Saturday, July 31

Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai

Movie - Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai (Hindi)
Director - Milan Luthria
Producers - Shoba Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor
Cast - Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Randeep Hooda, Kangna Ranaut, Prachi Desai
Music - Pritam
Cinematography - Aseem Mishra
Background Score - Sandeep Shirodkar
Editor - Akiv Ali
Art Director - Nitin Chandrakant Desai
Action - Abbas Ali Moghul
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Rajat Aroraa
Release Date - 30th July 2010

Gangster movies are always a treat to watch. You get to see all that you want, but cannot have - the power, the money, the rides, the girls, the fear, the respect, everything!! And when one is served a gangster movie with a full-on retro feel, taking us back to the underworld of Mumbai in the 70s, he must be totally excited to be watching it on first day, first show. Which is exactly what I did, and I should say that I enjoyed the trip back to the Mumbai of yore complete with a kickass background score. 

Synopsis - Seen through the eyes of a police officer, ‘Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai’ traces the changing face of the Mumbai underworld and how it all started. The film, set primarily in 1970 s Mumbai, follows the rise of Sultan (Ajay Devgn), and the conflict, when his protégé Shoaib (Emraan Hashmi), challenges his supremacy, and usurps power to rule the murky underbelly of Mumbai. 

Despite disclaimers stating that there are no resemblances to any particular individual(s), there are obvious references at many places in the movie which tells us whose story we are really watching. We have seen the stories of some of the characters in the movie told by other filmmakers as well. (Nayakan, Company). The story of a righteous underworld don and his power-hungry protégé, has been told many times in our films, but it is the period setting and the retro-chic narrative style that makes a difference to this movie. It reminds us of the Salim-Javed /Amitabh Bachchan movies of that period and maintains that spirit throughout. Kangna even refers to a new actor 'Amit' who can play Sultan's character if a film gets made on him. (Deewaar anyone??) Everything about the movie - the look, the cars, the clothes, the music and even the dialogues take you back to the 70s. 

Ajay Devgn has played the same role before in Company, but not once does his Sultan Mirza remind you of Mallik from Company. His performance is fresh and totally stylized. Dressed in white and white throughout the film, he looks every bit like the ruler of Mumbai. Such kind of intensity on screen can be brought out only by Ajay Devgn right now in Hindi Cinema. Emraan Hashmi is good, but could have been a bit more aggressive towards the penultimate reels. The actor shines in the intitial portions through which his character is established, but does not create the required impact once he takes over the empire. He looks great and plays his part well, but it definitely could have been better. Randeep Hooda puts up a surprisingly restrained performance and comes back from oblivion with a bang. Though he is credited only in a special appearance, he is as crucial as Ajay or Emraan to the movie. Kangna Ranaut plays the Bollywood diva elegantly and it was a great relief to see her playing a non-psychotic role for a change. The romantic portions between her and Ajay are developed beautifully. Producer Ekta Kapoor's favourite Prachi Desai looks cute and plays her part well. 

This is Milan Luthria's best work so far. The director had impressed us with his earlier outings like Kachche Dhaage and Taxi No 9211. But this time around, he has made a movie which will be equally appealing for the masses and the classes. His retro style treatment is what makes the movie stand out. The dialogues by Rajat Aroraa are truly of the 'seeti-maar' kind, like the ones that used to come in the films of the 70s and 80s. And it is interesting to note that despite being a gangster flick, the film has very little action, bloodshed and violence. Everything is said through the scenes and dialogues. That kind of impact is much better than that created through elaborate stunt sequences. Rajat Aroraa's screenplay is engaging throughout and not one scene is unwanted. 

Music by Pritam is very good with two melodious tracks, 'Pee Loon' and 'Tum Jo Aaye' inserted seamlessly into the narrative. It is very difficult to add effective romantic interludes in gangster flicks, but the romantic portions of the movie and the songs are handled very well, without hampering the narrative. The disco remix of RD Burman's 'Duniya Mein Logon Ko' along with an action scene was a good touch. But more than the music, it is the background score by Sandeep Shirodkar which makes the movie work. The film has an insane theme track where electric guitars go off in full retro style whenever Emraan Hashmi comes on screen. One would certainly feel like walking in slow motion to that track once he comes out of the theater. Though it seems a little inspired from a track from RocknRolla, it still sounds kickass and takes the movie to greater levels. Aseem Mishra's excellent cinematography captures the different shades of the Mumbai of the 70s. One of the best works of the year so far. (Maybe THE best after Raavan). Nitin Chandrakant Desai has become a master in recreating the past and he excels in this one too. The costumes, styling and make-up are also impressive. 

On the whole, Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai is an enjoyable trip back to the Mumbai of the 70s. The dialogues are clap-worthy, the music kickass, the performances perfect and the full treatment is great. Once upon a time, there used to be totally dhinchaak paisa vasool Hindi fillums. This movie almost reaches there. It could have been a lot more better, but in its present state also, this movie is certainly worth spending your money on. 

