Friday, March 30, 2007

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Agaram, Muni and Sabari are now online @ bbreviews.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More Chances Please - II

The situation of our actors is not as bad as it is for our actresses. Even the ones who make us wince with their debut seem to get more opportunities to try their luck (though it is true that many of these actors continue to act because of their filmi connections, there are others who have shown up in more than a few movies inspite of unimpressive debuts and no apparent filmi links). And we've had actors who stuck around for a long time with few hits to their name before striking it rich and making it to the top(Vikram would be the most obvious example though Surya would kinda fit that definition too).

But inspite of such differences, there are a few actors who I feel haven't gotten all that they deserved. Here are 4 of them...

Though I can't pick out any particular area where Shaam excels when compared to other actors, he makes this list mainly because I feel sorry for him. He looks better than many of the actors who show up on screen today and from what we've seen in movies like 12B, Iyarkkai and Lesaa Lesaa, he has decent acting skills, is a pretty good dancer and isn't uncomfortable doing action sequences either. Inspite of this, he hasn't had a single bonafide hit so far in his career. He started off strongly (in probably the luckiest debut for any actor, he got to act with Simran and Jo in his first film as hero) but a series of box-office flops later, he is in probably a worse position than he was then. As we've seen before, it takes just one film to turn an actor's fortunes around. Hope he gets a film like that before its too late...

Prasanna is not a versatile actor. But the desire to see him have a more successful career stems from the desire to see more clean, simple, down-to-earth films in general because he fits into such films perfectly. Prasanna has a wonderful knack for subtle comedy and has been impressive in all his films so far. Actually, he is one of the actors who has been revealing a new facet of his acting in almost every new film since his debut in Five Star. Considering the current trend in Tamil movies, it is understandable that he is not seen in more movies since it doesn't look like action movies would be up his alley though. Then again, it took a Lingusamy to bring out the action hero in Maddy and for all we know, Prasanna might just be waiting for his own Run.

I usually have a little prejudice against star sons since they have it easy compared to other actors who find their own way into Kodambakkam and work hard to make it. But Arunkumar is someone who has made me feel bad for him. Right from his first film Priyam, he has proved that he has the goods to be a hero. Tall, having a good physique, and pretty good at both dancing and fighting, he made a good debut and his movies since then haven't done anything to change that opinion (yes, he looks a lot like Vijayakumar but I don't wanna hold that against him:-). Like most actors he has had movies that, on paper, looked like they could change his fortunes around but they came and went without affecting his career much. He has a couple of movies in his kitty and lets hope atleast one of them gives his career a much-needed boost.

I predicted that Nandha would make it big when I saw him in Mounam Pesiyadhe. He looked smart and held his own against Surya, getting noticed in the playboy role. But his career never took off. He has appeared as the hero in a few films since then but inspite of being impressive in them, the films never did good enough for him to be taken seriously as a hero. With good emoting skills, he is definitely hero material. He will suit action roles too(though, after watching Agaram, I think he needs a lot of work to be good at them), a necessity if a hero is to make it big in Tamil cinema.

Harry Potter 7 Cover Art...

...was unveiled today. This is the cover of the US edition of the book.

115 more days to go :-)

Monday, March 26, 2007

More Chances Please...

Last week, I wrote about actors who I thought had little chance of sticking around for the next generation of Tamil cinema. That was a fun article to write but I'd be the first to accept that it was also a little mean-spirited. After all, its not very nice predicting the ends of actors' careers. So to make amends, I thot I'd write about something more positive today.

Tamil cinema is pretty mean to its actors and actresses. It doesn't take a lot for a performer to get the 'jinxed' label and lose out on chances. In our hero-centric industry, actresses have to depend on things like their chemistry with the hero and the success of their films together with the hero rather than their own talent. So its not surprising that Tamil cinema is filled with deserving actresses who never made it big. Looking at just the last few years, here are 5 actresses who I think deserved another chance or better breaks.

My vote for the best actress working today goes to Sneha. Homely, beautiful and completely natural when it comes to performing, she is one actress who can make us forget that she is acting. But she has never gotten her due. She got great roles in films like Parthiban Kanavu and Autograph and has been paired with top stars like Kamal(Vasoolraja MBBS) and Vijay(Vaseegara). But though she has been around for a while, she has never made it to the big league. She has been considered an unlucky actress for most of her career since her films with stars like Vijay and Ajith(Janaa) flopped. Not being particularly suited to glamor and without many woman-centric roles available to make use of her talent, she is all but out of Tamil cinema with only a couple of movies(Naan Avanillai, Pallikkoodam) in her hand. Its definitely our loss...

