Jul 20 2017

Maragadha Naanayam

Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Recent horror comedies in Tamil cinema have tended to look alike with stock elements like a haunted mansion, ghostly apparitions making sudden appearances and a group of comedians evoking laughs by being frightened by the scary images. Maragadha Naanayam,  which mostly revolves around the search for the titular item, does things a bit differently and delivers some good laughs because of that.

Though termed a coin, the film’s maragadha naanayam looks more like a rather large pendant with a large green emerald encased in a gold circle. Supposedly guarded by the spirit of the king who owned it and was eventually buried with it, it has killed everyone who has laid hands on it. So no one is willing to take on the job of stealing it until Senguttuvan(Aadhi), who works for Ramadoss(Ramdoss) and is unaware of the coin’s history, agrees to steal it.

Senguttuvan starts off with some petty smuggling jobs which indicate the film’s comic tone. The film’s zaniness(a gangster speaks to the people he is threatening via radio) and some word plays that would make ‘Crazy’ Mohan proud(like a comment about the name John) keep the laughs coming in spurts. Senguttuvan gets three spirits to help him and the way they are employed is clever and the main driver for the comedy. The laughs peak in the scene where a character literally loses his head, which is a riot.

Anandraj is particularly good as a gangster Twinkle Ranganathan. He pulls off the difficult job of playing a comic villain without hamming it up and his interactions with his dumb but well-dressed henchmen are frequently funny. M.S.Baskar also makes us chuckle with his deadpan delivery during an interrogation scene. At the same time, the reaction shots could’ve been orchestrated better. The reactions from the actors in many scenes, like a torture scene involving a drill or another one where a couple of the goons commandeer a vehicle with no driver, are not effective and lessen the impact of the scenes, leading to muted laughs.

Senguttuvan is in love with Chanakya(Nikki Galrani), who he just sees at the bus stop from across the road. The way this romance is developed is one of the film’s pleasant surprises. While the track seems familiar enough initially, it packs a couple of good surprises with respect to Chanakya. Senguttuvan and Chanakya do end up spending a lot of time together but it is not in the way we expect. The film appears to take the easy route with a cheat at the end but it is only a momentary occurrence and the film admirably sticks to its guns with respect to the story.

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Jul 18 2017


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Jayam Ravi seems to be at the forefront of the movement to make Tamil cinema tackle hitherto unexplored genres. His Miruthan was Tamil cinema’s first zombie movie and his upcoming Tik Tik Tik is apparently set in space. His Vanamagan brings Tarzan to Tamil cinema as he plays a tribal who calls the forest his home, in the Andaman island. But with director Vijay behind the camera, the film ends up being a bland, uneasy mixture of George of the Jungle and our own, recent Kadamban.

Kavya(Sayyeshaa, a fantastic dancer as she shows in the Damn Damn… song sequence) is a spoilt rich orphan who has been raised by her dad’s friend(Prakashraj). When her trip to Bora Bora gets cancelled, she has to settle for a trip to Andaman. When driving, she ends up hitting a tribal(Jayam Ravi) who we know is called Jara and is on the run from the police. As Kavya brings the tribal – now named K. Vaasi – to Chennai,  Vaasi, who has had no contact with humans other than his tribe members and has been shielded completely from the outside world is suddenly thrown into the midst of humans.

We get the feeling that this fish-out-of-water scenario should’ve led to a lot more laughs. After all, Vaasi has had no exposure to any of the amenities or technology that we are so used to and pretty much everything around him is new and confusing. But we get just a few glimpses of Vaasi reacting to the new world around him and these aren’t very funny. I laughed once when Thambi Ramiah, who plays Kavya’s manager/chef, tries to discipline Vaasi and has the tables turned on him but that’s about it.

