otherwise realistic film.

6. Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu
VV is probably the closest Tamil cinema has come to a real police procedural. The film placed emphasis on brain rather than brawn and this led to a intense, suspenseful movie in the serial killer genre. The Kamal-Jothika relationship moved to the forefront but inspite of the disappointment at the change of track, the emotional baggage the two carry involves us and makes for a complicatedly nice relationship. Harris Jayaraj's wonderful soundtrack was a real asset to the film.

5. Pudhuppettai
Probably the rawest among the year's long list of movies on rowdies and dadas, the film was technically-excellent, ambitious and daring. Apart from a protagonist who rarely earns our sympathy, the movie also dared to present a romance that broke several Tamil cinema conventions with glee. After a thrilling first half, the film slowed as Dhanush entered politics but pulled us back in with a strong emotional hook.

4. Veyyil
Director Shankar's S Films’ kept its reputation intact with Veyyil, a realistic, emotional film about two brothers whose lives traverse radically different paths. After a fun-filled younger life and a poetic romance, the film gathered speed in the emotional and sentimental second half that beautifully captured a prodigal son's desire to fit in and his family’s problems in accepting him back. Pasupathy proved himself once again as a versatile character actor and new music director G.V.Prakash delivered a suitable, eclectic soundtrack.

3. Chithiram Pesudhadi
Surprise hit Chithiram Pesudhadi mined a surprisingly new story from the familiar rich girl-rowdy boy love story. The engaging romance and strong supporting characters kept the story moving initially. The suspense about the key issue that separates the lovers is maintained very well and more importantly, is revealed in a way that doesn't disappoint and validates everything that happened before. In a year of weak climaxes, it was a truly satisfying conclusion. The catchy and funVaazha Meenukkum... took TN by storm and played a big part in the movie's success.

2. Pattiyal
Shifting gears from the light, commercial setting he seemed comfortable in, director Vishu Vardhan gave us a realistic, uncompromising look at the Chennai underworld. In the fascinating environment, he focused on two equally fascinating individuals at the bottom of the food chain. The cute romances alleviated the grimness of the theme and the director's strong sense of style made some of the chase and action sequences exhilarating to watch. Bharath was terrific as the mute character and Yuvan's ackground score was charged.

1. Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi
It was three for three for director Shankar in his role as producer with Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi, probably his riskiest venture so far. The historical comedy was fresh and different from the run-of-the-mill masala movies and made us laugh hard with its almost perfect mix of verbal and physical comedy. It deftly blended in social commentary and turned a satirical eye on current happenings without losing its comic touch. Vadivelu was perfect as Pulikesi and was impressive in the straight turn as Ukkirabudhan also.

The Bottom Ten

10. Ilavattam
That having the same story as a past hit is not the recipe for success was proved once again by this film that had the same underlying story as Aasai but was let down by the weak cast and poor screenplay. The movie was set in a school but that made it no different from all those movies set in college campuses that use the setting as an excuse for glamor and vulgarity. The plans made by Prithviraj were loud and dumb and worked only because the people around him were as stupid as he was.

9. Madrasi
Madrasi seemed like a movie that was started without having a complete script in hand. Logic, realism and continuity were completely non-existent as the movie lurched around with ridiculous turns in the screenplay. By the third act, we were completely lost and spent most of the time trying to figure out who is related to whom and who is trying to kill whom. Paradhesi!

8. Tirupathi
Inspite of throwing a little social consciousness into the mix, Perarasu's third outing turned out to be even more crass and crude compared to his earlier movies. The Ajith-Sada romance was the most distasteful of the year and barring a couple of sequences, the action-oriented second half was a big bore. Perarasu looked ridiculous in his ill-advised on-screen appearance and the song sequences would make a non-smoker take up smoking just so he could take a cigarette break!

7. Don Chera
A remake of a hit Hindi film to begin with, the film, from its beginning to its climax, reminded us of many other recent Tamil movies to give us a sense of deja vu almost throughout. The lack of romanticization of the hero's life and the emotional climax lost most of their effectiveness because of this familiarity. Ranjith's overacting, where he came off looking mentally ill rather than naieve and innocent, added to the irritation.

6. Jaambavaan
The last few years, a Prashanth film is guaranteed a spot on the year-end 'Worst Films' list and 2006 was no different. His entry was Jaambavaan, another wannabe-Baasha about soft-spoken, violence-abhorring man with a contrasting, violent past. The familiar storyline led to a feeling of having seen it all before and even individual scenes seemed completely familiar. The feeble romances, weak villains and violence-laden second half made things worse.