Pooja's position today is much better than it was a year ago but I think she deserves even more. She easily stole the show from heroine Amoga in Jay Jay but since the movie didn't do too well, she didn't make as big a splash as I thought she would. But unlike other actresses who completely disappeared after their first film, Pooja has managed to hang around and land some good films too. That by itself is proof enough that she has the goods. She too had the 'unlucky' tag but I'm hoping that recent hits like Pattiyal and Thambi have helped her throw off the tag so that she can land some big movies and really get noticed. We do need to see more of her...

Very cute and pretty, Gajala has so far not managed to make it big. A big reason for that has to be her selection of movies. She shared the screen with Simran(never a good idea!) in Arjun's Ezhumalai and in University, it was the hero Jeevan who was more noticed (and not for the right reasons either!). Her lone hit so far has been Raam (and her character was probably the weakest part of that movie!) and that didn't help her much since she was reduced to playing the second heroine in an Arjun movie(Madrasi). With such a spotty resume, her career has never really taken off and like most heroines who can't make it big in Tamil or whose career in Tamil is all but over, she is headed towards Malayalam films. But I for one, wouldn't mind seeing more of her.

Looks and talent... One would guess that a girl with the combination of those two would do decently in Tamil cinema but Madhumita proved that that's not always the case. She was terrific in a very tough role in Kudaikkul Mazhai but her talent didn't open many doors for her. She was again great playing the headstrong girl in Amudhe but understandably, not many noticed her in that. Her career seems to have completely stalled after that and there's not much news about her. Wish she gets another break...

Chaya Singh
Chaya Singh's state is even sadder considering that her first movie, Thiruda Thirudi, was a hit. Having to fight with Dhanush for almost the whole movie, she was very funny and expressive, a rare feat for a debutant. But film's success did not help her career much and she quickly went from leading lady to item number girl in movies like Arul and Thiruppaachi. She doesn't seem to have any movies other than Solli Adippen(with Vivek) lined up and so her prospects look rather dim. Too bad...

Friday, March 23, 2007

Almost Out...

So, for all practical purposes, India is out of the World Cup. Losing to Sri Lanka today, it pretty much sealed its fate, having lost 2 out of its 3 matches. The sad part is, it looks like the match today wasn't even close. Checking the scores regularly, it was pretty apparent that Sri Lanka was completely in control throughout the match. Both our batting and bowling (more the former than the latter though, mainly because of its strength on paper) seem to have let us down today as our bowlers let SL score 254 and our batsmen then surrendered meekly for 185 without a fight.

India still has a slim chance of sneaking through to the next stage, if Bangladesh loses to Bermuda on Sunday. But even after taking into consideration the vagaries of one-day cricket, it doesn't look like that's gonna happen. Bangladesh has obviously improved its game and is no pushover and with the knowledge that a loss would mean they are out of the World Cup, they will play extra hard. So come Sunday night, our players might be headed back home.

I guess there is atleast one silver lining around the dark cloud of today's loss... It proved that the rumors of match fixing were untrue (though, as my brother mentioned, a really cynical view could be that India played so badly that they lost inspite of the match being fixed!).

Meanwhile Woolmer's death has made the World Cup resemble an episode of CSI! Since it is now clear that he was murdered, the Pakistani players gave their DNA samples today. And in the latest development, two of the players have been asked to stay back in Jamaica though the entire team was supposed to fly back tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

And the Oscar goes to...

Finally caught up on 3 of the Best Picture nominees at the Oscars...

The Departed
"A mole in the police force; an undercover cop in the mafia organization; the two try to uncover each other while keeping their own identity a secret... what a fantastic story!" - thats what I said to myself when I learned about the story of The Departed before the movie was released. Now I can say that the movie presents the story perfectly. The deliciously complicated story is presented in a tightly-woven screenplay that keeps us guessing right till the end. As the two protagonists try to block each other's moves while feeding their own organizations with news, the movie begins to resemble a high-stakes chess game with the players plotting their own moves while anticipating the other's moves and working to checkmate them. And like a good chess game, it requires total attention to the goings-on from the viewer but the results are well worth it. Some of the sequences, like the way the cellphones are used in the warehouse, are truly exhilarating. The story takes some genuinely surprising turns towards the end and it definitely didn't finish the way I expected it to. Leo is terrific, Damon is effective and Jack is Jack! A must-watch.

