Monday, February 09, 2009

2008 Tamil Cinema - The Top 10

10. Raman Thediya Seethai
One of the few mature romances that dealt with the affairs of the heart of older couples, this was a natural, feel-good film about a man's search for his Mrs. Right. Populated with characters that were good but not artificially so and made up of situations that were natural and down-to-earth, we watched the film with a warm feeling in our hearts.

9. Poi Solla Porom
With no big-name stars and none of the items(comedy track, fights and even duets) that are considered an integral part of our cinema, this was a rare film that told its familar David vs Goliath story in a simple and down-to-earth fashion. That helped us overlook its faults - like the simplistic scam and lack of tension - making the little film a big entertainer.

8. Santosh Subramaniyam
Director Raja, 'Jayam' Ravi's brother, once again proved that he had mastered the art of remaking with this retelling of Bommarillu, a film about the relationship between a son and his strict father. With winsome characters, a story that allowed the characters to develop their individualities and good humor that was integrated well into the film, the film worked as well as the original as far as entertainment value goes. And that rarely happens.

7. Vaaranam Aayiram
A heartfelt tribute from Gautham to his father, the film achieved its objective of eulogizing Dad with an ambitious story that illustrated a father's importance by keeping him in the background but showing us the pivotal role he played in his son's life. With an appealing protagonist and well-etched relationships, the film worked well at the macro level but the lack of attention to detail and the incongruous script diluted the movie's emotional impact.

6. Saroja
With 4 everyday guys as heroes, Venkat Prabhu made this a solid, engaging thriller that managed to be both believable and exciting - not an easy combination to achieve. The down-to-earth nature of the guys got us involved while the clever screenplay and visual tricks kept us engaged inspite of the story almost coming to a standstill in the second half.

5. Anjaathey
All of this film's tracks - a policeman's coming-of-age story, a tale about a friendship gone bad, a cops-and-robbers crime thriller, a son finding redemption in his father's eyes, a love story - were handled with a sober, realistic touch by Mysskin, who elevated them by never losing sight of the human side of things. His directorial touches, like a virtuoso scene where he showed only the actors' legs - were ambitious and made the film stand out as a director's movie.

4. Alibaba
Hitchcock's favorite theme of an innocent man being framed and trying to clear his name was at the heart of this underrated but very effective thriller. It had an interesting protagonist, a suspenseful story that didn't abandon logic and a fast-paced screenplay but its biggest asset was the consistently surprising screenplay that successfully combined misdirection and surprise right upto the end.

3. Kanchivaram
Priyadarshan gave us a pleasant surprise with this sensitively-crafted emotional tale that was set among the weaver community in the city of Kanchivaram in 1948. While it showed us the sorry plight of the weavers and nicely chronicled the rise of communism among them, it was essentially about a father's love for his daughter as that towered over everything else.

2. Poo
Director Sasi unfurled a new facet of romance this simple but stirring tale of a woman's dedication and commitment to a man. At its center was a very unique, rather remarkable woman who we understood fully only during the film's last act but many of its supporting characters were also developed well with surprising character arcs. Sasi's directorial skills, visual touches, unexpected comic interludes and character development transformed the simple story into a soft but emotionally strong film.

1. Subramanyapuram
Sasikumar stunned us with this daring, confident debut. While the story was a familiar one of close friends getting caught up in a spiral of violence, the setting(Madurai in the 80s) and the refreshingly natural proceedings made the movie stand out amidst other risk-averse cookie-cutter movies. But what stood out more than anything else was the debutant director's complete lack of compromise as he made the film he wanted to make and in the process, gave us a movie that was rousingly realistic and constantly gripping.


At 12:45 AM, Blogger Bart said...

Alibaba and VA would come down in my list :)
Why don't you launch BB awards? Best movie, actors, music and direction atleast :)

At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Overall good list. But In my list, Saroja would have gone down a few slots. Poi solla porom would have gone up a few places. Then about Pirivom Santhipom. In my view it deserves a place in Top 7 atleast.

At 1:58 AM, Blogger Shanmuga said...

