Monday, April 30, 2007

Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram

PEAS is further proof that a movie becoming a success in another language does not automatically guarantee that it will be a success in Tamil too. A remake of the Kanna superhit Jogi, the film combines mother sentiments and violence, both of which have yielded box-office success in earlier films. While the listless nature of the action makes the film dull, the manipulative nature of the sentiments makes it almost offensive and that combination makes the film tough to sit through.

Azhagu Sundaram(Dhanush) and his mother Meenakshi(Archana), who live in Monanjipatti village, think the world of each other. When Azhagu's father(Livingston) dies, Azhagu can't bear to see his mother as a widow and takes off to Chennai to earn money. Not hearing from him for a while, Meenakshi goes to Chennai in search of him, armed with just a photo. A journalism student Shruti(Meera Jasmine) takes pity on her, puts her up in her own place and helps her in her search for Azhagu. They both don't realize that the dreaded rowdy Parattai, who is in jail for killing another feared rowdy and who Shruti is trying to interview, is actually Azhagu.

The scenes with Dhanush and Archana in the village are designed to illustrate the love and affection that exists between mother and son. But it doesn't work and the reasons are twofold. One (and this is something most Tamil movies do), everything is exaggerated. As the two dance together and goof around, it seems cinematic and real emotions are never conveyed(there is a scene in a flashback much later, which shows Archana saying goodbye to her son as he leaves for school. It works better than the entire segment in the village in this respect). Two, Dhanush simply abandons his mother. His intentions may be good but the fact remains that he leaves Archana, who has just been widowed and has no other children to take care of her, alone and leaves for Chennai without even telling her. All his words about loving his mother and his desperate search for her in the later part of the movie don't help us forget this act.

Since Kaadhal Koattai, we've had several movies (Jay Jay and Enakku 20 Unakku 18, to name a couple of high-profile ones) where the hero and heroine looked for each other without much information about the other. PEAS does the same but with a son and mother instead! So we have familiar scenes like the two visiting the same place within a few seconds of each other, turning away at the last minute when in the same locations, etc. Suresh Krissna uses numerous plot devices to keep the two in the state of "so near and yet so far" and after the first couple of times, our irritation increases exponentially with each new one.

Apart from the mother sentiment, the other major aspect of the film is violence as Dhanush is forced to unwillingly continue his life as a rowdy for self-preservation. As in most movies, an aruvaal is his weapon of choice. Though blood flows freely and the body count is high, the fight sequences lack punch. They are routine and lack energy as Dhanush hacks his way through faceless rowdies.

Tamil cinema and sentiments are inseparable. We've had movies that used sentiments to touch us and we've had movies where the sentiments had little or no impact. PEAS is a movie where the sentiments are almost distasteful. The plot devices used to keep Dhanush and Archara apart, that were merely irritating before, get downright tasteless after a particular plot development. Suresh Krissna tries very hard to attack our tear ducts but his manipulation is so obvious that it ends up having the opposite effect. And after the overload of sentiments, it is ironic that the film ends on an (unintentional) cheery note since the comment by a rowdy who has come to kill Dhanush is so silly and out-of-place that it makes us laugh out loud.

The Parattai in the movie name had led me to think that Dhanush was all set to exploit his association with Rajni overtly. But he doesn't. "Idhu Eppidi Irukku?", Parattai's trademark dialog from 16 Vayadhinile is actually uttered by 'Kaadhal' Dhandapani rather than Dhanush and references to Rajni are limited to his posters on the walls and a song from Chandramukhi playing on the radio. But they do thank 'Friend, Well-Wisher and Guide Superstar Rajnikanth' in the opening credits.

Dhanush actually looks thinner that his usual self and he doesn't suit the role of the rowdy. He should stick to playing light-hearted roles like he did in Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam. Meera Jasmine, on the other hand, looks real fat. There are a few scenes where the actress in her peeks out(her reaction when Archana touches her on the way back from college is just so natural) but for the most part, she tries to be cute and funny and ends up overacting. Archana too overacts whenever she is supposed to be happy and show affection to her son. But she is convincing once she is in the city, clinging onto the hope that she will see her son soon. We've seen Santhanam in only a few films but his style is already getting repetitive and the fact that he doesn't get any funny bits doesn't help.

The movie's end credits roll with a song in the background and one of the lines in the song goes Thangaadha sogam idhu.... That was exactly what I was saying about the film as I walked out of the theater...

Friday, April 27, 2007

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Unnaale Unnaale and Madurai Veeran are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Coming Soon - Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram

I've always felt that the second film is the most important film - even more so than the first - for an actor who delivered a hit with his debut. It is the film that proves that the first hit was no fluke and that the actor is here to stay. If that is indeed the case, Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram is an important film for Dhanush since the film is his second film after the recent turnaround in his fortunes. After some financial issues, the movie is releasing tomorrow and he will be awaiting its release with bated breath.

