Sep 14 2016


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Tamil cinema has given us a few different subjects recently but Pichaikaaran still manages to stand out with a rather unique story. Arul(Vijay Anthony), who has returned home after finishing his MBA abroad, has taken over the mills that were being run by his mother. When his mother is injured in a freak accident, a godman asks Arul to spend 48 days as a beggar if he wants to save his mom. Deciding to give it a shot, he ends up being saddled with a very unique profession for a Tamil cinema hero and the film employs it to mix sentiments, comedy, romance and action quite well.

Pichaikkaaran is no Naan Kadavul. Though there are a few shots that illustrate the beggars’ lives and the insults they suffer, things are mostly kept light-hearted as they own cell phones, make substantial income that they get to keep(there are no pimps in sight), have closets full of clothes in their makeshift living quarters, crash weddings and pass snarky comments about the passers-by. The tone is the same as Arul tentatively starts begging and gets a crash course on doing it effectively. The film treats it like a fish-out-of-water scenario and gets some small laughs as the rich Arul tries to get down and dirty and the other beggars help him fit in.

The mother sentiment looms large over Pichaikkaaran as Arul sacrifices his rich lifestyle to try and save his mother. But since the sentiment is inherent in his actions and not in-your-face(like it used to be in many P.Vasu films for instance), it is more effective without seeming melodramatic. The film uses the sentiment well late in the film when Arul is faced with a tough choice with respect to saving two lives. The suspense is built up well and the choice he makes does come as a surprise though the film takes the easy way out and doesn’t force him to go through with it.

Its not easy making a romance between a beggar and an entrepreneur – Mahi, played well by Satna Titus, runs her own pizza place with her friends – believable but the film makes it work. The meet-cute is silly(she is going after a fly and instead slaps his face as he enters the restaurant) but is developed with some solid scenes(the one where he helps her when she is insulted by an Audi driver is nicely done). There are some nice moments and sharp dialogs between them both early on(like the selfie scene) and later after she stumbles upon his secret.

The romance, comedy and sentiments seem integral to the film but the action portions seem unnecessary and present simply to feed Vijay Anthony’s desire to be seen as a mass hero. They don’t even arise out of the bad guy’s acts(this is Arul’s uncle, who has his eye on his wealth and inadvertently causes the aforementioned conflict). The rowdies exist simply to be beaten up by Arul in a couple of fight sequences. There is also a subplot about illegal pharmaceutical testing, that seems like it belongs in a different film.


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Sep 11 2016


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Its pretty obvious that Vikram likes playing dress-up. That has become his calling card as he has gone through a lot to change his appearance and mannerisms to play several completely different characters in movies like PithamaganAnniyan and I. So it is a little surprising that he has never played a double role so far in his career. He finally gets a chance to do that, playing both hero and villain in his latest film Irumugan.

The villain he plays is Love, a chemist who has manufactured a drug that makes superhumans out of ordinary people by simulating fear in their brains and accelerating the generation of adrenaline. His face looks botoxed – mainly because of those high, arched eyebrows that reminded me of Karthika’s perpetually arched brows in Purampokku – but his wig, bright and unique costumes, effeminate mannerisms(there are quite a few hints that he is a transgender) and accent combine to create a different, interesting character. He is flashy but doesn’t go too over-the-top and so makes a strong villain.

But its a while before we meet Love. First we are introduced to Akilan(Vikram), a RAW agent who quit the agency after his wife Maya(Nayanthara), also an agent, was killed during an assignment (Nayanthara looks gorgeous as she is introduced in the catchy Halena… number. Vikram too looks suave but his dance steps look awkward and it gets worse in the next 2 duets, particularly in Kannai Vittu…).

When an elderly Malaysian man goes on a rampage in the Indian embassy in Malaysia, the head(Nasser) of RAW brings Akilan back. The reason – the Malaysian man sports a tattoo that connects him to Love, who was behind Maya’s death and was killed by Akilan. Vikram plays Akilan in a straight and serious mode as befits a man who has lost his wife. There are no cutesy moments though Aarushi(Nithya Menen) tags along with him and a particular scene where a character is shot really shows where Akilan’s priorities lie.