Subramaniapuram is total junk. Does not deserve to be even No. 10, forget the top position.

At 5:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good list, Balaji, though I haven't a couple of the movies, let's just say, I trust your judgement :)
One thing that sticks out is that even though there were more good movies that released in 2008 than in 2007, somehow it still feels like a forgettable year as far as Tamil cinema goes... most likely because, it's after a very long time that most of the major stars in the industry have had a release in the same year, but not a single one satisfied us fans, save for Varanam Ayiram.
A comment about Subramanyapuram: did you notice that while it seems like a usual tale about good-for-nothing friends getting caught up in the world of violence, it actually tells a more darker tale of betrayal?? And, many different kinds of it... all the supporting characters such as those of ganja karuppu, swathi, thamaraikkani are shown to betray someone at some point. Heck, even the lone comedy sequence involving the radio contract is spun around a wife betraying her husband and the employer betraying his employee :-)

At 6:34 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

yea you couls do that..annual,bb awards...what say??
best picture
best actoe/actress
best director
best music score.....please do it....if you can!!!!!

At 10:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My YES to the BB awards as well.

A bit harsh to leave Dasa out? And for me, there wouldn't have been 'Alibaba' either. Oh yeah and VA up.

But other than that, seems very identical....

*thinking ahead* for the BB awards, can we nominate?, before you choose a winner?

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Filbert said...

Pretty good list, Balaji, though my list would not have Poo at 2. It just didn't work for me. But I am glad that you left out Jeyamkondaan since I just couldn't understand why many of my friends liked it and called it one of the best movies of the year.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


Varanam Aayiram, too much . Total torture.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Babs said...

Good list BB...I second the award as in nominee blog first and we all keep guessing, a week later the winner list or even make it on the Oscar day so we'll be happy reading ur list and ARR won the Oscar ;-)

Frankly Shanmuga, what is top in ur list..u cant just condemn someones choice without giving any reason and then not talk about ur choices....

very well noted Arun..the Betrayal took the lead in his narration..its like so many hints thru out the movie for the ending, just like Sixth Sense..only u never take them while watching it..hind sight again comes to rescue :-)

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

bart/ashwin/prin/babs, used to do the awards thing on bbreviews. stopped since it became kinda predictable and I ended up writing about the same movies in recap, top 10, awards, etc. will try to resurrect it for 2008 :)

anon/shanmuga, the subjective nature of the lists is what make it interesting :)

arun, good point about the movies of the big stars. rajni, vijay, ajith, vikram... the list was long!
and excellent observation on 'subramanyapuram'. I guess its one of those movies where we keep uncovering/finding something new :)

filbert, yes learned from ur Twitter that 'Poo' didnt work for u. a bit surprised but not too much since that movie has inspired a variety of reactions :)

srivatsan, u're the only one who wants it moved lower :)

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Kay said...

Good List BB. I am very impressed. I also would rate Subramanyapuram as one of the best movies of 2008. It's almost a cultish movie. Reminds me of 7G Rainbow Colony but in a different way than the story line. Dark, different and poignant. I am from Madurai and have been to Subramanyapuram many times(It is a suburb of Madurai) to visit friends and the director has captured the essence of the place and the era picture perfectly. The scene where the new movie poster goes by on a tricycle (bell jangling) with litle boys dancing the dappanguthu in front of it is so bang on target. I have seen that so many times when I was little. Amazingly accurate little details is what made the movie so memorable.

At 2:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good list Balaji. Though I believe this was one of the sparsest years for quality Tamil cinema, I've never felt more hopeful about the direction the industry is taking. The emergence of films like Kachivaram, Subramanyapuram and Poo point to some great talents that will continue to flourish for years to come. It is intriguing that some of the best films of the year were situated in village life rather than the city. The notion of modern India is somewhat lost in these pictures...I am trying to figure out why.

In 2009 i am really looking foward to more feel good entertainers. A lot of downers this year, which i am not against. I am still waiting for another "Alai pauthey"'s been a while since we got a great romance with engaging characters.


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