Dhanush's famous father-in-law's shadow hovers over PEAS quite prominently. The most obvious link ofcourse is the fact that Parattai is one of the most famous of Rajni's characters. That was the name of the villain who everyone loved to hate in 16 Vayadhinile and its impossible for anyone to not associate the name with Rajni. Also, the film is a remake of Kannada superhit Jogi and it was Rajni who apparently urged Dhanush to do the film after watching the original. Then there's the fact that the director of PEAS is Suresh Krishna, who gave Rajni 3 of his best and most successful films. His track record recently has not been so good (he was behind both Aalavandhaan and Baba) since then but Annamalai, Baasha and Veera ensure that he will always be remembered as one of Rajni's best directors.

On paper, PEAS's story - atleast the little I know of it - offers a lot of opportunities for romance, comedy, action and sentiments. It is apparently about a villager who moves to the city and becomes a dreaded don (I'm guessing that the villager's name is Azhagu Sundaram and he takes the name Parattai after becoming the don). The ever-popular 'mother sentiment' is supposed to be high on the film's agenda since the villager is very attached to his mother and his mom later comes to the city looking for him.

Considering its a masala film, the film has an impressive cast. Two national award winners join Dhanush with Archana playing his mother and Meera Jasmine playing the heroine. Music is by Yuvan Shankar Raja but I haven't read any reviews of the soundtrack, even by huge Yuvan fans like Filbert.

With Sivaji's release nearing, other producers are postponing the release of their films so as not clash with that film (Ajith's Kireedam is once such film). But PEAS is releasing tomorrow and will have three weeks without any other high-profile releases, even if Sivaji does release on May 17. With the birth of his son Yathra and the huge success of Thiruvilaiyaadal Aarambam, the year has started well for Dhanush. Lets see if he continues his good run with PEAS...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Secret of My Energy

My iPod is my trusted companion whenever I go to the gym (I thought of saying "whenever I work out" but considering how little I do compared to others who are in the gym at the same time, calling it a 'workout' seems disrespectful to them!). My iPod has only Tamil songs on it and not surprisingly, I do have a separate playlist for the gym and start listening to it when I step on the treadmill.

I have to admit that the iPod does help me work out just a little bit better. I know its purely a psychological thing but hey, whatever works! While I do start listening to songs when I start running, their usefulness is seen mainly towards the end - at the point where I think I'm done. If I'm in the middle of a song at that point, thinking "let me run until this song ends" really helps in keeping me going for a little bit more. In fact, I think that's the reason music works so well during a workout. "Let me run until this song ends" in general works much better than "let me run for 2 more minutes".

My rule for a song to be moved into the 'workout playlist' is pretty simple. It has to be fast and have some good, fast beats. Slow songs, however much I love them, will never find a place on the list. The kind of song doesn't really matter. It could be a solo number(male or female), a duet, a group song or a duppanguthu number. So my collection of songs is pretty eclectic. Right now, I have on there songs as different as Ballelakka..., Karkka Karkka..., Uyirin Uyire..., Undhan Vizhimunai..., Boom Boom... and Manmadha Raasaa....

But my favorite workout song, by far, is Arjunaru Villu... from Gilli. The pace of the song, its lyrics and its picturization make it one of the best in this category. I don't think its a coincidence that the song takes off with the sound of a whistle - like at the start of a race - because thats exactly what the sequence seems like. The pounding beats and Sukwinder's energetic singing make the entire song, a continuous shot of adrenaline. The song is filled with inspirational lines (edhiriya kollu, imaiyatha vellu, unakkoru ellai kidaiyaadhe) and the lines
Eru munnEru, idhu karaiye illA kAttARu
Odu munnOdu, oru vetri enbadhu kaikoodum

seem like they were written just for runners!

For me, the song sequence always plays in my mind when I'm listening to the song and Dharani's picturization of Arjunaru Villu... is simply brilliant. The quick editing and the variety of camera angles give the sequence a lot of energy. It is brilliantly choreographed in sync with the song(my favorite part is in the middle when Trisha is narrating her story and her brothers' murders by Prakashraj sync perfectly with peaks in the music). And when a shirtless Vijay lifts his jeep(for its tyre to be changed) with a cigarette held in his mouth, it proves that even a thin, bony fella like him can be made to look like a stud!

I have this song towards the end of my playlist and always navigate to it when I am nearing the end of my run. It helps me go the extra mile... well ok... the extra 0.1 mile :-)

For those who share my thots about the song and need a boost of energy, here's the song.

PS: By the way, I love listening to Arjunaru Villu... in the car too. I've found that as I listen to it at a high volume while going on the freeway, I become Vijay, my wife turns into Trisha and all those harmless drivers in Camrys and Accords turn into stick-wielding goondas in Tata Sumos!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Unnaale Unnaale

In both 12B and Ullam Ketkume, Jeeva banked on meaty stories. While the former had the fascinating theme of alternate timelines, the latter had multiple love stories involving likeable characters. Unfortunately, he takes a different route and picks a simple love triangle for his third venture. It has some interesting characters but they are not capable of making the light story hold our interest for the entire running time of the film.

