Friday, December 31

Best Movies of 2010 - Malayalam

And this is my list of the best movies of 2010 in Malayalam. And unfortunately, I havent seen two films which have a chance to feature on this list - Soofi Paranja Katha & Aathmakatha and hence they dont feature in this list. If I see them soon, and feel that they deserve a position in this list, i shall re-edit the list. :) :) And I must say, it was a very bad year for Malayalam Cinema with only a handful of good films. In fact, the year has been so bad that even the best films list features some very average movies. Unlike 2009, which was a great year with a lot of promise for Malayalam Cinema, 2010 was very disappointing. Lets hope 2011 is better with a lot of interesting movies lined up. So here's the list. 

10. Shikkar
Director - M Padmakumar
Producers - KK Rajagopal
Cast - Mohanlal, Samuthirakkani, Ananya, Sneha, Kailash, Lalu Alex, Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, Kalabhavan Mani
Writer - TS Suresh Babu

Shikkar was a surprise coming from M Padmakumar & TS Suresh Babu who are infamous for their bad works rather than their few good works (if any). They managed to deliver a decent thriller in the form of Shikkar, which told the story of a daughter & her father who had been living with a guilt of a previous incident in his life. For Mohanlal, the performance in Shikkar is not a challenge at all, and his intensity with both fire and fear inside him came out brilliantly on screen. The first half took an eternity to get over with a lewd comic track involving Jagathy Sreekumar & Suraaj Venjarammoodu and it was a pain to watch those scenes. But the second half was very engaging, especially the whole naxalite sequence with a brilliant performance by Tamil actor-director Samuthirakkani. Ananya also gave a good performance and the climax stunt at the Guna caves in Kodai was also appreciated. The movie took a huge initial making it one of the biggest hits of 2010, but couldnt sustain the business for a long time. 
(Click here for review)

9. Kadha Thudarunnu
Director - Sathyan Anthikkad
Producer - Thankachan Emmanuel
Cast - Mamta Mohandas, Jayaram, Asif Ali, Baby Anikha, Innocent, KPAC Lalitha, Mamukkoya
Writer - Sathyan Anthikkad

Sathyan Anthikkad is the biggest brand in Malayalam after Mohanlal & Mammootty and he has been proving that year after year where his Vishu releases automatically turn into big hits crossing 100 days easily. But Kadha Thudarunnu released in May and was Sathyan Anthikkad's least successful movie in a long long time. The movie just remained an average grosser in spite of being a very good film. The story of a young, single mother stranded on the streets with her daughter after her husband's death was handled beautifully by the veteran director with a lot of emotions and his trademark humour. Mamta Mohandas as the protagonist proved that she's not just another pretty face and can act very well if given an opportunity. Jayaram played a supporting role in contrast to the lead roles he keeps playing in most movies and was very endearing. Asif Ali impressed in his short cameo. Baby Anikha was the life of the movie and the small child performed brilliantly. Sathyan Anthikkad regulars Innocent, KPAC Lalitha & Mamukkoya proved that they are the best at what they do. Ilaiyaraaja's music & Venu's camerawork also added gloss to the movie. 
(Click here for review)

8. Marykkundoru Kunjaadu
Director - Shafi
Producer - Vaishakha Films
Cast - Dileep, Biju Menon, Bhavana, Innocent, Vijayaraghavan, Salimkumar, Vinaya Prasad, Anand, Appa Haja
Writer - Benny P Nayarambalam

Very few movies make Malayalees say 'Kodutha kaashu mothalayi'. Marykkundoru Kunjaadu is one of those films which entertains you completely without resorting to toilet humour or buffoonery. It gives us the Dileep whom we all loved during the period of Meeshamadhavan, Kalyanaraman, etc and also has a fantastic performance by Biju Menon. Every member of the cast has performed very well and the makers have done a huge favour to the audience by not casting Suraaj Venjarammoodu in it. The huge success of this film and other films like Bodyguard, Pappy Appacha and Karyasthan got Dileep back to the position of being the most bankable star in Malayalam. Lets hope he continues doing such good comedies which utilize his skills to the maximum and not do stuff like Karyasthan, etc. 

7. Best Actor
Director - Martin Prakkat
Producer - Naushad
Cast - Mammootty, Sreenivasan, Nedumudi Venu, Lal, Salimkumar, Vinayakan & others. 
Writers - Martin Prakkat, Bipin Chandran

A wonderful movie whose basic premise was inspired was inspired from how actor Vivek Oberoi ended up getting a chance to work with director Ram Gopal Varma in his debut film as a gangster, this film had Mammootty playing a school teacher whose greatest ambition was to become a film actor and his persistent efforts to reach his goal. The film had kickass visuals thanks to the visual sensibility of fashion photographer turned director Martin Prakkat and cinematographer Ajayan Vincent. Mammootty played his neatly written with effortless ease making it a very memorable role. With a neat line-up of supporting performances from Lal, Nedumudi Venu, Salimkumar & Sreenivasan and some lovely music by Bijibal, Best Actor was a sincere and genuine effort from a first time director and deserved all the appreciation it got. 