5. Yugaa
Yugaa was a science fiction film but the brownie points the director earned by taking on a different genre were lost once we saw how he handled the subject he chose. Even the director didn't seem sure about the kind of movie he it wanted to be as it started off like a disaster film and then turned into a horror film. In the end, the film was just an awful combination of silly, confusing ideas, inept execution, bad acting and cheesy special effects. Megaa-bad!

4. Nenjil
The director tried to cover up the deficiencies in almost all aspects of the film by setting it in London but the ploy didn't work. The main plot of two strangers sabotaging a romance because of their own pasts was silly and neither the sudden and unconvincing romance between the lead pair nor the irritating comedy by the team of Vadivelu and Mayilsamy made the film any easier to sit through.

3. Kovai Brothers
The latest in Satyaraj's blatant attempt to promote his son Sibi, the film just proved to be another nail in the coffin of Sibi's non-starting career. The spoofs and satirical dialogs generated no laughs without the aid of a story and the attacks on personalities seemed mean-spirited. The flashback had an incident designed to elicit sympathy but the heroes' acts just seemed to trivialize it. Aruvai Brothers!

2. Paasakkiligal
Looking like a 60s film made with new actors, Paasakkiligal was old-fashioned to the extreme - and not in a good way. Its situations and sequences were plain ridiculous and every aspect of it, from the character names to the characters themselves, were dated. The story provided no avenues for Karunanidhi to show of his writing skills either and so the movie was a total loss. Sogakkiligal!

1. Dharmapuri
It was almost unbelievable that this movie turned out to be even worse, considering the already-low expectations gained by the teaming up of Vijayakanth and director Perarasu. Alternating between being plain silly, laughably bad and really dumb, the movie presented the strongest case yet for Vijayakanth becoming a full-time politician. Scenes of jaw-dropping stupidity one after another made for an intolerable assault on our senses and the single plot point in the second half proved that Perarasu was completely out of ideas. Dharmasangadam!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Tamil Cinema in 2006 - A Recap

2006 was definitely the worst year for Tamil movies since I started reviewing movies seriously. The bad feeling I got as I watched one disappointment after another was confirmed when I perused the complete list of movies. As a thumb rule, I would say movies that earned 2 ½ stars or above were movies that earned my recommendation. In 2006, only 10 movies hit that mark. In contrast, 2005 and 2004 both had 16, 2003 had 14, 2002 had 19, 2001 had 14 and 2000, a phenomenal year, had 22 movies that earned 2 ½ stars or above!

Every year, atleast in the recent past, there’s been one trend that has defined Tamil cinema. Several movies, either by sheer coincidence or as a result of attempting to replicate the success of another movie based on the same theme, belonged to one genre. In 2006, that theme was undoubtedly ‘realistic rowdyism’. While we’ve had rowdy movies in past years, they were masala movies that featured a good-hearted rowdy as hero. This time around, things were more raw, gritty, violent and realistic. The line between good and bad was all but erased as our heroes competed with each other on who could be the more heartless.

These ‘rowdy’ movies could be divided into 2 broad categories. On one hand was the more traditional story of a small-time rowdy growing to be a gang leader – the rowdy version of a rags-to-riches story. Films like Mandhiran, Pudhuppettai and Vattaaram fell into this category. The other category of films focused on the lives of small-time rowdies who remained small-time rowdies and dealt with problems they faced in their lives. Films like Aachaarya, Pattiyal, Thalainagaram and Naalai belonged to this sub-genre. Among films in this genre, Kokki was one movie that managed to be a little different since it featured a protagonist who ran away from trouble!

Personally, the biggest disappointment of Tamil cinema in 2006 was the refusal on the part of producers, directors, stars, etc. to take risks. As the glut of ‘rowdy’ films showed, everybody jumped on the same bandwagon, hoping to strike it rich at the BO. Experimentation was not popular and few movies attempted new genres or themes. This was the main reason Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi was such a breath of fresh air. Director Shankar took a big risk by backing a brand-new genre – the historical comedy – and it paid rich dividends. Surprisingly, softer romances like Paarijaatham, Dishyum and Unakkum Enakkum, and movies with strong, emotional storylines, like Chithiram Pesudhadi, Emttan Magan and Veyyil, were successful at the BO. But producers and actors still favored action-oriented, masala movies for the most part.