Karthik(Vinay), an architect, and Jhansi(Sadha) fall in love. But the two rarely see eye to eye as Jhansi, who is possessive and jealous, always regards Karthik, who is easygoing and friendly, with suspicion. Predictably, Jhansi breaks it off with him. Some time later, Karthik is assigned to a project in Australia and on the flight meets Deepika(Tanisha), a playful, cheerful girl. But once
he lands in Sydney, he once again meets Jhansi, who works with Deepika. And makes it pretty clear that he still has feelings for her.

We've had quite a few youthful love stories but Jeeva makes this one interesting by pairing up a guy and a gal who are obviously not made for each other. So Vinay and Sadha spend most of the time fighting with each other rather than exchanging sweet nothings. This may not be fun for them but for us, it makes the movie different and interesting. On the flip side, the couple's contrasting natures also makes us question why Vinay is so besotted with Sadha. With Sadha constantly suspicious of him and going as far as setting him up to prove her point, it is never clear why Vinay keeps going after her. While we are probably supposed to feel sorry for him (like in the scene where Sadha dumps him), we end up siding with Sadha since she ends up looking smarter than him and understands that they probably won't get along!

Things usually get interesting with the addition of a third person to a love affair but not here. Things are interesting as Vinay and Sadha romance and fight with each other but after the action moves to Sydney and Tanisha joins the act, the movie begins to drag. Things get very repetitive with Vinay's attempts to impress Sadha, Sadha's I-still-hate-you act and Tanisha's over-the-top behavior. Characters' behaviors and actions actually get confusing and we're never sure if they are putting on an act or are really feeling that way.

Its not just the romance that peters out in Sydney. Almost everything takes a turn for the worse. Like for instance the comedy. Raju Sundaram and his friend managed to make us laugh in the first half. But the new characters, like the hotel chef, struggle to make us laugh. Scenes with just these characters stick out awkwardly and one particular sequence, inspite of sparing us the gory details visually, is very crass and crude.

After the proceedings go to the point of testing our patience, the short and sweet climax is a pleasant - and welcome - surprise. Its bittersweet nature actually adds to its appeal and closes the movie out on a nice note.

Jeeva clearly thinks of himself as Tamil cinema's answers to Dr.John Gray as he goes about spelling out the differences between men and women. Almost everyone in the film is a philosopher with atleast a couple of bright nuggets about how men and women are and how they should be dealt with. When it is new and mixed with humor(like Raju Sundaram's conversations with his girlfriend, though they are simply Tamil versions of very popular English jokes), they are easy to listen to and even enjoy. But as we are subjected to the same kind of conversations about men and women over and over again, we just wish everyone would just stop talking (with characters like the eternally suspicious Sadha, Raju Sundaram's girlfriend who punches him and the Australian cook's wife who lets her husband cook and then takes credit by putting on his apron, its clear where Jeeva's sympathies lie!).

Vinay is tall and handsome and so, a welcome addition to our new hero list. He isn't too inhibited in front of the camera either though he isn't taxed too much. Sadha is a pleasant surprise and this is probably the first movie that I have liked her in. She seems a little awkward initially but she uses her expressions and body language to good effect in the second half where she is required to be subtle. Tanisha makes no such impression though. Not particularly cute, she overacts in most of the scenes also.

The movie definitely looks great. It is bright and colorful and there are some wonderful visuals, especially in Sydney. Harris Jayaraj's tunes suit the youthful mood of the film and the picturization of most songs does justice to the tunes. Hello Miss Imsaiye... takes the top spot among the numbers. The visual techniques and the antics of Vinay make it a high-energy number that lifts our spirits. Vaigaasi Nilave... is probably the most melodious of the numbers but the picturization with the battle theme doesn't fit in too well.

Friday, April 20, 2007

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Maayakkannaadi and Koodal Nagar are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sivaji - New Still?

With the photos that have been released of Rajni with the hairstyle he had in the 70's and 80's, there is speculation if Sivaji will have a flashback segment with a younger Rajni. Now it seems certain that the film has a flashback but it looks further back in Rajni's life. This newly released still from the film is supposedly of a 2-year old Rajni. But admittedly, he already shows signs of his style in dress, expression and stance :-)

Readers who here through searches for "Sivaji New Photos"... my apologies :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wrong Way

Last Sunday, we had to attend a birthday party at Pump It Up in Pleasanton and as is our usual custom whenever we go to that area, we decided to first stop at the Shiva-Vishnu Temple in Livermore. As usual, I looked up directions from the temple to Pump It Up on Yahoo Maps (you can try this too since its very repeatable). The first few lines read

Start at 1232 Arrowhead Ave, Livermore
Turn left on South Ln
Turn right on N Vasco Rd.
Take ramp onto I-580

Having never seen a South Lane in the vicinity of the temple on all my trips to it so far, I got a little suspicious and zoomed in to the starting area on the map. This is what I got...

So Yahoo Maps is asking me to cut across fields or houses or whatever is in those blocks of land between the roads, to reach Vasco Road and then cut across some more land to reach the freeway. Guess they still have a few kinks to work out in their Maps program. Meanwhile, I guess I'll stick to Mapquest from here on(I've had a bad experience on Google Maps too when I got directions from my hotel to SeaWorld during our trip to Texas a few years ago).