Rating - 3.5/5

Friday, July 30


Movie - Apoorvaragam (Malayalam)
Director - Sibi Malayil
Producer - Siyad Koker
Cast - Nishan, Asif Ali, Nithya Menen, Santosh Jogi, Vinay, Shruti Menon, etc.
Music - Vidyasagar
Cinematography - Ajayan Vincent
Background Score - Bijibal
Art Director - Prasanth Madhav
Editor - Bijith Bala
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - GS Anand, Najeem Koya
Release Date - 16th July 2010

Apoorvaragam is the classic case of an idea sounding great on paper, but turning into a disaster when translated on to the screen. Touted to be the comeback vehicle of veteran director Sibi Malayil, the film fails to engage you despite having an interesting plot. When a middle-aged person 'tries' to make a 'youth' film, it ends up being his/her perspective of the youth and their lives. So the young people act according to how he thinks they should act, not like how they would behave actually. The film, promoted excessively as the next defining, youth film, disappoints tremendously.

It tells the story of Roopesh (Nishan), Tomy (Asif) and Nancy (Nithya). Roopesh and Tomy are two lonely souls in the college, without any friends. They try to befriend Nancy and her gang, and Roopesh gradually reveals his love for Nancy and Nancy also falls for him (very conveniently). After a silly song and some romance, things start getting complicated, when Nancy's father gets calls giving information about his daughter from none other than Roopesh's best friend Tomy. Nancy and Roopesh register their marriage at a registrar office and knowing this, her dad gets royally disturbed. What happens after he meets Roopesh and Tomy forms the rest of the story. 

The film starts as a usual so-called 'campus' film with students who never go to class, who sing gibberish in the name of songs, and do break dance in groups in the college campus. (All these became outdated in the 90s itself). Then a slight romance is added and pretty soon, an element of suspense is brought. But the pre-interval scene, which is supposed to be a shocker, doesnt really come across as one. But still, even when the first half ends, you still feel that the movie has some potential. From then on, the movie keeps giving twists and more twists, until a point where it gets totally irritating. And the worst part is that one can already sense those twists, and there's no surprise when those twists come in the movie. The climax is the most terrible of them all, and is unintentionally funny. 

Nishan who impressed with his performance in Shyamaprasad's Rithu, gives a very confused performance here. He had to do the same things in the initial college portions of the movie, but when his character underoges a change, he becomes a complete failure. A person who does not know the language can hardly carry off the lead role of the film very easily, especially when his character goes through a lot of changes. Asif Ali performs much better than Nishan, but he also ends up overacting towards the climax. He has everything going for him - looks, acting, screen presence, but his voice is a big minus. (Just like Jayam Ravi in Tamil). He has to do something about it before getting into the big league. Nithya is the most beautiful leading lady we have seen on the Malayalam screen in a long long time. She has proved that she's a very good performer earlier itself. But in this one, she also overacts in the climax, after being restrained throughout the movie. Vinay, who also appeared in Rithu, gives a fantastically bad performance, where he had to be the strongest of them all. Even Sharath's good dubbing can't save him. The man who played Nancy's dad, made the movie worth watching with his extremely funny acting. The scenes where he cries are gems. I dont know why Shammi Thilakan agreed to dub for him. They could have actually cast Shammi Thilakan in that role instead of him. I'm sure he would have done a deadly job. The guy who played the comic sidekick Firoze in college, was the only good performer among the newbies. The late Santosh Jogi comes in an impressive cameo. 

The way the three leading men behave looks extremely pretentious and wannabe. They're supposed to be cool dudes who dont care about anything or anyone around them. But their trademark gestures and stuff look far from being cool. Their interactions look like they have some orientation problems. Extremely weak characterizations and situations kill the movie in the second half, after a watchable first half. 

Vidyasagar's music is bad!! Period. The composer who used to make out-of-the-world songs once upon a time disappoints completely here and reminds us of his and Sibi Malayil's glorious past each time Nancy's ringtone 'Ethrayo Janmamayi' is heard in the movie. The only good song in the movie is the promotional song 'Athira' done by Bijibal who has also done a great job with background score. But the straight rip-off from 'Fashion Ka Jalwa' during the fashion show scenes could have been avoided. Ajayan Vincent's camerawork is great and is one of the few positive aspects of the film. He gives some really interesting frames and angles in the movie, making it visually appealing. Prasanth Madhav's artwork also supports the visual appeal of the movie. 

On the whole, Apoorvaragam is a massive disappointment from the veteran who gave us gems ranging from Mutharamkunnu PO to Ishtam. Despite having an interesting plot, he failed to bring it out effectively on screen, thus making the movie a tedious watch. Hope he comes back with a bang the next time around, with a subject more suitable to his style of filmmaking. 

