Sunday, August 16, 2009

Moving Out

As I moved slowly but surely towards the 15 Meg limit in the free Geocities account for bbreviews, I have been deliberating for a while about moving the reviews to a separate website. Yahoo! announcing that they will be closing Geocities in October forced my hand and I decided that it was time to finally make the move. And as long as I was doing that, I figured that I might as well begin to host this blog too at my own site. is now up and running and the new address for the movie reviews website is Further updates to both the blog and movie reviews will happen only in those places.

Neither bbreviews nor this blog started on any special days and so, wanting to start atleast the new site on a day that had some significance, I had hoped to launch the site yesterday, Aug 15 (and announce it with something suitably situational like freedom from geocities, blogger, etc.!) That was not to be and so it is being started on another unremarkable date, Aug 16. Another plan to launch with something big like the Kandhasamy review was also dashed by the decision to postpone the film's release to Aug 21. So it has turned to be a rather low-key launch.

Thanks for visiting and hope to see you over there...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Modhi Vilaiyaadu

Most of director Saran's early hits like Kaadhal Mannan and Amarkkalam were romances while his biggest hit Gemini was a masala film about a rowdy. Not having had a hit since 2004's Attagaasam, he has tried both the themes(romance in Idhaya Thirudan and a rowdy 's life in Vattaaram) he is once again trying his hand at romance with Modhi Vilaiyaadu. His experienced handling keeps the film moving but the weak and implausible plot lets him down.

Rajan Vasudev(Kalabhavan Mani), the head of OPM company, is both ruthless and unpopular as he gobbles up smaller companies and mistreats his own employees with disdain. His son Uday(Vinay) is living it up and enjoying his dad's wealth as he spends time with his housemate Madan(Yuvan) and other friends. L.R.Easwari(Kajal Agarwal), an aspiring singer in a band, inadvertently causes Uday to be in an accident and unable to pay back the damage to his car, she agrees to be his maid. Uday and Easwari develop a liking for each other but Madan too begins to fall for Easwari.

The setting for the romance between Vinay and Kajal is completely contrived and unbelievable but once it is put in motion and we look past the shaky start, it is quite interesting since it is rather unique. Their falling for each other is portrayed naturally without any big emotional leaps or sentimental showdowns and that keeps it lighthearted and cute though the tactics used(being outwardly mean to each other, inciting jealousy) are familiar. Saran's visual touches, like frequently picturizing the lead pair's imaginary scenarios or occasionally showing us the money counter, also do their part in making the proceedings appealing.

Saran's best films had characters with interesting shades of gray grapple with confusing dilemmas. The characters in Modhi Vilaiyaadu are in clear black and white. But with three of those characters on the white side, Saran appears to be setting the pieces in place for a love triangle. But the film catches us by surprise by switching tracks completely. The twist that happens here is standard-issue Saran but is brought in smoothly enough to inject some excitement into the story.

The way Vijay strikes back at Kalabhavan Mani is interesting but handled in a rather simplistic manner. The logistics of his plan are mind-boggling and the lack of believability keeps us from cheering him on wholeheartedly as his plan unfolds. Saran also elects to present Kalabhavan's Mani's predicament in a humorous fashion and so we are unable to take things seriously. Nevertheless, the way Mani gets his payback from the very people he insulted, even if presented in an amateurish fashion, is nice.

Vinay carries himself well and is casual in front of the camera but his voice and accent are terrible distractions. Kajal looks pretty and plays her character with the right attitude so that she is likeable and not irritating. Kalabhavan Mani brings in a humorous touch to his portrayal as always. While that helps in the earlier portions by adding some zing to his acerbic comments, it dilutes the effectiveness of the later portions. Yuvan doesn't make much of an impression while Santhanam is his usual wisecracking self. The songs are good enough to keep us from fast-forwarding them but lack the special something that would've made them stand out. Ottrai Vaarthaiyil... is the pick of the numbers. Hariharan and Leslie, along with Deva, show up onscreen to render the title song.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Golden (Jubilee) Child

The cinema industry is a notoriously unforgiving industry. Whether one is an actor, actress, director or any one of the innumerable people involved in the movie-making process, one is only as good as one's last success. Or maybe the last few successes. We've seen people reach great heights only to crash and burn soon after and the same people who pushed them up don't hesitate to pull them down. Examples are numerous as we've seen so many stars go from being ubiquitous to vanishing into oblivion in a very short span of time.

