Sunday, August 03, 2008

Kuselan - Full Review

Kuselan is an attempt at marrying a down-to-earth story revolving around emotions and Rajni's superhero image. In other words, it tries to offer something to Rajni fans as well as others, something that doesn't usually happen in movies featuring Rajni as the hero. Both those elements have been treated satisfactorily and mixed together well. Unfortunately, quite a few more elements have been thrown into the mix to make the movie a complete commercial package and none of those work. As a result, Kuselan works only in parts.

Balakrishnan(Pasupathy) is a barber in the village of Periyoor. Unable to get a loan to upgrade his equipment,he is losing business by the day to Shanmugam(Vadivelu), his competitor with a modern shop and rather questionable ways of landing business. As a result, Balu is barely able to make ends meet but his wife Sridevi(Meena) and his three children understand his position. The whole village is excited when a movie unit arrives to shoot a film starring the Superstar Ashok Kumar(Rajnikanth) and when news filters out that Balu and Ashok Kumar were friends in school, the villagers' attitude towards Balu undergoes a sea change.

Shorn of the unnecessary frills, the film is about friendship and the changes it brings in the life of a man. Inspite of Vasu's non-subtle filmmaking style, these sections do work well. It is easy to admire Pasupathy for his ideals and principles throughout and so we sympathize with him during his tough times and feel happy for him when he is treated well. His reactions to the people looking to exploit his friendship with Rajni are natural and the results of his actions are logical considering his nature and the situation around Rajni.

As far as Rajni goes, his appearance can be divided into parts - the one where he is a movie star in the movie within the movie and the one where he plays the actor outside of the movie. In the former, he gives his fans what they look for with several costume changes, punch dialogs and a song sequence. Though completely unrealistic (they are shooting two movies in 40 days?!) and hovering loosely without any real drama or emotions tied to them, the sequences work because of Rajni's charisma and screen presence. But it is when focusing on the man behind the actor that the movie delivers something different. The movie pretty much idolizes him and we know he is still acting but the one scene where Sunderrajan questions him is a huge surprise. The questions are shockingly sharp and his answers and emotions, though not completely clear, feel honest. I honestly can't imagine any other actor, even one with a fraction of Rajni's image and fan following, agreeing to have these questions posed to him and answering them without pandering to the fans.

Probably because he thought that the primary track was too sentimental and emotional, Vasu tries to make the rest of the movie a comedy and packs a number of comedians into the film. Vadivelu is the biggest of these and gets the most screentime but he is also the least funny of the lot. He might have a new profession here but his segments feel like rehashes of his previous comedy tracks where he comes up with clever plans that culminate with him in some kind of trouble. The segments themselves are childish and the punchlines to them(like when his assistants bring in a thick-moustached man or when he tries to scale a wall) are obvious miles before, killing the humour. The scene when he comes face-to-face with Rajnikanth is the only one where he makes us laugh. All the others have a few funny lines(Santhanam's description when he first sees Santhanabharathi, Livingston's assistant's first mispronunciation of his name, etc.) but Vadivelu's entire track is devoid of laughs and makes those sections painful.

P.Vasu is one of those directors who is stuck in the past and his movies are painfully old-fashioned. He seems oblivious to the huge advances in moviemaking technology and techniques and sticks to ancient methods. Whether its the comedy, the script, the way he films sequences or the special effects, everything is loud and overt. Even then, the crassness in the film comes as an unpleasant surprise. Vadivelu's scenes with his wife step into vulgarity frequently and a scene where he ogles Nayanthara in her room is particularly distasteful. The awkwardly inserted Chaaral... song sequence too follows the tradition of rain songs and is little more than an excuse to showcase Nayanthara's wet curves. The vulgarity is not new or worse than that in many other films but sticks out here because of the emotional theme, the presence of Rajni and the fact that it is being called a 'clean family film'(there were children-only special shows on the first day!).

As I said earlier, the film works only in parts but fortunately, one of the parts that does work is the climax. Rajni's speech is heartfelt and honest and even the reaction shots, though cinematic, work. It is the kind of speech that makes it easy to believe the responses. The subsequent scene is surprisingly short considering that the whole movie built up to it but it has a strong impact nevertheless.

Pasupathy proves his mettle once again. He conveys his feelings, which range from shyness to lack of confidence about Rajni's reaction to frustration at the inability to meet Rajni, very well and we feel sorry for him as people turn on him. Meena looks a little too well-dressed to make her dire financial situation believable and seems a little artificial in the few scenes she appears in. Om Zaraare... has a Vaaji Vaaji... hangover but the dance steps are simple but good. Cinema Cinema..., prefixed by a line announcing it as a tribute to 75 years of Tamil cinema, feels a bit chaotic as the tribute is packed into just one paragraph and the remainder of the song sings praises of Rajni. 75 years probably deserved a better tribute but Rajni's style and dresses won't have any of his fans complaining. Perinba Pechukkaaran... is rather ordinary but a special kudos to its lyricist for the double entendres that revealed a whole new dimension for the song onscreen.


At 1:32 AM, Blogger srijithunni said...

In essence the movie's storyline, though sentimental and emotional as you said, the story itself is short, and while in the malayalam original, we had a film, where it was built up with the small villagers and quirky characters around balan to stretch the film, here you have a rajnikanth, to whose image justice has to be done, so both ways it is a tightrope.

P.Vasu is surely not a director, who can walk this one. So he keeps falling at times, but gets back again, with the help of pashupathy, rajini and the last solid climax in the script.