Rating - 2/5

Thursday, July 29

Malarvaadi Arts Club

Movie - Malarvaadi Arts Club (Malayalam)
Director - Vineeth Sreenivasan
Producer - Dileep
Cast - Nivin Pauly, Aju Varghese, Shraavan, Hari Krishnan, Bhagath Manuel, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Salimkumar, Janardhanan, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Kottayam Naseer, Apoorva Bose and others.
Music and Background Score - Shaan Rahman
Cinematography - P Sukumar ISC
Editor - Ranjan Abraham
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Vineeth Sreenivasan
Release Date - 16th July 2010

There was a time in Malayalam Cinema where the antics and adventure of the unemployed youth made for some really interesting stories and feature films. Priyadarshan, Siddique-Lal, Sathyan Anthikkad and Sreenivasan made so many memorable movies telling the stories of the misadventures of such young people, which are still fresh in our minds. But as time passed, such movies became a rarity. And youth films became restricted to the so-called 'campus' films which came one after the other with almost the same storylines in every film. But now, this young guy called Vineeth Sreenivasan takes us back to a village called Manassheri and tells the story of 5 young, spirited, but unemployed guys and their friendship with lots of humour, music and masti. 

The movie is about the 5 young guys called Prakashan (Nivin), Santosh (Shraavan), Purushu (Bhagath), Praveen (Hari) and Kuttu (Aju), the only members of the club called Malarvaadi Arts Club in their village. They have a mentor in their building's owner Kumarettan (Nedumudi Venu), who treats them like his own children. They are a bunch of fun-loving guys who also double up as taskmasters for a political party in the village. They go around creating and inviting trouble around them, having fun while doing all that. But then, Santosh's family goes through a financial crisis and in that stage, Kumarettan and the rest of the Malarvaadi gang, inspire him to pursue his real talent - music, and participate in a reality show. Santosh becomes an overnight sensation making Kumarettan and his friends very proud. But then an incident occurs through which their relationship is affected deeply. What happens next forms the rest of the story. 

Vineeth got an opportunity to direct a movie so early in his career, only because of his lineage. But unlike other star-kids, he didnt waste that opportunity. Instead, he has worked hard to get the best out of that chance and the result is out there for everyone to see. The story is definitely nothing new and follows predictable routes mostly, but the whole package makes watching the movie a worthwhile experience. Vineeth's treatment, the performance of the newcomers, natural dialogues and the great music are the best aspects of the movie. Like most of the people in our generation, Vineeth also has been influenced by almost all the movies based on friendship and music, and that is very evident in the movie as well. There are portions which remind you of Dil Chahta Hai, Goa, Chennai 28 and Rock On. But still, he was smart enough to admit it beforehand that he has been influenced by all these movies. But he has treated them only as influences, rather than trying to copy them blindly, which is a very good sign. Vineeth has extracted fine performances out of all his new finds. His acting camp before the shoot of the movie has certainly enhanced their performances. The dialogues of the movie are excellent, and such natural dialogues are hardly heard in Malayalam these days, where each sentence is dramatic and over the top in almost all movies. Such natural conversations used to happen (and still happens) only in Sreenivasan films, and thankfully his son has acquired that quality from him effectively. He also takes some digs at politics and politicians, in true Sreenivasan style. 

Nivin, who has played the part of Prakashan is the best among the newbies. He has amazing screen presence and his performance is the backbone of the film. His energy and aggression reminded me of Sasikumar from Subramaniapuram. Aju, who plays Kuttu, a modern day version of Harihar Nagar's Appukkuttan (the old one), has some hilarious lines and scenes. Bhagath, Shraavan and Harikrishnan also make impressive debuts as Purushu, Santosh and Praveen respectively.  (I have a doubt if Vineeth Sreenivasan himself dubbed for Shraavan in the movie. The voice sounded very familiar). Bhagath shines in emotional scenes and his short romantic portion. Nedumudi Venu has the best written role in the movie and the veteran makes a huge impact through his performance. Jagathy Sreekumar and Salimkumar are wasted. Kottayam Naseer and Janardhanan are okay. Suraaj Venjarammoodu plays the same goonda role that he has been playing in all other movies. (Thankfully no vulgar jokes this time). Apoorva Bose and the other new girl do their parts well. The Senior comes in a short, but impressive cameo as well. In short, the newcomers have performed better than the established actors in this movie. 

Shaan Rahman has done a fantastic job with the music of the film. The songs of the film have been out for a pretty long time and are already chartbusters. Each song gels well into the narrative of the film, the best ones being 'Innoree Mazhayil' and 'Changayi'. The climax song could have been a little more better. Vineeth's lyrics are also extremely good. (You can find my music review of the album here). Background score is excellent and it strikes an effective balance between music and silence. Shaan has sneaked in his 'Palavattam' tune in a scene with Salimkumar, which was damn cool. His 'Shashi' track for Salimkumar and 'Who let the dog out' for Suraaj were hilarious. His background score has certainly enhanced the movie very much. P Sukumar's shots were easy to the eye and the song 'Manyamahajanangale' and the finale song 'Aayiram Kaatham' had some nice frames. Ranjan Abraham's editing is perfect for the film. 

