Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Feeling Good!

When I watch a movie, my own likes, dislikes, preferences and biases affect my opinion - and hence my review - of the movie. Regular readers should be able to identify what these are quite easily. Surprising twists, for instance, rank pretty high on my list of likes while vulgarity, whether blatant or presented under the cover of presenting reality, is a pretty strong reason for me to dislike a movie. Every viewer brings his/her own set of likes/dislikes to the table when watching a movie and this influences his/her interpretation of the movie. Naturally, this could lead to differing opinions about the same movie.

Most reviews of mine have about an equal number of people agreeing and disagreeing with them. Reviews that an overwhelming majority of readers agree with(like the review of Vaaranam Aayiram) or disagree with(like the Aegan review) are rare. But there are certain categories in which the movies consistently evoke a different reaction from me and from other viewers. One of these categories is 'films by Vikraman'(my 3-star rating and review of Vaanathai Pola probably holds the record for leading to the most number of "What were you thinking?!"-type emails) and what leads to the difference in opinion about these movies is what I like to call the 'feel-good factor'.

Unlike aspects like twists and vulgarity, the 'feel-good factor' is not easy to define. A feel-good film is more often than not, a romance or a drama. It is life-affirming or atleast highly positive and looks at the bright side of life. It is predominantly filled with good-hearted characters. While some sadness or disappointments are not out of question, it doesn't dwell on them and offers positive solutions. It offers little or no action or masala and glamor and vulgarity are definite no-nos too. It contains a message and definitely ends on a positive note. Most importantly, it puts a smile on our lips and cheer in our hearts and sends us out of the theater in a better mood than we entered it in. Off the top of my head, some of the feel-good films in recent times would be Raman Thediya Seethai, Mozhi and Parthiban Kanavu.

One of the leading proponents of the genre of feel-good films is director Vikraman. Right from his first film Pudhu Vasandham, he has created films that obeyed all those guidelines I mentioned before. He extolled the virtues of a platonic friendship in Pudhu Vasandham, placed love on a pedestal in Poove Unakkaaga, explored the gentle dynamics of a loving family in Vaanathai Pola, showed us the truth in the adage 'Behind every successful man there is a woman' in Suryavamsam and illustrated the importance of both friendship and love in a man's life in Priyamaana Thozhi. And he did so in clean, soft films.

Vikraman is definitely old-school. His movies have always been a small step up from stage dramas and a sense of style or visual flair is non-existent. Sentiments are quite loud, cliches abound and the movies are quite predictable. Songs are mediocre and the song sequences are plain and unimaginative. But the aforementioned feel-good factor usually overrides these factors for me. That is why I loved Poove Unakkaaga, Suryavamsam and Vaanathai Pola and liked his other movies like Priyaamaana Thozhi more than the average viewer. And that is also why I'm looking forward to his next film Mariyaadhai probably as much as a Vijayakanth fan is!


At 1:09 AM, Blogger D.E.V said...

hey Balaji, i'm also looking forward to "Mariyadhai" as looks likeanother "vanatha pole" clone. Two Vijaykanths, Meena, ramesh khanna, sounds familiar right?. Yeah do like all of Vikraman's movies including "Unai Ninaithu" which was a little gem which sadly went unnoticed. Hope Vikraman can bounce back and give us more of his signature movies...

At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had he read your article, Vikraman would have probably thought "Enna nallavaaannnu sollitanda....." :-)

At 8:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as u know, i am a big vasanth fan...the things you described in your 3rd paragraph all apply to why I like his films so much...even his lesser ones work for me more than they do for the average viewer because I really like the realism and the feel-good factor...

I like Vikraman's one complaint about his recent films has been the lack of good comedy...charlie used to be terrific in vikraman's earlier movies...ramesh kanna had a hilarious role (who can forget the kovil scene where he says "God is great!") in unnidathil...but somehow in vikraman's last few films like vaanathai pola, unnai ninaithu, priyamana thozhi and chennai kadhal, the comedy tracks have been very mediocre...i am hoping he will reverse that trend with mariyadhai...