The movie belongs to the genre where apparently independent incidents are eventually shown to be connected. It is not as powerful or surprising as Crash and 21 Grams, 2 of my favorite movies in this genre but it does have its moments. There are 4 main segments - a Middle-Eastern boy's rifle practice and its consequences, an American couple struggling to find medical assistance for the wife in Turkey, a Mexican nanny who takes the 2 kids she takes care of to a wedding in Mexico and a deaf-mute Japanese girl in Tokyo. As the movie name indicates, the common thread running through these segments is the trouble people have, communicating in today's world.

The segment with the Mexican Nanny is the pick of the lot and is really intense. She and the kids gain our sympathy as they are caught in dangerous circumstances beyond their control. The actress playing the nanny is awesome and should've nabbed the Supporting Actress award. The segment with the Japanese girl is the weakest. Her loneliness is well brought-out(especially in 1 sequence where she visits a night club) but she is so brazen that her character doesn't make earn our sympathy. And the link her segment has with the others seems a bit forced.

Little Miss Sunshine
I think this one would qualify as a dark comedy. It is neither as dark nor as funny as Fargo, the gold standard by which I rate other dark comedies, but it is rather unique in that it is a feel-good dark comedy. The film revolves around a dysfunctional family(a husband, wife, son, daughter and the husband's dad) that makes a road trip to LA so that the little girl can take part in a beauty pageant. Almost everything that happens on the trip qualifies as sad - the husband loses a key deal in his job, the son realizes he has a handicap that will prevent him from realizing his dream, there is a death, etc. But the film succeeds in making us smile inspite of these small troubles since the big picture is that, putting aside their troubles, they come together as a family to make their little girl happy. That and the fact some of their antics(like the way they start the van) are hilarious! The actual pageant, with the little girls resembling Barbies, is more than a little scary but the riotous, unexpected climax ensures that we finish the film with a smile on our lips.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Anbudan... Gauthami

I'm not a big fan of interviews of movie stars on our Tamil channels. They usually feature an uncharismatic interviewer asking cliched, predictable and uninteresting questions while sitting in gaudy sets. Clips and bits of song sequences from the actor's movies, seen a million times before, are screened at regular intervals, further reducing the time the actor has to actually talk. So once the initial excitement of seeing the artists in a real setting(as opposed to the movie screen) wears off, the programs become very pedestrian.

Ofcourse a big reason for this lack of enthusiasm about such interviews is the overload of them. Ever since the satellite channels debuted, every important festival day is filled with interviews with the stars (usually the same stars, whose movie is being released that day, on all the channels!) under a variety of names. Apart from this, we also have the actors appearing in regular programs on other days. So the aura associated with seeing an actor being interviewed has been lost. It wasn't always this way though. I still remember those days when I eagerly looked forward to Malarum Ninaivugal on Sunday morning on Doordarshan, even though it mostly featured old actors who had been around long enough to have a lot of memories.

The latest actress to jump on this interview bandwagon is Gauthami. Her new program Anbudan..., where she interviews actors (atleast so far, its been just actors), debuted 3 weeks ago. Gauthami's star status(any actress who debuted as Rajni's heroine, went on to become a leading heroine, acting with all the major actors and is currently dating Kamalhassan has a very high star status, IMO!) and the high-profile nature of her subjects(so far, she has interviewed Kamal, Simbhu and Karthik) made me check out her program. Unfortunately, she hasn't brought anything new to the table and I didn't make it through the full program both times I caught the show(I missed the first episode with Kamal, which got some good praise).

Like most interviews, the questions were real safe(and hence, uninteresting). The one good thing was that they didn't show clips from the actor's films. Instead, they had clips of the actor's acquaintances(friends, other actors, a film's crew members, etc.) recounting their experiences with him. Though I didn't last till the end of the program, I heard from my wife that the show ends with Gauthami getting a cast of the actor's hand.

From what I heard from my parents back in India, the show is Sun TV's answer to Vijay TV's popular show Coffee with Anu (Sun TV seems to be doing this kind of copying rather blatantly now since they also have a show called Asatha Povadhu Yaaru, which is a copy of Vijay TV's Kalakka Povadhu Yaaru. They haven't even bothered to have a name that sounds different!). The casual nature of the interview, the clips of the actor's acquaintances and the final touch of getting a souvenir from the actor(in the end, Anu Haasan gets her coffee mug signed by her guest) are all apparently borrowed from Coffee with Anu.