The film moves at a fast clip as Akilan tries to get to the root of the mystery of the gunman. Things are kept interesting as he follows the leads that slowly get him closer to the end and the fights and car chases are short and slick. Thambi Ramaiah once again kills the film’s serious tone, showing up as a bumbling Malaysian cop but at least Karunakaran, even if in just one scene, plays it straight with just some wry humor.

The film has a good twist and a few surprises as the case with Love gets resolved pretty quickly as he is nabbed. But with Vikram playing the bad guy, its obvious he can’t go down that easily and he gets some bombastic scenes as he gets back up again. After this, the film begins to drag and logic takes a hit as the film introduces sequences, like the happenings in the Malaysian hospital revolving around a Malaysian minister, to further showcase Vikram’s  dress-up fetish. The scientific jargon thrown around does sound acceptable but at the same time, gadgets like the DS-like controller(that allows Love to decide the fate of his tattooed henchmen via a convenient menu) look somewhat amateurish. But as in the early portions, the stunt sequences are still done well. As in films like Muni and Enthiran, the superhuman strength aspect makes the fights more interesting and acceptable.

5 responses so far

Sep 07 2016


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Wagah, a big letdown from director GNR Kumaravelan who previously helmed the solid Haridas,  is a silly romance that is set in Kashmir, around the India-Pakistan border. It follows the familiar template of the lovers being separated and then fighting against odds to get back together again. The only difference is that instead of the bloodthirsty relatives of the heroine, the hero here ends up fighting bloodthirsty soldiers from Pakistan’s army.

Vasu(Vikram Prabhu) sees joining the BSF in Kashmir as a path to an endless supply of free alcohol. But the film does turn serious once he actually enrolls in the army and we get glimpses of a life plagued by isolation and loneliness(though Karunas shows up soon as his uncle to dispel the film’s serious tone). The Pakistan army is quickly set up as cartoonish villains as they routinely behead Indian soldiers and don’t spare even a lamb that steps across the border.

The way the romance is developed is almost an insult to the serious situation in Kashmir and at the border and the efforts of the army stationed there. It kicks off with a cliched love-at-first-sight scene when Vasu sees Kanoom(Ranya Rao), a Kashmiri girl living with her grandfather. But then the first actual meeting between them happens during a serious training exercise where Vasu is dressed up as a terrorist and gets his bottoms pulled off while being captured by Kanoom and her friend(Vidyulekha). Then comes another ridiculous scene where he shows up drunk after losing his aranakodi(which, for some unfathomable reason, Vidyulekha has retrieved and worn around her neck!) and tricks Kanoom into retying it around his waist.

Its not just in the early scenes that the two are playful. A later scene sees Vasu escort her several kilometers through a forest, where they are in constant danger of being caught, which would result in certain death for Vasu. But the way they behave,  one would think they were taking a leisurely, fun stroll through a garden as they goof around and at one point, even have a friendly race where she tricks him to win.

Since Wagah opens with Vasu in prison, it isn’t a big surprise that he gets captured. And since its a hero-centric Tamil film, it isn’t a big surprise that he escapes. After this, the film goes into Gadar mode with Vasu going up against Pakistani soldiers (Kanoom’s family is conveniently sent out of the picture in a scene that is supposed to be tragic but ends up looking silly the way it is staged). The woods provide a nice setting for the fights and the action is staged quite well.


7 responses so far

Sep 06 2016

Aarathu Sinam

Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Malayalam cinema usually delivers the best thrillers since the films focus on the story without distractions in the form of romance, comedy or songs. Aarathu Sinam, a remake of Malayalam film Memories(it was directed by Jeethu Joseph, who directed Drishyam/Papanasam), remains faithful to the original in content and presents the story without unnecessary distractions. But the simple story and flat film-making ensure that there aren’t many thrills.

