Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beowulf and Sultan

Saw Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf yesterday. It is one of those 'realistic animation' films(like Final Fantasy or Polar Express) where the characters, though animated, look quite human and resemble the actors and actresses they've been modelled on(here, Angelina Jolie, Anthony Hopkins and John Malkovich were the actors I recognized). Rajni's Sultan, being made by his daughter Soundarya, falls in this genre too. And watching Beowulf made me feel that Sultan has a good chance of working too.

The characters in Beowulf looked a bit too smooth and their movements were a little too stiff and that took some getting used to. And this was in a big-budget Hollywood production made by a big-name director and headlined by high-profile actors. When Sultan's trailer was released I mentioned that Rajni's movements looked kinda jerky and stiff. But considering that even Beowulf couldn't get it completely right, it might be too much to expect Sultan, which surely has a considerably smaller budget, to do things perfectly. So we should probably not be too harsh on it considering the new ground it is breaking as far as Indian cinema goes.

The important thing is that once one got past the imperfectness of the animation, Beowulf worked as a rousing adventure tale. There wasn't much emotional involvement with the characters but the action sequences, like Beowulf's fight with some sea-monsters and his climactic fight with a dragon, were quite a rush. And though I didn't recognize the actor playing Beowulf, many of the jingoistic lines he uttered were pretty stirring. That bodes well for Sultan, I think. Inspite of it being animated, a few good action scenes and some crowd-pleasing punch dialogs delivered in Rajni's inimitable style could make the animated Rajni work just as well as the real one!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

RIP - Sujatha

[Pic Courtesy: The Hindu]

Writer Sujatha a.k.a Rangarajan passed away yesterday, leaving a void that is not going to be filled easily. With his short stories, novels, serialized stories, essays and scripts, he had an indelible impact on Tamil and will sorely be missed.

While I used to read a lot of English novels when I was young, my Tamil reading was restricted to magazines like Kumudham and Vikatan and I never tried reading novels. So unsurprisingly, my introduction to Sujatha came through cinema - when he began serializing the story for Kamal's Vikram in Kumudham. The accompanying stills of Kamal were what got me to start reading but it wasn't long before I became hooked on Sujatha's writing. He had a casual, down-to-earth narrative style that was instantly engaging and the conversations between the characters positively sparkled with smartness and humor.

Unfortunately, I didn't stay with Vikram till the end. The lack of instant gratification - one had to wait an entire week to see what happened next and even then, all one got was a measly two or three pages that left us hanging again - made me abandon the story midway. I did try to read other serialized stories - like a Ganesh-Vasanth tale - but never managed to keep my patience till the end. But as they say, we don't have to eat a full meal to know whether the cook is talented! And what I read was enough to tell me that Sujatha was a literary genius.

Ofcourse, even someone who hadn't read a single word written by Sujatha would still be familiar with him from his wonderful scripts for some great movies. Priya and Gayathri were both based his stories though, according to my mom, the films paled in comparison to his original stories and Priya, in particular, was a blasphemy that Sujatha himself disowned any connection to. He had an amazing ability to explain complex or abstract concepts in a lucid, easy-to-understand manner and this was evident from his scripts of his movies. Whether it was corruption(in Indian), multiple personality disorder(in Anniyan) or the origins of black money( in Sivaji), we all knew exactly what Shankar was talking about, in no small part, because of Sujatha. And one just has to listen to the patriotic dialogs in Roja and the youthful lines in Boys served to understand his versatility in penning smart, natural lines. He was on board for Shankar's Robot also and now one has to wonder if anybody else can present the sci-fi aspects of the film as well as he would have.

With Sujatha's demise, Tamil has lost one of its true icons and torch-bearers. May his soul rest in peace...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Other Side

Whenever we think of cinema, we think of glamor and glitz; of rich people leading affluent lives; of beautiful people being adored by millions. But there is another darker side to all this that we rarely see or think of and occasionally, it rears its ugly head. Kunal's suicide a few weeks ago was the latest incident reminding us of this other side but it certainly was not the first.