Monday, April 16, 2007


It is understandable when a director whose films haven't been big commercial successes, switches genres or styles. But why would a director whose last 2 films were big hits, switch back to the formula that he used before them and which gave him less success? That's what Cheran has done in Maayakkannaadi. Abandoning the personal and emotional style he used in Autograph and Thavamaai Thavamirundhu, he goes back to delivering a message-based film like Vetrikkodi Kattu. Well-intentioned but long, flimsy and self-indulgent, the film is the weakest effort yet from the director.

Kumar(Cheran) and Maheshwari(Navya), who both work at beauty salons, are lovers. Neither of them comes from a rich family(Kumar's family is back in his village, waiting for him to come back home, and Maheshwari is the daughter of a bus driver) but they yearn for a rich lifestyle where they have enough money to throw around. After unsuccessfully trying their hands at being LIC insurance agents, Kumar decides to try his luck in the film industry. But they find out that opportunities are not easy to come by.

Cheran and Navya aren't a very likeable couple in Maayakkannaadi. While he has essentially abandoned his family and is spending the little money he gets on himself and his girlfriend, she is someone who is pretty selfish and doesn't understand her family's situation. Protagonists don't always have to be likeable but the lack of it is a problem in a film where we follow their struggle to succeed. We end up watching the two of them in a detached mode and so their situation never has the kind of impact that the struggles faced by the protagonists in Mugavari or even Kodambakkam had.

The other factor that doesn't help the couple gain our sympathy is the humor. Subtle humor, like the comments made by Cheran's roommate, is nice and even welcome. But overt attempts at humor, like Cheran's 'training' session, come in the way of him gaining our sympathy. We're never sure if we are supposed to root for him or laugh at him!

Cheran's strengths are clearly the emotions created by familial bonds. A single phone conversation Cheran has with his family back in the village manages to raise sympathy for them, though we never see the family at the other end of the conversation. And Navya's family is a very believable, down-to-earth lower middle class family with understandable problems and conversations. The problem is he doesn't spend much time on them. Instead we are treated to Cheran and Navya, who, I don't think, fit anybody's definition of a cute couple, be romantic and Cheran, who I don't think, fits anybody's definition of a star, appear in a variety of getups as he dreams of making it big in Kodambakkam.

The film traverses a path that's a little unexpected in the second half. Though it doesn't help the film's underlying message much(I couldn't see how Cheran could have avoided this path even if he had continued in his job at the beauty salon and not dabbled in cinema) but it brings in some variety since we finally see something other Cheran trying to become a big star.

Inspite of sounding preachy, Radharavi's final monologue makes some fine points. The examples he gives and the way he brings in his own experiences make sense and it is definitely sound - even if a bit long - advice. Its just that aftet three and a half long hours, even a few minutes of advice, however sound, seems too much!

Cheran the actor overwhelms Cheran the director here. Cheran seems to have indulged in his desire to wear fancy clothes, dance and speak long dialogs. Though he does most of these under the pretense of dreaming, that doesn't make it any easier for us to watch him strut his stuff. But if you discount the unsuitable hairstyle and unflattering getups, Cheran the actor does a decent job. He is able to bring out the initial arrogance as well as the arrogance gradually turning to frustration as he understands that success isn't going to be easy. His experiences have a sobering effect on him and he is able to convey this well. Navya just cannot do cute. She comes off looking a little mentally off-balance when she tries to be sweet or romantic. But like Cheran, she is solid in the emotional scenes and believable when she is scared for him. Radharavi manages to convincingly deliver the last monologue, which the full movie is geared towards but doesn't have much to do otherwise.

Ilaiyaraja's songs are unremarkable but sound good with the movie. Konjam Konjam... is a typical Raja melody and the best number in the album. His voice(or the picturization) doesn't suit Enga Vandhe... but is perfect for Kaadhan Indru... and Kaasu Kaiyil.... Ulagile Azhagi... is a nice melody but the dresses and wigs of Cheran and Navya make sure we don't enjoy the song!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sivaji Ragasiyangal

With a catchy title like that, Sun TV managed to conduct a half-hour interview with director Shankar on Tamil New Year's day. It was the only program I watched among Sun TV's special programs for that day but it gave us absolutely no new information about the movie! Shankar managed to deflect every question about the movie with a smoothness that only comes with practice and experience. Following are some comments he made about the movie:

"I will tell you the story and all details about it... the day after its release."

"Yes, the movie does have a message."

"Rajni has his usual styles. He also has some new styles that will make his fans happy."

"Lines from songs(Singam kooda jujubi dhaanda; sivaji vaayil jilebi dhaanda) could themselves be punch dialogs. But he has other punch dialogs also."

The photos shown in the background during the interview were the same photos that were officially released along with the audio, 2 weeks ago. But we did get a few glimpses from a couple of different shooting locations and so the program wasn't a complete waste.

IMO, those glimpses made it look like the movie will have a strong Mudhalvan influence. It has always been said that Shankar first wanted to make Mudhalvan with Rajni (Rajni said "No" because of the controversial theme). Wonder if he went ahead and made a Mudhalvan clone now that he finally got to work with Rajni!

Friday, April 13, 2007

1 New Review

Review for Vyaabaari is now online @ bbreviews.