6. Malarvaadi Arts Club
Director - Vineeth Sreenivasan
Producer - Dileep
Cast - Nedumudi Venu, Nivin Pauly, Bhagat Manuel, Shraavan, Aju Varghese, Hari Krishnan, Malavika, Apoorva Bose, Jagathy Sreekumar, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Salimkumar & Sreenivasan
Writer - Vineeth Sreenivasan

This was a honest and sincere effort by some young minds and it showed in every frame of the movie. Multi talented Vineeth Sreenivasan decided to take his father's path of writing and even though the result was not path-breaking, it did bring a smile on everyone's face. Distinctly different from the so-called 'youth' movies that senior directors make - this movie told the story of the dreams and aspirations of 5 young boys from a village. Inspired by buddy movies like Chennai 28 & Rock On, Vineeth created a feel good movie with friendship as the core theme. The performances by the newcomers were fantastic and the leader of the group Nivin Pauly is bound to go places. Shaan Rahman's pleasant music and P Sukumar's authentic camerawork helped the movie a lot. Dileep also should be appreciated for producing this film, which had rank newcomers both in front of and behind the camera. 
(Click here for review)

5. Cocktail
Director - Arun Kumar
Producer - Milan Jaleel
Cast - Anoop Menon, Samvritha Sunil, Jayasurya, Fahadh Fazil, Innocent, Aparna Nair
Writer - Shyam Menon, Anoop Menon

Cocktail was more or less a direct lift of the Canadian movie - Butterfly on the Wheel. But neither me, nor most of the Kerala audience had seen the original. So they found the tale of infidelity in a rising metro city like Kochi very interesting and engaging. Riveting performances by Jayasurya, Samvritha Sunil, Anoop Menon and Fahadh Fazil enhanced the quality of the movie. The music of the movie by Ratheesh Vega and Alphonse was also a huge success and the camerawork by Pradeep Nair was very effective. Anoop Menon's smart dialogues were also another interesting factor. Priyadarshan's editor Arun Kumar also looked for inspiration from the west like his mentor, but did a great job of adapting an English film for the Malayali audience. Cocktail got a great response from the audience and did reasonable business with some great word of mouth publicity. The good part is that Anoop Menon admitted that it is indeed a remake of 'Buttefly on a Wheel' rather than denying the existence of such a movie anywhere in the world.
(Click here for review)

4. Elsamma Enna Aankutty
Director - Lal Jose
Producer - M Ranjith
Cast - Ann Augustine, Kunchacko Boban, Indrajith, Vijayaraghavan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Nedumudi Venu, KPAC Lalitha, Suraaj Venjarammoodu
Writer - Sindhuraj

Lal Jose's Elsamma Enna Aankutty was an ordinary story told in a simple and beautiful way. It introduced us to a new young talent - Ann Augustine, daughter of the character actor Augustine and the pretty young girl proved that she can perform too. But the revelation of the movie was Kunchacko Boban who delivered his career best performance as the simpleton Paalunni. Indrajith also came up with a bravura performance as the cocky flirt, Ebimon. The rest of the supporting cast were also brilliant. The movie had fresh music by veteran musician Rajamani and was shot in some picturesque locales by Vijay Ulaganath. The movie started slowly, shifted gears and had a smooth 100 day run in the cities becoming one of the major hits of 2010. 
(Click here for review)

3. TD Dasan Std VI B
Director - Mohan Raghavan
Producers - Paul Vadakumchery, Paul Valikodath
Cast - Alexander, Tina Rose, Biju Menon, Shwetha Menon, Shruti Menon, Jagadish & Suresh Krishna
Writer - Mohan Raghavan

This movie came and went without a whimper. Thanks to the indifferent attitude of our theater owners and the zero effort for publicity by its makers. But in reality, it was a poignant movie about a boy who wants to find out about his estranged father. It brought in the age old concept of pen pals and used 2 children as its main leads. There was also a parallel story within a story part where the filmmaker played by Biju Menon discussed possibilites of the story of the boy's father. Debutant Mohan Raghavan handled the subject with finesse and will have a bright future ahead. The performances were all great where Biju Menon, Shwetha Menon and Suresh Krishna were the most impressive. The movie didnt get the success or attention it deserved. Lets hope it is appreciated on DVD and its television telecasts. 
(Click here for review)

2. Kutty Srank
Director - Shaji N Karun
Producers - Reliance Big Pictures
Cast - Mammootty, Suresh Krishna, Padmapriya, Kamalini Mukherjee, Meena Kumari, Siddique, Sayikumar
Writers - Harikrishnan, PF Mathews

The Government of India thought Kutty Srank was the best film of 2009 (it was censored in 2009 but had a theatrical release only in 2010) and the movie sweeped the National Awards by winning awards for Cinematography, Screenplay, Costumes, and special awards for editing and acting. Mammootty was absolutely brilliant and he displayed three different shades of the same character stuck in three different places and situations. His performance involved a lot of underplay and for the first time, his dance looked great on screen, in the chavittunadakam scenes. Suresh Krishna gave the other brilliant performance in the movie as Loni Aashan. He matched up to Mammootty in the very little screen time he had and gave his career best in this film. The ladies were also brilliant and Padmapriya won a special jury award for her performance. Cinematography by Anjali Shukla was magical and so was the charming old world music by Issac Thomas. 
(Click here for review)

1. Pranchiyettan & The Saint
Director - Ranjith
Producer - Ranjith
Cast - Mammootty, Innocent, Priyamani, Khushboo, Siddique, Tiny Tom, Edavela Babu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Ganapathy, TG Ravi, Ramu, Sasi Kalinga, Biju Menon & Sivaji Guruvayoor
Writer - Ranjith