The earliest such incident I remember was the suicide of actress Shobha. A fantastic actress with a beaming smile that lit up her face, she was probably the first one to usher in natural, realistic acting in Tamil cinema. She captured our collective hearts in movies like MuLLum Malarum, Moodu Pani and Nizhal Nijamaagiradhu and even won the National award for her performance in Pasi. But her career - and her life itself - was rudely cut short when she committed suicide by hanging herself. Foul play was suspected in her death and director Balu Mahendra's name figured prominently in rumors relating to it but the bottomline was that we lost one of our best actresses.

The next incident, again a suicide, was the death of 'Silk' Smitha. Essentially an item number gal, the dusky actress rose to great heights. In the period when she was riding the crest of success, no film, including films of Rajni and Kamal, was deemed complete or assured of box-office success without her and her song sequences were greeted with whistles and cat-calls that rivaled those that welcomed the heroes. She avoided looking vulgar even in those teeny dresses that left little to the imagination and rose above the tag of vamp to be generally liked by most viewers - and not just men. While her death came when her career had almost ended, it still shocked everybody. I remember talk about a 'bearded man', who she had been romantically linked to when alive, being a suspect but not for long.

The actresses who died since then did not reach the peaks that the above actresses did in their careers but that doesn't mean their ends were any less sadder. Divya Bharati, after an unsuccessful debut in Tamil, went on to become a hugely successful actress in Telugu and was on her way to rising to the top in Hindi when she committed suicide by jumping off a building. As in all such incidents, there were various theories about her end and she was supposed to be rather depressed in the days leading upto the fatal day. Actress Viji committed suicide in 2001, after a failed affair with an already-married director. A popular actress in the 80s, she had successfully fought illness and made a rare comeback before her demise. Pratyuksha's case was particularly tragic. Though she was said to have consumed poison, there were several rumors about she being a victim to a gang rape in which her then-boyfriend was involved. But inspite of a lot activity in her case, her death was eventually ruled a suicide. Monal, who arrived with great fanfare as a relative of Simran, committed suicide apparently due to a failed love affair.

The number of actors whose lives were cut short is relatively less. I do remember Prince, brother of actor Urvashi, ending his life in what was apparently a suicide pact with his girlfriend. The news was particularly shocking since Prince was a classmate of my brother at one point and had actually visited us at home. And we just heard about Kunal, who never made it big as an actor but did remain in the public eye with roles in several small movies.

The pressures inherent in filmdom, the constant struggle to make it big, the complete lack of privacy, the constant presence in the public eye, the lack of job stability, the fragility of their livelihood since a single flop could end one's career - one doesn't have to look far to figure out the reasons behind why our cinema is plagued by so many untimely deaths. We can only hope that others learn their lessons before its too late and avoid making the mistakes that led to so many other lives being nipped in the bud.

PS: While I wrote the post purely from memory, a little googling revealed that the list of actresses who killed themselves is much longer, with names like Vijayasree, Lakshmisree(who played Rajni's sister in Dharmayudham) and 'Fatafat' Jayalakshmi.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Oscars

Kept up tradition by seeing the Oscars on Sunday.

- It was a pretty bland show - no unexpected incidents, no memorable speeches, no outrageous costumes. Even the song and dance productions felt kinda muted and non-showy.

- Marion Cotillard, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Alba looked great. Cameron Diaz disappointed again :( With no Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt, the wife had to be content drooling over Patrick Dempsey.

- The only aspect better than last year's show was the opening - the road down Hollywood through the ages was short but more interesting than last year's endless clips of the nominees.

- Jon Stewart had a few good jokes balanced by a few duds. He seemed a little stiff initially but seemed to loosen up as the show progressed.

- Hadn't seen most of the big nominees, barring Michael Clayton, but still managed to guess most of the winners, based purely on articles and buzz leading upto the show. Guess that shows how predictable the awards were. After seeing American Gangster and Michael Clayton last week, I feel Denzel deserved a nomination more than Clooney. Was surprised that Tilda Swinton won Best Actress. If there was an actor in Michael Clayton who deserved an award, it was Tom Wilkinson.

- Good speeches came from Ethan Coen(the second time), the leads from Once(especially the heroine, after Jon Stewart brought her back) and Marion Cotillard(emotional but heartfelt).