Another reason why 2006 seemed to be a very dull year was the lack of movies with big stars. While big stars don’t guarantee good movies, they do bring excitement to the movie scene and last year was pretty low-key in that aspect. Rajni and Vikram had no releases while Kamal, Vijay and Surya had only 1 release each (Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Aadhi and Sillunu Oru Kaadhal respectively). The year proved quite good for Ajith, who made his umpteenth comeback. While Paramasivan, his comeback vehicle, was only an average hit, and Tirupathi was a flop, the long-delayed Varalaaru is now a superhit and has once again pushed him into the top bracket of heroes. Almost all the younger heroes like Vishal(Thimiru, Sivappadhigaaram), Ravi(Unakkum Enakkum, Idhaya Thirudan), Arya(Pattiyal, Kalaaba Kaadhalan) balanced a hit with a flop, ensuring a keenly-fought race for the top spot. Bharath, with 5 films, and Jeeva were 2 young actors who did well.

One of the few positive aspects of 2006 was the readiness of the young actors to take on different roles and avoid being stereotyped. While actors like Simbhu were still around to take ego-boosting to insane, irritating levels in movies like Vallavan, younger actors like Arya and Jeeva took on characters painted in broad shades of gray. The former, in Vattaaram, was quite selfish and cold-blooded while the latter, in E, sunk pretty low in his single-minded quest for money. The most negative leading man though, would probably be Jeevan in Thiruttu Payale – a man who blackmailed, stole and killed without compunction.

One of the positive things about 2006 being a bad year is that things can only go up from here. 2007 has quite a few biggies lined up, both in terms of stars and in terms of directors. While all the top stars, including Rajni, will have high-profile releases coming up, movies from directors like Bala and Cheran will also hit theaters. So its time to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Here’s to a much better 2007…

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2006's Memorable Movie Moments

Year-end lists are usually quite predictable with lists of the best and worst movies, the best performances, the best songs, etc. I was all set to make up those lists when I read Bharadwaj Rangan’s 20 standout moments from Hindi and Tamil movies. This led me to think about individual scenes or sequences that I remembered from 2006’s Tamil movies. So, as a short break before I get back to the usual lists, here are 5 of my picks for the best sequences from 2006’s Tamil films.

Pulikesi Escapes
In Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi, a film chockful of funny scenes and witty dialogs, the scene where Vadivelu escapes after being chained to the wall, stands out as a spontaneously hilarious scene. Realizing that the chains were made by Manobala, a blacksmith with whose work he has had prior bad experiences, Vadivelu simply pulls on them to free himself instantly. Vadivelu’s dialog delivery and Manobala’s expressions make it one of those scenes that brings on a smile each time we remember it.

Thangam wears a Reel Robe
For Pasupathy in Veyyil, the theater is his world and the projection room, his house. During the wonderful Urugudhe Marugudhe… song sequence, he disrobes Priyanka only to see her emerge shyly from the room, fully covered in film rolls. It is a poetic moment that signifies the importance of films in both their lives.

‘Kokki’ Kumar and Krishnaveni sell their wares
In the raw and earthy Pudhuppettai, no scene exemplifies the film’s rawness more than this shot where Dhanush and Sneha sell their wares. As he sells dope and she sells her body while nonchalantly chatting with each other, the perfectly-composed shot is a telling commentary on their lives and the fact that they are not very different from each other after all.

Kosi and Selvam learn shooting
This sequence is the most stylish in Pattiyal, director Vishnuvardhan’s stylish take on the lives of the two hired hands. As Arya and Bharath move up from sticks and swords to guns, their ‘practice’ session in the warehouse is picturized with great style. The setting of the abandoned, water-logged warehouse, the slo-mo shots and Yuvan’s thumping score make it an exhilarating piece of cinema.

Aadhi's first kill
Vijay's Aadhi holds a lot of surprises in the first half and the way he kills his first victim is the best of the lot. Stylishly shot and completely unexpected, it raises several questions to pull us into the movie and is a good shot of pure adrenaline. Too bad the film fails to maintain the momentum after that.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tamil Cinema Music in 2006: A 2-CD Compilation

As I mentioned when I compiled the list of my favorite Tamil movie songs from 2005, 10 is a very restrictive number when compiling a year-end list of songs. So instead of the usual 'top 10' list, here are 32 songs for a 2-CD compilation of the best Tamil film songs in 2006.

Again, same as last year, there is also a runner-up CD with songs that didn't quite make the cut when it came to the top 32 songs but are still very listenable...

