Thursday, January 31, 2008

Coming Soon - Indiralogathil Na. Azhagappan

We're not even a month into 2008 and as far as Tamil cinema goes, we've already been let down by stars like Vikram, Simbhu and Bharath. So we now look towards a comedian to see if he can lift Tamil cinema from the doldrums. Vadivelu's second film as hero, Indiralogathil Na. Azhagappan, arrives in theaters tomorrow and has a few things going for it.

Like Vadivelu's previous film, the hilarious Imsai Arasan 23aam Pulikesi, the most attractive thing about INA is its genre. With masala films and romances making up the bulk of Tamil cinema, any film that tackles a different genre is welcome. INA appears to be a socio-fantasy set in the heavens and that automatically sets it apart from most other films.

Vadivelu still isn't my favorite comedian. I feel that his name on the credits automatically brings down the class of any film a few notches and that he has had way more misses than hits in his comedy routines so far. But after films like Giri, Winner, Chandramukhi and Thalainagaram, he has definitely grown on me. He makes me laugh when he first appears on screen and can get laughs out of of otherwise ordinary situations and lines. He has developed his own style that is easily identifiable and frequently imitated and that, more than anything else, is a sign that he has found his own spot in Tamil cinema. Given the right role, he can be extremely funny and with 3 roles(a stage actor, Lord Indira and Yama) in INA, we can hope that one or more of them sits well on him.

While Vadivelu is the biggest name in the film, it also has Shriya doing an item number(this apparently lost her the heroine role in Ajith's next movie but earned her a fat paycheck). The heroines are a new face Yamini Sharma and Suja and Nasser and Sumitra are also in the cast. The film is directed by Thambi. Ramaiah, who, according to Wiki, directed Manuneedhi a long time ago. Seems like a strange choice to direct a socio-fantasy and one can only hope that he treats the subject the right way. Art direction is by Thotta Tharani and so I'm guessing that the movie will atleast look richer than Imsai Arasan.

While Imsai Arasan atleast had Shankar's name behind it, INA is being sold solely on Vadivelu's name. Let's hope he delivers...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Pirivom Sandhippom

Karu. Pazhaniappan's debut Parthiban Kanavu was a wonderful film. Though simple and unassuming, it offered a complete package with a strong story with unexpected surprises, a meaningful script, nice performances, a superb soundtrack and funny comedy. After an uneasy foray into action with 2006's Sivappadhigaaram, the director is back to the softer, family-oriented genre in which he pleasantly surprised us. While Pirivom Sandhippom isn't as complete a package, it is obvious that this is what Karu. Pazhaniappan should stick to. Disarmingly realistic and paced just right to let that realism pull us in, it is a soft, feel-good film that serves as a good antidote to the violence and crassness of the other Pongal releases like Bheema, KaaLai and Pazhani.

Natesan(Cheran), who belongs to a large family, works as an engineer in the Electricity Board. His marriage is fixed to Visalakshi(Sneha), the only daughter of a businessman(Mahadevan). Visalakshi, who is used to spending all her free time with her friends, loves being part of Natesan's family. So she is more than a little disappointed when Natesan gets a transfer to a hillstation. But for Natesan, this transfer is the chance for some alone time with his new wife.

Pirivom Sandhippom sees Karu. Pazhaniappan take the Vikraman route. Cheran's large family, whose every member is affectionate, fun-loving and good, takes the viewers on a fun, feel-good journey. Their conversations and interactions feel natural and unforced and the undertone of humor keeps us smiling. Theirs is a family we would love to be a part of and its no wonder Sneha feels right at home. It helps that the family's goodness is not showcased through cinematic incidents or contrived sequences. There are a few scenes, like the one where Sneha is shown the family's puja room, that raise a sense of 'too good to be true'. But for the most part, their goodnaturedness is conveyed through everyday, practical situations and things never descend to the cinematic level of, say, Srikanth's family in Oru Naal Oru Kanavu.

There are quite a few spots where the director creates situations rife with possibilities and conveys expectations of something substantial brewing. As we learn that everyone in Cheran's family likes Sneha but one family member hasn't seen her yet or that newlyweds Cheran and Sneha aren't really going to have much privacy, we expect that these situations are simply the calm before the storm. We've been conditioned to expect something to happen in every scene by so many films that we expect these situations to lead to some problems. But then, as the situations unfold without any issues or crises, we realize that there is no real 'storm'. This lack of 'action' is a bit disappointing initially but once we realize the director's intentions, it becomes easy to enjoy the film for what it is - a simple, no-frills look at life as it is.

Cheran and Sneha moving out saddens not only Sneha but us too. They could be interesting characters but it was their being part of the bigger group of characters that made them interesting so far. But it does finally pave the way for the movie's central plot point.

We've seen several movies(and megaserials) where the new wife develops friction with members of her new family. So its interesting to see Sneha's problems arise because she is away from those same members. Her loneliness - both her initial attempts to tackle it and her gradual succumbing to it - have been captured effectively and we do understand her situation. Questions do arise(like why, inspite of her knowledge of and interest in books and embroidery, she never pursues them as a means of combating her loneliness) but it isn't too difficult to understand her plight.

Cheran fits the role though he mostly plays second fiddle to Sneha. Sneha is fabulous as always. She is radiant in the first half and the happiness she feels being part of the large family is very evident. Similarly, her expressions, body language and appearance accurately convey her state of mind once she moves out. Jayaram has a small but key role as a doctor and his likeability makes his dialogs(like his explanation of a doctor's role) less preachy. Actors like Mouli, Baskar and Ilavarasu fit the bill well. Vidyasagar delivers another album with emphasis on melody and barring one duet, all the songs play in the background, enhancing the movie's realism.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tamil Cinema in 2007 - A Quiz

To wrap up the 2007 recap posts, here's a small quiz on Tamil cinema in 2007. Comments are currently moderated and so answers can be posted as comments.

1. While Adhiradikkaaran... was one of the highlights of Sivaji, the icing on the cake was Rajni's spot-on imitation of MGR, Sivaji and Kamal that served as a prelude to the song. Rajni has imitated the same three actors(along with another) in another song too. Name the song and the movie it occurred in.

2. Sibling rivalry is not happening in Tamil cinema. In 2007, one popular actor appeared in trailers introducing his brother in the brother's movie while another popular actor dubbed for his own brother. Name the brothers and the movies.

3. This actor resembles Vijay a little bit and this was exploited in a very funny sequence in a 2007 movie. But the resemblance was obviously noted by another director much earlier since the same actor has played Vijay's younger brother in an older movie. Name the actor and the movie.

4. Past awards don't seem to necessarily guarantee quality these days. This 2007 film starred not one but two National Award winners and still ended up being drubbed both critically and commercially. Name the movie, the Award winners and the movies they won their awards for.