Considering how scarily bad the movie is, I guess it makes sense that the review is available on Friday the 13th!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Coming Soon - April 14 Releases

No, I'm not putting together a gallery of the worst-looking guys in Tamil cinema. Those are just the heroes in 3 of the movies releasing this Tamil New Year's Day :-(

For a Tamil cinema fan, this April 14 has to be one of the least exciting festival days in a long time. With no film with a bonafide star (and I'm not talking about just Rajni or Kamal movies. The movies being released can't boast of second- or even third-rung heroes), it is going to be really slim pickings at the theaters come Saturday. And it is not just that the films haven't raised expectations. The scary part is that the release roster includes more than 1 film that causes genuine dread in the heart of a Tamil film lover.

Taking the top spot in the list of movies is Cheran's Maayakkannaadi. After a series of critically-praised but commercially-unsuccessful movies, Cheran finally tasted success with Autograph and Thavamaai Thavamirundhu and he will be hoping to make it a hat-trick with MK. For the first time, he is moving away from the village setting since the film is set in the city. Navya Nair, who seems unable to shake off the curse of the bad-looking hero, is paired with him and the two supposedly play makeup artists in a beauty salon. That said, MK is probably the Cheran film I've least looked forward to and that is solely because of the stills. Cheran looks pretty bad in the straight hairstyle and the glitzy costumes give the impression of a director who has come to love acting a lot and is now making movies around himself rather than acting in the movie because he fits the role. Ofcourse I'm hoping that my impression is wrong and Cheran gives us one more of his well-intentioned, clean films that touch us at some level, either through the message they convey or the emotions they explore. Cheran is pairing up with Ilaiyaraja after Desiya Geetham but the reviews of the soundtrack haven't been very inspiring.

Unnaale Unnaale has a couple of new faces in the lead but boasts of 2 impressive names behind the screen. Director Jeeva, who gave us 12B and Ullam Ketkume, has proved that he is adept at making youthful entertainers while Harris Jayaraj(who worked with Jeeva in both his earlier films) has delivered another hit album filled with youthful, instantly catchy tunes (my favorites - June Ponaa... and Unnaale Unnaale...). Jeeva has claimed that hero Vinay, a model from Bangalore, will be the next heartthrob of Tamil cinema and the young hero has to live up to those high claims. Heroine Tanushri, who paraded around in really skimpy outfits in Nean n Nikki, makes her Tamil debut as heroine while Sada is supposed to have an important role.

Tamil cinema's most wooden actor 'Jithan' Ramesh has Madurai Veeran to once again prove how bad an actor he is. Predictably, the movie is produced by his dad R.B.Chowdhary, who should probably rename his SuperGood Films to SuperDad Films. The film's supposed highlight is a hip-hop number sung by Vaazha Meenukkum... fame 'Gana' Ulaganathan and that, more than anything else, is an indicator of the low expectations for the movie.

When a director's first film is something as terrible as Unakkaaga Mattum(that was the film where a doctor, after seeing the hero vomit blood, diagnoses that he has "blood vomiting"!), how does he get a shot at directing a second film? That's the question that's been plaguing me ever since I sawthat Chinni Jayanth's Kaanal Neer will be released on April 14. A shining example of self-indulgent, bad filmmaking, Unakkaaga Mattum should have led to Chinni Jayanth being banned from ever touching the camera again. But he gets another chance thanks to Ritesh, who is producing Kaanal Neer in addition to casting himself as hero. Good idea since, based on the photo above, he has no chance of being the hero in a movie produced by someone sane!

puthaandu vaazhthukkaL!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sivaji Audio

1. Ballelakka...
There are some rules to be followed in a Rajni film and one of them is that the introduction numberbe sung by SPB. Rahman followed the rule in Muthu and Padaiyappa but deviated from it for Baba - with disastrous consequences. He does things right this time with the awesome Ballelakka..., which provides a great start to the album(and to the film, I'm sure). It is one ofthe fastest opening songs for Rajni in recent times and the fast tempo of the first few lines gets our feet tapping right away. SPB is phenomenal with his breathless singing for the Sadugudu... lines and as usual, adds his own touches like the harsh repetition of Tiruthanikkaa... and the mild laugh when singing Oororam Ayyanaaridam kathi vaangi pencil seevalaame.... The song slows down in the 2 paragraphs and does remind one of Devuda Devuda... sometimes. The lyrics, which are nice and simple, ask one to enjoy the simple pleasures offered by our villages and praise the good heart of our villagers.

2. Sahaanaa/Sahara
Sahaanaa... is a beautiful melody sung by Udit Narayan and Chinmayi. Udit seems to have really worked on his pronunciation(especially if you compare this to kuLuvaalile..., the previous song he sung for Rajni) and utters most of the words well. Sahara... is a slightly slower version sung by Vijay Yesudas and Gomathi. Vijay sings it very soulfully and it is very soft and soothing. Gomathi has a very strong, unique voice and renders the Thiruppaavai beautifully.