CD 1
1. Vaazha Meenukkum… - Chithiram Pesudhadi
2. Poga Poga… - Pattiyal
3. Kannai Vittu… - Pattiyal
4. Edhedho… - Pattiyal
5. Enga Area… - Pudhuppettai
6. Oru Naalil… - Pudhuppettai
7. Neruppu Vaayinil… - Pudhuppettai
8. Going Through Emotions… - Pudhuppettai
9. Kaadhal Neruppin… - Veyyil
10. Urugudhe Marugudhe… - Veyyil
11. Rahasiyamaanadhu Kaadhal… - Kodambakkam
12. Unnai Kandene… - Paarijaatham
13. Karkka Karkka… - Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu
14. Paartha Mudhal Naale… - Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu
15. Manjal Veyyil… - Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu
16. Uyirile… - Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

CD 2
1. Nenjaangoottil… - Dishyum
2. Bhoomikku Velichamellaam… - Dishyum
3. Taj Mahal… - Kalvanin Kaadhali
4. Eno Kanngal… - Kalvanin Kaadhali
5. Oru Maatram… - Naalai
6. Udhadum Udhadum… - Uyir
7. Aanum Pennum… - Uyir
8. Kann Simittum Nerame… - Uyir
9. En Swaasathil… - Jery
10. New York Nagaram… - Sillunu Oru Kaadhal
11. Munbe Vaa… - Sillunu Oru Kaadhal
12. Atrai Thingal… - Sivappadhigaaram
13. Chithiraiyil Enna Varum… - Sivappadhigaaram
14. Loosu Penne… - Vallavan
15. Idhu Kaadhal… - Vattaaram
16. Unnai Paartha… - Vattaaram

Runner-up CD
1. Aadivaa Paadivaa… - Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi
2. Ennai Konja Konja… - Aadhi
3. Oru Kili… - Paramasivan
4. Goli Gundu Kannu… - Emttan Magan
5. Kiliye Kiliye… - Something Unakkum Enakkum
6. Un Paarvaiyil… - Something Something Unakkum Enakkum
7. Veyyilodu… - Veyyil
8. Dailaamo… - Dishyum
9. Aadhivaasi Naane… - Kedi
10. Machakkaari… - Sillunu Oru Kaadhal
11. Odi Vaa… - Azhagaai Irukkiraai Bayamaai Irukkiradhu
12. Kanave Kalaigiradhe… - Azhagaai Irukkiraai Bayamaai Irukkiradhu
13. Vallavaa… - Vallavan
14. Edho Nadakkudhu… - Paarijaatham
15. Sudum Nilavu… - Thambi
16. Kaadhal Vandhiruchu… - Vallavan

Monday, January 01, 2007

Aish on Sun TV

Last week, we finally started subscribing to Sun TV at our new house. It's been about four months since we watched Sun TV but in the few glimpses we've had so far, not much has changed. The biggest change I guess is that Radhika's Selvi (which I never watched anyway) has ended. But there's not gonna be any break for viewers from Radhika herself since her new serial, Arasi, is scheduled to start on Wednesday. Other serials like Kolangal(with Devayani) and Lakshmi(with Meena) seem to be going strong. Arattai Arangam is now being hosted by Raja(?), a regular and very popular participant in the pattimandrams that used to be telecast on all special days. I wanted to watch Thanga Vettai to see how Kaniha fared compared to Ramya Krishnan but didn't get a chance to see it today.

The New Year special programs were the usual mix of interviews with cine personalities (Gopika, Yuvan, Karunas, Naren), year-end recaps and public surveys about the next year. The only program I watched was Aishwarya Rai's interview since that is not something you get to see often. Considering her previous performances(like on 60 Minutes) in interviews I wasn't sure how she'd do but she did very well in the very short interview.

She looked ravishing and understandably, spoke in English. There were none of those artificial, irritating giggles that put me off in those previous interviews. She said she considers the South her home(she was born in Mangalore) and so feels at home when she has to come there for films or acts in South Indian films. Asked about Tamil words she had picked up so far, she mentioned konjam konjam, kaadhal, etc. She said she would be delighted to act with Rajnikanth and that talks have taken place about her doing atleast an item number but that things haven't worked out so far due to scheduling clashes. She had high praise for Manirathnam and said that Rajeev Menon was her dear friend. She signed off saying, on the prompting of interviewer, Nandri and Vanakkam.

Overall, it was a very light, careful interview with no mention of Abishek Bachan or even her Hindi films. But it was nice(and different) to catch Aish on our local channel...