Malarvaadi Arts Club is a team effort and it shows on each and every frame of the movie. It looks like the team had a great time making the movie, under the leadership of Vineeth. The multitasker has proved himself as a singer, an actor, a lyricist and now a writer-director. He has made a light-hearted, entertaining movie which can be enjoyed by people of all age groups and from all walks of society. It has its share of flaws, but the sincerity and the teamwork behind this project overshadows all those flaws. The movie is not pretentious like other so-called youth films and succeeds in narrating a simple story of friendship in an effective way. Dileep also deserves brownie points for taking up this project and producing it under his banner, thus making its reach much more wider than what it could have been otherwise. After all said and done, the film makes us smile while coming out of the theatre, and thats more than enough for one to call it a great film. Kudos to the entire Malarvaadikkoottam. Manyamahajanangale, these 'Kashmalans' are here to stay!! 

Rating - 4/5

Khatta Meetha

Happy to let you people know that my review of Khatta Meetha has been published in the NXG supplement of the Chennai edition of The Hindu newspaper dated 29th July 2010. Here's the online link to the review at The Hindu website -

That was an edited version of the review. Posting the full, unedited version here, 

Movie - Khatta Meetha (Hindi)

Director - Priyadarshan
Producer - Akshay Kumar, Ashtavinayak
Cast - Akshay Kumar, Trisha Krishnan, Rajpal Yadav, Johnny Lever, Manoj Joshi, Khulbushan Kharbanda, Urvashi Sharma, Neeraj Vora, Makrand Deshpande, Milind Gunaji and others
Music - Pritam
Cinematography - V Manikandan
Production Design - Sabu Cyril
Editing - Arun Kumar
Story, Screenplay - Priyadarshan
Dialogues - Jay Master
Release Date - 23rd July 2010

Khatta Meetha draws inspiration (almost entirely) from Priyadarshan's own Vellanakalude Naadu (Malayalam), a strong social satire made in 1989. And like the original, Khatta Meetha is not an out and out comedy which it was promoted as (Mainly since Priyadarshan - Akshay Kumar films have always been slapstick comedies). Things get pretty serious in the second half and the movie enters the drama mode after some hilarious comic sequences in the first half. It also addresses the issues of corruption and political powerplay in our government offices. Comparing Khatta Meetha to its original is pointless since it would be blasphemy to compare Akshay Kumar to someone like Mohanlal. Unlike Malayalam, there is no subtlety or underplay in Priyadarshan's Hindi films, where every actor screams his dialogues at the top of their voices regardless of what kind of scene it is. But the Akshay - Priyan team has done a commendable job by refraining from making yet another slapstick comedy and attempting something a little more serious, without the grandeur and glamour of usual Hindi movies. 

Khatta Meetha tells the story of a desperate, unsuccessful road contractor Sachin Tichkule who is neck deep in debt. He is a descendant of a royal family and his father (Khulbushan Kharbanda) is a much respected person in the neighbourhood. His elder brother and brother-in-laws also work in the Public Works Department building roads and bridges, but they are all extremely well-off since they have the money and they know to utilize the loopholes in the corrupt system and get their work done faster. The entire family looks down upon Sachin except his sister Anjali (Urvashi Sharma). Things get worse for Tichkule when his ex-lover Gehna (Trisha Krishnan) takes charge as the new Municipal Commissioner of the town, and she completely hates him. There's a bridge which collapses, a murder that happens, a man out to take revenge, a road roller that rams into a house after being pulled by an elephant and much more which happens during the 2 hours 40 minutes of the film's running time. 

Akshay Kumar brings in some genuine earnestness to his character Sachin Tichkule. He succeeds partly, but everytime he impresses us, he spoils it with shouting his dialogues during the very next scene. He gets his attire right including the aviators, the black bag and the omnipresent umbrella, travels around in bicycles, auto-rickshaws and even police jeeps at times. He is effectively restrained in some scenes and goes irritatingly over the top in certain others. But on the whole, Akshay's performance is one of the positive aspects of the film and he brings out the hopelessness and desperation of the character really well. Tamil Cinema's darling Trisha could have chosen a better film and a better character to make her debut in Hindi. She doesnt really have much to do and in the very little screen time she gets, she is not all that impressive as well. Shobana played the same fiery character brilliantly in the original, but Trisha pales in comparison. The romantic portions between Akshay and Trisha also do not look great. Akshay as a Gandhian law college student singing 'Nanachi Tang', was a little too much. Rajpal Yadav is in top form after a long time and manages to deliver loads of laughs. Johnny Lever comes in a hilarious cameo as the driver of a road roller. But for a person who has seen Kuthiravattam Pappu's legendary performance in the original, Lever's act looks like a mockery. Khulbushan Kharbanda and Asrani are good. Tinu Anand, Urvashi Sharma, Milind Gunaji, Neeraj Vora and Makrand Deshpande are decent. Manoj Joshi shouts almost all his dialogues and is really irritating. 