Well, Pranchiyettan is number one in every sense of the word. A brilliantly written satire on Malayali's craving for name, fame and popularity, Pranchiyettan reinstated that Ranjith is perhaps the best writer-director we have in Malayalam now. Narrated in an episodic format, Pranchiyettan was based in Trisshur and also had a cast which contained mostly of actors hailing from Trisshur. Mammootty was at his best as the lovable, illiterate rich businessman Aripranchi. One of the actor's best performances ever, this movie proved that Mammootty need not resort to buffoonery to make people laugh. From an actor who was severely criticized for not being able to do comedy, Mammootty has come a long way and has really worked on his comic side taking it to its heights with this movie. Mammootty's Pranchiyettan is an iconic character that will be remembered for a long long time. The rest of the ensemble cast were also brilliant, the best being Innocent in a very prominent role. Ranjith's writing and the hilarious dialogues of the film raised it to another level. Venu's cinematography gave exactly what the film needed. The movie had a slow and steady theatrical run and completed 100 days at Thiruvananthapuram & Kochi. It will be remembered as one of the finest movies of the decade. 
(Click here for review)

2010, as I said earlier, was not a very good year for Malayalam Cinema except for rare exceptions like Pranchiyettan & Kutty Srank. Lets hope 2011 would bring in a bright new future with lots of interesting projects from both the young and the elder lot. 

Thursday, December 30

Best Movies of 2010 - Tamil

Here's me trying to compile a list of the best films of 2010. And as always, the list is out of the films I've seen and a combination of mass hits, critical favourites and my own personal favourites. And yes, I've missed out of quite a few great films which came out in 2010, but sadly didnt release in Kerala and Pune like Mynaa, Vamsam, Naanayam, Porkkalam, Nandalala & Easan. So those movies wouldnt feature in this list. Please forgive me for that. I shall re-edit the list as soon as I see them. 

10. Thamizh Padam & Goa
Directors - CS Amudhan (TP) & Venkat Prabhu (Goa)
Producers - Dhayanidhi Alagiri (TP) & Soundarya Rajnikanth (Goa)
Cast - Shiva, Disha Pandey, Paravai Muniyamma, Manobala, MS Bhaskar, Vinniradai Moorthy (TP) 
& Jai, Vaibhav, Premgi, Arvindh, Sampath, Sneha, Piaa, Melanie Mary (Goa)
Writers - CS Amudhan, Chandru (TP) & Venkat Prabhu (Goa)

Both these rip-roaringly hilarious movies released on the same day. While Thamizh Padam was an out and out spoof, a first in Tamil Cinema, Goa mixed spoof with fun and madness in Venkat Prabhu style. Thamizh Padam mocked every single stereotype and cliche existing in Tamil films and also some of Tamil Cinema's biggest hits and superstars. But it was all done in good humour and hence, it didnt face any sort of trouble from fans of any actor. It was perhaps for the first time that an out and out spoof movie was attempted in Indian Cinema. Ad filmmaker CS Amudhan did a fab job by constructing a film around scenes and situations from various other films. To say Shiva was hilarious, is an understatement. The rest of the cast were also first rate, including Disha Pandey who represented the dumb North Indian imports in Tamil films. Goa, on the other hand was pure, awesome fun. There was nothing even remotely close to a story, but as long as we are having fun, nobody has complaints. A guy movie in every sense of the word, Goa is considered the desi alternative for the hilarious 'The Hangover'. Jai, Vaibhav, Sneha, Arvindh , Piaa and Melani were great, but it was Premgi and Sampath who stole the show. Sampath who's known only for his villain roles was a complete revelation in a gay character. Yuvan's background score, Shakti Saravanan's camera also added colour to the fun. Thamizh Padam did well but Goa didnt do as well as expected. But still they both equally deserve a spot among the best films of 2010 with their entertainment quotient alone. 

9. Kalavani
Director - A Sarkunam
Producer - Nazir
Cast - Vimal, Oviya, Saranya, Ganja Karuppu, Ilavarasu
Writer - A Sarkunam

A film which came from nowhere and won everyone's hearts, Kalavani was a delightful village romantic comedy with its heart in the right place. The performances were wonderful, especially that of the arrogant and clever Vimal (who earlier impressed us in Pasanga) and the newcomer Oviya. Saranya reprised her caring mom role, but with much more fun this time around and Ilavarasu played a helpless father. The simple story, told effectively through a lot of humour worked very well making the movie a great success. It got released right after the biggie, and yet managed to stand up against it with its entertaining content. 