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vikraman is better than Maniratnam on family based in village subjects. Definitely, Vijayakanth is the man for village based role.
So the combination is going to be awesome.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No hopes, this was the same Vikraman who came up with the 'classic' Chennai Kadhal. haha! Films rarerly get more juvenile and clich├ęd.

VA deserved more =D Aegan less =D

At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes - me also a great fan of feel good movies. I have been reading your blogs/reviews for last 3 years or so :) I generally feel your reviews are neutral but there are some glaring exceptions to that as well. A great example is your 3* rating for Sivaji and a 2* rating for Dasa. That glaringly sticked out like a sore thumb, to me. :( But again you clearly mentioned in this blog that each of us got our own likes/dislikes/bias hence for each of us our own, I guess :)

At 6:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Balaji,

I like Vikraman's movie like Vaanathai Pola. Gabtun was tolerable in that one, but in this movie he looks terribly distorted. All the main cast are FAT - Meena, Meera Jasmine, Ambika, Gaptun.

This will definitely be a feel good film for those who are 200 lbs and more.

At 10:35 PM, Blogger Kay said...


Watch A AA E EE. Another feel good movie. After watching crap churned out by my favourite Vijay and Ajith, the movie was a breath of fresh air literally. I enjoyed it and made me feel good. It has Navdeep of Aegan fame and Charanya and Prabhu. Nice movie..

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

Even in feel-good films there are different grades and categories. By now I would have expected that you would have fully outgrown Vikraman's movies and opt for better and more contemporary feel-good movies, like say a Mozhi.

Vikraman's movies are heavily dated and his production values and presentation suck.

A modern day feel good movie will have all the elements that you like in Vikraman's movies minus the poor production values, loud sentiments and cliches and bad music that you talk about. Understated emotions, good music, well-etched characters and not caricatures can all still be a part of feel-good movies.
I believe you yourself would be aware of such kind of films that I dont have to make a list. Feel good movies doesn't mean formulaic scripts, dumb characters(who finally find out the truth by overhearing a conversation conveniently at the right time :-))
and exaggerated melodrama

So in comparison(as all ratings are relative) Vikraman's movies shouldnt still be getting 3 stars.
Vikraman's style is regressive and akin to Perarasu's movies, only that they operate in different genres, that's all.

At 12:48 AM, Blogger D.E.V said...

kay, Please do not compare Vikraman with perarasu, is akin to comparing Ram with Ravaana. Both do diametrically opposite films, Peraru is a completely regresive director who has no idea what is modern cinema. Vikraman has this subtle touch in him, when it come sin potraying emotions, no other director till date can copy Vikraman in making succesful family entertainers and for that put him in the same league as Maniratnam, Shankar..

At 7:18 AM, Blogger Ganesh said...

But,you can include me among those who like feel-good films a lot and I liked Vikraman's films till Vanathai Pola and I agree with your ratings for those films.:DI still like watching Suryavamsam,Vanathai Pola and even Priyamana Thozhi in T.V.,but I doubt whether Vikraman can create magic once again esp. after Chennai Kadhal turning out to be so outdated.:(

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well as for me, i always feel like he is looking into my eyes and telling a fairy tale (with a moral at the end) and whispering "ain't that so sweet"

it is always "this is how friendship ought to be" and "this is how love ought to be"

I guess it helps if u like the music that is played over again. I would have stood that movie vanathai pola if the bg music was toned down.

Also just that a story is decent does not qualify for it being good. In tamil nadu, most people just don't seem to get it.

And as far as vasanth goes, he has 2 types of romances, "the young and the absurd" and "the mature and dignifed". He is very underestimated usually, but then he can do much better. He is not using his own story telling talent to the fullest.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Srivatsan Sridharan said...