The film has some very good scenes, comic and otherwise. Akshay's interactions with Khulbushan Kharbanda, the house-maintenance scene at Asrani's house (lifted from Siddique's Friends), all of Rajpal Yadav's antics, the entire road-roller sequence with Johnny Lever, Asrani's conversation with multiple people and Akshay's dialogue to Trisha about the corruption in our system, which is the most effective of them all. But on the flip-side, most of the serious events in the film looks outdated and out-of-place. The murder, the sister track, the entire college sequence, Trisha being framed and the subsequent scenes, etc. made sense in late 1980s, but do not make much sense now. But one thing that has remained constant then and now is the corruption in our system, and that aspect has been brought out well. The movie is set in rural Maharashtra, but some of the characters speak in a hybrid Marathi-Punjabi accent. Priyadarshan has only been partly successful in adapting his friend Sreenivasan's screenplay to Hindi. 

Music by Pritam is serviceable, but all the songs are placed at really odd places in the narrative. They just pop up randomly between scenes. 'Sajde' has been shot well reminding one of Priyadarshan's most famous songs in Malayalam (Ambalappuzhe from Advaitham). The song that comes in the end credits goes 'I'm allergic to Bullshit'. They wouldn't really have included that song in the movie, if they really meant it. National Award winner Ouseppachan has done the background score which has a strong southern feel to it. V Manikandan has done some really good cinematography. Sabu Cyril creates the perfect atmosphere of rural Maharashtra through his sets. Arun Kumar should have used his scissors more in the second half. The stunt sequence towards the end of the movie has been shot very well and it was surprising to see a stunt scene in a Priyadarshan movie after ages. 

On the whole, Khatta Meetha is passable fare. Dont go in expecting a usual Akshay-Priyadarshan movie, you may end up being disappointed. Carry some cotton also along with you since a major part of the dialogues are shouted out. On a more serious note, it is a satire which starts with some hilarious scenes in the first half, and goes into drama mode in the second half. It is not bad, it is not great either. 

Rating - 2.8/5

Tuesday, July 27


Movie - Thillalangadi (Tamil)
Director - M Raja
Producer - M Raja, A Mohan, Sun Pictures

Cast - 'Jayam' Ravi, Tamannah, Shaam, Prabhu, Suhasini, Vadivelu, Santhanam, Livingston, Radha Ravi, Jayashankar
Music - Yuvan Shankar Raja
Cinematography - B Rajashekhar
Editing - L Sasikumar
Screenplay, Dialogues - M Raja
Release Date - 23rd July 2010

I was bored, jobless, had loads of time to kill and didnt know what to do. I decided to go for this new Tamil movie called Thilllalangadi which promised to be mindless masala fun. The movie perfectly served my purpose and kept me entertained throughout. It also helped that I hadnt seen its Telugu original, Kick (Ravi Teja, Ileana) so that no comparisons came to my mind. It is director Raja's 4th remake in a row with his brother 'Jayam' Ravi. And like all the other films, this might also turn into a blockbuster provided that Sun Pictures continue their aggressive marketing strategy for the film. 

Nisha (Tamannah) and Krishnakumar (Shaam) meet on a train in Malaysia to get to know each other after Krishnakumar's marriage proposal comes to Nisha. During their conversation, Nisha talks about her ex-lover Krishna (Jayam Ravi) whom she now hates. The movie goes into flashback mode and tells the love story of Krishna and Nisha. Krishna is a person who lives life just to get a 'kick' out of it. He does even the most normal things in the weirdest possible way just to get a 'kick'. Nisha begins by hating him for this nature of his, but in true filmy fashion, ends up falling for him due to the same nature. After romancing for a while, they break up since Nisha cannot take Krishna's antics anymore and Krishna believes that the kick has gone out of their romance. Then Krishnakumar narrates the story of the person he hates the most. A thief, who steals from the who's who of Chennai just for fun. KK is the Assistant Commissioner of Police who is in charge of nabbing him. But the thief outsmarts him at every move and KK is hell bent on catching him. What happens when all of them meet at Malaysia forms the rest of the story. 

The first half is racy and entertaining, whereas the second half moves at a much slower pace. The entire Malaysia episode was just forced into the narrative for some good locations, it wouldnt have made much difference if all that happened in Chennai also. The whole 'memory loss' portions and the song were a sheer waste of time. The movie never wants the audience to take it seriously, and is a shameless commercial potboiler. So there is absolutely no point in looking for logic in the narrative. All you have to do is give your brains some rest and be entertained by the completely mindless proceedings. To quote Veeru paaji from Sholay, "Is story mein emotion hai, drama hai, comedy hai, tragedy hai, aur loads of action bhi hai.", thus making it a full-on masala movie. Raja, who has made only family movies so far, has broken his image by making this flick. It would be interesting to see what he has in store in the Vijay movie Velayudham