8. Naan Mahaan Alla
Director - Suseenthiran
Producers - KE Gnanavel Raja, SR Prakash Babu, SR Prabhu
Cast - Karthi, Kajal Agarwal, Jayaprakash, Soori, Vinoth
Writer - Suseenthiran, Bhaskar Sakthi

Karthi is slowly and steadily growing into a superstar. He's becoming so big that even his elder brother Suriya, who is much much senior than him, is considering him a threat now. He started the year with the disappointing Aayirathil Oruvan, but had a blockbuster called Paiyaa after that, and he cemented his position with Naan Mahaan Alla. Directed by Suseenthiran who impressed everyone with his debut Vennila Kabaddi Kuzhu, this movie starts out as a cute and lovely romantic comedy and progresses into a grim revenge story. Tamil Cinema got a new and revamped Kajal Agarwal who is adorable. Jayaprakash as the father was great and the 4 young villains were terrifying. (One of them was my junior from college - Vinoth.) Great music from Yuvan, fantastic camerawork from Madhi and some great stunts made this movie technically perfect. 
(Click here for review)

7. Raavanan
Director - Mani Ratnam
Producers - Mani Ratnam, Sharda Trilok
Cast - Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Prithviraj, Prabhu, Karthik, Priyamani, Munna, John Vijay
Writers - Mani Ratnam, Suhasini Mani Ratnam

Okay, it didnt live up to expectations, but still Raavanan was a great watch. A modern day adaptation of the mythological epic Ramayana, Raavanan had a faulty screenplay from India's most respected director Mani Ratnam who is expected to be flawless in each film of his. BUT, Vikram saves the film from being a complete disappointment with an extraordinary performance that can be delivered only by him. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan looked old in some parts and beautiful in some parts. Prithviraj remained under control and impressed in his role with negative shades. The rest of the supporting cast like Prabhu, Karthik, Priyamani and John Vijay also gave great performances. The film had great, experimental music by AR Rahman. But the movie belonged to its cinematographers Santosh Sivan and V Manikandan. It was visual ecstasy to say the least. Each frame looked stunning in the film, and the effort and pain that went into every single shot was visible in the movie. The climax fight sequence by Sham Kaushal was one of the best we've seen in Indian Cinema. But still, the faulty screenplay and the great expectations did much damage to the film and it couldnt create magic at the box office.  But it was much better than the disastrous Hindi version of the movie with an embarassingly bad performance by Abhishek Bachchan in the lead role. 
(Click here for review)

6. Madharasappattinam
Director - AL Vijay
Producer - Kalpathi S Agoram
Cast - Arya, Amy Jackson, Cochin Haneefa, Nasser, MS Bhaskar, Alex O Nell
Writer - AL Vijay

Period films are a rarity in Tamil, and period love stories are even rarer. Madharasappattinam narrated a love story set in the Madras of 1940s between a poor dhobi and a rich Englishwoman. In spite of being heavily inspired by Titanic, Lagaan & Kisna, Madharasappattinam had a very interesting and believable narrative. Arya gave one of his best performances and the ethereally beautiful Amy Jackson was absolutely brilliant. GV Prakash's wonderful music complemented the romance very well. The cinematography by Nirav Shah and art direction by Selvakumar were stunning to say the least. The audiences enjoyed the trip back to the yesteryear Madras where even the koovam was spotlessly clean. The film also had a great performance from Malayalam actor Cochin Haneefa who passed away earlier this year. The movie had a long run and turned into a hit making Arya a bankable star. 
(Click here for review)

5. Boss Engira Bhaskaran
Director - M Rajesh
Producer - KS Sreenivasan
Cast - Arya, Santhanam, Nayanthara, Monisha, Panchu Subbu, Rajendran, Vijayalakshmi & Jeeva
Writer - M Rajesh

The second biggest hit of 2010, Boss Engira Bhaskaran was an irresistibly funny comedy with the comedian Santhanam playing a role as important as its leading man Arya. The unbelievable camaraderie between the two resulted in rip-roaringly hilarious scenes throughout the movie. The director treated the entire movie with certain tongue-in-cheek attitude, till the very end of the movie which involved a great cameo by Jeeva. Nayanthara looked beautiful and did her part well. The rest of the supporting cast was also very effective. It released 2 weeks before the Enthiran phenonmenon and stood up against it strongly as well. Rajesh has become a director in demand after this movie. Yuvan's music also added value to the proceedings. And there wont be a single soul who wouldnt have used the phrase - 'Nanbenda!' after seeing the movie. ;)

4. Man Madan Ambu
Director - KS Ravikumar
Producer - Udhayanidhi Stalin
Cast - Kamal Haasan, Trisha, R Madhavan, Sangeetha, Mohan Das, Manju Kurup, Ramesh Arvind, Urvashi, Usha Uthup, Caroline, Oviya & Suriya
Writer - Kamal Haasan

Man Madan Ambu released at the fag end of 2010 and proved to be one wholesome entertainer. An unusual offering from the Kamal Haasan - KS Ravikumar team, Man Madan Ambu had brilliant performances, a very good screenplay, great dialogues, catchy music, stunning visuals and beautiful locations. Madhavan's drunk act, Trisha's tamil dialogues, Sangeetha's comedy and Kamal's performance on the whole was brilliant. The visualization of the Neela Vaanam song was another highlight in the movie. Kamal Haasan's writing and KS Ravikumar's execution made sure that the movie was entertaining as well as intelligent. Devi Sri Prasad & Manush Nandan deserve special mention for their music and cinematography. The romantic comedy released just a week back and is running successfully all over right now. 
(Click here for review)

3. Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya
Director - Gautham Vasudev Menon
Producers - Madhan, Ganesh, Elred Kumar, Jayaraman
Cast - Silambarasan, Trisha, Ganesh, Kitty, KS Ravikumar, Samantha, Babu Antony
Writer - Gautham Vasudev Menon