The film stumbles a bit tonally at the start. It jumps right into the story as 2 random men are killed and their bodies displayed in public in an identical manner. But Robo Shankar, as the cop who is initially assigned the case, comes across as a big mistake since his jokes disallow the film from setting the atmosphere that a good thriller needs. Thankfully he disappears once the case is assigned to Arvind(Arulnidhi), who is now an alcoholic after a devastating personal tragedy.

Arvind’s alcoholism doesn’t really seem to have affected his mental faculties since he makes good progress in solving the case (it does affect his ability at a key point in the story but that comes much later). The only time the film shows some sparks of life is when Arvind starts making some headway in the case. The way he finds a religious angle to the case and the subsequent link he finds between the victims infuse some energy into the story.

But the thrills are short-lived. Once the link is found the story proceeds in a straightforward manner. The roots of the case lie in a cliched incident from the past and there are no twists or surprises in the identity of the murderer as Arvind follows the leads to unmask him. The only mild twist comes in the form of Arvind’s stronger connection to the case at the end.

One response so far

Aug 29 2016

2 Disappointing Books

Published by under Books

last-mile  wolf-lake

Memory Man, the first book in David Baldacci’s new series came as a big surprise for a long-time reader like me. With a new central character Amos Decker who had hyperthymesia – the ability to remember everything -the book featured some good mysteries and didn’t have even a whiff of American politics, the subject of almost all Baldacci books. The second book in the series, The Last Mile, also kicks off with a good mystery as a high school football player Melvin Mars, who is jail for the murder of his parents, gets a last-minute reprieve when another criminal confesses to the murders. Decker, who hears the news on the radio, takes up the case.

The plot moves briskly for a while with some interesting questions(like the timeline) surrounding the day Mars supposedly killed his parents and the reasons behind the confession by a man seemingly unrelated to Mars. But beyond a certain point, it starts to get incredibly convoluted. It touches everything from a foreign drug mafia to racism in the past and takes too many turns to connect them all up. At the same time, the answers to the most interesting questions end up being too simplistic. The way the mystery is solved isn’t very satisfactory either. Decker has too many leaps of intuition and there are points where he seems to be clairvoyant rather than just having a good memory.

With Think of a Number, John Verdon jumped right to the top of my favorite authors list. The intriguing mysteries, the interesting investigation and the elegant solutions made it a suspenseful, gripping read. The next 2 books weren’t as good but still good reads but his fourth book Peter Pan Must Die saw Verdon return to form with a good mystery and a surprising but logical answer. In his latest book Wolf Lake, detective Dave Gurney gets involved in the case of a hypnotherapist John Hammond, 3 of whose patients have committed suicide after getting identical dreams. Hammond is the resident hypnotherapist at a resort(the owner also committed suicide after getting the same dream) and that’s where Gurney goes to investigate the case.

The question about how different persons can get the same dream is an interesting question but its unfortunately the only interesting question that the book throws up. Gurney’s investigation eventually leads to an incident in the past, a very cliched plot point and the answers to main mystery end up being quite disappointing. The case also involves some hi-tech gadgetry and government involvement but they don’t amount to much other than some small mysteries that are solved soon. In the previous books, Gurney’s wife stayed on the sidelines. Here she is directly involved with her own link to Wolf Lake but her parts become quite irritating as they simply distract Gurney from his main investigation at key points in the story.

Baldacci and Verdon are 2 of my favorite authors and it was rather sad to read disappointing books from both of them. I’m now reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and so far it looks like Rowling isn’t going to disappoint. More on that later…


5 responses so far

Aug 25 2016

Amma Kanakku

Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Amma Kanakku is a sweet, feel-good film about the efforts of a mother to set her daughter on the right path in life. The mom is Shanthi(Amala Paul), who is widowed and works as a maid in the house of Dr. Nandhini(Revathi) but also does a couple of other jobs to supplement her income. Though she is a maid, Shanthi’s daily life quickly makes it clear to us that Amma Kanakku is no Kutty or even Kakka Muttai. We never see her do any menial tasks and Nandhini is very affectionate towards her. Though she is a single mom, there are no leering men making unwanted advances or comments and her co-workers at her other jobs are also nice(even when firing her!). All these help the film maintain its feel-good vibe throughout.