5. Tamil cinema has seen several directors surprise us with their debuts only to disappoint with their subsequent efforts. But occasionally we do get directors who make us forget their disappointing debuts with surprisingly strong follow-ups. We had one such director in 2007 too. It took him 4 years but after giving us a cliched love triangle in 2003, he delivered a mature movie with a fresh subject and unique characters last year. Name the movie and its director.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yaar Ivano...

Pretty good make-up, though it does remind us of Kamal's flashback role in EnakkuL Oruvan. Then again, considering the number of roles Kamal has done, any such 'different' role by our young actors will probably remind us of - and be compared against - some role done by Kamal. That's something these actors just have to live with :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Recently saw Shoot 'Em Up with Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci and Paul Giamatti(surprisingly good as a really bad guy). That was a movie that sure lived up to its name! It was packed with shoot-outs and chases from beginning to end and the entire movie was an adrenaline rush. More to the point of this post though, the stunts were completely preposterous and over-the-top. One stunt saw Owen shoot down his car's windshield, drive the car straight at a van, leap through both windshields, roll down the van's aisle and shoot the gangsters in the van. Another saw him involved in a gunfight in mid-air as he and the bad guys jumped off a plane. And yet another saw him give Bellucci an orgasm even as he is shooting at the gangsters who have interrupted their passion play! But the point is I enjoyed the stunts the same way I enjoyed the stunts in movies like The Transporter and Crank. Law of physics were rarely obeyed and frequently broken but the stunt sequences were a lot of fun and kept me smiling and thrilled.

Which begs the question why the action sequences in Tamil films don't elicit the same reaction. It can't be the fact that our stunts are unrealistic since that description would fit all the above-mentioned stunts. It can't be that our heroes use stunt doubles since I'm pretty sure it wasn't Clive Owen doing all those stunts in Shoot 'Em Up. So why is it that our stunt sequences more often than not elicit groans and chuckles from us? Is it because we use stunt doubles who look nothing like the stars they are doubling for(like the double used in the Binny Mills fight sequence in Sivaji). Is it the unhurried picturization that allows us to see the stunt doubles more clearly (unlike, say, Matt Damon's motorcycle ride in The Bourne Ultimatum, where it is clearly a stunt double but fast editing and the focus on the bike except for the close-up shots hide it for the most part)? Is it our actors' insistence that they be filmed performing stunts they clearly can't do (like Vikram's awkward run across those urinal separation thingies in Bheema)? Is it the use of graphics to create some patently absurd stunts(like Vijay's jumps between those windows in Gilli)? Is it a combination of two or more of the above?

While on the topic, I think the slot of a real action hero is open in Tamil cinema right now. We see a number of new heroes but while some of them act well or fight well or dance well, none of them presents something unique that catches our attention right away. What we need is someone who does his own stunts, like Jackie Chan or Tony Jaa. Since we go ga-ga over a few leaps or jumps done by our heroes, I think we would be really thrilled to see a Tamil hero do a real Parkour sequence like the one in Casino Royale or District B13(and there's no dearth of obstacles in our cities and villages). And it wouldn't matter that the hero is a new face. Just the fact that he is the hero will be enough to get our pulses racing as he does his own stunts, wouldn't it? After all, I had no idea who Tony Jaa was before I saw Ong-Bak but it was still exhilarating seeing him do all those stunts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2007 - The Top 10

This post was definitely more enjoyable than the previous post as it brought back memories of the best among 2007's movies. Here in reverse order are my choices for the 10 best Tamil movies of 2007...

10. Pollaadhavan
A familiar story of a youth unwittingly pulled into a life of violence was converted into a fast-paced thriller with a surprisingly soft heart here. Dhanush's realistic family and the uniquely level-headed villain added a touch of realism to the proceedings while narrative techniques and visual touches spruced up the familiar story. It slowed down when one of the two bad guys was out of the picture but had a high-energy, visceral climactic fight sequence.

9. Ammuvaagiya Naan
Rules and conventions regarding our heroes and heroines were thrown out the window in this movie that had a very different, unusual story about a prostitute trying to blend into society. Its leads were two people we don't see in Tamil cinema all that often and that uniqueness was exploited very well in several segments. There were no issues created because ofof the heroine's past and the one problem, when it occurred, was cliched but that was a minor grievance about an otherwise mature, serious film.

8. Periyaar
This was a solid film on an interesting personality whose impact on Tamil politics and history can even be felt today.Backed by a fantastic performance by Satyaraj, the film succeeded in portraying Periyaar as someone who believed strongly in himself and wasn't ready to give up on his beliefs or ideals for anything or anybody. The film felt a little one-sided since other characters had little screen time and barely made an impression but it was a good effort that gave an interesting personality the film he deserved.

7. Evano Oruvan
This film tackled the vigilante theme in a new fashion. While many films have focused on the subject of a single man cleansing society off its evils, this film took a realistic look at it. The dose of realism worked well and helped us identify with the protagonist as he responded realistically to realistic issues. It was unfortunate that the director became over-ambitious and made the later issues rather cinematic but the low-key climax had an impact.

6. Katradhu Thamizh
This was a serious movie about a man who was dealt the worst cards in life. Its tone was stark and serious throughout and Jeeva's transformation from a promising, idealistic student to a man on the brink of mental imbalance was charted in a believable, realistic manner. The director's attempts to link the state of Tamil today to the life of its protagonist were artificial and even a little jarring. But as long the movie was seen as the life story of a man, it was like an accident - violent, bloody and sad but difficult to look away from.

5. Oram Po
This was a film in the same mould as Chennai 600028. It was based on a very local sport, it had an interesting group of characters(in particular, the loud 'Son of Gun' character) and it told its story with the same style and quirky sense of humor. Its uncommon - almost offbeat - sense of humor in characterization, picturization and script gave it a lot of energy and kept us smiling throughout. The climax was different but didn't have the intended effect but overall, it was an entertainingly fresh film

4. Sivaji
This film delivered exactly what one expected from a combination of Rajnikanth and Shankar. An all-out, unapologetic tribute to Rajni's star power and solely intended to showcase his ability to carry a movie single-handedly, the film was the work of a director who fully understood Rajni's image and set out to depict it in the grandest way possible. It was weak on logic and seemed like a watered-down version of Shankar's favorite 'social vigilante' theme but Rajnikanth's style, charisma and screen presence were exploited to the fullest extent(especially in the mottai boss getup) to make that easier to overlook.

3. Mozhi
With this film, director Radhamohan proved that a realistic movie can be made by focussing on the brighter side of life too. With down-to-earth characters facing everyday issues, subtle humor and a clean romance, it was a sweet and charming film that offered a wonderful, welcome change of pace from the loudness, violence and glamour of Tamil movies today. The likeable characters made sure the film's conflicts didn't seem contrived and the director's imagination and sense of humor shone through in his many deft touches. This film ensured that Jo, who gave a very natural performance, left Tamil cinema on a high.

