Monday, May 11, 2009


Versatility isn't exactly director Vikraman's forte. Right from his first film Pudhu Vasantham, he has specialized in feel-good films that embroiled good-hearted characters in simple problems and in the process, elevated a relationship - be it friendship, romance or love - to a lofty pedestal. The simplicity and the feel-good factor helped us overlook other aspects of his films in the past but that got increasingly difficult as each of his films began to feel more ancient than the one before. After a relatively youthful Chennai Kaadhal, he reteams with his Vaanathai Pola hero Vijayakanth in Mariyaadhai. Hopelessly behind the times and completely silly, it only shows us once again that Vikraman is firmly stuck in the past and is either unwilling or unable to come out of it.

Annamalai(Vijayakanth) is not very rich but is well-respected in his village. His friend's daughter Chandra(Meera Jasmine) comes to stay in his house and with her sweet nature, quickly captures the hearts of Annamalai, his wife(Ambika) and their daughter(Ammu). But Annamalai's son Raja(Vijayakanth) is rude to her and Chandra soon learns why.

Vikraman is definitely caught in a time warp. Directors all around him are exploring new genres, tackling fresh themes and telling their stories with style and flair. But Vikraman continues making movies in which girls are asked to sing at their engagement. And do so without protest! Every aspect of Mariyaadhai feels dated. The story is simplistic with no opportunity for any dramatic tension; the screenplay is predictable and completely lacks suspense; the characters are two-dimensional and display no complexity; the script lacks cleverness; and the production values are more befitting a stage play.

While some of the aforementioned characteristics can be seen in Vikraman's earlier, more successful films too, they were obscured by the way he shaped the characters. Mariyaadhai's closest predecessors in terms of characters and storylines would probably be Vaanathai Pola and Suryavamsam. The older characters in those films were strong characters who carried the movie. That's not the case here. Vijayakanth is largely ineffective and does not come across as a strong and powerful man. Two particular instances, where he simply accepts help without any objections whatsoever, really erode his stature in our eyes. The younger(relatively speaking) Vijayakanth doesn't come off much better as he is taken for a ride rather easily.

Vijayakanth's flashback holds the movie's lone surprise. It is presented in a predictably loud fashion but it nevertheless comes as a surprising development. Not that it leads to anything interesting. As Vijayakanth takes revenge on the person who cheated him and Meera Jasmine turns into a jack of all trades as she becomes a teacher to everyone in his family, one isn't sure which of the two story tracks is sillier.

When everything else in the film is old-fashioned, why should the comedy be any different? Ramesh Khanna tries to evoke laughter through some congenial yet stale jokes as he is tricked by Meera Jasmine, chided by Vijayakanth and gets everything from soap water to cow dung thrown at his face. In these days, when someone getting hurt is being equated with comedy, the lack of vulgarity, crudeness and mean-spiritedness in the comedy is welcome but unfortunately, that doesn't automatically translate to humor. The jokes around Ambika's lack of culinary skills aren't all that fresh either but they lead to more laughs, especially in the sequence where the sweet she makes causes a series of unexpected accidents.

For Vijayakanth, the film is a rather strange choice as he is quite subdued throughout. While this is usually welcome, this is one movie where a couple of angry speeches or punch dialogs would've helped raise the energy level. He doesn't even get a rousing entrance, being content with driving in on a tractor. More surprising, considering the proximity of the release date to the elections, is the lack of political hints in the script, barring a throwaway comment about his photo soon being in every house in TN. He looks really fat though and the horrible wig just makes matters worse. Meera Jasmine matches him kilo for kilo while Meena, with no hint of the charm or sweetness she showed in her earlier days, is stuck in a thankless role. Vijay Anthony simply channels S.A.Rajkumar with songs that are slow but not really melodious. The Inbame... remix is a mess and is one of those remixes that increases our respect for the original version.


At 11:15 PM, Blogger Dot said...

Gabtun is in desperate need of chin-o-suction

At 6:38 AM, Blogger D.E.V said...

Balaji, whatever your review may be, i still like "Mariyadhai" found quite a nice entertainer, typicall vikraman film all the way. i'm sucker for family entertainers and this was enjoyable for me.i thought the senior Vijaykanth was good, quite a restrained acting from vijaykanth, onky thing thaT HE HAS REALLY PUFFED UP, reminds me off how shivaji looked in "muthal mariyadhai"...

At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose 1 star for this movie

At 12:16 PM, Blogger suresh said...

oh my god! Balaji sir why bother. I hate vikraman and S.A.Rajkumar combination from start. Dont give them any stars. lol

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous arun.k said...

Sorry to go off topic, but I thought this was way too cool... it's the latest promotional video for chennai's IPL team:

Just loved it all the way :-)

At 11:14 PM, Anonymous Supritha said...

Totally off topic, Balaji, I haven't seen you discuss this new trend in Tamil Cinema where they kill off the main character/or someone goes insane/ or the movie ends depressingly.

I'm not Tamil, but I understand it very well, and I'm a huge fan. There used to be this golden age of movies where directors like Balachandar could pull off tragedy expertly and have it being meaningful. I'm only in college, and all these movies were before my time, and yet I enjoyed them.

BUT, I'm increasingly turned off by the increasing depressing stories in tamil movies these days. There's no meaning, it's pointless, and seems extremely exploitative. It's almost like emotional blackmail for the viewer. Like saying "look at these unfortunate people. you better like my movie, or you're not good enough"

Veyyil, Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, Subramaniapuram, recent movie from the 'Kana Kaanum' guy, almost every movie that's not masala - I end up knowing someone's going to die before it happens.

My tamil friend simply defends it saying that telugu movies are just fake.
But, there have been a recent trend of new directors in telugu who brought refreshing and happy stories (one about an overweight guy) that are still meaningful. I don't understand why 'good' and 'meaningful' is being identified with 'depressing' and 'death'
It's just not powerful, or stirring anymore.

What are your thoughts?

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

dot, chino-suction. good one :)

skanda, as u know i love family entertainers too but this one was a bit too much for me :)

bhoopathi, yes :)

suresh, i used to like them. so had some hopes but was disappointed :)

supritha, can't think of a more contradictory topic for this post since vikraman takes movies that r the total opposite of the kind u describe :)

but i know what u r talking about. personally, serious stories, when well made, stay with me longer. they can be powerful and have a strong impact. tamil cinema just has so many masala movies that anything serious is welcome. what i don't like are the ones that bring in something for shock value. thats when it feels exploitative. among the movies u mention, i loved 'subramaniapuram' and liked 'veyyil'. i thot they told strong stories quite well. but 'vennila kabadi kuzhu' and 'kalloori' were movies where i did like cos they tried to artificially introduce ill-fitting sentiments :)


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