Category Archives: Movies

The ‘’ columns

My first was on Ajith Kumar, the Tamil actor. Cynically this write-up was meant as bait for fans of the actor, who were visiting the website in droves. The column was written ahead of the release of Vedalam in 2015.

Post Sethu every actor in Tamil cinema took it upon himself to grow a beard. Here’s a short examination of why.

The Force Awakens was the first of the sequels. ‘Behindwoods’ gave me the column as I was fanatical about the series.

My first tutor of James Bond films was my Dad. He is no more. But every new Bond movie will remind me of him. I am grateful for the opportunity to write about Bond. This write-up was timed to be published ahead of Spectre.

The last one was about the rise of anti-heroes, starting with Nayakan. This subject could, in fact, take up an entire book.

The Outlook 3

As Acham Enbathu Madamaiyada was released, I did a story on Gautham Menon. When I grew tired of superhero movies, I did this article for My take on everybody’s favourite dragon story was published here.

Your comments are invaluable. Please leave them in the space below.

My continuing stint with TNM: From Ilaiyaraaja to Mumbai film festival

filmOn Tuesday, October 24, 2017, IV Sasi died. The obit I wrote for the Malayalam cinema’s box-office king was published in The News Minute (TNM).

I attended the film festival organised by Mumbai Academy of the Moving Image. My article, with short summaries of all the films I saw, is here.  

Most of the articles I wrote for TNM are here. Click through to read them. As many as 12 articles were published between July 7, 2015 and October 25. 2017.

VIP2: Where pray is that magic of the original?

I remember walking into the theatre showing Velai Illa Pattadhari with little expectation and leaving with some kind of inner craving satiated.

They were cute things to relish in the movie — Amla Paul, the moped owned by Raghuvaran (Dhanush), the relationship between the two brothers, their parents played by Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponvannan and, not the least, the kuthupattu on the house terrace.

vip.jpgEven though VIP2 reprises much of this cuteness, it rings hollow and untrue this time around.

I hoped the movie will be enjoyable, especially because Soundarya Rajinikanth was directing it. But the film had none of the verve and flair of the first part. The climax, especially, was a letdown. It seems as if the director wanted to hitch her bandwagon to a successful franchise only to criminally deprive it of her own touch.

The story and the dialogues, for the most part, do not work and blame must be laid at Dhanush’s door for this. The job of the hero is central to the movie’s theme and the actor does little to deal with its intricacies. There is no layering in the script, and this would be all right if only the commercial elements really kicked in. When neither happens, part two becomes an empty shell of its original self.

As an actor, Dhanush keeps playing to the gallery and this is ingratiating, especially when he mimics his real-life father-in-law Rajinikanth. It’s like they retreaded the popular features of the first part without adding anything of much significance other than Kajol’s character.

Kajol seems to know enough to keep her villainy subtle and this is a relief even as the sequences around her fall apart. The actress isn’t helped much by the fact that her character is reduced into a caricature, leaving her with no scope to breathe life into it. The sequences in which Vasundhara clashes with Raghuvaran, which are pivotal for the success of the movie, don’t really work. He is an angel without wings and she is too egoistic for her own good. On this canvas, there seem to be no grey areas.

The parts that do work are the throwaway sequences in the first half when Samuthirakani’s character comes up with cliched ideas for his son Raghuvaran to floor his wife (Amla Paul). All of them backfire leading to some hilarity. Comedian Vivek does justice to his screen time, but the ‘Thangapushpam angle’ is not really reworked and spread too thin.

Amla Paul, Samuthirakani and Saranya Ponvannan do credible jobs. But their characters, as written by Velraj, were more interesting. Soundarya is unable to rescue any of them from becoming stereotypes.

The Chennai floods, which is a part of the climax, fails to make any impact. Not much screentime is devoted to it, save for a dialogue from Raghuvaran pointing to the obvious fact that it was great leveller. The drama of the floods, which many witnessed first hand, could not have been more diluted.

The movie seems to be cynically targeted at unemployed engineers in the state. Their sentiments are shamelessly exploited and they may very well end up as the mob cheering from the front seat. Mind you, I have nothing against engineers; only that they could spent their time productively elsewhere.

Bahubali – of biceps and banal film-making

The movie begins with a shot of Ramya Krishnan struggling to save a child. A waterfall, probably bigger than the Niagara, looms large into the frame. I will not tell you what happens next. But be prepared for a twist, of which there are many in Bahubali. Let me warn you, this movie doesn’t end. There is a second part.