2. Chennai 600028
This fun, youthful and stylish film finally gave Tamil cinema a noteworthy film about cricket, our national obsession. Aiming low by focusing on gully cricket, debutante director Venkat Prabhu fashioned a slick, visually stylish film that created an immediate connection with anybody who has played cricket at some time in his life. The romances were a little weak but the fun, light-hearted nature of the film and the wonderfully ironic climax ensured that we never less-than-thrilled.

1. Paruthi Veeran
This raw, emotionally powerful tale took an ordinary tale of young lovers and transformed it into a character-based story that was earthy and entertaining. Director Ameer proved his versatility once again as he imbibed the film with a completely rural atmosphere and developed unforgettable characters who seemed very real. The climax seemed a little overtly manipulative but the sense of dread leading upto it was palpable and gotten only because we had come to like the characters. Karthi showed none of those first film jitters and was fantastic in a difficult character.

Monday, January 21, 2008

2007 - The Bottom 10

Let's get the bad out of the way first. Here in reverse order - best of the worst to worst of the worst - are my choices for the 10 worst Tamil movies of 2007...

10. Thavam
This one actually started off differently - even if it did remind us of Punnagai Mannan's opening scene - with Arunkumar and Vandana deciding to die but ending up starting a new life together. But it then piled on coincidences in the name of plot points before turning into another familiar and cliched Kaadhal Koattai clone as it made the hero and heroine look for each other while another girl pined for the hero.

9. Thiru Ranga
This film had some of the most atrocious plot points of the year as a rowdy convinced his friends he was a software engineer and a producer kidnapped a popular actress. The uncharismatic lead pair proved to be incapable of making us overlook the plot points.

8. Urchaagam
Satham Podaathey was a weak thriller and this film ended up looking like Satham Podaathey without the popular stars or great music. The little chance the movie had of engaging us with its thriller theme was killed by the ridiculous screenplay in the second half as gaping holes in logic marked almost every scene and every narrative turn raised a large number of questions that the movie never attempted to answer.

7. Sabari
Every year finds atleast one Vijayakanth film on this list and this year, that dubious honor went to this film, where he played a doctor. Episodic in nature and unsubtle about putting forward his political views and policies, the film atleast proceeded linearly upto a point. But when new characters were introduced, new tracks popped up and both these led to several
unnecessary deaths and an escalation of gore and violence, the movie, that was bad to begin with, became essentially intolerable.

6. Thirumagan
This film's biggest surprise was that S.J.Suryah was not its biggest liability. He was his usual, hamming self but the film's weak story, its huge cast of characters(who simply hung around waiting for the key plot development late in the movie) and the unnecessary sleaze and vulgarity were bigger culprits.

5. Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram
A remake of the Kannada hit, this movie gave 'manipulative sentiments' a whole new meaning. It developed the Kaadhal Koattai storyline(two people looking for each other with lots of near-misses and close calls) between a mother and her son and after a particular plot point, the sentiments became downright tasteless. That, coupled with the listless violence and lack of romance, made the film a disaster.

4. Vegam
A shoddy romance started off this film, which eventually proceeded to shamelessly rip off Cellular as the action moved to Malaysia. S.Ve.Sekhar's son was too plumpy to handle the action hero role and the movie did nothing to make him more tolerable.

3. Thullal
With S.J.Suryah as his role model, director Pravinkanth turned hero in this sleazefest. Banking solely on sex and vulgarity, he fashioned a film that came off as egotistic, cheap and completely distasteful while posing as though it had a message to convey.

2. Vyaabaari
The sci-fi aspects of this film that dealt with cloning were laughable but it was Suryah's irritating performance, combined with lack of logic, abundant sleaze and artificial, misplaced sentiments that made it a truly dreadful motion picture. Suryah's personal motto - and punchline - in the film was 100% Vyaabaari but 100% torture was more like it.

1. Veerasamy
The worst movie in quite a few years, this one was a collage of everything that is wrong with Tamil cinema today with its horrendous acting, bad dialogs, regressive themes, distasteful romance, unfunny comedy, unbelievable stunts and vulgar song sequences. The only positive aspect of the film was that with T.Rajendar both before and behind the camera, it was easy to pinpoint the blame for the two and a half hours of torture inflicted on us.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rajni - 2007's Entertainer of the Year!

[Pic Courtesy - The Hindu]

What a wonderful start to the New Year for thalaivar fans! First there was the news that Rajni would definitely do 2 more movies, one of which we would see this year itself. Then came a new trailer for Sultan, the computer-animated movie directed by Rajni's daughter Soundarya. And now we hear that Rajni has been selected as 2007's 'Entertainer of the Year'. He received the award from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself and got to answer a few questions, with his usual simplicity and humbleness, from the host, Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan.

The video of the award presentation can be seen here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Movies with rowdies as hero have so far fallen into one of two categories - masala rowdy movies like Gemini and Red, which were primarily entertainers that offered a good mix of action, romance, comedy and sentiments; and realistic rowdy movies like Pudhuppettai and Naalai which treated the subject more seriously by focusing on its dark side and not sugarcoating it. Bheemaa hangs uneasily between these two categories for the most part. It finally decides the route it wants to take towards the end but the done-to-death story and action overload until then have already made us lose our patience by that time.

Chinna(Prakashraj) is a powerful dada who tries to do good even if his means are not always lawful. Sekhar(Vikram) has idolized Chinna ever since he was a young boy and finally gets the chance to join Chinna's gang. He quickly earns Chinna's trust and affection and becomes his right-hand man in his fight against Periyavar(Raghuvaran), the other dada in town. Meanwhile Charu(Trisha), who has taken a liking towards Sekhar, woos him but he has no intention of reciprocating her feelings.

The glorified heroism and the colorful song sequences make us look at Bheemaa as a masala flick. At the same time, its sober tone, lack of overt comedy and violence(there is not a lot of blood or gore since thankfully, hand-to-hand combat and guns, rather than aruvaals, dominate but there are a lot of broken arms and legs and the body count is pretty high) ask us to take it realistically. And that raises a lot of questions that one would usually overlook in a masala film. Why, for instance, do Prakashraj and Bheema go into the under-construction building without a gun when they seem to be able to draw out their guns at a moment's notice at other times? How exactly does Vikram manage to kidnap Raghuvaran from his own bedroom and transport him so far away? Such questions keep popping up at regular intervals, preventing us from taking the film seriously.

Bheemaa's story is almost shockingly unoriginal. The story of the hero becoming a dada's right-hand man and the two of them clashing with another dada has been told too many times already. There are not too many variations one can draw out of this story and Lingusamy doesn't even try. Instead, he just tries to add another dimension by building an emotionally symbiotic relationship between Vikram and Prakashraj(the film does do this right by making Vikram see Prakashraj as a role model and try to emulate him right from his childhood). Unfortunately, even this kind of a mentor-protege relation has been seen before in Mandhiran.