Longevity in such an industry is achieved by only a few and so surviving for 50 years in the industry is no mean feat. And when one does so at or near the top of the field without bothering about one's image, while constantly experimenting with one's roles, taking huge risks and striving to deliver good cinema, it is truly a phenomenal achievement that deserves huge accolades.

That is why the lack of recognition of Kamalhassan completing 50 years in cinema comes as a surprise. Sure there are the mentions - accompanied by eulogies - in the popular websites and e-zines, random top 10 lists, list of achievements etc. But there are no celebratory gestures from the film industry or the Government. I haven't seen any statements from the other actors; I haven't read about any felicitation functions organized by the Nadigar Sangam; and I haven't heard about the Government doing anything special to mark the occasion.

Then again, Kamal is not someone who needs something like that since his films, from Kalathoor Kannamma to Dasavathaaram, speak for themselves. So today, on the 50th anniversary of his entry into cinema, I'll just hope there are many more years and films left in him and look forward to Unnaippol Oruvan with the same excitement with which I look forward to all his films.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Oscar Winner

The theme for this week in Karthik's school is 'Hollywood'. They kicked it off yesterday with a cute photo-op where Karthik got to be a star and an Oscar winner.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Achamundu Achamundu

Tamil filmmakers in the US seem to think that only thrills sell. So after Meiporul, we now get another thriller Achamundu Achamundu, which is also directed by a first-time director from the US and is fully set in that country. It has a less ambitious story and its director seems more comfortable handling drama than thrills but the far better production values result in a more satisfying film overall.

Senthil(Prasanna) and Malini(Sneha), along with their 10-year-old daughter, have just moved into a new house in New Jersey. While Senthil works at an IT firm, Malini is a housewife and has also enrolled in some computer classes to deal with her boredom. The couple hire a painter Robertson(John Shea) to paint their basement but he has an evil side that directly impacts the couple's life.

Arun paints a nice, plausible picture of the life of a Tamil couple in the US. The quick friendship from a chance encounter in a grocery store, the lament of a friend's parent at a birthday party - vignettes like this ring true and make the film realistic. And on a smaller level, the conversations between Prasanna and Sneha(about her feeling lonely) and the disagreements they have(like over their daughter sleeping in her own room) are over uniquely American issues. There is enough time spent on them, allowing them to become nicely fleshed-out characters rather than being treated as building blocks for the thriller portions.

But the problem is that it is easy to guess from the beginning - from the film's name itself or when we see the name painted in bold, bright red brushstrokes during the opening credits - that this is a thriller. So the relaxed look at the life led by Prasanna and Sneha works only until the film takes a turn into thriller territory, which happens when we learn the truth about Shea. But even after that point, the film doesn't develop the urgency and tension that are requisite for a thriller. It continues to show us the life of Prasanna and Sneha and we get glimpses of the kind of person Shea is but the intersection of the two, which is clearly what the film is moving towards, doesn't happen for a long time.

Shea's motives and acts here are more sinister than terrorizing, kidnap or even murder. So while all the violence does occur offscreen, some of the otherwise ordinary acts, like admiring a photo or playing a harmless game, do take on a different, creepy tone and get under our skin. And some of his overt acts, like the time he spends in his target's bedroom, do get downright disturbing. A wolf in sheep's clothing is always scarier than a wolf in plain sight and with his pleasant, likeable exterior and dark, perverted mind, Shea is exactly that.

The climax, when it does come, is a bit contrived since Shea changes his MO in a rather unbelievable manner. His unguarded behavior is in contrast to his quiet, unobserved acts until then and seems like something brought in to wrap things up easily. It is also too low-key to both justify the long, slow build-up and overlook the contrivance. The proceedings lack the drama associated with the final moments of a thriller but then again, for that very reason, they also seem more realistic.