3. Style...
When Style... starts, it doesn't sound like a Rajni song at all. Blaaze's voice definitely doesn'tsuit thalaivar and the lyrics sound like they are sung by someone fair-skinned while thalaivar has a dark complexion(which he and others have referred to proudly in the past). But the section that goes ada ada ada... definitely makes this a Rajni song. Style is pretty much the word we associate most closely with Rajni and this segment will make any thalaivar fan get goosebumps as it calls his walk, his toussled hair, his laugh, his talk, etc. all stylish before ending with vara vara ellaame style! The song sounds a bit like one of those Caribbean songs but the Ragalai Sei... section in pure Tamil is a pleasant surprise in the middle of the otherwise English-heavy song. The lyrics are pretty much indecipherable for most of the song but there are some nice phrases in there once we do decipher them(my favorite is Rajni singing irundhaaye uruvathil ettaai..., which suits Shriya just perfectly :-).

4. Vaaji Vaaji...
This is a more traditional duet without any Rahmanesque touches. It has a nice tune and rhythm and is instantly likeable. Hariharan sounds a little different and his voice isn't as smooth as usual but Madhushri sings well and her correct pronunciation is a pleasant surprise. Vairamuthu doesn't write anything exceptional but his touch is evident in words like aambaal and mouval (which are apparently flowers) and cleverly naughty lines like kumariyin vaLangaL; kuzhandhaiyin siNungal; muranpaadu moottai nee.

5. Adhiradikkaaran Machaan...
Rahman lends his unique voice to this number that has really grown on me since the first time I listened to it. Its kind of a funky song with good guitar pieces and the lyrics praise thalaivar to the skies (the references are all to 80's icons like Roger Moore and Eddie Murphy. Not sure if it was done because the song is used in a flashback or just because those names are more popular among the target demographic). The Billa Ranga Baasha dhaan; ivan pistol pesum besha dhaan line rolls of the tongue nicely and is the pick of the song's lyrics.

6. The Boss
The song's start vaadaa vaadaa... reminds us of naandhaangoppandaa... from Ram Lakshman. That song was sung by Kamal as he fought with the bad guys and this song's lyrics(i.e. the little that can be understood!) make it sound like it might be used in a similar situation. The lyrics are light-hearted and fun, and silliness and rhyming seem to have been the first criteria as Jet Li is rhymed with idli, sixer is rhymed with puncture and jujubi is rhymed with jilebi (the sivaji vaayil, jilebi thaanda is actually a nice line that brought back some memories since I remember finding out in school that the words Sivaji Vaayile Jilebi, when written as 3 lines in Tamil, read the same both across and down).

The album has made both the Rajni fan and the Rahman fan in me happy!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Casino Royale / The Good Shepherd

Casino Royale

Bond movies are kinda like Rajnikanth movies. They have their own rules and conventions and viewers who go to these movies expect - or even look forward to - these movies following these special rules. Casino Royale breaks these conventions but in a mostly good way. Going back to Bond's roots as a spy, it puts James Bond in a real action movie that showcases him more as a man than the superman we are used to seeing him as.

Casino Royale is a trademark Bond movie and has all the trademarks of a regular Bond movie - exotic locales, nice set pieces, high-octane stunts and a unique villain. There are not as many gadgets or women but its Bond himself who brings the most difference to the table. He is cold, brutal and almost heartless when it comes to the bad guys and is enough of a romantic to fall in love. This makes him different and interesting. He also gets more down and dirty than in any other Bond film and is at the receiving end of a particularly brutal form of torture.

It may be a new kind of Bond but we still have a history with him. So the best parts of the movie happen when we see a link to the Bond we know and love. I loved his answer to "Shaken or Stirred?" and the "Bond... James Bond" answer is so effective since we are really made to wait for it.

The film starts with a fantastic chase on foot that reminds one of the opening chase in District B13 (though here, it is the guy who Bond is chasing, who stuns us with his athleticism). There are not too many action sequences in the rest of the film with the bulk of the action taking place at the poker table but the movie doesn't slow down though. Where it does slow down in is the climax. It drags on for way too long with atleast two places where I thought the film had ended.

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd is a very good thriller. A cerebral spy thriller, it is at the other end of the spectrum when compared to action-heavy films like Casino Royale (and other Bond films) but is more involving and satisfying because of that.

The film starts of with the botched Bay of Pigs invasion that the US attempted in Cuba in 1961. Armed only with a single grainy photograph of a man and a woman in bed and and a recording of their conversation, EdwardWilson(Matt Damon) attempts to find out who in the CIA leaked information about the attack. As the CIA's technicians analyze the photograph, we learn about Edward's past - his days at Yale University, his marriage to Clover(Angelina Jolie), his days at the OSS in Berlin after the war and his initiation into the newly-formed CIA.

My American history is not too strong and so the historical aspect of the film didn't do much for me. But the movie still worked on a personal level. The transformation of Damon from the nice, fun(the first look we get at him is in drag at a college play!), romantic college guy to the serious, emotionally distant spy is portrayed well. He is not the nicest of people but most of his negatives come about because of his one trait - he puts country above everything(and everyone) else. The movie builds slowly but surely to the point where he is caught in a dilemma. The resolution of the dilemma is fully expected but still surprising.