The downside of having this cliched, threadbare story is pretty clear in the first half. While fight sequences are usually inserted into the screenplay to make the action lovers happy, Bheemaa's first half feels like one long fight sequence with some dialogs and songs inserted to give the stunt master a break! The fights, especially the one in the market and the one in the under-construction building, are really good. They are well-staged, intense and convincing even if Vikram is made to look like a superhero swatting down the bad guys like flies. But there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing". As the gangs shoot at each other and Vikram single-handedly beats up the bad guys, we soon realize that the story gives us nothing new and barely moves forward.

It is only towards the end, after all the action, that the movie finally picks itself up, dusts itself off and gets down to involving us. Emotions are allowed to surface(sometimes a little too openly but after the lack of heart for so long, even that is welcome) and they lead to interesting conflicts and even more interesting decisions. The proceedings are very surprising and the tone the movie adopts is not what we expect at all. And at the end, we see the movie has developed not just a heart but also a soul as it even brings in a moral and after the recent turn of events, it is able to do so without seeming hypocritical.

Vikram saves the day with his star power though we do wish it had been put to better use. Looking beefy but well-toned, he makes the fight sequences work and looks convincing as he puts the bad guys down with little effort. Trisha appears in another of her usual roles. She looks good in the regular scenes but appears garishly made-up in the song sequences, especially Ragasiya Kavavugal.... Prakashraj is solid as usual while Raghuvaran isn't given much to do. Oru Mugamo... is picturized well but all the duets are disappointments, both in placement and in picturization. Only Enadhuyire... impresses as it plays in the background and finally gives Vikram and Trisha a chance to exhibit some chemistry. Rangu Rangamma... finds Sherin doing an item number and is unremarkable save for the fact that, since it was probably picturized when Sherin was actually popular, it gives us an indication of how long it has taken for the movie to hit the screens!

This Bheema is a weakling.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kuselan Confirmed!

So the news that Rajnikanth will do another film before Robot has now been confirmed as K.Balachander made the announcement at a press conference yesterday. The film - called Kuselan - will be produced by KB's Kavithalaya, directed by P.Vasu and will be the remake of recent Malayalam hit Katha Parayumbol. With news about Robot confirmed by both Shankar and Rajni at Sivaji's Silver Jubilee function, the recent trailer of Sultan and now this, Rajni officially has 3 films lined up. I can't remember the last time this happened. Its quite a change from the last 10 years or so when the long silence after each film made us wonder if the previous film was in fact his last.

Based on reviews about Katha Parayumbol, the film revolves around the friendship between an actor and a barber. Childhood friends years ago, the film focuses on how the barber's life changes when the actor arrives in his village for a film shoot. Mammootty plays the actor while Srinivasan, who also penned the script, plays the barber and Meena plays the barber's wife. Kuselan will ofcourse have Rajni play the actor with Pasupathy playing the barber. The rest of the cast hasn't been finalized/announced. It seems like an apt title considering the folklore where Kuselan was a poor man who asked for nothing from his rich friend but was given everything. With Kuselan obviously referring to the barber's character, its interesting that Rajni, after Chandramukhi, is once again acting in a film not named after him.

I have absolutely no regard for P.Vasu as a director. While I didn't mind that he foisted a string of maudlin, sentimental movies upon us, his biggest crime, in my opinion, was the massacre of Bharatham, one of the classics of Malayalam cinema and one of my personal favorites. Not content with stripping the film of all its subtleness and emotional impact, he further compounded our misery by casting himself in the role played by Nedumudi Venu, one of the finest character actors Malayalam cinema has seen (he pretty much massacred Manichithrathazhu too but was saved by the fact that he cast Rajni and ended up giving him his career's biggest hit). So a groan was my first reaction when I read that he would once again be directing Rajni in a Malayalam remake. But now that the news is confirmed, I've resigned myself to the fact and have been trying to see something positive in it (its kinda the opposite of the chee indha pazham puLikkum story!).

Along those lines of seeing a silver lining, my first thought was on who else could've been chosen to direct the film and I'll admit to not coming up with too many alternatives. Directors who I would've liked to see Rajni act under, like Murugadoss and Dharani, are out because of this film's sentimental theme. We've had a few directors like Vasanthabalan(Veyyil) and Radhamohan(Mozhi) impress us with sentimental movies recently but they are too new to direct Rajni, who obviously prefers to work with established directors. So the only other director I can think of is K.S.Ravikumar and apart from the fact that he is probably busy with finishing up Dasaavathaaram, he's not particularly good at directing sentiments either. The other scary part is imagining how Vasu will kill the original in the name of modifying it to fit Rajni's image. Vasu has already said that Rajni will have a bigger role than Mammootty had in the original and that the film will have typical Rajni-film elements. This was expected but this doesn't scare me as much this time because of the storyline. The fact that Rajni will play an actor - a superstar actually - will allow songs, fights and other elements to be inserted without much awkwardness. They could always be explained away as being part of a film shooting(Mammootty himself did this in No.20 Madras Mail where he played an actor and so appeared in a variety of get-ups for film shoots)! And finally, there's the fact that Vasu is always known to wrap up his films fast, which means that we will probably see Kuselan hit theaters this year itself. I'm hoping for a Diwali release since its just been too long since we had a thalaivar film for Diwali.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tamil Cinema in 2007 - A Recap

At the end of the 2006 recap, I said that since 2006 was so bad, the only direction Tamil cinema could go in 2007 was up. I was crossing my fingers when I said that but I'm so glad that that turned out to be true. Tamil cinema certainly had a better year in 2007 in several aspects - stars, quality, variety, music. Using the completely unscientific thumb rule of movies earning 2.5 stars or more being movies I recommend, 2007 had 13 movies compared to 2006's 10 (13 is still lower than the number of movies that earned my recommendation in all the other years but atleast we're going in the right direction!). Ofcourse 2007 was also the first year since I started reviewing movies that no movie earned 3.5 or 4 stars but I think more movies being good is better than just a couple of movies being near-classic and fewer movies being good overall. And anyway, 2 movies did come very close to getting 3.5 stars.

Each year in Tamil cinema usually sees one defining trend brought about by several movies trying to replicate the success of a successful movie with the same theme. So 2006 was the year of the 'realistic rowdy', 2005 was the year of the 'multiple personalities', and so on. But I couldn't pinpoint any such trend in 2007. Whether this was because no movie with an easily identifiable theme became a hit or because our directors finally abandoned the copycat mentality and explored new themes, I'm not sure. But its definitely a good thing since it means more genres were tackled and viewers with all tastes found something to their liking.