Jayam Ravi is over-enthusiastic, but still does a decent job as the slightly insane Krishna. Ravi Teja is supposed to be much better in the Telugu original, but since I havent seen that movie, I cannot comment on that. For me, Jayam Ravi was quite good, except for his voice, which doesnt sound anything close to a hero's voice (like in all his movies). Tamannah is getting better with each film. She's the only North Indian actress in Tamil who gets her lip-sync almost right when she speaks Tamil. She plays the bubbly Nisha effortlessly and has done a great job in all the comedy sequences as well. She seems to be inspired by Kareena Kapoor, in both acting and her costumes and look. Shaam as the tough cop is impressive and its good to have him back after a long hiatus. But his look seems to be a little too inspired by Kamal Haasan's Raghavan from Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. Vadivelu is pretty decent and manages to deliver some good laughs. Santhanam makes an apperance in the second half, only to do some terrible comedy which makes you cringe in your seat. Prabhu is as usual, dependable. Radha Ravi is excellent. Suhasini has nothing much to do. John Vijay in a short cameo is funny. 

Music by Yuvan Shankar Raja, who was on a winning streak till now, is below average. The only good song in the movie is 'Sol Pechu' by two of India's best singers, KS Chitra and Shreya Ghoshal. The video of the song is thoroughly inspired by Behka from the Hindi Ghajini (this is perhaps the 3rd or 4th Tamil song to be inspired by that one song), but has interestingly been shot without cuts in one single shot with so many Jayam Ravi's and Tamannah's coming in, that you actually lose count. It is done quite well actually. Background score was racy and was apt for the film. B Rajashekhar's cinematography is good while L Sasikumar should have made the movie a little more sharper in the second half. 

On the whole, Thillalangadi is a shameless masala film made with no apologies about it. It certainly could hav been much better with a much more spicy and racy narrative. But still, it manages to be a timepass flick. Watch it if you're a fan of such movies, you wouldnt be bored. 

Rating - 3/5

Tuesday, July 20


Movie - Madharasappattinam (Tamil)
Director - Vijay
Producer - Kalpathi S Aghoram, Udhayanidhi Stalin
Cast - Arya, Amy Jackson, Nasser, Alex O'Neill, VMC Hanifa, MS Bhaskar, Kishore, Jeeva, Jack James 
Music - GV Prakash Kumar
Cinematography - Nirav Shah
Editing - Anthony
Art Director - Selvakumar
Stunts - Manohar Verma
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Vijay
Release Date - 9th July 2010

Priyadarshan would be proud. His protege Vijay has not only made a very good period film in Tamil (like his grand Kalapani/Siraichaalai), he has also been 'inspired' by 2 huge blockbusters in the period genre. Vijay who has done only remakes so far in Tamil (Kireedam, Poi Solla Porom), ventured into a very tough project as his third, and he has succeeded in making it his career-best work. Its been ages since a period film came in Tamil (other than Imsai Arasan 23am Pulikesi) and out of the few period films in Tamil, even fewer films featured the Indian independence struggle. But here, Vijay does not tell the tale of the independence struggle. Instead, he narrates an endearing love story with the Indian freedom struggle as a backdrop. 

85 year old Amy Smith is suffering from a blood clot in her brain and has to be operated almost immediately to avoid serious consequences. But before her operation, she makes a decision to go to India to find the whereabouts of a man named Parithi. Cut to the past, where Amy Wilkinson (Amy Jackson), the daughter of the Governor of Madras, has just arrived in India. Amy meets a young man Parithi (Arya) during her stay in Madras, and slowly falls in love with him, much to the displeasure of her parents and fiancé Commissioner Robert Ellis (Alex O'Neill). Robert, along with the Governon also have plans of snatching the land of Parithi and his fellow villagers who all make a living by washing the clothes of those foreigners. The past and present come alive through the eyes of Amy (Doraiamma to Parithi) in her journey to find Parithi. 

The structure of the screenplay is religiously borrowed from James Cameron's blockbuster Titanic. From the first scene till the last scene, the influence of Titanic is very evident and in your face. And the other film which has influenced him majorly is Ashutosh Gowariker's LagaanArya's introduction, learning the language, the rain song, VMC Hanifa's character and finally the gusti match between Parithi and Robert with their land as the prize money; along with costumes, art direction, etc. are all out of Lagaan Taking scenes from movies which almost everyone has seen and making them work again is a tough job, and Vijay handles it quite well actually. But in spite of these obvious inspirations, Vijay still manages to deliver a pretty good film. 

What works for the movie is the romance and its old world charm. The movie takes the audience through the Madras of yore and suddenly gives images of the new Madras, which is now Chennai, in striking contrast. And in between all the land issues, indpendence struggle and tension, a lovely romance blooms between the lead pair Arya and Amy Jackson, which is truly endearing and one of the best aspects of the film. The romantic portions are narrated with a tinge of humour making them much more enjoyable. The second half gets a little long, but catches pace with the chase scene at the Central station and surroundings. 