- The effect of the writer's strike was seen in the number of montages but they were probably the best parts of the show. The clips from previous Oscars and past movies added a sense of nostalgia though seeing those speeches(by the winners) and quips(by the hosts) highlighted just how boring the present show was!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

American Gangster

American Gangster pits a drug kingpin and a policeman against each other. Based on a true story, it chronicles the rise of a drug czar in Harlem in the late 60s as well as a dedicated cop's slow but steady zeroing in on him. With two interesting, well-matched characters and two powerful actors playing them, it is a solid, gripping thriller.

Washington and Crowe both portray flawed individuals but Washington's Lucas is definitely the more interesting of the two. The brazen way he exploits the Vietnam war(which was a dark time for the rest of America) and the fact that his product destroys families(there are some quick but still heart-breaking images of people overdosing) make him rather hateful but there's no doubt that he is charismatic. He has a short fuse and is a bundle of contradictions, even to people he loves. Crowe's Richie is not a good husband or father but there's no question that he is honest. His devotion to his mission and the way he zeroes in on Lucas are what make him interesting.

The film builds Washington and Crowe as foes as it charts Washington's rise to the top of the drug business and Crowe's move to the narcotics squad. It contrasts them nicely as Washington leads a corrupt business but is good to his family while Crowe has a flawed private life but is completely honest as a cop. But it never makes their paths cross openly until the very end and that is a tad disappointing. After building two strong characters on opposite sides of the law, the movie doesn't exploit it and is content to let them travel their own paths most of the time. A few encounters(like in Pollaadhavan), overt or otherwise, would've added a lot more energy to the proceedings.

Not that things get explosive when the two meet either. There are a few initial sparks as Washington taunts and tempts Crowe and the latter resists him but then things get quite subdued. Ofcourse that is understandable since this is a true story but when you have two strong actors on opposite sides of a table, its a bit disappointing to not get some heavy fireworks.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Santa Barbara Trip

For us, 2007 was a great year as far as travel goes and we ended the year with another good trip. With our regular travel companions Sundar & family, we went down to Santa Barbara for a relaxing 3-day trip right after Christmas.

As on our trip to Solvang in 2006, we drove to Santa Barabara on Highway 1. This time we stopped at Point Lobos State park. Like most of the parks along 1, this one too offers spectacular views of the ocean with the waves crashing against the rocks. We took the short Bird Island hike that gave us a good view of Bird Island that true to its name, served as the resting place for a large number of birds. We also took the stairs down to China Cove, a beautiful small beach that we had all to ourselves. We drove straight to Santa Barbara from there.

Since the next day was rather cloudy, we started the day with a trip to the Mission. This Mission, established in 1786, was even older than Mission Santa Ines, which we visited last year. But otherwise, it was pretty similar to the other mission in terms of its history and old artifacts. We then went to the Botanical gardens, which was a few minutes away. It was a pretty large garden with a large variety of plants and a number of walking paths but since it was winter, it was pretty green all around with barely a flower in sight. So it turned out to be a good walk but not much more than that. After lunch, we went to downtown Santa Barbara, where we visited the Courthouse and spent some time walking around.

The next day was bright and sunny. In other words, perfect beach weather. So we went to the wharf after a quick stop at a play area right by the sea. We took a cute little half-hour long pirate cruise that gave us looks at a group of sea otters and a much larger group of pelicans. The kids were even more thrilled by the fact that they got to be ship captains and pilot the ship! After lunch at an Indian restaurant, we headed back. We stayed the night at Pismo Beach, the place that stole our heart after our stop there last year, at a beachside hotel that had a gorgeous view of the ocean from the room's deck.

The next morning we walked down to the beach and spent the whole morning there, letting the kids play in the sand while we enjoyed the sun and the view. After checking out of the hotel, we headed back home.

A few photos from the trip can be seen here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Recently visited igcinema through an email that advertised free movies there. The collection of movies seems to be pretty good. There are a few of those free movies but for most of them, you gotta pay. The older movies are available for rent($1.99) and to own($4.99) while the newer ones are available for rent only for $4.99. I didn't download any of the movies so far and so I'm not sure how they implement the concept of rent. But they do mention that that the movies are all in high-quality, full-screen video.