The year had movies with a lot of stars - both in front of and behind the camera. The biggest one of 'em all was ofcourse Sivaji, whose success matched its unprecedented hype and proved that Rajni still is the Boss. As is usually the case Vijay and Ajith had almost exactly opposite track records with Vijay getting a hit(Pokkiri) and Ajith getting a flop(Aazhwar) early in the year and Ajith getting a hit(Billa) and Vijay getting a flop(Azhagiya Thamizh Magan) towards the end of the year. Kamal and Vikram had no releases. Among the directors, Ameer once again proved that he is one of the best directors around with the earthy and emotional Paruthi Veeran while Cheran stumbled badly, letting the actor in him take centerstage with disastrous effects in Maayakkannaadi. We lost a promising director and cinematographer when Jeeva passed away soon after the youthful but uneven Unnaale Unnaale released.

2007 might be the year directors finally understood that the look of a movie is as important as other aspects. We had more movies that looked good with cinematography, editing, framing and background score contributing in equal parts. Movies like Chennai 600028 and Oram Po understood that the presentation adds a lot of energy to the proceedings and used inventive camera angles, flashy visual techniques and fast editing to add vibrancy to their stories. Billa, on the other hand, was more relaxed with its desaturated colors and slo-mo shots and turned its actors into models frequently. Pokkiri fell between the two extremes but had a sheen that is usually not seen in Vijay's mass movies. Ofcourse, there is something as too much style and this was proved by Lee, whose visual techniques only gave us a headache.

Our directors usually play it safe by sticking to genres and themes that have worked in the past. So we get cookie-cutter masala and romance movies indistinguishable from one another. These two categories still made up the largest segments in 2007 but a pleasant surprise - as well as something that augurs well for the future - was the number of genres that were tackled. Whatever your favorite genre, it was likely that there was atleast one film for you last year. For instance, sci-fi, fantasy, biography and horror are completely neglected genres in Tamil. But in 2007, Vyaabaari stepped into sci-fi territory by tackling the topic of cloning, Sivi was a creepy and genuinely scary flick, Periyaar was a solid biography about the founder of Dravida Kazhagam while Arpudha Theevu was a Gulliver's Travels-inspired fantasy tale. The aforementioned films ranged from the good to the bad to the ugly but the positive thing was that they tackled new genres. The crime thriller genre isn't as neglected as these but thrillers are still hard to come by and Vasanth's Satham Podaathey and its bad copy, Urchaagam, fell into that slot.

Also encouraging was the directors' interest in tackling different themes within the confines of familiar genres. Katradhu Thamizh focused on the sad life of a Tamil graduate and was effective even if it didn't completely justify its core theme while Evano Oruvan provided a realistic, middle-class take on the ever-popular vigilante theme. Ammuvaagiya Naan portrayed a prostitute's attempt to blend into society and lead a regular life while Gautham chose a surprising story about an extra-marital affair and an even more surprising hero in Sarathkumar for Pachaikkili Muthucharam but had to give in to Sarath's image in the end. Karuppusamy Kuthagaithaarar managed to convey a few positive points about the importance of education through its romance while Pallikkoodam's trouble was that it focused on romance instead of the reunion of the students from a school that has seen better days. And finally, though it was slow, Adaikkalam managed to tell a story without what one assumed was a staple ingredient in any Tamil film - the heroine!

Not all directors attempted to be original and many took the easy way out by opting for remakes. 2007 will probably be known as the year when remaking older Tamil films officially began. Remakes of Naan Avanillai and Billa hit the screens and their success will surely pave the way for lot more remakes. But our directors also found inspiration from a variety of other languages. Malayalam films were the inspiration for Kireedam, Veeraappu and Nam Naadu, a Telugu film was remade into Pokkiri while Kannada cinema gave us the torturous Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram. Quite a few directors looked beyond our shores too. Kannaamoochi Yenada borrowed its concept from Meet the Parents while Vegam liberally copied Cellular for its second half. Mozhi and Pollaadhavan too were supposed to be based on international movies though the similarities were little and the quality of the remakes made us overlook them. Ofcourse there were also movies that weren't officially remakes but reminded us of other movies anyway. Lawrence's Muni was a modern-day remake of Kamal's Kalyanaraman while Thaamirabharani and Vel, both incidentally by Hari, seemed similar to other movies with themes like faction wars and mistaken identities.

At this point, 2008 looks to be another exciting year. Vikram kicks off the year with a release after 2 years and we should have releases from all the big stars including Rajni and Kamal. Lets hope Tamil cinema continues the trend seen in 2007 and keeps getting better...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Johny Gaddaar / Jab We Met

Johny Gaddaar

Johny Gaddaar starts off like a heist film but turns out to be not about the heist at all(in fact, all the talk and planning seems like overkill for a heist that essentially just involves just a train ride). Instead, it is about the consequences of the actions of one of the participants in the heist. This is a little disappointing initially since the planning and execution of the heist are the best parts of most heist films. But we forget that disappointment soon enough as things spiral out of control. Smart, suspenseful and tautly-paced, it is a terrific crime thriller.

I don't remember how many of the the characters read James Hadley Chase during the course of the film but its a book by Chase that the film's plot most closely resembles. Like Chase's books, it focuses on a group of criminals whose well-laid plans go awry because of the greed and avarice of one among them. And though it is all about criminals, the moral is that crime doesn't pay. Almost no one in the film earns our sympathy but though they may not be good, they are definitely interesting.

Among the characters, its fascinating the way Neil changes as the film proceeds. We do get an early hint of his character in this fantastic - and familiar - scene where he flips a coin to decide on a particular course of action. As he keeps increasing the number of flips we realize that he isn't really going to let fate decide; he is going to do what he wants and just blame fate! But as he stumbles through his plan, he looks like someone who is a victim of circumstances and doesn't really like what he is being forced to do. But he gradually becomes this cold and calculating person ready to do whatever's necessary to reach his goal and by the time he instructs Rimi Sen near the end, the transformation is complete.

The screenplay is well-crafted. Complicated enough to grab and hold our attention but not confusing enough to lose us, it keeps us engrossed. It is impossible to guess how the plot will proceed and the twists and turns are surprising but never insult our intelligence. The movie opens with a murder and is entirely a flashback but even after the story unravels to that first scene, I still couldn't guess who commits the murder until it is actually revealed. Now that's suspense!

Jab We Met

When it comes to romantic comedies, the ending is a foregone conclusion. As are most of the plot points. So the biggest factors are usually the actors, their characterization and the script and its precisely those that make Jab We Met a sweet and likeable movie.

Its not like JWM does anything radical or even new. The plot point that pits Shahid and Kareena together is very contrived(I was OK with Kareena jumping out of a running train to try and drag Shahid, a total stranger, back to the train. But making her turn away from the train, which she just can't afford to miss, to drink water was a bit too much). And their characters - the bubbly girl, the despondent hero - aren't exactly new(Idhayathai Thirudaadhey anyone?). But their conversations after that that make us overlook those contrivances. Kareena's sunny attitude is infectious and their exchanges are smart and funny.