Prasanna looks the part and turns in a measured, mature performance. Same goes for Sneha though its less of a surprise in her case. The two exhibit a nice, casual chemistry that helps the realism. Shea is convincing as the bad guy with a smile that changes from sincere to creepy as the movie proceeds. There are only a couple of songs and Kannil Dhaagam... is instantly appealing.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Gaining publicity for being Kamal's daughter Shruti's debut more than anything else, Luck is another in the line of Hindi movies(like Dus, Dhoom, etc.) that try to cover up their silly plot with slick filmmaking. Sanjay Dutt plays a man who organizes an annual human betting game where winning means staying alive at the end and one's luck decides if one is a winner. He gets together people proven to be inordinately lucky and this year, its Imran Khan(who needs the money to get an illegal visa to go to the US), Shruti Hassan, Mithun Chakraborthy(an armyman who needs the money for his wife's operation), Ravi Kissen(a serial killer who is now free because the rope broke when he being hanged!), Chitrashi Rawat(a camel racer in Pakistan) and a bunch of anonymous foreigners. After the obligatory character exposition showing what led the protagonists to this game, the movie proceeds to the contests. These are the film's highpoints. There is not much suspense about who will still be living at the end but the combination of quick editing and the high-energy background score make the sequences interesting. But the movie inexplicably abandons this concept of a 'competition based on luck' and pits Imran, Mithun and Shruti against the rest of the gang in the ridiculous climax. With random gunfire, exploding trucks and people outrunning huge fireballs, it is both silly and pointless. The film then tops it off with a 'medical miracle' which probably came out of the same medical dictionary used by Kamal as reference for the cancer-curing bullet in Dasaavathaaram! Imran struggles as action hero and looks a lot less natural compared to his performance in JNYJN. Shruti looks great but has quite a long way to go to match her dad even in his first few movies.

Luck starts off in an interesting fashion but has us cursing our luck by the time it ends.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Aayirathil Oruvan Audio

Composer's Mix... is totally groovy with both the Tamil and English lines sung well and flowing perfectly with the song's tune. The Oh Eesaa... parts are particularly exhilarating with Karthik singing them with the right amount of intensity, invoking an image of people swaying and singing the lines with a kind of religious fervor. Maalai Neram... is a simple, no-frills song with low, unobtrusive guitar riffs. Andrea's voice sounds a little too deep and lacks the silkenness the song deserves but she is able to carry off the higher pitches decently. Dhanush sounds surprisingly good in the slow but catchy Un Mela Aasadhaan.... This is the tune Yuvan composed before splitting with Selvaraghavan and then used as Adadaa Vaa... in Sarvam but the different orchestration and lyrics hide the fact well enough. The lyrics, with words like Raasa/Rosa and Paappa/Thaappa, sound a bit old-fashioned but work well with the tune. Thaai Thindra Manne... is all Vairamuthu and Vijay Yesudas. While the former's lyrics brilliantly bring out the decline of a kingdom, the latter sings it with the requisite anguish. Among the two versions of the song, The Cholan Ecstacy mixes it with some upbeat Telugu parts while the Classical version sticks to pathos throughout. Pemmaane... is another pathos number, this time about people driven out of their homeland, sung with intensity by Bombay Jayasree. Indha Paadhai... is a slow but addictive number that grows on us. The lines(like Azhuvadhum Sirippadhum Un Velai; Nadappavai Nadakkattum Avan Leelai) are simple but kinda profound and G.V.Prakash sings them in a casual, carefree way that fits the tone perfectly. The King Arrives... and The Celebration of Life... are both instrumental pieces. The former starts slow but soon gets the regal touches the title implies while the latter has some catchy bits and reminds us of Billa's theme music at one point.

After some good-but-not-great albums like Veyyil and Aanandha Thaandavam, G.V.Prakash gets his first really high-profile project with Selvaraghavan's Aayirathil Oruvan. He has risen to the occasion admirably, showing maturity beyond his years. Eclectic and exciting, it definitively catapults him from the level of 'promising music directors' to the league of 'music directors who have delivered on their promise'.

Monday, August 03, 2009

4 New Reviews

Reviews for Kulir 100 Degree, Gnaabagangal, Indhira Vizha and Vaamanan are now online @ bbreviews.