Just out of curiosity, I clicked on the first 2 new releases, Chennai 600028 and Saamy. Check out the movie synopsis they have under the 'General' tab for them. Look familiar? :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Its Blu-Ray

I definitely wouldn't call myself an early adopter (it's usually price that is the restraining factor) but there have been many times when I stared wistfully at one of those TV's showing a hi-def movie at Circuit City or Best Buy and seriously considered plopping down a few hundred dollars for a hi-def DVD player. The demos they had set up - you know, those TVs with half the screen showing a blurry and grainy standard DVD picture and the other half showing a crystal clear hi-def DVD picture - were obviously fake but even when seen on its own, the picture quality from the hi-def player was stunning. I was completely blown away by the menu for MI3 and the few glimpses I saw of movies like Batman Begins and Aeon Flux.

Like for most consumers, what stopped me was the format war between Blu-ray and HD-DVD. While I wasn't aware of the VHS-Betamax format war when it happened, I'd read enough about it to be worried about picking the wrong format and being stuck with it when things went the other way. That one worry is finally over since Toshiba announced today that they are giving up the HD-DVD format, allowing Sony's Blu-ray to be the only hi-def DVD format going forward. With Netflix, Best Buy and Wal-mart going the Blu-ray way in the last few days, the death knell had already been sounded for HD-DVD but Toshiba made it official today. So I guess its finally time to start shopping around for a Blu-ray player. With the format decided, I'm hoping that more companies get into the fray and prices start dropping soon.

Ofcourse, when it comes to electronics, there's no shortage of dilemmas and with the hi-def question out of the way, there's the DVD player/game console question. I haven't been a gamer for a while now but I did own the original PlayStation was completely addicted to games like Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider and Gran Turismo. I've heard awesome things about Nintendo's Wii, which is supposed to be a console that the whole family can enjoy. With Kavya and Karthik growing up real fast, that is a big plus. At the same time, Sony's Playstation 3 works as a Blu-ray DVD player and that makes it a 'kill two birds with one stone' choice. So I'm not sure if I should go in for a PS3 or a Wii and a stand-alone Blu-ray DVD player.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Om Shanti Om

Om Shanti Om proves that the Hindi film industry is capable of poking fun at itself; that it is one big, fun-loving family that doesn't take itself too seriously. And watching a film where everybody involved had so much fun, it is difficult for us not to share in it. Some parts of the film, especially when it starts getting all serious, don't work as well as others but a sense of fun is prevalent throughout, making it a light-hearted, fun entertainer.

OSO is fun mainly because of Bollywood's ability to take a joke. Everything from the actors' images, both on-screen and off-screen, to the industry's tendency to stick to cookie-cutter films to our films' over-sentimental take on romance is spoofed in delightful fashion. And the participation of almost all the actors in all of this makes sure that the proceedings seem good-natured rather than mean-spirited(as in some scenes in Mahaanadigan). The Filmfare awards function is when this aspect of the film is most obvious and so it is one of the highlights of the film itself. Whether it is Shabana Azmi talking about her social causes or a bunch of actresses - and an actor - talking about their relationship with Om Kapoor or Abishek showing, rather openly, his disappointment over losing the award or all the actors taking part in the Deewangi... song sequence, the segment is a blast.

This sense of fun is evident almost the entire first half, when the movie is set in in the 70s. Making full use of the time period and the Bollywood setting, Farah Khan peppers the film with in-jokes and references to popular films. Taking the Forrest Gump route(as when Gump is shown responsible for Elvis' dance moves and the smiley face, among other things), she even throws in imaginative and hilarious re-interpretations of cinematic history(like Sooraj Barjatya taking notes for a popular dialog). Seeing the younger versions of the actors is fun too and Farah's attention to detail is evident when a women swoons at the movie premiere on seeing Mithun doing his Disco Dancer moves and 30 years later, a woman - maybe the same woman? - swoons when he dances in the Deewane... song too!

The film becomes serious once it moves to the present and delves into re-incarnation and revenge. In fact, it comes close to becoming the kind of film it was spoofing but what moves it away it is the self-awareness that is evident throughout. It does seem to take itself seriously but there are occasional hints - like the one where Shreyas complains that Kiron Kher overacts and Shah Rukh brushes it away with a "that runs in our family"! - that leads us to believe that Farah is simply paying homage to those kind of films rather than inadvertently making one herself. In fact, the opening scene that puts SRK as one of the extras in the Om Shanti Om... number from Karz(the original of Kamal's EnakkuL Oruvan), probably the most well-known 're-incarnation movie' could probably be considered the biggest hint of the movie's intentions and direction. And it never deviates from these.