Switching their characters is a nice idea. In hindsight it seems pretty obvious but it is brought in naturally and is clever. But the movie gets a little too cliched towards the end. After being natural for this long, the actions of Shahid and Kareena become forced and the situations around them become contrived as they allow themselves to be part of something brought about only because they are silent in a very cinematic manner.

No Limits!

If I was in the habit of watching movies using Netflix's Watch Instantly feature, this news about the company lifting the time restrictions on that feature would've made me much happier! The feature, which allows you to watch selected movies from Netflix's library, was included in the membership but a member could watch only 1 hour online for each dollar of his subscription plan(15 hours for the $14.99/month plan and so on). But those limits have been removed and subscribers now have unlimited access to movies and TV shows that are available to watch online.

With a lot of good titles available for watching online, this would be a nice incentive for people who watch a lot of stuff online. So it may increase Netflix's membership among the under-25 crowd who use their laptops extensively - the market segment that the company mentioned it was trying to expand. Then again, this would mean one could just sign up for the plan with the lowest cost(which I think is $4.99/month) and watch a lot of movies online. So I'm not sure if the increased membership will add significantly to their bottom line.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rajni Update

It looks like news about Rajni and Shankar joining hands together for Robot is true after all. According to a lucky Rajni fan who attended the function, Shankar spoke about it at Sivaji's Silver Jubilee celebration function on Friday. Shankar mentioned that he had promised to deliver a bigger hit than Chandramukhi with Sivaji and he had kept that promise. Now he has promised to make Robot an even bigger hit than Sivaji. Write Sujatha, who revealed that he is part of the Robot team, also mentioned that they were looking for a suitable Tamil word to keep as the title.

Btw, I always thought that Rajni had never been associated with Robot before this surprising turn of events. Turns out Rajni and Shankar have discussed this film before. Rajni himself is supposed to have mentioned his conversation with Shankar about Robot at the Boys launch event in 2002.


A new, longer trailer for Sultan is also out(thanks Prabhu, Maverick and anon for pointer) as a Pongal treat for his fans. The animation looks pretty cool. Though there seems to be some stiffness in the animated Rajni's movements and the animation is not as smooth as in Hollywood's computer-animated films, it is way better than the animation in other Indian movies I have seen. More importantly, they've gotten thalaivar's look(like when he glances stylishly at the soldiers surrounding him) and his walk(in slo-mo at the end) down pat. Rahman's background score is pretty cool too.

Friday, January 11, 2008

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Mirugam and Kanna are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Coming Soon - Pongal 2008 Releases

For the movie fan, its Pongal that officially kicks off the year, with the first big movies of the year hitting the screens. 2008 promises to be another eventful year for Tamil cinema and the Pongal releases look like they are getting the year off to a strong start.

The big one ofcourse is Bheema. Vikram hasn't had a release for 2 whole years(his last film was 2005's Diwali release Majaa) and the way Bheema was going, it looked like one would have to wait for Kandasamy to see him on the big screen. But it looks like its problems have been resolved and it will make it for Pongal. Bheema is one of those films whose continuing delay in releasing really confused me. It is headlined by Vikram, a confirmed box-office draw, and Trisha, one of the leading heroines today. Also, their last pairing was in a superhit film(Saamy). The film is directed by Lingusamy,whose last film Sandakkozhi was a big hit and who has had bonafide hits like Aanandam and Run before that. Music is by Harris Jayaraj, who has recently been delivering one hit soundtrack after another. With such a potent combination, one would expect the distributors to line up for the film eagerly and get it into theaters as soon as possible. But the film ran into numerous delays before finally seeing light of day this Pongal.

Vikram has spoken very highly of Bheema and has said that it will be a landmark film in his career. There were also reports of people who have seen the rushes talking of it reaching Hollywood standards. But the two key aspects that increase the anticipation in the days leading upto a film's release are the soundtrack and the trailer and in those two, Bheema is only 50:50. Harris Jayaraj has once again delivered a superb soundtrack with no song that makes us press the skip button. Oru Mugamo... is fantastic and just imagining Vikram striding along in slo-mo with this song in the background gives one goosebumps. After Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu's Karkka Karkka..., Harris once again proves that one doesn't need to have strong beats and loud singing to deliver a stirring song. Ragasiya Kanavugal... is tops among the melodious numbers (the Irage Irage... interlude is particularly catchy) though Mudhal Mazhai... is really soft and melodious too. Siru Paarvaiyaale... is a typical Harris number that is fast and catchy but still seems melodious. On the other hand, the film's trailer is disappointingly ordinary. After all the talk of a sleek, stylish film, Vikram's role seems familiar and even the dialogs he utters are cliched. One can only hope that the film rises above the trailer.

The remaining films fall into a variety of genres. Simbhu, who didn't have a release in 2007, is back with KaaLai. Not much is known about the film but with a director like Tarun Gopi(who last directed the Vishal-starrer Thimiru) at the helm, the expectation is that it will be an unadulterated masala flick. Simbhu is paired with Vedhika, who we last saw in Lawrence's Muni, and the music is scored by G.V.Prakash. If masala is not your cup of tea, Pirivom Sandhippom is likely the first film on your list. It is directed by Karu. Pazhaniappan, who gave us the wonderful Parthiban Kanavu. He slipped up when he ventured into action territory with Sivappadhigaaram but he's back with a film revolving around human emotions and sentiments. Cheran and Sneha pair up for the film and Vidyasagar has once again delivered a wonderful, melodious album for the director. Family film lovers have another choice with Madhavan's VaazhthukkaL. Directed by his favorite director Seeman, who directed Thambi and also shared the screen with him in Evano Oruvan, the film is supposed to be in praise of the joint family. After Aarya, Madhavan is once again paired with Bhavana here. Bharath-starrer Pazhani is also supposed to be releasing but considering that it is directed by Perarasu(who seem determined to make movies as long as there are city names still left), my hopes for it are rather low.

Will Bheema, like the mythological strongman whose name it has chosen, crush the competition? Will KaaLai trample other films as it run? Will Pirivom Sandhippom meet expectations? Will Vaazhthukkal be greeted by the audience? Or will Pazhani surprise everybody and scale the BO hill? We'll know next week...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Top Ten Song Sequences

Continuing the musical recaps, here are my top ten song sequences in Tamil cinema in 2007. While the previous list was based on the songs alone, this one takes into consideration the song and its picturization...

10. Arabu Naade... - Thottaal Poo Malarum
The plot segues nicely into this soft song as Gauri goes in disguise to hear Sakthi sing. Our good ol' Pallavan bus provides a nice setting and the lyrics are suitable too as Sakthi sniffs out her real identity based on things that are out of place considering her Muslim dress.

9. Naan Meendum Naanaaga... - Billa
Oru Paanai Sotrukku Oru Soru Padham! This number exemplifies Billa's style with its slo-mo shots, quick edits, nifty special effects and nice framing. The scintillating theme music serves as an interlude for the song itself. If not for Namitha's wrestler-like movements, this song would've been much higher on this list.