It is in the present, when the technicians gather information from the photograph, that the movie comes close to being the kind of espionage thriller we are familiar with. The way they pick apart the photo is fascinating and the way they use the few identifiable items in the picture to track down the people in it is superb and gives us an idea of the painstaking work it requires.

This is a film where the storytelling technique embellishes the underlying story. The movie proceeds in 2 tracks - one in the present where the photograph is being analyzed and one where we learn about Damon's past. The two dovetail wonderfully at the end, catching us by surprise. It is doubtful if the exact same story told in a linear way would have had the same emotional impact.

Friday, April 06, 2007

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Thirumagan and Manikanda are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Perundhil Nee Enakku...

Sometimes, a great song can be found in the unlikeliest of albums. I never paid much attention to the songs of the recent Jeeva starrer, Pori. While Dheena's name as the music director kept me from downloading - or even listening to - the songs before the movie was released, I didn't pay much attention to the songs during the movie either since I didn't like the movie much. But I recently listened to Perunthil Nee Enakku Jannaloram... from the film and was hooked on the first listen itself. Very melodious and filled with simple but nice lyrics, the song has become the most played song(after Sivaji songs, ofcourse) on my iPod recently.

The song is essentially a love song, with the lovers singing about what the other means to them. But the things used to describe what they mean to each other are some very nice, everyday things that could be called simple pleasures of life. The movie's website lists the lyricist as Yugabharathi but he reminds me of Vairamuthu in the way he has used small feelings to describe a lover's feelings.

Following are some of my favorite comparisons from different places in the song...
perundhil nee enakku jannaloram...
vidumuRai naatkaLil paLLikkoodam...
pugaippadam edukkayil piLarum(?) punnagai...
adaimazhai nerathil parugum theneer...
urangidum kuzhandhaiyin kurunsirippu...
vagupparai mejaiyil idum kirukkal...

Madhu Balakrishnan has sung the song very well. His soft voice suits the slow song very well. But Madhusri screws up many of the pronunciations, especially the l and L sounds.

Do listen to this song if you haven't heard it so far...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cross / Stalemate

I haven't written about books for a while on this blog but that doesn't mean I've given up on reading. I have been reading as much as before (guess I can still carry on a conversation if I ever meet Kumari :-) and did read many books (Tess Gerritsen's The Mephisto Club and Tami Hoag's Prior Bad Acts, to name a couple). But they were pretty disappointing in both plot and pace and since, unlike writing about movies, I write only about books I liked atleast a little bit, I skipped writing about them. But here are 2 books that stirred enough interest to make me write about them.

Books in a series usually have a hook or a loose end that keeps you coming back to them. The issue is always in the background in the books and we start reading each book in the hope that the issue gets some kind of closure. Two protagonists whose books I've been reading for some time now, Alex Cross and Eve Duncan, both have such difficult emotional issues that were touched upon but never closed in almost all their books so far. Coincidentally, both their latest books deal with the open issues in a big way but they achieve closure at different levels.

Alex Cross, the main character in one of James Patterson's many series, has never been able to find the killer of his first wife, who was shot dead many years ago. In his new book Cross, he goes after a serial rapist, who he learns later, may have been his wife's killer too. Eve Duncan's situation is even sadder. She is a forensic sculptor - someone who reconstructs a dead person's face from his/her skull. Her daughter Bonnie was kidnapped and killed many years ago but she has never learned who the killer was nor has she found Bonnie's body. In her latest book Stalemate, she is recruited by a South American master criminal who promises to help her find her daughter's killer if she helps him identify a skull.

Cross reminded me why I became a Patterson fan in the first place. The book moves at a rapid pace as Cross pursues the villain, digging into his past and slowly uncovering clues about his whereabouts. A parallel track that details the villain's movements portrays a really cold-blooded, scary guy who, at many places, manages to be a step ahead of Cross. Cross does get some kind of closure with respect to his wife's death but it was anticlimactic.

In Iris Johansen's Stalemate, Eve travels to South America fully aware of the dangers her latest job entails. She is caught in the middle in the war between two equally dangerous warlords and only the hope of learning about her daughter's killer keeps her going. The warlord who employs her is an interesting, well-developed character but it is a little disappointing when he turns out to be essentially good since it removes the moral ambiguity from Eve's task. Eve's conflicting feelings towards him are nicely captured though. True to the location of the story, the book is high on action and the sequences are well-written. There is only 1 twist but that one is too predictable and cliched to be of any surprise.


If you share my tastes in reading, the next few months should bring you a lot of joy. David Baldacci's Simple Genius releases April 24. James Patterson has 6th Target, the 6th book in his Woman's Murder Club series, coming out on May 8. The Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini's second novel A Thousand Simple Suns is coming out May 22. Jeffery Deaver's Sleeping Doll, with Kathryn Dancer, a character he introduced in Cold Moon, will hit stores on June 5. And ofcourse, as a fitting grand finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be out on July 21. Happy reading!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kaasedhaan Kadavuladaa

Looking back at movies from the 60s and 70s, we may feel that the actors are overacting, the sentiments are artificial, the fights are unrealistic and the dancing is old-fashioned. But the good comedy scenes make us laugh just as hard as they did back in those times. Which is why I think that when it comes to movies, comedies age the least compared to other genres. Kaasedhaan Kadavuladaa was screened Saturday afternoon on Sun TV and I think I would've enjoyed the movie just as much as the viewer who saw it in the theater when it was first released.