The problem is that director Vijay has loftier ambitions. He wants to use Vaasi’s situation to show his life and emotions as pure and illustrate the hollowness of Kavya’s materialistic life. So, many of Vaasi’s experiences make him remember the bad experience he had with humans who entered the forests to see the tribals. And Kavya does some dumb things(she knows that most concepts of her world are alien to Vaasi and yet pays him a salary and then leaves him alone while she goes to play badminton) just so that Vaasi’s innocence can be shown(he burns the money for warmth in the air-conditioned office).

After the action shifts back to the Andaman, the film’s story resembles that of Kadamban as the tribals are forced to go up against a greedy construction company that is trying to take over their lands forcibly. But with the preceding portions being concerned with Vaasi adjusting to the real world rather than life of the tribals, their problems don’t have as much of an impact here as they did in Kadamban. The solution is also more hero-centric as Vaasi indulges in heroics alone rather than the tribals working together to defeat the bad guys. But with Vaasi forced to stay quiet, Kavya gets to spout a nice monologue, which is more than what our heroines usually get to do in the climax.

3 responses so far

Jul 12 2017

Bharathanatyam Arangetram

Published by under Family


Once again, the blog had a long break because of an India trip. Trips to India didn’t lead to a break in blog posts earlier. If anything, the blog used to temporarily become more relevant as I caught up on the latest movies in Chennai theaters and wrote the reviews. But the trips these days have become quite different. This trip was a particularly busy one with events, both good and bad, making it a roller-coaster of a trip emotionally.


The highlight of the trip was my daughter’s Bharathanatyam arangetram, which we held in Chennai. While the remote planning and coordination made things tough in the months leading up to the arangetram and led to occasional misgivings about the decision to hold the event in Chennai, those doubts evaporated both during and after the event.


The arangetram was held in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore. The auditorium was excellent and the staff was very helpful for everything like lighting and decorations. The chief guest was famed dancer Chitra Visweswaran. As I told my daughter, I have barely any knowledge of Bharathanatyam but even I know about Chitra Visweswaran and that just goes to show how famous she is. The guest of honor was Parvathi Ravi Ghantasala. Kavya was blessed to be able to perform her arangetram in front of such luminaries and receive their feedback and blessings.


The audience was definitely the biggest reason for my happiness at conducting the event in Chennai. If held in the US, the seats would have been mostly filled by the parents of other kids from the dance school, people I barely knew. And most of them would’ve been there because of Kavya’s association with the dance school rather than because they personally knew her(or us). But the venue being Chennai meant that the audience was composed almost entirely of family and friends. So I personally knew most of them. These were all people who genuinely cared for Kavya, wished her well and wanted to see her succeed. Most of them being Chennai residents who enjoyed the arts, they also liked Bharathanatyam and really enjoyed the performance. So the comments and wishes heaped upon Kavya during and after the performance felt sincere and real. And Kavya felt it too. She was initially not too happy about doing the arangetram in Chennai since her friends wouldn’t be able to attend and she didn’t know many people outside the close circle of relatives. But she was thrilled about the venue and the chief guests and the heartfelt outpouring of wishes after she finished and is now completely happy that the event was held in Chennai.


She did a fabulous job on stage. She was incredibly nervous in the green room and even in a little bit of pain because of some parts of the costume. But none of it showed when she was dancing. I haven’t seen her dance the last few months as she has been practicing for the arangetram and so I saw a huge improvement in her dancing. Her expressions were terrific and she looked very professional as she performed with a lot of grace. The pieces had been selected with care to showcase her grace and expressions and she aced all of them. My favorites were Angayarkanni Varnam, which showcased all nine emotions of Goddess Meenakshi, and Thottu Thottu Pesa Varaan, a song about Lord Krishna’s playfulness, but all the pieces were beautiful and my heart swelled with pride as I watched her dance.