Very few people can tackle romance effectively in Tamil cinema. One is Mani Ratnam & the other is Gautham Vasudev Menon. In this Tamil Hindu boy meets Malayali Christian girl love story, Menon decided to follow the characters and the dynamics in their relationships, which gave us very interesting conflicts between two people who are madly in love. Each stage of the romance was portrayed beautifully and the ending came as a shocker to us who are used to fairy tale endings for all mushy love stories. The most important thing VTV did was to rejuvenate Simbu. The guy had talent, but was clueless on how to use it and ended up making a fool out of himself in film after film until he came to Gautham Menon's hands. As Karthik in VTV, Simbu gives a subtle, yet powerful performance, which is certainly one of the year's best. Trisha also showed us that she can act, if used well. She looked gorgeous in those cotton saris and Chinmayi's dubbing for her was perfect. Her Jessie will remain forever in our hearts. AR Rahman gave one of his best soundtracks in recent times and Aaromale became some sort of an anthem. Manoj Paramahamsa's cinematography & Anthony's editing too the movie to new heights. Very rarely do such great romantic movies get made. 

2. Angadi Theru
Director - Vasanthabalan
Producers - K Karunamoorthy, C Arun Pandian
Cast - Mahesh, Anjali, A Venkatesh, Pandi
Writers - Vasanthabalan, Jeyamohan

In between all the biggies of 2010, one film which told the story of young boys and girls working in a huge shopping mall in the busy Ranganathan street in Chennai came and won both accolades and commercial success. Angadi Theru was the second film of Shankar's protege Vasanthabalan, after the highly acclaimed Veyil and he proved that he is certainly a director to look out for. The slice of life narrative, realistic writing, brilliant performances & soulful music made Angadi Theru one of the best movies to be made in the decade. Anjali came up with a bravura performance which made everyone sit up and take notice of the actress in her. Newcomer Mahesh also played his part very well. GV Prakash's 'Un Perai Sollumbothu' and Vijay Antony's 'Aval Appadi Ondrum Azhagillai' became huge hits. The movie won universal critical acclaim and had a 100 day run in most of the theaters it was screened in. 

1. Enthiran
Director - Shankar
Producer - Kalanithi Maran
Cast - Superstar Rajnikanth, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Danny Denzongpa, Santhanam, Karunas, Kalabhavan Mani, Cochin Haneefa
Writers - Shankar, Sujatha, Madhan Karky

Well, there is nothing more to be said than what has already been said about this film. Shankar, Sun Pictures, Superstar Rajnikanth, AR Rahman, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Resul Pookutty, Vairamuthu, Sabu Cyril, Rathnavelu & Peter Hein created an iconic film which will be remembered not just as India's premium science fiction film, but as a sci-fi film which is also a supremely entertaining Rajnikanth film. The world watched the phenomenon called Superstar Rajnikanth in awe. The movie broke every record and is considered one of the highest grossers in the history of Indian Cinema. While Bollywood filmmakers still struggle with the idea of using special effects in their film, Enthiran went miles and leaps ahead and redefined the use of visual effects in Indian Cinema. The 180 Crore film deserves to be on the top of each and every year ending list, by just taking into account the mammoth effort that each and every member of the cast and crew put in for the movie. And while his movie is minting money across the globe, our man goes for a peaceful meditation at the Himalayas dressed in a simple vetti & sattai. Thats Thalaivar for you!! 
(Click here for the review)

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I'm feeling sad that  I missed out on a whole lot of great movies including Mynaa and Nandalala. Hope I'll be able to catch them soon. 

Wednesday, December 29

Man Madan Ambu is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Movie - Man Madan Ambu (Tamil)
Director - KS Ravikumar
Producer - Udhayanithi Stalin
Cast - Kamal Haasan, R Madhavan, Trisha, Sangeetha, Mohan Das, Manju Pillai, Ramesh Arvind, Urvashi, Usha Uthup, Caroline, Oviya, Sriman & Suriya (Special Appearance)
Music & Background Score - Devi Sri Prasad
Cinematography - Manush Nandan
Editor - Shan Mohammed
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues & Lyrics - Kamal Haasan
Release Date - 23rd December 2010

KS Ravikumar and Kamal Haasan have always had tremendous success whenever they have collaborated. Be it Avvai Shanmughi, Thenali, Panchathanthiram or their latest Dasavathaaram. Man Madan Ambu is a clear departure from the kind of films they've done together in parts, yet delivers what one would expect from a Kamal Haasan- KS Ravikumar entertainer.  And we get an absolute entertainer to end the year on a high note. 

Man Madan Ambu is the story of Man, Madan & Ambu (it also means Cupid's Arrow in a literal translation of the title) - Major R Mannar (Kamal Haasan), Madanagopal (R Madhavan) & Ambujakshi/Ambu (Trisha). Ambu alias Nisha is a top actress in Tamil with a busy schedule and she is engaged to a business tycoon Madanagopal. But Madanagopal feels insecure about his fiance, especially when he goes to visit her at her shoots and he feels that she might be having affairs with her co-stars. This makes a dent in their relationship and it runs into troubled waters, due to which Ambu goes away on a vacation to Europe along with her old schoolmate Deepa (Sangeetha) and her two kids. In the meanwhile, Madan sends a private detective Mannar to spy on Ambu and find out if she's having any 'jalsa' with other men during the vacation. Mannar takes up the job to pay the hospital bills of his friend (Ramesh Arvind) suffering from cancer. What happens later forms the story of Man Madan Ambu. 

