Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Coming Soon - Naan KadavuL

Ever since Sethu came out of nowhere to shock us, the release of a film by its director Bala has been looked forward to by Tamil cinema enthusiasts. And he hasn't disappointed us so far. Following up his debut with Nandha and Pithaamagan, he has rightly earned a name for powerful, character-driven films that stood out with their uncompromisingly bleak tone and dark and depressing storylines. 5long years after Pithaamagan, he is back with Naan KadavuL, which is releasing this Friday.

Like other movies of Bala, Naan KadavuL has also been in the news - and not always for the right reasons - from the day it was announced. Ajith was initially supposed to be the hero(there was even a poster featuring Ajith floating around for the movie) but that fell through. With a lot of the shooting taking place in Varanasi, the film encountered several production delays and went over budget. But its problems are finally settled and it is all set to hit the screens. The film is supposedly set among the Aghori sect of sadhus in Varanasi but not much more is known about it - especially since Arya has pooh-poohed the widespread rumors about the film capturing the cannibalistic habits of these sadhus.

Bala's movies so far have been marked by unique, memorable protagonists and powerful supporting characters. It is virtually impossible to forget Sethu, Nandha or Sithan or the intensity that was part of those characters. But what really carried Bala's movies forward were the relationships that these characters shared with those around them. Illustrating the truth in the adage that opposites attract, Bala paired up these characters with others who were completely disimilar to them. This was most apparent in Pithaamagan, where the flamboyant, sweet-talking Sakthivel was the opposite of the silent, almost-animalistic Sithan. But this relationship between mismatched characters has always been there in Bala's movies, whether in the romance between the intense Sethu and the timid Abhitha or in the mentor-protege relationship between the short-tempered Nandha and the composed Periyavar. This makes us wonder who Arya is going to be paired up with in Naan KadavuL.

Bala has never shied away from tragedy. All his movies so far have featured serious storylines and have ended in tragedy. While we can't say that he has never compromised his vision(the dances in Sethu and the unnecessary segment with Simran in Pithaamagan were definitely compromises), his unapologetic handling of dark themes makes him stand out among our directors. Based on his track record, we can expect a similar dark tone in Naan KadavuL too.

Bala has always managed to extract terrific performances from his lead actors. With Vikram, he gave him a new lease of life with Sethu and then extracted a National Award-winning performance from him in Pithamagan while in the latter, he also transformed Surya, who had hither stuck to quiet, serious roles, into a fun, fast-talking swindler. This is good news for Arya, who was quite lucky to land the lead role here. While the actor has shown a willingness to go past his good looks and take on different roles, he has yet to really prove his acting chops and has seemed a little stiff in his roles so far. Pooja has fared better than Arya and has shown promise even in cliched roles so far. The two can't get a better teacher than Bala and we can expect good performances from them.

After scoring music for some stinkers(2 movies he scored music for, ULiyin Osai and Dhanam, in 2008 figured in my Bottom 10 list) Ilaiyaraja finally has a high-profile movie. Naan KadavuL's music is not flashy but it evokes a serious, somber mood that fits the typical atmosphere in Bala's movies. Almost all the songs have a religious touch. Pichai Paathiram... is soulfully sung by Madhu Balakrishnan and is very meaningful, particularly in the second stanza. Amma Un Pillai... is instantly catchy since it uses the tune of the memorable Maatha Un Kovilil.... A few lines from that original also appear in the album. Shreya is superb as usual in Kannil Paarvai... while Ilaiyaraja sings Oru Kaatril..., which employs the same tune. Om Siva Om... is rousing and is the one I'm most looking forward to in the film. While the soundtrack has raised my expectations, I'm also enthused about its background score and am expecting quite a few goosebumps, courtesy Ilaiyaraja.

Bala has defied the popular trend so far with movies made on his terms that still turned out to be critical and commercial successes. Let's hope Naan KadavuL joins this short list.


At 10:53 PM, Blogger Filbert said...

Small nitpick, Balaji! 3 long years after Pithaamagan - it has been more than 5 long years since Pithamagan happened. Naan Kadavul has been my most looked forward to movie these last 5 years. Unfortunately, have to wait atleast a week longer than you to watch the movie.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

filbert, its been that long? didn't realize it. thanx. its fixed :)

At 11:52 PM, Blogger Rajesh Thiagarajan said...

I liked Arya's roles in movies like Pattiyal and Oram Po, where (like you pointed out earlier) he has taken steps not to be stereotyped.

I've always looked forward to Bala's movies since Sethu happened. One of the best directors around in Tamil.


At 1:47 AM, Blogger D.E.V said...

i'm not generally looking forward to Bala's movies..imagine my horror when saw "Pithamagan" on diwali day back in 2003? spoill my mood for the rest of the celebration. I'm not anti Bala here, but generally his movies do not work for me.I've no desires of repeatedly watching his movies.. Out of curiousity might watch "Naan Kadavul" but not in the cinema...

At 3:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a mad mad fan of Raaja. Last Sunday there was a TV show on the making of Naan Kadavul. Rare clipping of a live recording of BGM for a scene was shown. I think Raaja has given his best for this movie.

At 4:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 4:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB, Bala never defied popular trend.
Pithamagan had its Masala quotient - Surya & Laila Comedy Track, Stunts by Vikram and Simran Medley just that setting of the plot was different.
Sethu had nice songs to support the movie and Vikram.
Jeyamohan has revealed in his blog that NK is another action flick from Bala.
I guess this is going to be a snake oil stuff from Bala about non-duality.