There was a huge sense of relief as the curtains came down – both literally and figuratively – after the Thillana. As Kavya finally relaxed and accepted all the wishes showered upon her, it was certainly one of my proudest moments as a parent…

13 responses so far

Jun 14 2017


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Yeidhavan follows the Bairavaa route in exposing the seedier side of our education system. But instead of a superstar like Vijay, its Kalaiarasan who has to fight the system. This works well initially since the lack of image-enhancing songs and fights allow the network and the way the system works to be shown better. But Kalaiarasan does turn heroic later on and that makes the film feel more run-of-the-mill.

Krishna(Kalaiarasan) attempts to enroll his sister in a medical college and encounters non-approved colleges, huge capitation fees and shady agents who can procure seats for the right money. Krishna’s family feels real and so his desperation and struggle to collect the needed money for his sister are understandable. The focus continues to be on the system as Government approval is denied for the college that he eventually enrolls his sister in. So the students begin protesting while Krishna finds that he has no way of getting the money back.

A separate track sees a rowdy Dharma rob a rich man Gaurav and the latter search for Dharma to get his revenge. The way the two tracks dovetail is cleverly done. Gaurav’s identity and link to Krishna, the fact that what Krishna thought was a planned murder was simply an accident and Dharma’s connection to Krishna are all small surprises that build up to a nice route for the film’s story to take. Krishna employs the old adage “the enemy of an enemy is a friend” but we know that this new friend is also an enemy and that piques our interest about what his plan is going to be.

The film gives Krishna an interesting job – he runs a company that makes machines that count notes. This is not just a gimmick either since the profession comes in handy at a few places. Janani(Satna Titus), his lover, doesn’t fare as well. She is a cop and isn’t afraid to use her job to take Krishna aside for some alone time. She also helps him out a few times but is given less to do as the story proceeds and  is barely seen after Krishna puts his plan into action.

Things become a tad cinematic as Krishna executes his plan since the people he goes up against are real powerful and he barely has any resources. But some well-constructed scenes(like the one where some goons try to kill a college student) and short bursts of thrills(as when Dharma goes to Gaurav’s office) keep things moving. Some double crosses make things interesting towards the end but also make things more cinematic as Krishna turns into a regular hero who can win a fight against anybody.

3 responses so far

Jun 12 2017

Saravanan Irukka Bayamaen

Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Director Ezhil started off working with stars like Vijay and Ajith but had a long break in his career after 2007’s Deepavali. He returned in 2012 with Manam Kothi Paravai and has since found success on a smaller scale with rural comedies headlined by actors with much less star wattage. I was not a fan of Manam Kothi Paravai or his next couple of movies but liked his last film Velainu Vandhutta Vellaikkaaran which had some very funny moments. But with his latest film Saravanan Irukka Bayamaen he again takes several steps backward.

After Saravanan(Udhayanidhi Stalin), his uncle Kalyanam(Soori) and a politician Veerasingam(Mansoor Ali Khan) get their photographs taken by a drunkard photographer for different reasons, the photographer has three similar covers on his table with warnings about not getting them mixed up. We know right then that he is going to get the photographs mixed up and that’s exactly how it plays out . That’s just the start of the story but that is how painfully obvious the comedy in Saravanan Irukka Bayamaen is throughout.

After the mix-up, Saravanan ends up as the local head of a national political party while Kalyanam, who is forced to run away to Dubai and Veerasingam, who gets into trouble with his wife’s family, end up with grudges against Saravanan. Thenmozhi(Regina Cassandra), who moved away when she was younger, also returns and is soon added to the list of people who want revenge against Saravanan. But the way she goes about doing it, like agreeing to wed Veerasingam’s son(Chaams), an obvious idiot, doesn’t show her in a good light.

Ezhil’s policy in the film is to add characters for all comedians he can round up and make the story so complicated that we stop trying to make sense of it. But without a funny script, there’s not much all these comedians can do and actors like Yogi Babu, Chaams, Madhan Bob and Manobala are left floundering with barely a few scenes in which to make an impact.  And when the story doesn’t allow for any more characters, we get sequences – like an anthakshari at a panchayat – that feature even more comedians(like Robot Shankar) but are still unfunny and go on forever.