As far as the interview went, Karthik made for a good interview subject. He was very casual and easygoing and managed recover nicely when Gauthami stumped him at a few places. While I knew he did his MS in the US, I did not know that he worked as Manirathnam's assistant. His experiences about that stint(when someone called out "andha thottiya eduthitu vaanga", he said he looked behind him before realizing that the order was directed at him!) were fun. But he didn't reveal what film he is doing next.

I'm just hoping that Gauthami manages to nab Rajni for 1 interview (maybe a special episode coinciding with Sivaji's release?!). Now that would be an episode I would definitely watch fully :-)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

1 down, 2 to go

When I saw the composition of the groups for the World Cup, I assumed, like everybody else I'm sure, that India would breeze into the second stage. After all, it would definitely win atleast 2 of its 3 matches since the other teams in its group were Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bermuda. But even that assumption is now on shaky ground after our team's shocking loss to Bangladesh yesterday. And the scary part is, it was our much-vaunted batting lineup that let us down. So India now has to win both its matches against Bermuda(tomorrow) and Sri Lanka(March 23) to move into the next stage. Considering India's history of buckling under pressure, that's scary news indeed...

Though it seems a little mean-spirited, it has always been the case that a loss for Pakistan(against any country) caused almost as much joy as a victory for India. So news about Pakistan's elimination from the World Cup after their even-more shocking loss to Ireland(they had already lost to the West Indies in an earlier match) yesterday, came as a small comfort after reading about India's loss. On the flip side, no match in the World Cup comes close to the tension and excitement generated by an India-Pakistan meeting. So its a little sad that there is no hope of that clash happening this time...

After the Sunset

Sometimes, you don't have to go too far for a nice photo. Caught this one right from the doorstep of our house a couple of days ago, following an otherwise ordinary sunset...

Friday, March 16, 2007

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Lee, Murugaa and Paruthi Veeran are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Next Gen - The Other Side

A few months ago, I wrote about the 5 young heroes who I thought had the best chance of making a mark in the next generation (as I mentioned, that is quite a volatile list since if I made it today, Karthi would definitely be on there!). Now here's the flip side of that list - the 5 heroes (only actors who have appeared in atleast a few movies were considered) who I think have the least chance of making it big in Tamil cinema.

5. Richard
Richard doesn't come close to invoking the kind of irritation that some other actors on this list invoke, but that is not always a good thing. Going to the other extreme, he is so bland that he is barely noticeable. With nothing either in looks or in talent to set him apart from other actors, his lack of charisma makes him disappear into the background, barely allowing him to make an impression on the viewers. So its no wonder that his co-stars(like Natraj in Naalai) steal the show away from him (you know there's a problem when even Shaam steals the show from an actor!). He still appears in the occasional film but without working on offering something that catches the eye, that situation will not change.

4. Jeevan
Jeevan's been quite lucky so far. Not particularly hero material, he got a shot at playing the hero in University and was noticed(though it was mostly via comments like "Oh my God! How did this guy become a hero?!"). Though he disappeared from the scene, he made a comeback as a really hateful villain in Kaakka Kaakka. And after another break, he notched up another hit playing an anti-hero in Thiruttu Payale. But I've always felt that he was rather stiff and credit for those performances actually went to the directors who fashioned the characters. Tall and lanky, he looks uncomfortable dancing and isn't particularly smooth in stunts either. So far, he has proved himself ready to take on negative roles but I don't think he will do another Satyaraj and make the transition to a successful hero.

3. Sibi
Its actors like Sibi who make us wish there was a law against nepotism in Tamil cinema. Making an entry solely because of his genes, the actor has since latched on to Satyaraj's coattails by having his dad costar with him in every other film to make his films saleable. Relying only on nakkal, in which he completely imitates his dad anyway, his performances so far have been uniformly lacklustre and boring. He went in for a change of image in Lee, playing the strong and silent type, but the movie only shows that he can't carry it off very convincingly (apart from his getup reminding us of T.Rajendar, which is never a good thing). He might still show up in a few movies courtesy his dad but unless he finds a niche for himself, his career isn't gonna last too long.

2. Ramesh
Ramesh had me scrambling for synonyms for the word 'wooden' when I saw him in Jery. And the surprising thing is, he wasn't too bad in his debut Jithan. But the idol he stumbled upon in that film, apart from making him invisible, seemed to have taken away his acting skills too! He was inexpressive and stiff in Jery and the fact that it was a comedy role that required a lot of energy only served to highlight his deficiencies. To complete the picture, he also has an irritating voice to match.