Shanthi’s only aim in life is to see her daughter Abhi(Yuvasree) do well in school and succeed in life. The good news is that these characters come across as real even in this sanitized world . This starts in the very first scene when Shanthi tries to wake Abhi up. She coddles her daughter but as soon as the stresses of life appear(in the form of a cooking accident),  her tone and attitude change. So the characters and the conversations they have mostly ring true and this ensures that though the film is filled to the brim with ‘nice’ characters, it is never boring.

Abhi pays scant regard to her studies and Shanthi is devastated when Abhi reveals that her ambition in life is to become a maid like her mother. So Shanthi takes matters into her own hands to get Abhi to study. Her plan is cute like the rest of the movie  and the competition that ensues between mom and daughter as a result of that is a lot of fun. Amala Paul does well in these portions with her tiny smiles and the glint in her eyes egging Abhi on. Samuthirakani plays a teacher in Abhi’s school and though he indulges in some buffoonery like most of our cinema teachers, he also conveys his seriousness about his job.

While Shanthi’s plan takes up the bulk of the movie, it doesn’t directly lead to the resolution. Eventually there is a showdown between Shanthi and Abhi(this is where Amala comes up a bit short. She seems inhibited when expressing her disappointment and anger at Abhi’s act) that plays a more direct role in Abhi’s realization. The ensuing climax is handled with subtlety and grace and that makes it all the more effective.


6 responses so far

Aug 22 2016

The Olympics

Published by under Misc


For the last couple of weeks, the Olympics have been a daily staple of my TV watching. With all the NBC channels showing some portion of the games at different times, there was always some sport going on on one of the channels, whenever I switched on the TV. And I quickly realized that it didn’t have to be one of the traditionally favorite sports like gymnastics, tennis or track & field either. Even when I saw sports like wrestling, fencing or sailing that I knew little about, it was easy to quickly pick a favorite and then follow their progress with interest.

Of course, the bulk of my watching happened during the 8pm primetime slot, which is when NBC showed the most important sporting events of the day. The coverage left a lot to be desired. There was understandably a lot of focus on American athletes, which let to almost all coverage being devoted to events where American athletes participated. And the stories about these athletes that preceded the event coverage were at the level of the stories presented by Vijay TV on the participants in its reality shows with a lot of manipulative sentiments. But the most frustrating part of the daily telecast was that it was delayed which meant that we knew the results long before we started watching them on TV. So the element of suspense was missing.

Still it was amazing to watch the feats performed by the athletes. Whether it was Phelps adding to his already astounding medal tally, Ledecky dominating to such an extent that she seemed to be the only one in the pool, Simone executing her routines with incredible grace or Bolt winning his races with ease and showmanship, the games were filled with many moments that made us admire the talent, dedication and achievements of these gifted athletes.

It was always exciting to spot an Indian athlete even if it was usually only in the preliminary rounds. I saw some of them in swimming and track and field though the only sport I was really following India’s progress in was badminton, thanks to my daughter playing the sport and Saina’s high ranking making her a solid medal hope. I certainly wasn’t following wrestling and it was a pleasant surprise to read about Sakshi opening our medal tally. And Dipa made us proud in gymnastics qualifying for the finals and performing a difficult vault to place 4th. Things didn’t look good in badminton with Saina losing early but Sindhu surprised me by making steady progress. She really raised hopes when she beat Wang Yihan, the 2nd ranked player to enter the semifinals. The first match I saw live was Sindhu’s semifinals match against Japan’s Nozomi and I was amazed by her aggression and athletic ability. She was in great form as she won quite easily, winning 11 straight points to win the 2nd game 21-10 after being tied at 10-10. Unfazed by her opponent’s no. 1 ranking, Sindhu fought well to win the first game in the finals too. But a pumped-up Marin dominated the next two games to win the gold and Sindhu earned the silver medal. It was certainly a proud moment seeing her stand on the podium with the silver medal hanging around her neck.