The only surprise in the film is the sudden turn into the supernatural as a ghostly hand snakes out of a well grabs a flower Saravanan places on the wall. Thankfully this does not turn the film into another horror-comedy. This ghost(the flashback featuring Srushti Dange is really short and abrupt) is a friendly one and out to help Saravanan. But the ways in which it helps him are simplistic and unimaginative, leading to easy solutions to some potentially interesting problems(like stopping Thenmozhi’s marriage).

5 responses so far

Jun 07 2017


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema

Arulnithi, Tanya in Brindavanam Movie Stills

Director Radhamohan is the Vikraman of this generation, steadfastly sticking to simple, feel-good movies that place emphasis on subtle emotions and comedy over masala and action. Brindavanam, his latest film, isn’t any different.

Jyothika played a speech and hearing impaired character in Mozhi, Radhamohan’s best film so far. In Brindavanam, its the hero Kannan(Arulnidhi) who is  speech and hearing impaired (as is typical whenever a deaf-mute is involved, there are a few jokes arising from people misinterpreting Kannan’s gestures as he communicates with them). Kannan is an orphan and since this is a Radhamohan film, it goes without saying that he is well-liked by people around him. Sandhya(Tanya Ravichandran), who runs a grocery store, likes him but he rebuffs her advances.

A big fan of actor Vivek, its a dream come true for Kannan when he runs into the actor himself when helping him when his vehicle is stuck by the roadside.Vivek, playing himself, shows only glimpses of the form he was in when he was at the top. The script doesn’t help him much since there are not a lot of jokes that can be extracted from him trying to keep his identity secret in public.  So most of the laughs come from nostalgia as he refers to his tracks from older movies. Cell Murugan plays a production assistant looking for Vivek to complete a film shooting. His encounters with Vivek aren’t that funny either but Vivek’s different accents lead to some chuckles.

The film moves along rather aimlessly with no real conflicts and finally shows signs of life as Sandhya becomes more serious about being in love with Kannan(her character is written well and her conversations with her parents sound practical). The story momentarily wakes up thanks to a nice twist. While it initially seems forced and cinematic, the backstory leading up to it manages to be surprisingly convincing. But once the secret is out, the film goes back to doing what it did before, except that the roles are reversed as Sandhya rejects Kannan this time around.

6 responses so far

May 23 2017

Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion

Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Wild imagination and gripping storytelling combined with a huge canvas, terrific VFX and stunning visuals made Baahubali – The Beginning  an exhilarating experience. After ending the film as a cliffhanger and making us wait for 1 1/2 years to know the answer, director Rajamouli is back with Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion. A solid story packed with drama and intrigue and grand set pieces and action sequences make the film one of the few sequels that does end up being both bigger and better than the original.

The film starts off where the first one ended with Amarendra Baahubali(Prabhas) ready to become king of Magizhmathi. Its template matches that of the first part as romance and comedy dominate the proceedings initially(after a creative opening credits sequence that highlights some key scenes from the Baahubali). As Baahubali and Kattappa(Sathyaraj) interact with the people of Magizhmathi, he falls for a princess Devasena(Anushka) and accompanies her to her kingdom Kuntala. The comedy is pedestrian as Baahubali , hiding his real identity, clowns around with Devasena’s uncle(Subbaraju). But the romance is more substantial with Devasena coming across as a strong woman who can hold her own in a fight. And there is no item number either.

The film takes off as an attack on the kingdom forces Baahubali to reveal his real identity. The subsequent battle is exciting but its best part is not the scene with where Baahubali rides two bulls with flaming horns or the one where he breaks down a dam to drive the enemy away. A more intimate archery sequence, where he and Devasena fight off hordes of advancing soldiers,  is staged in a way that it is sheer visual poetry.