Kadhai, Thiraikkadhai, Vasanam - Kamal Haasan. Very rarely have movies with these credits been bad experiences. (Except for many people who didnt like Dasavathaaram). And yes, Kamal Haasan's writing is one of the biggest strengths of MMA. The story, as we have already seen, is no great shakes. But as we all know, cinema is more about the screenplay than the story, and the fact that Kamal Haasan is a seasoned writer needs no explanation. The private detective angle alone is loosely inspired by the Hollywood rom-com There's Something About Mary. The best part about the writing is that are the characters and they way they have been fleshed out. Each character has a definite part to play in the story and contributes a lot in his/her own way. The movie is completely different from anything what KS Ravikumar has done in the past, and yet, he has done a good job of executing Kamal Haasan's script for the screen. They also bring in their own brand of humour from Avvai Shanmughi, Thenali & Panchathanthiram towards the climax of the movie. 

There is no point talking about Kamal Haasan's acting skills. So an analysis on his performance would be futile. But it is hard not to mention the effect that the man creates during small and subtle emotional scenes even in a film which is largely a comedy. The scenes where he speaks to his cancer-affected friend and wife are heart-wrenching to say the least. Everything that the man does on screen further reinstates the fact that he is one of the best actors ever, and he's clearly having fun in this movie after the heavy duty roles in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Dasavathaaram & Unnaipol Oruvan. Madhavan is the star of the movie (other than Kamal Haasan, of course) with his absolutely fantastic performance of the perpetually drunk Madanagopal. He is a sheer delight to watch everytime he appears on the screen. I tweeted right after the movie - Give Madhavan in Kamal Haasan's custody and you can see wonders on screen. Anbe Sivam, Nala Dhamayanthi and now Man Madan Ambu stand testimony. His drunk act is extremely natural and reminds one of Mohanlal in his heydays where he had perfected the art of acting drunk. MMA definitely has one of Madhavan's career-best performances. 

Trisha is wonderful and 2010 is the year where she showed the audience that she can actually 'act'. With Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya earlier this year and now MMA, she is sure to walk away with all the best actress trophies. And the added attraction in MMA is that she has actually spoken in her own voice throughout the film which gives her performance much more authenticity. And yes, she recites a full-blown Tamil poem in chaste Tamil, and gives an explanation of why heroines have to speak in an anglicized accent as well. Sangeetha was having a ball throughout the movie and that is very evident from her performance. She was enjoying herself so much and it is hard not to like her in the movie. Again, a completely natural and spontaneous performance revealing the comic side of the actress. Mohandas (Kunjan for Malayalis) and Manju Kurup are hilarious as the Malayali producers behind Ambu and they add much more colour to the mayhem. One wishes that these actors were used like this in their original language also (they are very underrated in Malayalam). Ramesh Arvind leaves a lump in your throat, and so does Urvashi, who plays a subtle role after playing all those loud and comic roles in the recent past. Caroline, the beautiful French woman who plays Kamal's dead wife is gorgeous. Usha Uthup is gracious. The 2 little kids, especially the boy are a delight to watch. Suriya's special appearance as himself brings a smile on your face. And yes, there is the director KS Ravikumar also making his mandatory appearance, but this time, everybody on screen ignores him making it a funny moment of self-deprecatory humour. 

The film looks spectacular. It has been shot across various stunning locations like Paris, Barcelona, Rome and Venice and also on a humongous luxury cruise and cinematographer Manush Nandan captures all of them with aplomb. He is a cinematographer who is bound to go places. Bollywood cinematographers who get any location they want and yet fail to capture interesting visuals, should take lessons from him. MMA is one film which has used foreign locations very well without forcing it into the narrative. Editing by Shan Mohammed keeps the movie engaging with not one moment which is unnecessary. Costumes, done by Gauthami are also very pleasing to the eye and not the flashy ones we are used to seeing in Tamil films. And the most interesting technical aspect of the film is that it has completely been shot on sync sound (perhaps the only Tamil film after Aayitha Ezhuthu) and the technique completely enhances the performances and their spontaneity. I hope more and more filmmakers adapt this technique which makes the film & the performances much more real. 

Devi Sri Prasad comes up with his career best score in this film. The composer known for his catchy and funky songs gives a complete soundtrack, with songs penned by Kamal Haasan himself (except for Oyyale by Vivega). 'Dhagudu Dhathaam' is a fun track with even more fun lyrics and has Kamal breaking into an impromptu jig in the streets of Barcelona. 'Oyyale' is the kuthu track at the beginning of the movie with Suriya and Trisha and a suspicious Madhavan. Shot in Kodaikanal, this song fits in perfectly into the movie. 'Neela Vaanam' uses the technique from Monica Belluci's Irreversible & Coldplay's music video The Scientist to narrate the back-story of Kamal and his French wife. A beautiful and poetic song, the reverse technique with Kamal singing in sync works very well while narrating the entire flashback. Kamal's vocals and lyrics deserve special mention and so does DSP's tune. The most important song in the movie, sadly has been deleted due to some stupid controversy from some senseless religious groups. It is the 'Kannodu Kannai' kavithai between Kamal & Trisha. I was fortunate to see it on the first day since I saw the film outside South India and when I saw the movie a second time, the song was gone, leaving a huge blank, which takes away the romance from the movie. The poem, essentially a conversation between Kamal & Trisha in chaste Tamil about the qualities a man & a woman should possess for them to get married, is the main catalyst which further grows into a romance. Trisha's recital of the poem even though she's not very comfortable in Tamil, is exceptional and Kamal, of course is flawless. Andrea's 'Who's The Hero', the James Bond style introduction song for Kamal Haasan is also a great song. The background score (which includes the title song) is also brilliant and enhances many of the scenes. 