Ramesh hasn't appeared in as many popular movies as the others on this list and so many readers may not be familiar with him. For them, I present Exhibit 1. I rest my case!

1. Ravikrishna
There are few actors who earn our irritation just by appearing on screen and Ravikrishna belongs to that select club. He is no looker(the make-up he got in Ponniyin Selvan may have been a step up for him!) and it is doubtful if he would have gotten a role even as a comedian if not for his dad being a producer. And his voice... Most of our younger actors have a weak voice but Ravikrishna's voice is capable of making all the others seem like baritones. He has this strangely nasal voice that always makes him sound like he is whining, no matter what he says. With 2 left feet when it comes to dancing and really slow reflexes when it comes to fighting, he is as far away from being hero material as one can get. He has been lucky enough to land some good directors (Radhamohan for Ponniyin Selvan and now Mysskin too, I think) but that alone can't help him stick around for long.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Borat is one of the funniest films I have seen recently. It has its dry spots, sure, but with a short running time and a very high ratio of jokes that work to those that don't, it manages to keep us laughing - and laughing hard - from start to finish.

The film follows Borat, a TV personality from Kazakhstan, who goes to America to make a documentary about what makes the country great. But once he glimpses Pamela Anderson on Baywatch, he wants to marry her and heads to LA. The lead character Borat is funny without seeming to try too hard. There are no build-ups that make us expect something funny nor are there pauses or breaks that signify a punchline where we are expected to laugh. He simply keeps talking and his sincerity and obliviousness to the reactions/responses to his talking is what makes him so funny.

Borat does the familiar 'fish out of water' routine but with a small difference. The 'fish' usually knows that it is in new territory, feels uncomfortable and tries to fit in to the new surroundings. Not so with Borat here. He is perfectly comfortable with his own thoughts and actions in the new place and it is the people around him who become uncomfortable. So the biggest laughs are in sequences where he meets people who are the complete opposite of him. Borat's meeting with the feminists and his dinner with the high-society types are just brilliant segments that mix both satire and humor.

Borat starts off making fun of his own country. His comments about its people and his actions paint a picture of a country and culture so outdated and backward that it is howlingly funny. But once he lands in America, we're never sure whether he is poking fun at Kazakhstan or America. His own racist attitude is clear but the people he meets illustrate that the attitude is not all the uncommon among Americans either. This look at society, coupled with some surprisingly tender moments that make him understand that beauty is only skin deep, make the movie more than a simple comedy that aims to make us laugh.

Following the recent trend that 'gross' equals 'funny', Borat too has a couple of sequences that cross the line into real bad taste. Borat's naked fight with his manager takes the cake in that respect. It is initially funny but quickly descends into absolute grossness. It does show the lengths that Sacha Baron Cohen is ready to go to for laughs but that doesn't make it any easier to look at.

As long as you are not easily offended(or grossed-out), Borat is a must-watch.

PS: The DVD itself looks like one of those DVDs one burns at home, with the brand name Memorex spelled wrong and the name Borat looking like it was written with a black marker. Pretty neat...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Paruthi Veeran

When there is talk about young directors who are going to lead Tamil cinema into the next generation, Ameer is never mentioned in the same breath as, say, Selvaraghavan or Gautham Menon. But with his third venture, the director proves that he is here to stay and deserves to be on that list on par with - or maybe, even above - those two. Displaying consistence in his direction inspite of the versatility in his movies' genres, he presents a rural tale of love and violence in Paruthi Veeran, delivering a character-based story that is earthy, emotional and entertaining.

Paruthi Veeran(Karthi) lives a carefree life in the village of Paruthiyoor. Ready to raise his hand and aruvaal at the slightest provocation, the jail is his second home. His parter-in-crime is his uncle Sevvaazhai(Saravanan) and together, the two of them spend their time drinking, dining and sleeping. Enmity exists between Paruthi Veeran and his aunt's family but the aunt's daughter Muthazhagu(Priyamani) has decided that Paruthi Veeran is the man for her. So inspite of Paruthi Veeran brushing her off, she pursues him doggedly.

Paruthi Veeran is a familiar story(lovers from two families who are bitter enemies) in a familiar setting(a village where family and caste, not necessarily in that order, come before everything else). But Ameer imbibes the film with so much of a rural atmosphere that the film still seems fresh. Paruthiyoor here doesn't serve as just a background but is an integral part of the film as Ameer takes us deep into rural TamilNadu. It is a village where the chief form of entertainment is a folk dance by eununchs and a woman who has drunk poison gets her stomach pumped out by the villagers rather than the local doctor(if there was even one!). With the authentic characters, their everyday conversations, their realistic accents and the events surrounding them, graamathu maNam wafts right off the screen!