While Baahubali and Palvaalthevan(Rana Daggubati) are the real enemies, the film cleverly never pits them against each other in the flashback. Instead, the drama arises from Baahubali going against his mother Sivagami(Ramya Krishnan). Considering that the first half went to great lengths to showcase Sivagami as fair and a devoted mother to Baahubali, the clash between them is dramatic and every argument between them drips with emotion. Both Devasena and Kattappa are stuck in the middle though their loyalties lie on opposite sides. And that eventually leads to the answer to the cliffhanger question from the first part – Why Kattappa killed Baahubali?.

Aside from providing the answer, that sequence is an example of the fact that Rajamouli also knows when to slow things down and focus on the drama. The sequence doesn’t have the showiness or energy that punctuates the rest of the film and is somber as befits the proceedings.

Its action all the way once the flashback ends. The battle sequence looks grander though strategy takes a backseat. The final clash between Mahendra Baahubali and Palvaalthevan is visceral and intense enough to justify the emotions leading up to it. The falls and tumbles they go through look real and Palvaalthevan’s crumbling statue provides a nice setting and backdrop for the battle.

As in Baahubali, Rajamouli presents the film as a string of high points with the plateaus between them serving to set in place, the emotions and drama needed to make those high points work. And because those set ups are so effective, the high points don’t have to be manufactured artificially with slo-mo shots and punch dialogs glorifying the hero. Whether its Baahubali unmasking his real identity to the royals in Kuntala, Sivagami proclaiming the baby Mahendra Baahubali to be next king, Baahubali punishing the guard who dared molest the women or Devasena stepping on Palvaalthevan’s statue’s head to continue her uninterrupted walk, the scenes serve as mini-climaxes to the gradual build up of drama.

More than anything else, the film is a testimony to Rajamouli’s ambition, vision and imagination. The VFX, the set design and cinematography work together to realize this vision. Everything about the film from the story and characterization to the detailing in the grand palace interiors to the vastness of the battles is larger-than-life (this can be seen even in the song sequences, like the way a boat goes airborne). Its this grandeur that lets us overlook some of the moments where things become a bit too over-the-top(the way Mahendra Baahubali and his men enter Palvaalthevan’s castle is the worst instance).

Baahubali-2 completes the story and is bigger and better than the first part. But putting that comparison aside, the two films together make up one of the greatest cinematic achievements in modern Indian cinema.

20 responses so far

May 17 2017

Pa Paandi

Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


It looks like Dhanush is fast becoming the T.Rajender of this generation! After trying his hand – and being very successful – at acting, singing, penning lyrics and producing films, he has now turned director with Pa Paandi. It is a simple, feel-good film about a unique protagonist and like everything else Dhanush does, it works because it seems straight from the heart.

The aforementioned protagonist is ‘Power’ Paandi(Rajkiran), who was a famous, well-respected stunt master in films and having retired, now lives with his son Raghavan(Prasanna), daughter-in-law Prema(Chaya Singh) and their 2 children. The scenario is ripe for TV serial-like melodrama with a retired, old-fashioned, widowed father trying to cope with the fast-paced lives the rest of his family leads. And the first conflict, with Paandi switching on the TV and the loud volume waking up the family, points to exactly that kind of melodrama. But thankfully that doesn’t continue. There are no dramatic scenes of ill-treatment or fights and the issues(Paandi being a social do-gooder leading to Raghavan having to deal with the consequences) and arguments, when they happen are such that we can’t really take sides.

The ex-stunt master part makes Paandi an interesting protagonist. It makes the film a masala film as it leads to comedy(as he hunts for new jobs), sentiments(the scenes with his grandkids and a lovely scene where visits a shooting spot and relives the glory of his past) and fights. These are all done with moderation and work well. Rajkiran’s soft-spoken, genial performance works perfectly and Sean Roldan’s fantastic soundtrack provides great support with songs like Vaanam…,  Soorakaathu… and Veesum Kaathodadhaan…. The bits of overt, loud comedy(Gautham Menon has a cameo in one such bit) don’t work as well but they aren’t long either.