On the whole, Man Madan Ambu is a wholesome entertainer with a good mix of romance, comedy, action & emotions along with stunning visuals and great music. The exceptional performances from each member of the cast - from the lead trio of Kamal, Maddy & Trisha to even the most minor characters like Usha Uthup or the Sri Lankan cab driver, each and every one gives a brilliant performance. The deletion of the kavithai might make the romantic angle look unconvincing and I hope they restore the song to give the movie its due. But in spite of that, Man Madan Ambu is a great watch. Watch it along with your families and have a gala time in the theaters and end the year on a high note. :)

Rating - 4/5

Monday, December 27

Best Movies of 2010 - Hindi

And this is another year end special. Again, my attempt to compile the 10 best films of 2010 - Films which I liked, films which the masses liked and films which were genuinely good - I've tried to maintain a balance between all of them in this list. So, lets get started. 

10. My Name is Khan
Director - Karan Johar
Producer - Karan Johar, Shah Rukh Khan
Cast - Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Jimmy Sheirgill, Zarina Wahab
Writers - Karan Johar, Shibani Bhatija

Karan Johar tried to move away from candyfloss cinema to serious territories with his tale of an autistic man who sets out to prove his innocence to the President of America. Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol gave brilliant performances and the magic of India's most loved on-screen pair was still intact. But, as the director is Karan Johar, the film cant be far away from his sensibilities. The whole flood episode and the 'hum honge kamyaab' portions stuck out like a sore thumb from an otherwise well made movie. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's soulful music & Ravi K Chandran's spectacular cinematography deserve special mention. 

9. Tere Bin Laden
Director - Abhishek Sharma
Producer - Pooja Shetty, Arti Shetty
Cast - Ali Zafar, Piyush Mishra, Pradhyuman Singh, Sugandha Garg
Writer - Abhishek Sharma

This was a small movie which nobody knew about, but when it came, it became one of the most talked about movies of the year. A clever and witty comedy made with minimum budget and lesser-known actors, this movie wins you over with its completely original concept and the smart way in which it has been handled. Ali Zafar, the Pakistani singer made a great debut and is surely promising. Pradhyuman Singh as the lovable Osama look-alike, was hilarious. Abhishek Sharma is a director to look out for.

8. Love, Sex Aur Dhokha (LSD)
Director - Dibakar Bannerjee
Producers - Ekta Kapoor, Shobha Kapoor, Priya Sreedharan
Cast - Anshuman Jha, Shruti, Raj Kumar Yadav, Neha Chauhan, Amit Sial, Arya, Henry Tangdi 
Writers - Dibakar Bannerjee, Kanu Behl

Two-time National Award winning director Dibakar Bannerjee made his 3rd venture in a completely digital format, a rarity in India. The film, based on voyeurism, told 3 different stories using the digital camera in 3 different aspects to tell the story. The entire star cast of the movie didnt feature even a single known face and almost all of them acted brilliantly. The film went through a lot of controversy and it also had a nude scene, which was later trimmed and blurred by the censor board. The movie also featured a  kickass music score by Sneha Kanwalkar. LSD is now considered a cult classic and it also did reasonably good business during its theatrical run.  

7. Raajneeti 
Director - Prakash Jha
Producers - Prakash Jha, Ronnie Screwvala
Cast - Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgn, Manoj Bajpai, Arjun Rampal, Nana Patekar, Katrina Kaif, Naseeruddin Shah
Writers - Anjum Rajabali, Prakash Jha

Now, this movie was BIG. In every sense of the word. One of the biggest hits of the year, Raajneeti featured a host of talented actors ranging from Naseeruddin Shah to Ranbir Kapoor. The movie's plot was an amalgamation of two of the greatest stories ever told - The Mahabharata & The Godfather, and the setting was Indian politics. This itself made for an intriguing watch and as a bonus, there were stellar performances from Manoj Bajpai, Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Rampal & Nana Patekar. Even Katrina Kaif was highly impressive in her Sonia Gandhi-inspired role. The only actor who got a raw deal was Ajay Devgn. The second half was problematic and the climax, too rushed and cinematic. But none of this could stop this mammoth movie from being one of the biggest moneymakers in recent times. 

6. Dabangg
Director - Abhinav Kashyap
Producers - Arbaaz Khan, Malaika Arora Khan, Dhilin Mehta
Cast - Salman Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood, Arbaaz Khan, Mahesh Manjrekar, Anupam Kher, Om Puri.
Writers - Abhinav Kashyap, Dileep Shukla

Dabangg was a hurricane. It came, it conquered. A film which relied heavily on  Salman Khan's extraordinary star power, this movie was styled in a western-meets-South masala cinema kind of way. It had great action sequences, fantastic songs, hilarious comedy and everything that an Indian masala film is expected to have, in plenty. It also presented to us a heroine who reminded us how the quintessential Indian woman liked like, in these days of size-zero bimbettes - Sonakshi Sinha. But all these were just mere starters, as the main course was always Salman Khan in an unstoppable form. And he proved that he will always remain the darling of the masses. The film is reportedly the second (or third) highest grosser ever in the history of Indian Cinema. From the day the trailer was launched, Chulbul Pandey urff Robin Hood Pandey became an iconic character. And of course, there was MUNNI!!