Shah Rukh is just perfect for the role. His typical hamming serves his role well and there are particular scenes, like the Tamil film shooting and the segment where he is unable to utter all those perfect sentences his brain is forming, where he is downright hilarious. Deepika Padukone is the find of the last few years. Radiant and gorgeous, she is every inch the dream girl she portrays. The final scene of the climax where they look at each other, inspite of being completely predictable, works beautifully entirely due to these two actors. Shreyas provides good support and his character works well as a calming force amongst all the zaniness.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

3 New Reviews

Reviews for KaaLai, Thangam and Saadhu Mirandaa are now online @ bbreviews.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Indy 4 Teaser Trailer

There are quite a few big movies releasing this summer but for now, the one I'm most looking forward to is, without a doubt, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. With Spielberg once again assuming directing duties and Harrison Ford once again donning the fedora, I just can't wait to see what the two cook up. A teaser trailer for the film is finally out, giving us the first look at what Indy gets into this time.

It looks like he's dealing with the Germans again this time, atleast for part of the time. I loved the shadow that first introduces the familiar silhoutte and was thrilled by the quick look at the chases and action scenes. The jeep chase on the edge of the mountain seems to be the only one with obvious CGI usage, keeping alive the hope that Spielberg has relied more on old-fashioned stunts, in keeping with the spirit of the series. The trailer - in particular, the scene where Indy misses the truck and slams backwards into the windshield - bears out what both Spielberg and Harrison hinted at from the time the movie was announced - that Indy's advancing years wouldn't be hidden and that a lot of the humor would actually be mined from Indy getting older.

Welcome back professor! Or should that be... Welcome back part-time teacher?!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

3 Favorite Kamal Romantic Song Sequences

The last 2 years, I marked Valentine's Day with some special posts. The first year saw a list of my favorite romantic tracks in Tamil movies and last year, I listed my favorite romantic movies in Tamil cinema. Work's been a little too busy for me too compose any such lists today but I didn't want the day to go by without any special posts at all. Since I marked Rajni's birthday with my favorite song sequences, I thought I'd do the same with romantic songs and list my favorite romantic song sequences.

It didn't take long for me to realize that that was way too ambitious. So I decided to come up with some criterion for restricting the list. As far as Tamil cinema goes, the word romance is almost synonymous with Kamalhassan. Considering that I haven't made any other list with Kamal, a list of his songs seemed liked a good place to start. But then even ordering my favorite Kamal songs turned out to be an uphill task. I mean, I couldn't really decide where I would place Sundari Neeyum... or Nee Oru Kaadal Sangeetham... or Poongaatril Un Per Solla... or Endhan Nenjil.... And I hadn't even considered movies from the early 80s yet! But one thing I was sure about was the three songs that would take the top 3 spots on that list. So I finally decided to make things easier for me and simply write about those 3 songs.

3. Valaiyosai Kalakalakalavena... (Sathya)

I've always said this is one non-dance number that has been expertly choreographed. Amala aside, my favorite aspect of the song is the way Kamal-Amala's normal, everyday movements have been picturized perfectly in sync with the music. From Kamal catching the bug to Amala reacting to his tickling to their swaying in the bus, each of their actions is transformed to a dance set to music. Right from that first kiss, Kamal is at his romantic and playful best and Amala looks gorgeous.

2. Enna Satham Indha Neram... (Punnagai Mannan)

Rarely have romance and passion been portrayed so well in Tamil cinema. Kamal and Rekha are lovers who want to experience everything that life offers in the few minutes they have and this adds intensity and urgency to their time together. That is beautifully expressed in this number. Ilaiyaraja surpassed himself in a song that oozes melody and SPB's voice complemented it perfectly. The locations are spectacular.

1. Andhi Mazhai... (Rajapaarvai)

My all-time favorite song, this is one of those rare songs where everything comes together beautifully. Kamal and Madhavi wander around with the kind of wild abandon that comes only from young love and the scenery is bright and colorful. Kamal in particular is fabulous and I still remember how refreshing his natural portrayal of blindness(like the way he looks for Madhavi who is behind him) was after all those performances where blindness meant wide eyes and frequent blinking. The music and tune are glorious and SPB's smooth voice is mellifluous. The lyrics take one's breath away with their imagination (indhiran thottathu mundhiriye), imagery(thanneeril nirkumboadhe verkkindradhu) and wordplay(imaigaLum sumaiyadi iLamayile).