After I had watched the film, my friend remarked, it's a good story, but I wish rajini hadn't acted in it.! Because with rajini's image, it becomes difficult to fit into a simple human story of emotions. Everyone now expects a Sivaji.! In that sense, Kuselan is like chocolate ice cream on top of payasam, both taste sweet, but dont seem to gel together.! No wonder that when pashupathi looks at rajni's photograph, from his debut film, it makes us wonder how different the movie would have been if it had been the rajni of those times in the same role.

At 4:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is sad day for tamil cinema.

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"wet curves"

Like your choice of words, bb :)

Kuselan seems to have turned out into a half-baked effort. Wonder if Rajni may be bigger than himself to the point his presence affects the rest of a movie. A good thing in a movie like Sivaji but clearly not so here.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


P.Vasu should be hanged in public. I'm pretty sure we would do a better movie out of Rajini, it's like having 10 Tendulkars and scoring less than 100 in one innings

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Bart said...

hmm.. Your review is along lines of my pre-release expectations. Will still watch the movie :)
I feel this movie could've used a man at helm with refined sensibilities.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

I second that, Srivatsan :)

Balaji, agree with most of your points. If only Thalaivar had selected some other director to do this remake, Kuselan would have been so much better. That feeling makes me sick.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i feel bad when i think of how good rajni was as an actor b4 the pressures of superstardom took over...the problem is, after 30 or so years as a super duper star (Murattu Kaallai, Billa, etc came in '80, right?) he still doesnt wanna take enough chances to bring the actor in him back to the fore...the sincerity of emotions only surfaces occasionally...i clearly remember a moment in padaiyappa where he feeds sithara in a hut, when I thought, "this is the rajni i want to see more of..."

hope to watch kuselan sometime soon...dont think i am gonna really enjoy a 1.5 star movie from bb (i know, i know, u said, 2 stars...but i am taking off -0.5 stars that i attribute to u being a crazy rajni fan!)

At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can u give a review of the original one, please...???

At 4:30 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


You won't see that Rajini anytime in the future. Atleast Shankar will make the movie entertaining. Balachander is needed to bring forth that actor (Netrikann, Mullum Malarum and Kai Kodukkum Kai were his best performances IMO).

I'm disappointed with Kamal too, sensing that I would never see a Mahanadhi or Aboorva Sagodarargal again.Honestly did not know what he was trying in Dasavatharam!!.

At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

International Audiences Laughing At Rajni's Film

At 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember reading your first reaction when u posted the news here, that the movie was being directed by P vasu and i remember having the same faint feeling as you.

Somehow, i think the movie works(in the certain parts that it did for me that is.)mainly due to rajni's screen presence and Pasupathy's acting.

The climax scene had me tearing and i was surprised to see rajni in an emotional packed role at that juncture. I was so used to seeing the action side of rajni and yet, his soft side didn't leave me complaining =)

I think Pasupathy might be having his last laugh though, am not too sure about that.

But i think it would have much better if they had stuck to the original theme rather than making it seem rather over the top.

Nayanthara would probably be my biggest disappointment in the movie. She does look pretty to me but too much over glam with her(maybe her overdone tummy tuck or whatever it was) and there was just no scope for her character.

What i am looking forward is the hindi version remade by priyadarshan. I remember reading how SRK mentioned to priyadarshan to stick to the original movie as much as he can. So with deepika padukone and kareena kapoor making special appearences, i would like to see priyadarshan's version of the movie.


At 4:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The song cinema cinema was supposedly celebrating 75 years of tamil cinema......having heard the song b4 seeing d movie, i knew it made no sense (to watch the movie)as the song was 'talking' abt thalaivar almost 80% of the time....we have many more stalwarts who got missed out (no offence to thalaivar)

also, given P Vasu's ancient methods which Balaji aptly points out, im also sure the screenplay must have been written on piece of a paper napkin (given P vasu's inability here)

Vadivelu for sure has always been a let down in d recent past with his no-script comedy

Atleast, it gives us some goose pimples to see thalaivar deliver those punch dialogues

My winner.......Pasupathy for playing the role to the T

At 8:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you folks read the joke of the day "Kuselan Ticket Prices Slashed" -

From what I hear the truth is there was no enough crowd for the movie after the review and word of mouth from the people who watched the movie :-). Atleast the show that I went to only half of the theater was full which is not normal for a Rajini movie on first weekend in US. I am sure the distributors are forced to reduce the price since they cannot pull enough crowd.

At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a surprise that the common gripe seems to be the story... or the lack of one.

In a superstar's movie, the USP is the Superstar. And that's the one that keeps the cash register ringing.

Despite all its over-gloss, glam & criticism, I am sure all involved in the movie will be laughing their way to the bank.

At 1:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^^ above anon

not sure abt the bank thing...

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isnt it time we called Rajini for what he is now: a shrewd business man who panders to the semi-literate side of our Tamil brains.

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having watched Kuselan yesterday night at Abirami, Chennai, the first amazing fact I noticed was a Rajini film was running to empty theatres in the first week in the heart of Chennai. I just couldnt believe it.
By the end of the movie, I kind of knew why. There is not much in it for the common Rajini fan. A frustrated group of Rajni fans kind of summed it up: One said, Hey, Thalaivar could have released this movie as a serial in the TV channels. The other one added. They could have named the serial 'Chair'. That was the only laugh I had in the theatre. Though I am an ardent fan of Kamal, the only other actor I respect is Rajni and this one is a huge let down....Have already started waiting for Robot/Marmayogi....


At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm..... enakku oru ummae therinchaahanum..... Though out of topic, just curious.... I saw somewhere that Meena's date of birth is 16th september 1979.... Her first movie as Heroine was "En raasavin Manasilae" released in 1991... This means, she was just 12 years old when acted in that movie :-( ???????


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