Paandi’s loneliness and general boredom are built up through small moments to nicely to lead up to him setting out on his road trip. But it soon turns into a trip down memory lane as he reminisces about his short-lived love affair. Dhanush plays the younger Paandi and while his romance with Poonthendral(Madonna Sebastian) isn’t anything special, it is short and sweet and sets the stage for what is to follow.

Once Poonthendral(Revathi) reenters the picture, the film is an absolute delight. Revathi reminds us once again what a fantastic actress she is. From her tentative “hi” and joke about Paandi’s salt-and-pepper hair, the conversations and interactions between them are completely natural(Sean Roldan again shines with Venpani Malare…). The couple’s age and maturity makes even cliched Tamil cinema scenes, like the one where the hero shows up drunk at the heroine’s doorstep, refreshingly new and proceed very differently. The segment makes a nice point about seeking companionship in one’s old age in a matter-of-fact manner(Vijay TV’s DD shows up here) and wraps things up on a perfect note.

16 responses so far

May 10 2017

Vivegam Teaser

Published by under Preview,Tamil Cinema

Director Siva’s films so far(Siruthai, Veeram and Vedhalam) have all been mass masala films. While his success rate tells us that he has learned the art of making a hero-centric masala film, he didn’t seem like the kind of director who would be suited to directing an action thriller. His films were loud, didn’t possess the style and sheen that go into making a good thriller and that first scene in Vedhalam, which was set abroad, was very amateurish. So I didn’t have much confidence when news came out that Vivegam, his third film with Ajith, would be an international thriller with Ajith playing an interpol agent.

But the teaser released today came as a pleasant surprise. The focus is entirely on Ajith with not even a glimpse of the heroine(Kajal Agarwal) or the villain(Vivek Oberoi) but it has been cut nicely and looks sleek and stylish(the shots of Ajith training in the wilderness look very cool). I’m certainly looking forward to the film more now.

20 responses so far

May 09 2017

8 Thottaakkal

Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


The title refers to the 8 bullets in the gun that is stolen from Sathya(Vettri), an inspector. Sathya, who spent his younger years in a juvenile school after being convicted for a crime he did not commit, is an interesting character who stands apart from the cop characters we’ve seen in Tamil cinema over the years. He is not corrupt but neither is he a supercop out to quell injustice. He is quiet and non-controversial but also has a good heart. So he seeks quiet solutions to issues and is unpopular in his own police station.

After a short journey, the gun ends up in the hands of Moorthy(M.S.Bhaskar) who uses it to commit a crime but the crime has some unexpected repercussions. Moorthy again is not your average criminal. As he goes about his life after the crime, we see that he has a family and was driven to the desperate move because of the problems he is facing. There is subtlety in depicting his situation and Bhaskar nails it with a fantastic performance. Considering that he is such an average Joe, the contradiction comes from the fact that his act was not a spur of the moment crime but was well researched and planned.

The stories of these two characters move in parallel as Sathya tries to retrieve the gun and save his career while Moorthy tries to keep things contained even as they spiral out of control. Their lives are closely linked and they both are forced to act out of character at times. There is a sense of unpredictability to both their tracks that keeps us consistently engrossed in the film. While its not a big surprise that their paths intersect, their interactions are lovely and the scenes are filled with equal parts drama and suspense.

The film is filled with interesting characters who impact the lives of Sathya and Moorthy. Even if some of them appear only for a short time, they play important parts in the story. There are small stories woven around these characters too and the connections these stories establish and the effect they have on the main story are cleverly written. The only misstep is the romance between Sathya and journalist Meera(Aparna Balamurali) which hardly has an effect on the story and worse, leads to some badly picturized songs.

The climax is set up in interesting fashion with a key aspect of the situation mirroring something that happened earlier(and set in motion most of the things that followed). But the actions of the characters aren’t logical and so while there is some shock value, the denouement isn’t fully satisfactory. The subsequent twist about what actually happened isn’t that surprising either.

5 responses so far

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