Ameer deserves credit for fashioning a lead who feel familiar to Tamil cinema but still fit right into a village like Paruthiyoor. Karthi has the usual traits of all Tamil cinema heroes but is also given some surprising shades of gray. Priyamani, for her part, is a strong woman who knows exactly what she wants and is willing to go to any lengths to get it. Her love for Karthi has a strong foundation and when she goes against her parents or begs Karthi to accept her, we know exactly where she's coming from(she conveys that in her response to the teacher who asks her "Enna edhutherinju pesurae?", the best piece of dialog in the film). The supporting characters seem as real as they can get and even the ones with little screen time(like the kurathi in the flashback) are memorable.

The climax works in parts. It manages to surprise us more than once in the path it takes but then overstays its welcome and takes the edge off the surprises. Karthi's past doesn't come back to bite him in the way we expect and not all characters meet ends we expect them to. But at the same time, the climax is too long and detailed to have a strong impact. Ameer manages to create a real sense of dread leading up to the climax. But once we get there, the tendency to spell everything out gives the impression that he is trying to wring every emotion he can from the viewer and that kind of overt, emotional manipulation doesn't work.

Karthi is fantastic and definitely shows none of the first film jitters. One thing that I've noticed in newcomers in front of the camera is that they seem inhibited. But Karthi has just let himself go and as a result, is arresting. Scenes like the one where he and Saravanan enjoy a dance by the eununchs are enjoyable solely because of his energy and his ability to be completely unrestrained. Priyamani is more of a mixed bag. She is fantastic in some scenes but appears a bit too stiff and artificial in others. She actually seems more comfortable with the heavier scenes and is explosive whenever she defends her love to anyone. Saravanan is quite natural and creates a likeable character. Ganja Karuppu makes us laugh as he is constantly harasses, both intentionally and unintentionally, by Karthi and Saravanan. All the other actors, from the youngest to the oldest, fit their parts admirably and contribute to the realistic atmosphere on screen.

Yuvan Shankar Raja has definitely has his father's genes when it comes to rustic music. Ariyaadha Vayasu... is wonderfully picturized as it portrays the initial stages of the friendship between Karthi and Priyamani in their younger days. Aiyaiyo.... also starts off wonderfully but the lead pair starting to mouth lines in the middle robs if off some of its initial natural charm. Sarigama is the weakest number of the lot. The entire sequence has an artificial feel and sticks out awkwardly. Ramji's camera captures the action in just the right way. Brown is the predominant color (which makes all those flashes of bright color, like in the village fair, stand out even more) and barrenness has rarely been captured this beautifully.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thanks Again!

As of today, I've been blogging for 2 years. I'd say that's about 21 months more than how long I thought I'd be able to blog, when I first started blogging. But its lasted 2 years. And that's definitely due to you readers. I do love movies and I do love to write. But without the comments and the increasing number of hits, its doubtful if I would've had the interest or the energy to keep blogging for 2 whole years. So thank you all, for continuing to come back and for the enthusiastic comments, interesting discussions, entertaining arguments and fun trivia.

On to year 3...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bye Bye Jo

A walk down memory lane with Jo as a fond farewell to the actress...

While Jo's debut was in Priyadarshan's Hindi film Doli Saja Ke Rakhna(the Hindi remake of our own Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai), Jo was first introduced to me(and Tamil cinema viewers) in 1999, as Ajith's imaginary ex-girlfriend in Vaali. She was cute, which was a pleasant surprise considering she was Nagma's sister, but didn't make much of an impression other than that (then again, it was a miracle that I even noticed her considering that the heroine was Simran at her prettiest and most loveable self!). She didn't fare much better in Poovellaam Kaettuppar, her first full-fledged heroine role, where the only thing that stood out was her atrocious dancing for Poova Poova.... But though insignificant at that time, that was the first time she paired up with Surya, laying the foundation for the cutest and most perfectly matched Tamil screen jodi since Kamal-Sridevi.