Arya is very good as the 'brave man' Parithi. He has very little dialogues, but still manages to charm you with his act. Comedy as always, is his forte, and he shines in the comic scenes. His beefed up look has helped him a lot in the action sequences. But the movie belongs to Amy Jackson. As the beautiful Doraiyamma, she wins your heart immediately. Her Tamil is wonderful and she looks exotic when she comes dressed in a pudavai. She slightly resembles a young Aishwarya Rai in her looks, and is a very good actress as well. The old lady who played her part in the present timeline, was very poor and did not match up to Amy's skills. Alex O'Neill is menacing and has done his part well. This might perhaps be VMC Hanifa's last movie. The great character actor passed away this March. He looks very unhealthy in the movie and his voice seems like it has been dubbed partly by him and partly by some mimicry artistes. But still, he gets some hilarious lines and scenes and he plays it to perfection. Nasser is superb in a short role. The rest of the cast, especially the villagers are very good and they are responsible for all the wonderful light moments in the first half of the movie. 

Recreating the Madras of 1940s is no easy task and Vijay's team has done some extraordinary work towards it, transporting us back to that era. Nirav Shah's cinematography and Selvakumar's art direction go hand in hand and are certainly award-worthy material. Even though some of the houses look straight out of Priyadarshan's Kanchivaram, the art director has shown in skill in creating the atmosphere for the movie. A completely clean Koovam river which people used as a source of water is itself an amazing sight. There are trams, old buses, government buildings, the Washermanpet, nameboards, the old Spencer's building, Central Station, etc. Everything has been recreated wonderfully through sets and CGI. Anthony's editing between the past and the present (shot in different colour tones by Nirav Shah) works very well, but he could have trimmed the second half a little bit. Stunts by Manohar are very good as well. 

GV Prakash has gone his uncle AR Rahman's way in Madharasappattinam, scoring some classy, old world music for the movie. This is perhaps his best work after Veyil and Aayirathil Oruvan. 'Meghame Meghame' by the legend MS Vishwanathan, superstar Vikram and Nasser is shot a la 'Ghanan Ghanan' from Lagaan. But is still a great song. 'Pookkal Pookkum' is a beautiful romantic duet between Arya and Amy and the Lagaan inspiration creeps in here also with Amy dancing in a red dress singing English lines like in 'O Rey Chhori'. 'Vaamma Doraiyamma' is an endearing song in which Arya shows Amy around Madharasappattinam, showing us all the landmarks of Chennai during that period. With some hilarious English translations by VMC Hanifa thrown in for good measure. The sad song in the second half could have been avoided but its a good song nevertheless. It was a surprise to see Amy Jackson lip-syncing to Tamil lyrics much better than the usual Tamil movie heroines. Background Score is also excellent, with a lot of inspiration from Rahman's style of composing. 

On the whole, Madharasappattinam is a pretty good movie which transports you back to the Chennai during the last days of British rule in India, and tells a nice love story set in that period. If you're ready to forgive the obvious inspirations from Titanic and Lagaan, there are chances that you might end up liking this movie. The title card of the movie is innovatively done on the Madras presidency map and the end credits show the Madras of yore and the Chennai of today's times. The audience do not leave the hall till they see the last frames showing the old Spencer's building and the new Spencer's Plaza. Vijay has proved that he is a talented director and someone to look forward to in the future, with Madharasappattinam. 

Rating - 3.5/5

Monday, July 19


Movie - Udaan (Hindi)
Director - Vikramaditya Motvane
Producer - Ronnie Screwvala, Anurag Kashyap, Sanjay Singh
Cast - Rajat Barmecha, Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor, Aayan Boradia, Manjot Singh, Anand Tiwari
Music - Amit Trivedi
Cinematography - Mahendra Shetty
Editor - Dipika Karla
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Vikramaditya Motvane, Anurag Kashyap
Lyrics - Amitabh Bhattacharya, Anurag Kashyap
Release Date - 16th July 2010

The poster above shows words ranging from Superman to Lingerie, a boy breaking free and the title, Udaan (meaning 'flight'). Which is exactly what we get while watching Udaan, a gritty, realistic and inspiring account of a young boy coming into his own and finally flying towards achieving his dreams. The previous such movie from Hindi, Wake Up Sid, was a rich guy's  coming of age movie, which I thought was really good, looks shallow and overrated now, after seeing Udaan. Udaan is the first Indian film in 7 years to be selected to the competition category of the Cannes film festival, and it totally justifies its nomination. And with the name Anurag Kashyap credited as producer and co-writer, fans of sensible Indian cinema have been waiting with bated breath for this movie. 

Synopsis - After being abandoned for eight straight years in boarding school, Rohan returns to the small industrial town of Jamshedpur and finds himself closeted with an authoritarian father and a younger half brother who he didn’t even know existed. Forced to work in his father’s steel factory and study engineering against his wishes, he tries to forge his own life out of his given circumstances and pursue his dream of being a writer.