Monday, February 11, 2008


Akshay Kumar has transformed completely from an action star to to a comedy hero and Welcome is one more in his seemingly endless line of comedies. It has a high-profile cast but apart from that, is along the lines of his other recent comedies - lowbrow, juvenile but mildly funny.

The movie revolves around Paresh Rawal's attempts to find a girl for his nephew Akshay. He insists that the girl come from a decent family but as fate would have it, Akshay falls in love with Katrina Kaif, who is the sister of Nana Patekar, a don. Anil Kapoor, another don, also thinks of Katrina as his own sister and takes it upon himself to get her wedded. The two are obviously thrilled with this match since they've been trying to get her married into a respectable family for a while now but Paresh Rawal isn't too happy when he finds out about Katrina's family.

Not much happens in the film's first half. There are a few comic highpoints - like the result of Akshay's attempt to save Katrina from a fire, which is even funnier because of Akshay's earlier image - but for the most part, the comedy arises from what is going to happen. We know something that the characters on screen do not and we laugh in anticipation of what is coming when they do find out. There are a whole lot of contrivances but it is easier to overlook them since we know that this is a comedy.

The second half focuses on Akshay's attempts to make Nana leave his life of violence. Akshay takes the backseat as Nana's earlier wish to become an actor is exploited. The fun here is from seeing Nana, who we usually see in serious, no-nonsense roles, make a fool of himself in his attempt to become an actor. Anil Kapoor enjoys himself in a flamboyant role and is the life of the movie. Mallika Sharawat also enters the proceedings as a woman who catches the fancy of both Nana and Anil.

The movie finally realizes its comic potential towards the end though. The shooting of Feroz Khan's son leads to a hilarious get-together at a crematorium, where the stories invented by the characters and the results of these mix-ups lead to some very funny confusion and chaos. The action then shifts to a house on a mountain in a climax that reminds us of the climax in Michael Madana Kamarajan.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Saadhu Mirandaa

In Friends and Engal Anna, director Siddique blended sentiments and comedy well enough to deliver films that were entertaining overall. But its a lot more difficult to mix comedy with suspense and that shows in his latest venture Saadhu Mirandaa. The comic sequences are definitely the film's high points but they exist rather uneasily in what is primarily a thriller - and an average one at that.

The film opens with a bank robbery committed by two men in masks. The scene then shifts to six months later, when Siva(Prasanna) arrives in the city looking for a rowdy Davidraj(Manoj K Jayan). We soon learn that Siva is the brother of Rammohan(Abbas), who is now in America. Rammohan wants Siva to join him in the US but Siva steadfastly refuses, asking his brother to come and see him instead. Siva gets in touch with Priya(Kavya Madhavan), a TV hostess who has also been promised a job in the US by Rammohan and with her help, finally manages to convince Rammohan to return.

Saadhu Mirandaa is too complicated. Its not that there are too many characters or story tracks but the way the story has been narrated makes the plot seem much more convoluted than it actually is. A complicated narrative is not exactly a bad thing in Tamil cinema where most plots are straightforward and simplistic. Its just that the plot here doesn't deserve the complicated narration. It takes a while for us to understand how characters are connected and what their backgrounds are but once we do, the complications until then seem like much ado about nothing.

Siddique's strength obviously lies in comedy. Vadivelu's track in Friends would still rank as one of his best and Engal Anna had its share of good laughs. So it is no surprise that the comedy segments in Saadhu Mirandaa end up being its best parts. Baskar, Karunas, Charlie and Vaiyapuri, in that order, have some very funny lines and visual gags. Unfortunately, these segments are too few and far between since the movie is primarily a thriller. And as the movie winds down, the comedy segues also feel a little odd, as in the climax when a serious confrontation is taking place on one side of the roof and the comedians indulge in their shtick on the other.