Though she had just a cameo(supposedly as a favor to director Vasanth, who made her a heroine with Poovellaam Kaettuppaar) in it, Rhythm, released in 2000, provided the first hint of the overexpressiveness that would turn out to be Jo's calling card. While she was solid in the serious scenes, her expressions in the lighthearted or comedy scenes were definitely overdone. Then came Kushi, undoubtedly the low point of my journey with Jo. She overacted in almost every scene in that film and was at her most irritating. Her performance in 2 scenes - one where she apologizes to Vijay after the car breakdown and the other where she fights with him after he stares at her waist - were almost intolerable. But while I personally didn't like her acting, viewers lapped it up and she quickly became TamilNadu's heartthrob. Her growing popularity and fast rise among the ranks of Tamil cinema heroines were pretty clear as she was Kamal's heroine in Tenali the same year and was picked as the lead in Priyadarshan's woman-only film Snehithiye. And she paired up for the second time with Surya in Uyirile Kalandhadhu.

2001 was definitely the year when my feelings for Jo underwent a sea change. Dumm Dumm Dumm was probably the first time that I really liked her. She looked really cute as a village belle and toned down her expressions considerably. But it was 12B that made me move from just "liking her" to becoming her fan. That was the time when she and Simran were fighting for the top heroine slot and so their teaming up in the film(though, like in Vaali, they didn't share any scenes) was newsworthy. But Jo had the livelier, chirpier role and she made full use of it, charming us with her bubbliness and energy. And she had toned down her facial contortions to just the right level so that we could marvel at, rather than get irritated by, her very expressive face. The year was quite good for her too as she landed several plum assignments, teaming up with Ajith in Poovellaam Un Vaasam and playing the heroine in Singeetham's Little John. But movies like Star were black spots on her resume.

2002 was probably the worst year in her career. She appeared in a stinker like One Two Three and her Raja, where a demure Priyanka Trivedi almost stole the show from her, didn't do too well at the box-office either.

But she proved that she was just down and not out as she came roaring back in 2003. She started the year off with a blockbuster in Dhool, displaying good chemistry with Vikram. Then came Kaakka Kaakka, where she carried off her important role with aplomb. Proving that she could also play mature roles, she was beautiful, strong and dignified and made Maya an unforgettable character. This was her third pairing with Surya, for whom it was a career-making role (since we now know that it was Jo who recommended her to Gautham, I guess he owes her big time for where he is right now!). Jo also proved lucky for Vijay since her film with him, Tirumalai, ended the actor's long streak of flops and started him off on the best phase of his career. The year wasn't all good for her though. Priyamaana Thozhi, where she had a very nice character, was a flop and 3 Roses, a wannabe-Charlie's Angels, was a disaster.

There was no stopping Jo after that as the good times continued for her in 2004. She did her first double role in Perazhagan and was pretty convincing as a blind beggar girl in that. The rumors about her and Surya had gained strength by then and the couple did nothing to refute them. She also successfully broke the myth that actresses who had paired up with senior actors were rejected by the younger brigade as, after acting with the likes of Kamal and Vikram, she paired up with Simbhu(a self-proclaimed fan) in Manmadhan. The highly-anticipated Arul was a flop but on the whole, it was a good year for her. But the best was yet to come.

As 2005 started, she had already landed the dream role for any actress - the title character in the next Rajnikanth film Chandramukhi! Though not a classical dancer, she worked hard for the role and it showed as she was quite convincing as the possessed Bharathanatyam dancer. With the movie going on to become Tamil cinema's biggest hit, Jo now had her name in the record books too. And in what was becoming a regular feature, she once again paired up with Surya in Maayaavi. Though the film didn't do well, Jo proved that she had a good sense of humor as she played herself in the film and poked fun at her lifestyle.

Proving that she really was the top heroine in 2006, Jo then paired up with Kamal in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. She was once again mature and dignified in another strong role and this time, got to be in the biggest hit of the year. But again, 2006 was not all good. The much-hyped Sillunu Oru Kaadhal, her first movie with Surya after the two disclosed their romance, was a flop. Saravanaa, where she once again paired upwith Simbhu, didn't do well either. And June R, a rare film about a mother-daughter relationship, also came a cropper at the box-office. But on the personal front, 2006 was a great year as she got married to Surya in September. She looked gorgeous at the wedding and the pair proved that they were perfectly matched in real life too. But the wedding caused mixed emotions for her fans since she announced soon after that should would stop acting.

As 2007 started, Jo had only 2 movies left. And what contrasting roles they provided for her! She boldly took on a role with large negative shades in Pachaikkili Muthucharam and went through a whole gamut of emotions in the difficult role. The climax truly brought out a new facet of her acting. But she saved her best for last. Playing a deaf-mute in Mozhi, she was completely natural and performed the sign language with a smoothness that was surprising. Finding a character that offered her the opportunity to be both lively and subdued, as an actress, she definitely finished her career on a high.