8. Dolu Dolu Dhaan... - Pokkiri
A slick and stylish song with some nice, colorful sets and fast dance steps by both Vijay and Asin.

7. Ariyaadha Vayasu... - Paruthi Veeran
This ode to young love was picturized in a suitably rustic manner by Ameer. The sepia tone, though somewhat overused recently, went well with the old-fashioned song and there were some nice images as the young boy and girl spent their time together. The song managed to convey the simple fun the two of them had.

6. Jalsa Pannungadaa... - Chennai 600028
Youthful, lighthearted and fun - words that could be used to describe the film would all apply to this number too. The casual way the guys hang out and sing reflects the scene at most roadside eateries in Chennai and the seemingly chaotic nature of their dance(the apparent lack of choreography was no doubt the result of some really good choreography!) adds to the realistic nature of the sequence.

5. PonmagaL VandhaaL... - Azhagiya Thamizh Magan
A remix that actually fit into the movie, this one was picturized like a music video. The glossy sets, the MTV-style picturization and Vijay's subtle movements made this an eye-catching number that left us wanting more.

4. Un Sirippinil... - Pachaikkili Muthucharam
This song perfectly brings out the contented life that Sarath leads with his wife and son. With its simple day-to-day activities, it portrays the fun and happiness in his life effectively and serves as a powerful contrast to the hard turn his life takes later. It did remind us of Paartha Mudhal NaaLe... from Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu but not enough to enough to make us dislike this one.

3. Hello Miss Imsaiye... - Unnaale Unnaale
The most youthful song in a very youthful movie. The visual techniques(especially the rapid-fire editing that matches the music) and Vinay's antics made this a high-energy number that lifted our spirits. Vinay's zest and Sadha's irritation didn't work for an extended amount of time in the movie but for these few minutes, they did make us laugh.

2. Kaatrin Mozhi... - Mozhi
Quite possibly the best song of the year with its soothing melody and meaningful lyrics, this number is picturized perfectly with the same lighthearted touch that marked the rest of the movie. There are some very sweet as well as very funny moments scattered throughout and all four actors are completely natural. Definitely the feel-good song of the year.

1. Adhiradikkaaran... - Sivaji
This spectacular number was one of the highlights of the movie itself and reminded us once again just how good Shankar is at picturizing song sequences. The splashy and colorful locations, the rich and glamorous costumes and Lawrence's choreography, perfectly suiting Rajni, all contributed to the dazzling number as Rajni rescued Shriya from the masked villains. The lead-in, with Rajni perfectly imitating MGR, Sivaji and Kamal, was just icing on the cake!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tamil Cinema Music in 2007

Its the beginning of the new year and so its time for the year-end lists and recaps. This post, which lists my favorite songs of 2007, kicks off the recaps on this blog.

While 10 is the most popular number when it comes to lists, it is too restrictive when it comes to songs. So, in the last 2 years, I presented the best 32 songs of the year as a 2-CD compilation, along with a runner-up CD with songs that didn't quite make the cut for the 2 CDs but were definitely listenable nevertheless. But 2007 was a particularly good year for Tamil cinema music and I found that even 32 wasn't enough to cover all my favorites of the year. So here are 48 songs for a 3-CD compilation of the best of Tamil cinema music in 2007.

CD 1
Yaaro... - Chennai 600028
Un Paarvai... - Chennai 600028
Kaatrin Mozhi... - Mozhi
Pesaa Madandhaiye... - Mozhi
Sevvaanam Selaiya Katti... - Mozhi
Ariyaadha Vayasu... - Paruthi Veeran
Aiyaiyo... - Paruthi Veeran
Ballelakka... - Sivaji
Sahaanaa... - Sivaji
Oru Koodai Sunlight... - Sivaji
Vaaji Vaaji... - Sivaji
Adhiradikkaaran... - Sivaji
Para Para Pattaampoochi... - Katradhu Thamizh
Paravaiyin Koottil... - Katradhu Thamizh
Unakkaagathaane Indha... - Katradhu Thamizh
Perundhil Nee Enakku... - Pori

CD 2
Idhu Enna Maayam... - Oram Po
Kozhi Kaalu Rendu Kaal... - Oram Po
Un Sirippinil... - Pachaikkili Muthucharam
Karu Karu Vizhigalaal... - Pachaikkili Muthucharam
Unakkul Naane... - Pachaikkili Muthucharam
Kaadhal Konjam... - Pachaikkili Muthucharam
Engeyum Eppodhum... - Pollaadhavan
Minnalgal Koothaadum... - Pollaadhavan
Neeye Sol... - Pollaadhavan
Mayavi Neeyaa... - Sivi
Ellaa Pugazhum... - Azhagiya Thamizh Magan
Ponmagal Vandhaal... - Azhagiya Thamizh Magan
Valayappatti... - Azhagiya Thamizh Magan
Sei Edhaavadhu Sei... - Billa
Naan Meendum... - Billa
Theme Music - Billa

CD 3
Dolu Dolu Dhaan...
- Pokkiri
Akkam Pakkam... - Kireedam
Vizhiyil... - Kireedam
Azhagu Kutti Chellam... - Satham Podaathey
Pesugiren... - Satham Podaathey
Endha Kudhiraiyil... -
Satham Podaathey
Kaadhal Periyadhaa... - Satham Podaathey
June Ponaal...
- Unnaale Unnaale
Unnaale Unnaale... - Unnaale Unnaale
Vaigaasi Nilave... - Unnaale Unnaale
Sangam Vaitha... - Karuppusamy Kuthagaithaarar
Naalu Gopura... - Karuppusamy Kuthagaithaarar
Uppu Kallu... - Karuppusamy Kuthagaithaarar
Kaadhal Vaithu... - Deepavali
Arabu Naade... - Thottaal Poo Malarum
Mazhai Nindrum... - Thoovaanam

Sunday, January 06, 2008

2 Rajni Films?!

First came the news that the rumor about Rajni doing Shankar's Robot might be true after all. The Chairman of Ayngaran International, which is one of the two production houses behind the film, confirmed that Rajni, Shankar and Rahman would come together for the film, which would be made in 4 languages. There's nothing yet from either Rajni or Shankar, obviously the 2 most important people in the project. But with the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Sivaji, coming up on January 11, I'm hoping that we'll hear about Robot, one way or the other, from either of them.

Today, there is news of Rajni doing a quickie for his mentor KB's Kavithalaya Productions before starting Robot. The film, to be directed by P.Vasu, is supposed to be a remake of recent Malayalam hit Katha Parayumbol. That film had Mammootty play a superstar actor and Sreenivasan, who is also responsible for the script, play a barber and revolved around the friendship between the two. The news item goes as far as mentioning that Pasupathy will play the barber and Vidyasagar will score the music. Based on the story, Katha Parayumbol definitely cannot be transformed into a typical Rajni movie(even by P.Vasu). So if this is news is indeed true, I'm guessing that Rajni will have a cameo as the actor. But hey, as long as it gets thalaivar to the big screen, I'll take it!