The euphoria surrounding our 2 medals and the performances of these athletes helped us end the Olympics on a high and the athletes are being honored well by our government. But other news reports like our partying officials and a long distance runner fainting since the stations to give her water and energy drinks were unmanned by our officials, point to the lack of support our sports persons get even when attending prestigious events like the Olympics. One wonders if the situation will improve enough to increase our medal tally in the 2020 games in Tokyo.

With the games finally done, its time to catch up on the movies I missed the last couple of weeks…

5 responses so far

Aug 11 2016


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Kabali was easily the most-hyped Tamil film to ever hit our screens. The usual hype associated with any Rajni film was amplified many times over due to the curiosity generated by his team up with a young, relatively new director in Ranjith and the hit soundtrack and well-cut trailer whetted fans’ appetites.  Smart marketing by producer Dhanu, who managed to tie the film in to everything from gold coins to airlines, further ensured that Kabali was everywhere and the (only) talk of the town in the days leading up to its release.

The film, set almost entirely in Malaysia, is the story of a gangster Kabali(Rajni) and the film opens with his release from prison after 25 years. Since the character is played by Rajni, it comes as no surprise that Kabali is a ‘good’ gangster. We learn this soon enough as we are told that his 00 gang never dealt in drugs or trafficking women and during the time he was in jail, the gang started the ‘Free Life’ foundation to rehabilitate misguided youngsters lured by gangs. It isn’t long before Kabali goes after the gang members of the rival 43 gang, led by Tony Lee(Winston Chao) and Veerasekharan(Kishore).

Rajni the star takes center stage whenever Kabali is in this kind of a gangster mode. Looking dapper in finely tailored suits, he employs his trademark stares, stylish walk, finger swishes and a magizhchi that rolls off the tongue with just a hint of authority to imbue the character with the kind of larger-than-life persona that only he can pull off. Its purely Rajni’s stature and charisma that carries these portions(Santosh Narayanan’s fiery Neruppuda… and stylish bgm work well too). With only little knowledge about the gang wars and the players, there is little chance for emotions as he goes after the gangsters.

The rivalry between the 2 gangs is the film’s mainstay and we get a history lesson about it via the flashback sequences(kudos to the make-up artist for Rajni’s young look here). The basic story about a man leading the people against oppression is familiar but the Malaysian setting makes it seem fresh as even the dress the players wear gains significance. Ranjith also does that he did with local politics in Madras, capturing the jealousies and infighting in the gangs to set the stage for everything that happens later.

Still the members of the 43 gang, all the way to the boss Tony Lee, aren’t fleshed out enough to feel like worthy adversaries to Kabali. Only towards the end, when they attack people close to Kabali(one particular attack, where the target is ambushed by bottles thrown at him is filmed very well and makes us feel for him), do they earn the feelings that are usually reserved for the bad guys and make us root for the hero. So the climax, though a little over the top(the location, the roof of a skyscraper is a big reason for this) and weak on style, is more effective than some of the fight sequences that come earlier.

But Kabali doesn’t not rely just on Rajni’s star power and also has a strong emotional core. Though Kabali walks out of jail alone, he gains a family. First is his daughter. Though there are some weak attempts at misdirection involving the foundation, it is not a big surprise when his daughter’s identity is revealed. This then paves the way for him to learn about his wife Kumudhavalli(Radhika Apte). We saw snatches of the sweet, loving relationship between them during the flashback too. But it gets better as his search for her is handled beautifully with the various steps increasing the dramatic tension and the scene where they finally meet and the beautiful Maya Nadhi… number both serve as a fitting end. Radhika Apte is phenomenal in this sequence and the way she breaks down is a nice contrast to Rajni’s composed reactions though both of them convey the emotions of the moment equally well.