A successful career where she paired with all the top heroes; a spot in the record books; marriage with her sweetheart; and all set to be a mom... Jo's really had it all. Here's wishing Tamil cinema's most loveable actress a fond goodbye and wonderful life ahead...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lake Tahoe

After seeing how much fun Kavya had playing in the snow when we went to Yosemite last year, we were determined to make a trip to Lake Tahoe this winter season for more snow play. We had planned a trip over the President's Day weekend but had to cancel that since my wife fell sick. We finally made it last weekend.

We definitely picked the perfect weekend to visit Tahoe. It was bright and sunny, which, apart from making getting out of the car at stops(you have quite a few of those when you have 2 kids!) more pleasant, made the drive safe since there was no snow or ice on the roads. At the same time, the storms last week dumped a lot of snow and that ensured great views and a lot of fun for the kids.

We drove out there Saturday morning on I-80 and stopped at the first ski resort we saw - Soda Springs. It turned out to be just perfect since, apart from the ski slope, it had a small area named 'Planet Kids', meant for kids to play around. Kavya had a lot of fun sliding down the small slopes, building snowmen, having snow fights and in general, just stomping around in the snow. Karthik initially had some trouble walking around in the snow and was uncomfortable with the restricted motion afforded by his tight, thick jacket (he started crying each time he sat down since he didn't know how to get up!). But once he saw big sister sliding down, he wanted to do the same and finally began enjoying himself. As usually happens, he then refused to get away from the snow! We drove to Reno right after and stayed there that night but with 2 kids, visiting casinos wasn't really an option and so we stayed put in the hotel.

Yesterday, we drove back to Lake Tahoe to drive around the rim of the lake. We'd done the same thing when we went there last Summer but what a difference the season makes! The drive to the lake from Reno was spectacular, with the snow-capped mountains rising up on the side. The drive around Lake Tahoe is kinda like Big Sur in that every stop gives a different but still wonderful view of the lake. The sparkling blue water, with the snow-capped mountains in the background, offered some amazing views. We went down the roads and paths that led down to the lake at different points and they were ofcourse covered with snow. So they offered more opportunities for Kavya and Karthik to play in the snow, apart from adding something another beautiful dimension to the views of the lake.

While the drive back is usually the most boring part of any trip, the views made atleast the initial part of the drive back from Tahoe worthwhile. The road moves along the Truckee river at some places and these places, with the snow-covered banks on either side of the river and a few snow-covered, wooden bridges going across the river, were breathtakingly beautiful. And with quite a bit of I-80 being at high elevations, the roads were lined with snow too. Since we left a bit early and beat the traffic returning from all thos ski resorts, the rest of the drive wasn't too bad either.

Definitely a fun trip for all of us. A few photos from the trip can be seen here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Veerasamy, Pachaikkili Muthucharam and Mozhi are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New @ Netflix

One of the trends that is supposed to eventually lead to Netflix's downfall is the ability to download and watch movies online. While the threat is still a few years away even according to experts, Netflix has gone ahead and shown that it is ready to face the challenge when it comes. The DVD rental site has now added a feature where members can watch movies online.

To watch the movies, a special software, the Netflix Viewer, must be downloaded and installed on the computer. But once that's done, the choice of movies is quite large. And these are not little-known, unsuccessful, small movies either. Classics like Casablanca and Chinatown, foreign movies like Run Lola Run and Born into Brothels and thrillers like The Untouchables and The Negotiator are some of the movies available for viewing online. The Instant Watching feature is included in the membership and a member can watch 1 hour online for each dollar of his subscription plan(15 hours for the $14.99/month plan and so on).

I watched Run Lola Run recently on the Instant Watch and the quality wasn't bad at all. Not DVD quality ofcourse but not too far off either. The movie started almost immediately and ran without any pauses for "buffering".

I didn't think that Blockbuster had this feature but knowing their past history, I was sure it wouldn't be too long before they offered something very similar to it. Sure enough, there's news today that the company is in talks to buy Movielink, a movie download service! They couldn't have been more obvious about their intentions to ape everything that Netflix does!

Meanwhile Netflix is flying high. The company recently delivered its 1 billionth DVD(Babel) to a woman in Texas. The lucky customer got a lifetime free subscription to Netflix! Sigh...