Netflix on TV

I'm not a big fan of watching movies on the computer. Watching the occasional song on YouTube is fine but when it comes to full-length movies, I've found that I just can't sit in front of the monitor(or look at the laptop screen) for the full movie. So when it comes to downloaded Tamil movies, I used to burn them as VCDs on R/W CDs and watch them on the DVD player(low-cost brands like Apex worked best for this). And nowadays I simply connect my laptop to the TV and launch the movies(which are downloaded to my desktop) directly using the wireless connection.

This discomfort with watching movies on the computer is the main reason I haven't used the Watch Instantly feature on Netflix. I did try it out when it was launched and both the quality and the streaming speed were good enough to watch the entire movie uninterrupted. But I never watched any more movies using the feature since watching it on the computer wasn't appealing enough.

Now Netflix is bridging this gap by making it easier to watch movies on TV. They have announced a partership with LG Electronics for a set-top box that streams movies directly to the TV. According to Netflix, the box can be be hooked up easily to the TV and will make it real easy for anyone with a high-speed Internet connection to watch movies on their TV. The list of movies to watch will still be have to be selected on the computer but once the list is created, it will appear on TV and selections can be made from it. Their Watch Instantly feature has been popular with the under-25 crowd who use their laptops extensively and they are hoping that this device with help make the feature attractive to other demographics too.

I've always admired Netflix as a company that keeps introducing innovations that make them ready to tackle upcoming threats. With downloads undoubtedly being the way movie rentals will work in the future, this move will help Netflix be ahead of the game once again. But this is not going to be without competition either. Many other companies are already in - or are getting ready to enter - the field. Apple already has its own device but it has been called one of their rare failures. The main reason for that is supposed to be the poor selection of movies on iTunes and the inability to rent movies(you can only buy them). But they are expected to announce a movie rental service at the upcoming MacWorld conference and that should make Apple TV a lot more popular. Amazon too has a video download service already. On the bright side, one competitor has already been eliminated as Wal-mart recently shut down their video download service.

Many people have forecast Netflix's downfall as other forms of movie rentals become more popular. But with this, and plans to expand to channels like video game consoles and hi-def DVD players, Netflix seems poised to handle the future well.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ajith Pogum Paadhai

First off, congratulations to Ajith and Shalini on the birth of their baby girl. With Billa turning out to be a superhit and now this promotion to dad, 2008 has started on a wonderful note for the actor.

Sun TV telecast an interview with him as part of their New Year programs, under the title Ajith Pogum Paadhai. Ajith was known to be real reclusive when it came to the media and I'm not sure if he has ever given TV interviews before last Diwali, when he spoke to Kalaignar TV. But he seems to have really opened up now. Apart from Sun TV, he apparently also appeared on both Vijay TV and Jaya TV the same day. As far as the Sun TV interview goes, the combination of interesting questions and his frank answers about what is definitely an interesting career made for a very interesting hour.

He started off explaining the reasons behind his reluctance to talk to the press("I am very introverted in general except with friends and family"). He made some intelligent statements on his role as an actor("there is a thin line between involvement and interference when it comes to an actor's participation in movies"). He had a lot of praise for his fans who stood by him through his ups and downs. He was very diplomatic when asked about acting in multi-starrers(specifically with Vijay). He said there was no need for them to act together now but if the need arose, he would do it. He said they had to personal animosity and laughed about the fans placing importance on even whose name is mentioned first in articles. He said he took care in personally wishing and talking to everyone around him since he has heard first hand how they felt when they were ignored by other actors.

More interesting was his frankness and honesty. He spoke honestly about his flops(he specifically talked about 1997, a year in which all 5 of his releases were disasters). He accepted his lack of contribution in the early phase of his career in movies like Aasai and Kaadhal Koattai. He praised S.J.Suryah as a director though he had a few "perverted thoughts" and said that Tamil cinema was missing out on a good director ever since he became an actor (he compared his own diversion into racing to SJ's foray into acting). He explained convincingly, the controversy over his statement about wanting to become the next Superstar.

Vishnu Vardhan, Charan, S.J.Suryah, Vasanth and K.S.Ravikumar had comments about him. Predictably, they praised him and all of them commented about his stubbornness and will to succeed. KSR had some interesting anecdotes about Varalaaru and Ajith's hesitation in doing the dancer's role. But S.J.Suryah(in a horrid hairstyle) came off looking the most sincere as he attributed everything he had today to Ajith and his confidence in the then-new director. He also had the perfect answer for the oft-repeated question about who would be the next Superstar - he said that there is only one Superstar - Rajnikanth - but the position he wants Ajith to reach is one where there is competition among the actors of tomorrow on who would become the next Ultimate Star.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Robot with Rajni?!

Rumors about Shankar's Robot have been circulating for a long time now. Supposed to be Shankar's dream project, it was touted to be an expensive, sci-fi film that would take Tamil cinema to the next level. I think the first time I heard about the movie was before Anniyan, as Shankar was looking for a project that would erase memories of the Boys debacle. He has since made 2 movies but Robot has never really been out of the news.

The hero of Robot is ofcourse the most-talked about aspect and quite a few big actors have been associated with it at one point or another. I think the project was first supposed to star Kamal but then Vikram's name popped up for a while. The project then moved to Bollywood since it was supposed to be so expensive that it needed a national - rather than a regional - hero to have any chance of making money. Hrithik Roshan was mentioned first but after that, the project seemed finalized as Shah Rukh Khan signed for a dual role - acting and producing. He even talked about it as an upcoming project in one of his pre-Chak De India! interviews. But then it was unceremoniously dropped with the reason being the ever-popular, vague "creative differences". After a few reports about Aamir Khan being approached, news about the film moved south again as the next rumor had Ajith teaming up with Shankar for the film.

Suddenly, Rediff has dropped a bombshell by saying that Shankar has signed on Rajnikanth for Robot. The news item talks about a Mumbai production house backing the film, which would have a higher budget than even Sivaji and would be the most expensive Indian film ever.

Though the fact that it is Rediff publishing this news has prevented me from shoving it aside as just another rumor, I have my own doubts about this news. The story(according to Rediff, it is about "a maverick scientist who creates a robot and later runs into trouble with his pet creation") which seems like a futuristic take on Frankenstein, doesn't seem like Rajni material at all. Considering Sivaji's success, any film with Shankar and Rajni would likely have mega-expectations and mega-money on it and I don't think either of them will jeopardize that by casting Rajni in a non-traditional role. Rajni himself was supposed to considering scripts from K.S.Ravikumar and Murugadoss for his next film and his doing back-to-back films with Shankar wasn't mentioned at all.

None of the other websites have anything on this yet. So for now, all we can do is wait and watch...

Happy New Year!

Wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2008...