The best part of the dramatic portions is the way Rajni is portrayed. In his recent movies, his character, the supporting roles and the scenes were all shaped to make him a larger than life superhero. But as the older Kabali, he comes across as down-to-earth and human and it works very well. Playing his age with little or no make-up, quite vulnerable(he is saved by others a couple of times) and narrating a fable during a speech(the free-flowing nature of this speech as he jumps between several topics is very natural), he is more an actor than a star here. Many of the actors from Ranjith’s earlier films Attakathi and Madras make an appearance here too. Among them Dinesh makes an impression as the over-enthusiastic Jeeva and Dhansika, in a tomboyish hairdo, does well also.

With Lingaa, it became clear Rajni couldn’t continue doing masala films – the kind that that had made him a superstar – for much longer. Kabali, which provides fodder for both the star and actor in him, is a perfect vehicle at this stage in his career when he is a huge star but too old to be playing the young, energetic action hero . It will be interesting to see if it is just a one-off or a transition point that sees him take on more dramatic, mature roles.

24 responses so far

Jul 25 2016

Dubai Trip

Published by under Family,Travel

Its been a busy summer with a trip to Chennai and a business trip within a few days of coming back. This India trip being one of the few trips where the whole family left at the same time – mom and dad usually fly out and return a couple of weeks apart to let the kids spend more time in India – we stopped over in Dubai for 3 days on the way. Since we visited during the month of Ramadan, we had to make some minor adjustments (we couldn’t eat or drink outdoors until Iftar, which was around 7pm, and so we had a heavy breakfast, came back to the hotel to order some takeout for lunch and then didn’t eat till dinner) but other than that, it was a fun trip to a nice tourist spot.

The first day we took a tour of Dubai city. This mainly meant gawking at the skyscrapers dotting the landscape. Most of the buildings had very unique and eye-catching designs and shapes and when bunched together as in the downtown area or along the Marina, they offered a spectacular sight. Of course some of the popular buildings stood out as they doubled as tourist spots. One was the Burj Khalifa, the tallest in the world and another was the Burj Al Arab hotel, standing right next to the beach.





As part of the tour we also visited a couple of famous mosques and viewed from rather far away, the residence of the Sheikh.



A very interesting part of the tour was a shopping area, a small street with shops lining both sides. The shops sold a lot of knickknacks(Dubai t-shirts, shawls, footwear, spices) that were obviously targeted at tourists. Many shopkeepers were also discreetly advertising fake branded watches though we didn’t actually see any displayed. Particularly colorful were shops that sold bright, colored lamps that were all lit up, making for come colorful interiors.


Since it was Ramadan, the tours started only in the late afternoon. So we just spent the mornings indoors at the two most popular malls – Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Mall. Both of these were huge and we barely covered a fraction of them though we were only window shopping. Their size can be gauged from the fact that the Mall of the Emirates has a ski slope inside the mall. While we didn’t actually ski, it was pretty amazing that one minute you were walking in sweltering heat and the next, you stepped inside a mall and could change into ski clothes and go skiing!

That afternoon we took what was a Desert Safari tour. This was a very unique part of the trip and covered a variety of activities. First was the actual desert safari, which was a jeep ride in the desert. The ride over the sand dunes was quite adventurous with the jeep going precariously sideways many times as it climbed up and down the dunes. Then they took us to a campsite-like place with short camel rides and sandboarding(riding down the sand dunes on a snowboard). The evening was wrapped up with two shows, a light show and a fire show, and a sumptuous dinner.




On the last day we visited the Burj Khalifa in the afternoon. We first rode to the top for some spectacular 360 degree views of Dubai. After dinner, there was a show outside the Burj Khalifa. The building itself was lit up in fantastic colors set to music and this was followed by a fountain show in the lake outside.