One wouldn't have missed the comedy so much if the thriller had been constructed more skilfully. Sure there are a few surprises(one of them, a big one, is very good) in the plot developments but holes abound in the story (the biggest one obviously being how Prasanna knew about the people he is targeting). The movie has been constructed the right way with Prasanna's actions keeping us wondering about his motives and the dots getting connected as missing pieces of the puzzle are revealed. Its just the puzzle, when its complete, is rather plain and cliched. Many of the so-called big twists(who Moorthy is, why Prasanna is doing all that he is doing, etc.) are predictable, which makes their revelations rather anti-climactic.

Prasanna, who has so far been stuck in romances and light-hearted comedies, gets the chance to play an action hero here. He doesn't look comfortable in the stunt sequences and seems a tad slow. But he has no problems acting dumb or driven(and he gets the chance to play both). Kavya looks short and chubby but is convincing in her role. Baskar gets the lion's share of the laughs with just his accent though Charlie has the best visual gags and Karunas' plight elicits a few laughs too. Kota Srinivasa Rao is funny but is ineffective since we're never sure if his character(he plays a minister) is supposed to be silly or serious.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

4 New Reviews

Reviews for Pazhani, Vaazhthugal, Pirivom Sandhippom and Bheemaa are now online @ bbreviews.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I haven't laughed this hard in a long, long time (thanks Ram, for the link). The info lists this as a song from Yaarukku Yaaro, with the hero being Sam Anderson. I initially thought this might be some kind of a joke but the movie and the hero do figure in this news item from The Hindu last October. For those who thought Veerasamy was the nadir of Tamil cinema, looks like we might still have a little bit further to go :)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bhool Bhulaiya / Classmates

Bhool Bhulaiya

Bhool Bhulaiya is the third incarnation of Fazil's Manichithrathaazhu, which has already been remade in Kannada(Aptamitra) and Tamil(Chandramukhi). While I have not seen Aptamitra, I have seen both Manichithrathaazhu and Chandramukhi but Bhool Bhulaiya still managed to hold my interest in most places (though credit for that goes to Fazil rather than any of the people involved in this endeavor).

Bhool Bhulaiya is more faithful to the Malayalam original than Chandramukhi and barring a few additional characters and scenes, it follows the Malayalam version pretty closely. In fact, there are quite a few scenes, like Akshay's entry, his romance with Amisha Patel and the climax, where it feels like a scene-by-scene remake. Surprisingly though, its these portions that work, making us admire Fazil's original screenplay even more. The suspense is credibly built up, even for those of us who know the ending. And thankfully, the impression gained from the trailer(which had a Casper-like ghost whooshing around a bespectacled Akshay) that this would be a full-length comedy is wrong.

Unfortunately Priyadarshan, who, of late has been known more for making light-hearted comedies, botches the film in the second half. At a time when the suspense should have been ramped up by tightening the screenplay, he introduces inane comedy elements that irritate us and dilute the suspense. Rajpal Yadav's every appearance makes us groan and Akshay's teasing of the young man in the house is unnecessarily cheap and vulgar.

Akshay seems to have made a complete transition from action star to comedy hero. Though there a few scenes where he crosses the line from just being goofy and playful to seeming mentally ill, he is good and doesn't damage his reputation. But it goes without saying that if we've seen the original, he pales in comparison to Mohanlal, especially in scenes(like when he imitates and autodriver after his introduction and when he talks to Amisha through the window) where he acts like him. Vidya Balan tackles the heavy role well too. She is convincing after the transformation too though the climactic song lacks the fieriness of the other versions. Shiney Ahuja seems lost most of the time while Amisha Patel looks jaded in the rather thankless role.


Lal Jose's Classmates was supposed to be one of Malayalam cinema's biggest hits. While it doesn't quite meet the high expectations one has when watching a film purported to be 'the biggest hit in that language', it is a good movie that combines a campus romance and a murder mystery.

The film was supposed to have worked in Kerala because it was to its audience what Autograph was to us Tamil cinegoers - a film that took them down memory lane with its depiction of college life. Probably because I didn't go to college in Kerala, the college scenes didn't have the same effect on me. They do convey the sense of fun with the friendships, the bickerings and the strikes and they are realistic unlike most of the colleges depicted in Tamil films but for me, they didn't invoke the sense of nostalgia that they apparently did in Kerala.