Bahubali is a kind of movie that seeks to skirt criticism and directly woo the audience. Critics I read, more on less, gave the movie a thumbs-up. It is already been tagged as the most expensive movie ever made in India. I found the special effects to be woefully lacking. But sometimes you can’t make out sets from paintings and graphics. Kudos to Sabu Cyril and cinematographer KK Senthil Kumar.

There is a war scene at the end, which is mounted on the scale of LOTR. The kingdom is attacked by barbarians; much like Gladiator, where Maximus’ army takes on the horde.

The music reminds me, in certain parts, of Couching Tiger Hidden Dragon. And it doesn’t fit in. I have never been a fan of Maragatha Mani, but I always thought of him as a dignified composer. His image may be tarnished if he lifts the music from a lot of places.

Director SS Rajamouli

Director SS Rajamouli

There is a plum role for Sathyaraj, who nails it. As the narrator of the mandatory flashback sequence, and the guardian of the throne, the actor is excellent. He is organic in a movie, which is largely plastic.

But the performances in the movie are uneven. Tamannaah, especially, displays her lack of histrionics. But she has a navel, which the camera keeps cutting to, during a duet. Well, all of us have one, don’t we? As if this is not enough, there is an item number, too.

I will be there for Bahubali, The Conclusion. Not just to watch, but to criticize it too.

Papanasam: Small budget, taut thriller

In the 1990s, when Kamal Haasan was so successful as an actor, producer and director, I yearned for him to act in a small budget movie. A movie, which would showcase his acting skills, and not distract us with elaborate set scenes. That’s happened now after all these years with Papanasam. I haven’t seen Dhrishyum, the Mohan Lal starrer in Malayalam, and so this taut thriller kept me interested till the last scene, which is superbly done.

Hey Ram, Virumandi, and the latest Uthama Villain are essentially vanity projects in which the star is showcased. Compared to that string of movies – and I don’t want to take anything away from the actor – Papanasam has Kamal giving the star in him a rest and this gets us to look forward to the actor in him.

When I first heard of Dhrishyum – my Malayali friends were in considerable awe of it – I had it pegged as an art film. So the commercial elements in Papanasam surprised me. I am also surprised that Kamal chose this project. But admirably he has and it shows his penchant for new material, which he often writes himself.

But Papanasam has Kamal working in what is essentially a Jithu Joseph project. Kamal, for a change, hasn’t written or produced the movie. And, because the material is so refreshing, we are on the edge of our seats till the end.

Kamal is very good till the climax when his dialogues become an incoherent mumble. But we are in awe of the actor and are willing to let this one pass. Gauthami, Kamal’s real life partner, plays the role of the wife to perfection. And in a particular scene late in the movie, I was reminded of the attempted rape scene in Kuruthipunal.


Niveda Thomas as Kamal Haasan’s daughter in Papanasam

The first 20 minutes leading up the disastrous nature club tour are leisurely paced typical of the town it is set in. I was left wondering when the movie would start. But once it does, it propels on in high speed. Kalabhavan Mani is a brilliant actor and his villainy is admirably characterized in this movie. His corrupt cop is at loggerheads with Kamal’s villager right from the beginning, when he mentions the hero’s powder smell.

Kamal’s family life is brilliantly evoked. He plays Suyambu Lingam, a school dropout, who runs a successful business as a cable TV operator and farmer. His transformation from rustic villager to shrewd father and husband who needs to keep his family protected from the police is well evoked.

But the movie doesn’t capture your complete attention till the final 20 minutes. The slow-paced first half can get on your nerves. But one has to admire the way the characterization is done. I like the tea shop owner played by MS Baskar.

I also thought the cinematographer Sujith Vasudev was brilliant. His work becomes a part of the movie without standing out. It takes brilliance to do that. Gibhran’s music could have been better. The songs were forgettable, but the background score stood out.

Since this review is written a day after release, I will refrain from writing about the plot.

Malayan: Film review

A persuasive case has been made that there exists, in Tamil cinema, a ‘new wave’ of film-making. Malayan, starring Karan, is a movie that borrows liberally all the symbols of the new wave, but none of its substance. And if you are the sort of person, who can’t be bothered about the existence or the absence of the new wave, a persuasive case can be made out why you should avoid Malayan.

Continue reading