Over the 3 days we took many cab rides and met drivers from Mayiladuthurai, Kerala, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a good indication of people from all over the world working in Dubai. The country itself banks almost completely on tourism. Many of the attractions felt like they had been inspired by some popular attractions in other places(the light show on the Burj Khalifa was similar to the show on the Disneyworld castle, the fountain show was similar to the one outside the Bellagio, next month they are unveiling Venice-like canals, and so on), but the growth of Dubai in the past 10-15 years is a testament to the single-minded dedication of its rulers to make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

13 responses so far

Jun 09 2016


Published by under Review,Tamil Cinema


Like Enthiran, 24 is sci-fi masala. The sci-fi aspect is immediately apparent as the film begins with a scientist Sethuraman(Suriya) inventing a wrist watch in a futuristic lab(the watch and the crib Sethu built for his baby go beyond futuristic to being outlandish though). We learn later that the watch enables one to shift time itself. In other words, the watch is like a VCR for time in that it can rewind, forward or pause time. This subject – the manipulation of time – has served as fodder for many sci-fi stories but 24 isn’t overly concerned with the physics behind it, it treats it in rather simplistic fashion(for instance, the capabilities of the time-shifting watch are expanded tremendously by a watch repairman by adding a single button) and it doesn’t worry about multiple timelines. The film simply uses it as a take-off point to add some new dimensions to a story filled with familiar elements. The result, as in Enthiran, is immensely entertaining.

The watch is coveted by Sethu’s twin brother Athreya(Suriya, enjoying himself playing a bad guy).  Athreya is established as a ruthless and a heartless villain as Sethu escapes with his baby and the watch and manages to keep them both out of Athreya’s hands. The baby grows up to become a watch mechanic Mani(Suriya, this time in familiar romantic hero mode) and the watch eventually makes its way to him(the way director Vikram Kumar establishes even small things, like Mani’s habit of spitting out gum or a switch with an electrical problem, before using them to move the story forward is a good sign that stands him in good stead throughout the movie).

In most superhero origin films, the fun parts are usually the ones where the new superhero discovers his new powers, gets used to them and experiments with them. Its the same here as Mani realizes what the watch can do. The sequences where Mani discovers the powers of the new gadget and then employs them to woo Sathya(Samantha) are fun in a Groundhog Day kinda way. Particularly delightful are the ideas and visuals behind the moments where he freezes time, both as part of the story(splashing a couple of raindrops and the time when he takes a minute to pop a kernel of popcorn in his mouth are my favorites) and in the Kaalam En Kaadhali… song sequence(teaching the spitter a lesson is cool). The Mei Nigara… song also has some good ideas, though the basic concept was already seen in the Azhagu… number in Baasha,

After Athreya comes back into the picture, the film’s screenplay keeps us guessing. The way that Mani and Athreya connect, the sequence where Mani goes to Athreya’s office(all the way to its completely unexpected end), Athreya’s plan to manipulate Mani into doing what he wants, all these are developed smoothly and beautifully. Athreya’s plan is devious but also complex but the time shift elements are not overdone and some clever touches(like making a key event happen on Independence day to make it easy to see the fact that the day is being repeated) keep things from getting confusing.

The romantic track also gets a twist as the film establishes a surprising connection between Mani and Sathya through his mom(Saranya). The revived romance, with the Naan Un Azhaginile… number, is a painful speed breaker but once the story gets over the bump, it zooms ahead with the same smarts we saw before. Scenes like the one where Athreya signs a check and then thwarts the uncovering of his plan are staged well and the climax is set up in interesting fashion.  The unpredictability continues into the superb climax. There is genuine suspense about how things are going to proceed as a character lies helpless, there is a feeling of joy as the tables are turned in delightful fashion and there is a very nice aha moment as an event from before is made use of to explain how things happened. The feel-good vibe is also seen in the epilogue as we see things unfold in a very different way to how they originally happened.


12 responses so far

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