The film begins with the reunion of a particular batch of students who graduated 14 years ago. One of them died when they were students and the reunion is also for the purpose of dedicating a hall in his name. The unravelling of what led to the student's death takes the movie in unexpected directions towards the end. The way the mystery is solved - through disjoint flashbacks that give the full picture when pieced together - is nice and keeps us engrossed. And the last couple of revelations come as complete surprises.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Waiter, There's a Fly in my Jamun!

Went to Dosa Place in Santa Clara for lunch on Saturday. It came highly recommended from reliable sources and my wife, who went there for dinner a week ago, wasn't too thrilled but was willing to try it again and said quite confidently that I'd like it. As is customary for me, I ordered the Madras Thali while my wife had the vegetable biryani and Kavya had the rava dosa.

The Madras thali came with a lone gulab jamun for dessert and splitting it open led to a rather unpleasant surprise. There was a fly lodged inside! So we called the waiter and pointed out the fly in the jamun. He simply looked at it and after taking a closer look at it, took it back to the kitchen. No "I'm not sure how this happened" or "We'll look into this" or even "I apologize for this". He took it back and a few minutes later, returned with three gulab jamuns. Sure... after seeing a fly in my jamun, I'll definitely feel like eating 3 more that probably came from the same batch! At this point, my wife went and informed the manager about this. A mild "Oh!" was his response too and after seeing the 3 untouched jamuns on our table, he gave us a carrot halwa with a very magnanimous "We won't be charging you for this".

Now, I'm not unreasonable and am willing to accept that accidents do happen in the kitchen. If anything, my wife says that I'm too easy and end up taking the side of the other party under the pretext of giving them the benefit of doubt. So I wasn't too upset about the incident. But it was the restaurant's reaction and response to the issue that riled me up. Contaminated food or food prepared under less-than-sanitary conditions is a pretty big matter, as the 'finger in the soup' incident at Wendy's and the response to Taco Bell's 'rat infestation' video showed. So the matter-of-fact response from the guys at Dosa Place came as a shock.

I've written before about Indian grocery stores in the US existing in a universe of their own and not really following the rules of other grocery stores. This incident has made me wonder if the same is true of Indian restaurants too. Shouldn't apologizing for something this big be pretty much the first rule of customer service? Forget training. Shouldn't an apology be the first natural reaction from anyone in the restaurant business when shown that their food has a problem? I'm still confused about why they reacted so mildly. Is it because the waiters were new and didn't know how to respond? Or is it because we were too quiet about it and didn't raise a hue and cry(like, for instance, threatening to go the Board of Health?)

Since it was only the dessert that had the problem, I had eaten the rest of the meal by then and the food was pretty good. Service otherwise was good and the restaurant itself was clean and well-lit. But the incident obviously left a bad taste in my mouth(pun unintended!) and this is one restaurant that I sure won't be going back to...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

2007 Tamil Cinema Quiz Answers

I received answers from the following readers: KK, Naren's, Zero, Ganesh Kumar, arun, Pushpa, Raju, San, polapathavan, Prin, Shankar, Swaps, Ram, ram, Latha, Bart, Prasad, Senthil, Krishnan, Indira, Hawkeye, A-kay, Balaji, APALA, Prakash, glass, Kumar, Sabs, Shanthi, rathi, Parthi, VenkatRangan(email) and a couple of Anons. So a big Thank You for your participation. All comments have now been published in the original post...

Here are the answers:

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.

A: The song was Thambigale Thangangale... in Thillu Mullu. Rajni appeared as MGR(Madurai Veeran), Sivaji(Veerapandiya Kattabomman), Kamal(Chappani) and M.R.Radha(the protagonist from Ratha Kanneer) in this song.

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.

A: Surya appeared in trailers for his brother Karthi's Paruthi Veeran.
Jeeva dubbed for his brother 'Jithan' Ramesh in Madurai Veeran.

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.

A: The actor was Jai, whose arrival in the opposing team's area in Chennai 600028 was picturized in a manner reminding us of Vijay's typical introduction scene. He appeared as Vijay's younger brother in Bhagavathy.

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.

A: The movie was Parattai Engira Azhagu Sundaram. The award winners who acted in it were Meera Jasmine(for Paadam Onnu - Oru Vilaapam) and Archana(Veedu).

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.

A: The movie was Ammuvaagiya Naan, whose director Padmamagan previously directed 2003's Pallavan.