Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Halftime 2009

If we were to pick one word to define Tamil cinema in the 1st half of 2009, it would have to be 'variety'. That's a word we've long yearned to see applied to Tamil cinema and one that our cinema was in dire need of. A quick glance at the roster of films released so far this year illustrates that we've been lucky to get films in genres rarely tackled before. We've had a horror film(Yaavarum Nalam), children's films about children(Pasanga, Pattaalam), a sports film(VeNNilA Kabaddi Kuzhu), a psychological thriller(MeiporuL) and a character-based drama(TN-07-AL-4777). I don't think we've seen films spanning so many genres usually alien to Tamil cinema in such a short span of time for a while now. There was also the very unique Naan KadavuL but then again, Bala's movies have always been in a genre of their own!.

The more heartening aspect about the abundance of variety is that these films were not throwaway, half-hearted efforts where the directors were simply testing the waters. Films like Yaavarum Nalam, VeNNilA Kabaddi Kuzhu and Pasanga were made by directors who knew what they were getting into and were confident about their work. And it showed. And though MeiporuL and TN-07-AL-4777 were not quite in the same league, they were impressive for the fact that the directors displayed the same confidence in their subject and did not resort to compromises in the name of comedy tracks or unnecessary fights under the pretext of making the films more acceptable.

Not all films waded through such uncharted territory though and there were a few, again in different genres, that took us back atleast a couple of decades. Vikraman's Mariyaadhai was hopelessly behind the times and just felt silly while Sarathkumar's 1977, inspite of the ambitious canvas, was more amateurish than films made in the year referred to in the title. Maayaandi Kudumbathaar told an age-old story of enmity between two families while ManjaL Veyyil proved that a romance also could be old-fashioned, reminding us of the tearjerkers of the 80s with its obvious twist, cartoonish villain and sentiment-laden climax.

Our old friend, the masala film, was still alive and kicking at the end of June though. While Villu's failure dealt an early blow to the genre, Padikkaadhavan's decent showing made up for it somewhat. But it was Ayan that really resurrected it. Serving up its masala with smarts and style, it fixed the bad name the genre had accumulated lately. Ofcourse, films like PerumAL, Thee and Rajadhi Raja were there to show why the genre earned its bad name in the first place. Newtonin Moondraam Vidhi was a familiar revenge saga but was surprisingly engaging though it was headlined by S.J.Suryah.

Romance has had a rather weak year so far and has taken a backseat to other aspects even in supposedly romantic movies. While Sarvam, which brought fate into the mix, emphasized style over substance, Guru En Aalu, a romantic comedy, gave priority to silly comedy over romance. Kunguma Poovum Konjum Puraavum tried to elevate a regular romance with realism while Aanandha Thaandavam, with its weak characterization, almost made one glad Sujatha wasn't around to see what his acclaimed novel had been turned into.

Though it were the smaller, unheralded movies that triumphed in the first half, its obviously the big-budget, star- and/or director-driven movies - Aayirathil Oruvan, Kandhasamy, Unnaippol Oruvan, Vettaikkaaran, Adhavan - that once again loom large as we look ahead to the rest of the year. But whether the movies that come out are big or small, lets hope, as always, that the second half is even better than the first...


At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a relief! A post. I get nervous if I don't see something for this long:-(

Coming to the year, only saw Yavarum(DVD) and Pasanga. Really liked the latter. I hope Sasikumar is able to bring the nativity of suburban/rural India, and still make commerically viable films. Minus the violence. Personally, it is a relief to see such films, after watching so many films catered to an minimal audience. Not that Vikraman's rubbish is exceptable:-)

I am yet to watch Ayan. Not tempted too, even with the whole euphoria around it. I don't see most of these big budgets surviving. Masala films packaged well will always have an audience. But even big stars, can't make films run without 'that something', which appealed to an audience at each particular era.


At 12:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correcting my grammar:
'catered to a minimal audience'
'vikraman's rubbish is acceptable'
Sure there are few more.

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Prakash said...

kajan, I'm the first guy to walk out theaters if I don't like a movie. But you should check out Ayan in the theater if possible. Cinematography and 1 of the action sequences is much better on the big screen.

At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention 'Ennai Theriyuma' film.
Manoj Manchu (telugu character actor Mohan Babu's son) first film in Tamil. He's currently one of the hearthrobs in telugu film industry.

At 8:56 AM, Blogger giri subramanian said...

I watched Nadodigal over the weekend and it was good too.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nadodigal was ok until the climax, and zzz afterwards. i saw it because i thought it was dir by sasikumar, but it's not and it's not well-paced.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger VThinkTank said...

I am not holding my breath for Kanthasamy and Vettaikaran especially it is going to be been there seen there and done that, though i do want them to succeed and be good.

I guess UP, Adhavan and AO might make the grade due Kamal, KSR and Selvaraghavan.

Let us wait and see

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous ram said...

nice recap, bb, of the first half of 2009...a Sun TV reviewer style recap: "idaivelai varai 2009 niraivaaga ulladhu...2009-ilum 1977 madhiriyaana padangall nammai 30 varudam pin thalla muyandraalum, sasi, bala poandra iyakunargall nambikai tharugiraargall...irandaam paadhiyil kamal, suriya, kaarthi, paarthi poandravargall rasigarin manadhai thoondil poattu izhupaargalla? illai rasigarin mandaiyil thundai poaduvaargalaa? poruthirundhu paarpom...mothathil, 2009 mudhal aaru maadham, aarudhal maadham!"

At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking forward to Achamundu Achamundu... sounds promising!

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Arun Annamalai said...

Balaji, you missed "kadhal na summa illa" movie, the actor's wiki says it is a successful movie and was remake of a hit telugu movie.

At 3:39 AM, Anonymous Namitha said...

Yes, good review. I also think Vamanan this Friday, should also be anticipated.

But I think that KPKP was very bad and Guru En Aalu actually wasn't crude.

Have you caught Muthirai? (It's good, but the casting director had a nightmare - as per 'Thiruttu Payale')


At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

balaji, when are you gonna review siva mansula sakthi?

At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Bharath said...


Geocities is going to close on Oct 26, 2009 and Yahoo is trying to direct all Geocities to the Yahoo Web Hosting paid site.

Just wanted to let you know so you can move all the content from your Movie Reviews site to someplace and still make it available to all of us fans. I have been following your site for years now and it would be such a shame to lose all that great content.

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

kajan, u definitely 2 of the better films of the year to see. and for sasikumar, he surely seems to be the man with the midas touch right now :)

prakash, i agree. thats a movie I definitely don't regret seeing on the big screen :)

komala, yes, thats one of the films I missed. wasn't too impressed with it though :)

giri, haven't seen it yet. really looking fwd to it though :)

anon, its directed by samudrakani, right? :)

vthinktank, among the two, I guess i'm looking fwd to 'kandhasamy' more. but AO and UP are definitely the top 2 :)

ram, nice! the aaru/aarudhal was a clever play on words :)

anu, yes, been hearing a lot of good things about it :)

arun, oh yes, that was one of the better ones too :)

namitha, yes, saw 'muthirai' a few days ago. good production values but movie didn't do much for me :)

anon, saw it a while back but missed reviewing it. so no review unless i happen to see it again :)

bharath, yeah I know! just need to find a good hosting site :)

At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nadodigal is very good....the response in the theatre was awesome...constant clapping for most part of the film...


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