Vulgarity and violence have increasingly become a part of comedy these days. Double entendres abound in the comedy tracks and name-calling, slaps and kicks are routinely employed to make us laugh. In short, comedy has become kinda mean-spirited in that somebody has to be made fun of or somebody has to endure physical pain, for us to laugh. The best part of Kaasedhaan Kadavuladaa is that it takes us back to a time when comedy meant good, clean fun.

Manorama plays Lakshmi, a high-society lady who rules her household with an iron hand. Her husband 'Venniraadai' Moorthy(she is his second wife) is a doormat and this irritates Muthuraman, Moorthy's son with his first wife, who wants some money to help his sister. Muthuraman and his cousin Srikanth, who has money problems of his own, hatch a plan to steal Manorama's money. They ask their friend, teastall owner 'Thengai' Srinivasan, to pose as a holy man to find out where Manorama hides her money. Meanwhile, Lakshmi joins the house as Manorama's personal secretary and due to some exchanged letters, everyone in the house thinks she is mad!

Kaasedhaan Kadavuladaa employs almost all known staples of comedy movies and throws them together to generate a hilarious film. Using mistaken identities, scams and disguises, it creates a chaotic film with very few dull moments. But inspite of all the chaos, it is never confusing. It has a simple, straightforward screenplay populated by a bunch of very interesting characters.

The film's key track is ofcourse 'Thengai' Srinivasan masquerading as a holy man in Manorama's house. Thengai's mistakes(most of them alluding to his real profession as a teastall owner) and the subsequent cover-ups by Muthuraman and Srikanth are consistently funny. The high point of this segment is the Jambulingame Jadadhara... song sequence. Probably one of the funniest songs ever, the funny lyrics, the subsequent corrections and the actions and expressions of the trio of Thengai, Muthuraman and Srikanth, make the entire song a laugh riot.

In probably his best role(Thillu Mullu would come a close second), Thengai is hilarious as the saamiyaar-in-disguise. The nonsensical phrases he utters as prayers never fail to make us laugh and it is solely because of his performance and distinctive dialog delivery that the role never becomes tiring. Muthuraman reveals his own comic aptitude initially but can't help but play second fiddle to Thengai after he puts on the garb of the holy man. 'Venniraadai' Moorthy is perfect as the hen-pecked husband and his very expressive face makes us laugh easily. Surulirajan doesn't have a big role but he does get to utter what is probably his most famous answer ("Ombodhu!", when he is asked "Ettukkulla oru number sollunga..." ). Lakshmi doesn't particularly stand out. Manorama has no problems playing the rich, almost dictatorial woman(she played almost the same role many years later in Nadigan).

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Sivaji Update

There's been a flurry of activity in the Sivaji camp over the last week (its not a lot compared to other movies but considering the scarcity of news about the film, what we got amounts to a lot).

First came the sneak peek at the audio in the form of three tracks from the film. They became available online before the official audio release of the film and would have definitely been the most searched for and downloaded mp3s on the internet last week (I was actually quite late in getting the news and knew about it only after Filbert's email about the songs). While Vaaji Vaaji... and Sahaanaa Saaral... were more regular duets, Oru Koodai Sunlight... was a big surprise. With its modern, fast music and lyrics praising the Superstar and his style, it was a terrific number and quickly went into repeat mode on my iPod.

Yesterday saw the release of a few new photos from the film. Anyone even mildly interested in the film would've probably already seen these but I'm still posting my favorites among them since I still can't get over how absolutely fabulous they are.

Thalaivar looks really young in this one. If I hadn't already known that this one was from Sivaji, I'd have no trouble believing that it was from one of his earlier movies.

This one brings back memories of the Vettaiyan role in Chandramukhi, with thalaivar's royal garb and the shadow of the dancer in the background. Probably my favorite among the the photos with thalaivar just oozing style...

Thalaivar looks amazingly cool, young and stylish in this one...

Finally, the audio of the film was officially released today(though I haven't read about any audio release function, all songs are now available on the net. Maybe it really was a low-key function). SPB has done a fabulous job in the really fast intro song Sooriyanum Santhiranum... though the song reminded me of Devuda Devuda... in a couple of places. Vijay Jesudas is a big relief in Sahaanaa PookkaL... considering that the other version is sung by Udit Narayan. Adhiradi Kaalam... didn't impress me much on the first listen but I think it will grow on me while Vaadaa Vaadaa... could serve as a good background number for some terrific buildup scenes. Overall, it definitely seems like a Rajni soundtrack rather than a Shankar or an ARR soundtrack.

Now, the date being mentioned for the film's release is May 17th. Knowing the history of Shankar films, even this date may not be certain. Until then, all we can do is sing
Vaaji Vaaji Vaaji
Seekkiram Vaaji Sivaji!