Raman thediya seethai?, I agree some of cheran acted/directed movies are good but feel good..ahhaha

cheran padam paatha Kumuri Kumuri azhuven, winners among that were Autograph and Thavamai :)

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually Vijayakanth is the only reason I do not want to see this movie. Really liked that Vijayakanth once upon a time. But not now.


At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feel good movies good. But Vikraman's feel good is ridiculous. Take Mozhi, feel good, somewhat unbelievable male characters, but still, there are rare possibilities. Vikraman, on the other hand, is aiming to test our rationality. Then again, so do most Tamil films these days:-)

Then again, I agree with the anonymous above. The only reason I would not want to see this movie is Vijaykanth. There is no retirement for actors, but there certainly should be retirement for actors who insist on playing filmi heros till they are 70, at least, in Indian films.

- kajan

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

skanda, yeah I know. the stills look a lot like 'vaanathai pola'. hope the quality of the film is the same :)

arun, LOL :)

ram, not sure I'd call many of vasanth's films feel-good. but u're right about many of the aspects I mentioned applying to his films.
i feel exactly the same on vikraman's comedy. 'poove unakkaaga' had excellent comedy. but i remember 'unnai ninathu' was completely dragged down by the poor comedy :)

komalavalli, lets hope so :)

prin, yeah 'chennai kaadhal' was pretty disappointing. but he was kinda on new ground there. i'm hoping he bounces back since he is more familiar territory in 'mariyaadhai' :)

stranger, yep. the 'rajni fan' factor played a big part in the 3 * rating for 'sivaji' :)

ex, thanx for a good laugh. the last line cracked me up :)

kay, seen it. didn't like it much though :)

vijay, i did talk about those negatives u mention in vikraman's films. and none of the 3 feel-good movies i mentioned in the post were his. so it is quite possible i have outgrown his style of movies (i don't think any of his movies after 'vaanathai' pola got 3 *). this post was just to highlight one of the aspects in a movie that tend to make me rate it higher. and he is the one director who has consistently stuck to providing that aspect :)

skanda, yes vikraman is no perarasu. but i don't think i would go as far as putting him in the same category as manirathnam or shankar either :)

ganesh, lets wait and see :)

yasodha, yes i agree that he is quite heavy-handed when it comes to putting fwd his thots. but it kinda worked for me :)

srivatsan, hmmm i dont know... with its positive, good characters and positive ending, RTS felt like a feel-good movie to me. agree that not all its happenings were positive :)

icycool, i'm sure many feel that way :)

kajan, yes his movies do go over the top in portrayal of the good characters and their behavior. but i think they work for me since there are so few movies that have the same kind of positive vibe throughout the film :)

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous vijay said...

Vijaykanth's last watchable film was probably Chathriyan for me. He should have entered politics 2 decades back in full force so we might have been spared the misery of enduring his films

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous vijay said...

Talking of Vikraman's movies, a major putoff for me in the past has been SA Rajkumar's music. Especially his background music, very notorious in music circles, and was even made fun of in Chennai-28. Its like an audio imposition, you are forced to hear the same crap again and again at regular intervals :-)

At 3:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to have taken Captain and Vikraman quite seriously for a movie watching experience.
Their movies should be watched with a bunch of friends at home.

BB, looking forward to Mariyadai. Can't forget the "Panju vecha Cigarette pudi" and Muruku vikara climax of Vanathe Polla.
*** for different reasons.

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree w/you as far as Vikraman is concerned BB. When he does it well (i.e. Pudhu Vasantham, Poove Unakkaaga) his movies are fun and definitely a mood lifter. When he does it badly however, the movies are barely tolerable. But sometimes its nice to have a movie that is simple, straight-forward, positive and funny.

As far as Vijayakanth is concerned, 1 thing I am grateful for is that I usually go into a Captain movie with the absolute bare minimum of expectations. So if it's bad, I'm really not bothered and if it's tolerable, I'm pleasantly surprised. Either way though, I know the movie will be funny because trying to watch him fight/dance/romance is bound to have me chuckling.

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