At 11:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,

I've always anticipated Bala's movies including this one. But after watching the trailer, it didn't appeal to me- no one looks pleasant. In addition to that I was almost to throw up after reading some gross facts on Aghoras :-(. If the facts are indeed true, then I salute Bala for his gutsy work with real Aghoras. But we never know, he might be cranky himself. Heard he was doing drugs long time back. Man..he's really something.

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember watching a trailer of "Water World" many years ago and someone in the theater commented, "What a dirty movie! I wonder if anyone will pay to sit through 2 1/2 hrs. of dirt?".. Sure enough, Water World did bomb miserably at the box office. Why I was reminded of this instance after the "Naan Kadavul" trailer.. I'm sure you can guess for yourself! :-)

I, for one, feel that Bala is very overrated when it comes to skill and craftsmanship. The supposed 'arty' feel that he gives his films, continues to save him.. but I personally don't think "Naan Kadavul" will pass muster this time around.

Balaji, I'm also surprised that you didn't mention even one word about the 'heroine' fiasco that NK is so infamous for already.. So much so, that it puzzled me that there wasn't even one remote glimpse of Pooja anywhere..

If there is anyone I pray for that this film does well, it's probably Arya.. the poor chap has its entire career ahead of him and seemed to have wasted a precious 3-4+ years of his youth, feeding into Bala's ego and his kitty..

May God save Tamil Cinema.. cause, I don't think "Naan Kadavul" is going to do it! :-) ;-)

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here's pooja. She looks unhygienic as well

At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i dont know what to expect of 'naan kadavull.'
after a stunning debut in 'sethu' i don't think i have seen that kind of a sustained brilliance in his next two films. to me, both 'nanda' and 'pithamagan' had sparks of brilliance. i know 'pithamagan' relied purely on the strength of its characterizations but the kind of story telling skills and sharp dialogues he had in 'sethu' were only seen in parts of 'nanda' and 'pithamagan.' of course, there's the darkness factor. it is indeed very tough to watch his movies...heads smashed against rocks, private parts being cut off, throats being swallowed...what next, mr. bala?!

At 3:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think of all us need to carry itch-guard to the theater ;-)


At 6:46 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

good review.. i liked your observation about how bala pairs the characters. Very true

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

rajesh, yes it would've been easy for him to get stereotyped. so its nice that he's avoided it :)

skanda, the downbeat tone makes his movies quite unsuitable for days u wanna feel good on. maybe thats why NK is not releasing on any festival days? :)

anon, I hope so too. been awhile since we had some scintillating BGMs :)

anon, masala stuff and nice songs were there. but i was talking about the downbeat tone and tragic ending when i said that his movies defied the popular trend :)

anon, there was a rumor about the aghoris being cannibals, etc. but arya has said that that's not part of the movie. lets wait and see :)

sandya, but arty feel alone can't make movies work both commercially and critically. as i said, i've always loved his bold characterization and strong relationships.
and i don't remember any heroine fiasco. but i did see a few stills of pooja :)

anon, lol :)

ram, just have to wait and see if he's lightened up somewhat for NK :)

pappeuli, LOL :)

paul, thanx :)

At 5:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reviews out on rediff and sify. Rediff says ok, Sify says outstanding. Can't trust either :-) So will wait for your review, bb


At 8:56 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

prakash, thanx for the vote of confidence. hope I get to see it this weekend *fingers crossed*

At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji, I'm surprised to see that you don't remember the whole Bhavana to Karthika to Pooja fiasco at all?

Also, I made a mistake.. I meant to see no sign of Pooja in the trailer.. I did have the misfortune of Pooja's pics somewhere too (prior to the link posted here!)

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sethu itself was'nt all that great. The first half, especially was very ordinary. Regular heroine wooing and goofing around scenes which we have scene in other movies before. Bala, I feel does some scenes purely for shock effect. And his "forumula" is take a social outcast - be a mentally retarded person, or someone who burns corpses or who eats(?) them(as in rumoured to be naan kadavul)- and then thrust them in a very ordinary story of love loss and revenge.

Pithamagan , in essence was a masala. Vikram's over-the-top characterization helped convince(or fool) everyone that it was a much more ambitious film than that..

Where Bala deserves credit is in choosing the type of characters that he does, to portray on the big screen and his unflinching portrayal of events as they unfold in the world of those characters.

But sometimes you cant help feel that he aims to provoke the basal instincts in the viewer and packs in scenes with shock value for just that purpose.

At 12:59 PM, Blogger mitr_bayarea said...


heard that Pooja's performance is phenomenal, waiting for the complete review after you watch it this weekend.

At 5:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi all,

Stay away from this movie.I just watched the movie. No story as such, very disjointed, and Arya's appearance is very minimum ( i can't believe he spent 2 years for this) No complaints about the acting..but overall the movie is bad. It doesn't have much on Aghoras. It's mainly about the physically disabled beggars.

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Anon above. I saw this movie today and all the while me and my friend were wondering why Bala named this movie as Naan Kadavul. The title and all the hype surrounding the movie centered on the concept of Aham Brammasmi and Arya being an Aghori and such. But the movie fell off completely from that concept and concentrated as Anon said on organized beggary using physically challenged people.

I don't like "art" movies that much but it is difficult to classify NK as such because there is no crux to the story. You wonder what Bala is trying to say here all the while and the whole Aham Brammasmi concept makes a very small cameo only at the end.

The performance from Pooja is very good though and her best definitely and she has more scope than Arya. As Anon said, Arya has practically wasted 2 years on the movie, with only about an hour to hour and a half of total screen time in the overall 2 and a half hour movie.

Anyways, I think I am going overboard for a comment size here. I may end up writing a proper review in my blog though. As for now, I felt completely underwhelmed in comparison to my expectations, this being a Bala movie and all.

Balaji Sivaraman


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