5. Band Baaja Baaraat
Director - Maneesh Sharma
Producer - Aditya Chopra
Cast - Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma
Writer - Habib Faisal

A refreshingly lovable film, Band Baaja Baaraat was the story of 2 Delhi University passouts who start a wedding planning business on their own and how their friendship gets affected in the course of their business (or binness, as Bittoo would say). The film introduced us to a supremely talented Ranveer Singh, who had no acting backgrounds and who can give all the star-kids a run for their money. Anushka Sharma looked ravishing and gave an incredible performance as well. The chemistry between the two was unbelievably real and that added more authenticity to the movie. The film had a great musical score by Yash Raj regulars Salim-Sulaiman. Habib Faisal, who directed one of the other best movies of the year (coming shortly in this post) wrote this lovely movie for debutant director Maneesh Sharma. The film has helped Yash Raj Films to regain at least some of their lost glory. 

4. Ishqiya
Director - Abhishek Chaubey
Producer - Vishal Bhardwaj, Raman Maroo
Cast - Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Salman Shahid
Writers - Vishal Bhardwaj, Abhishek Chaubey, Sabrina Dhawan

This was one helluva movie. With 3 supremely talented actors in the lead and the brand name of Vishal Bhardwaj associated with it, Ishqiya was a winner from the word go. Vidya Balan played the femme fatale role to perfection making her the most favorable candidate to sweep all the awards this year. Naseeruddin Shah is synonymous with brilliance and we get the same here too. Arshad Warsi also excelled as the lovable goon Babban. Abhishek Chaubey, long-term associate of Vishal Bhardwaj made his debut through this movie which was co-written by him, Vishal and Sabrina Dhawan. And of course, there was the magical soundtrack by Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar Saab with the all time classic - Dil To Baccha Hai Ji

3. Do Dooni Chaar
Director - Habib Faisal
Producer - Arindam Chaudhuri, Walt Disney Pictures
Cast - Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Archit Krishna, Aditi Vasudev
Writers - Habib Faisal, Rahil Qazi

This was a gem of a movie. A Delhi middle class family's struggle to move from being owners of a scooter to a medium range car, is traced through some interesting incidents laced with a lot of  subtle humour. There was nothing extraordinary about this small film (except the acting by its lead cast) and yet it manages to make you feel unbelievably good. Rishi Kapoor delivers one of the year's best performances and Neetu Kapoor plays the perfect foil to his character. And other than these experienced actors, the new kids Aditi Vasudev and Archit Krishna are also exceptionally good and leave a solid impact. Every single person who has had a middle-class upbringing would relate to almost all the scenes of this movie and love it completely. 

2. Peepli [Live]
Director - Anusha Rizvi
Producer - Aamir Khan
Cast - Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Malaika Shenoy, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naseeruddin Shah
Writer - Anusha Rizvi

After watching this film, Salman Khan remarked that whatever Aamir Khan touches, it turns into gold. Well, that has been true for the past 4 yours now. A small budget satire about farmer's suicides, ex-reporter Anusha Rizvi's directorial debut became the talk of the nation upon its release. The only known faces in the movie were that of Raghubir Yadav and Naseeruddin Shah, but the tale of Nattha and his decision to take his own life for the sake of the suicide compensation money that his family would get, made people flock to the theaters, thereby making Peepli Live a grand success. Aamir Khan's excellent promotional strategies also played a key role in the movie's success. The movie has also been selected as India's official entry for the Foreign Language category in the coming Oscars. 

1. Udaan
Director - Vikramaditya Motwane
Producers - Anurag Kashyap, Sanjay Singh, Ronnie Screwvala
Cast - Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor, Aayan Boradia, Manjot Singh, Anand Tiwari
Writers - Vikramaditya Motwane, Anurag Kashyap

Udaan was one of the films in the competition section for the Palm D' Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year, a rare achievement for an Indian film. The film got released on 16th July and turned into a flop despite getting rave reviews from almost everyone who saw the movie. The movie was a simple coming-of-age story of a boy in extreme situations. It was realistic, poetic and uplifting and had some amazing performances as well. Ronit Roy was a revelation as the terrible father and there was Ram Kapoor as the loving uncle as well. Rajat Barmecha stole everyone's hearts with his lovely performance and so did the young boy who played his kid brother in the film. Amit Trivedi's music made the film scale new heights each time a song played in the movie. Intricately written by the director Vikramaditya Motwane and producer Anurag Kashyap, Udaan is easily one of the best films of the decade. Too bad that it didnt do well at the box office. 

P.S. - There were several other good/great films which came out in 2010, but unfortunately didnt make it to this list. There was the dhinchak retro-gangster flick Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai, the clever and witty Phas Gaye Re Obama, Ram Gopal Varma's return to form through the Rakht Charitra series, Ashutosh Gowariker's Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's plagiarized but very good Guzaarish with a stunning performance by Hrithik Roshan and Priyadarshan's Mississippi Burning rip-off Aakrosh. And of course, there was the hurricane from down south called Robot, dubbed in Hindi.