Vikramaditya Motvane makes an explosive debut as a writer-director and makes sure that each and everyone sits up and takes notice of him. Vikramaditya is a protege of Sanjay Leela Bhansali (HDDCS and Devdas) and also one among the writers of the path-breaking Dev.D. (Interesting that he has worked on both Devdas and Dev.D) Here, he takes the simplest of plots and narrates it with many predictable events, but still delivers a brilliant movie. It is the nuances that he brings to each scene that makes the movie a great experience. The film flows seamlessly from one beautifully written scene to the next, each one connecting with the audience in some way or the other. Udaan is about the youth, its about parents, its about the generation gaps, its about frustration, its about rebellion, about breaking free, about love and the director conveys all these emotions in less than 2.5 hours. The maturity with which he has handled relationships in the movie should be reference material to many other filmmakers. Be it Rohan's relationship with his father, or his friends, his uncle and finally with his 6 year old stepbrother, everything is so real and convincing, that it is hard to believe that we are watching a film. 

Rajat Barmecha can give all our young superstars a run for their money with his acting skills. He resembles Imran Khan a little in his looks, but is a far more superior actor than Imran. He plays the dreamy-eyed, rebellious Rohan to perfection. He carries the entire film on his young and able shoulder. Ronit Roy is a revelation. The actor who used to act in silly television soaps gives an extraordinary performance as the part-rakshas, part-human father to Rohan and Arjun. He succeeds in making the audience absolutely hate him, yet understand him at points, which means that his performance was bang on. Ram Kapoor, another TV actor as Rohan's chacha was again brilliant, with the right amount of underplay in his performance. He resembles Anurag Kashyap a lot in his looks. For a while, I was thinking if Anurag was the one who was acting in that role. Aayan Boradia, the child who plays Rohan's kid brother Arjun is the cutest thing to have appeared on screen in a long while. And kudos to Vikramaditya for his perfect casting and extracting an endearing performance out of the child. Manjot Singh, the stud surd from Oye Lucky!! Lucky Oye!! comes in a very short role but makes his presence felt throughout the movie. He was as usual, bindaas!! The rest of the cast were also extremely natural and ably supported the main cast. 

Picking the best scenes from the movie is a tough job and it is better that the audience enjoys those scenes as they come in the movie, rather than already being aware of them through this review or any other reviews. There are some brilliant dialogues written which are both realistic and cinematic at the same time. And it is the small small things in each scene that makes Udaan work big time. And dont go with an opinion that this would be a dull drama between a father and son, Udaan has plenty of humorous moments which will make you laugh out loud. The interesting fact is that there are only 2 female characters in the film - Rohan's aunt and his dad's new girlfriend. But both of them hardly appear in more than a scene. Apart from that, there is a fat lady running in a swimsuit on the beach in Kanti Shah Ke Angoor, the adult film that Rohan and friends watch in a local theater. There is no romantic angle, because it simply aint a love story. And a million thanks to the director for not trying to squeeze in a love story for the sake of having one, like every other Hindi film. 

Mahendra Shetty's cinematography is certainly one of the best things about the film. He has framed the movie in such a way that the audience is also a part of Rohan's claustrophobic life. And the outdoor shots are a sheer joy to watch. Amit Trivedi's music speaks for the characters almost as much as the dialogues of the movie do. He has come up with yet another fantastic soundtrack which has enhanced the narrative like anything. The songs 'Kahani Khatam Hai' and 'Aazadiyaan' are the picks of the lot. Amitabh Bhattacharya has also contributed a lot through his inspiring lyrics. Rohan's poems in the movie are absolute gems, especially the one he recites to his dad at a park. Dipika Karla's editing was perfect for the movie. 

Udaan is sensitive, intelligent, inspiring and poignant. Vikramaditya Motvane in his debut has been absolutely true to his heart and has made a brave film without any compromises, proving that he is a craftsman to look out for. The Cannes nomination is just a beginning. This film is bound to go places and has the emotional quotient to connect with each and every person who watches the film. Easily the best Hindi film of the year so far. 

So its time for boys/guys to get all emotional and moist-eyed inside the darkness of the theatre once again after Taare Zameen Par. Udaan is certainly a must watch coming of age film, and it would be a grave loss if any of us miss it. It makes you laugh, it pulls at your heartstrings, it gets you inspired and in the end, leaves you in high spirits!!

Rating - 4.5/5

Friday, July 9

Oru Naal Varum

Movie - Oru Naal Varum (Malayalam)
Director - TK Rajeev Kumar
Producer - Manian Pillai Raju
Cast - Mohanlal, Sreenivasan, Sameera Reddy, Devayani, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Nedumudi Venu, Siddique, Manian Pillai Raju, Nasrin & others.
Music - MG Sreekumar
Cinematography - Manoj Pillai
Art Direction - Cyril Kuruvilla
Editor - B Ajith Kumar
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Sreenivasan
Release Date - 9th July 2010

Oru naal varum, oru naal varum, ennu paranjittu kore naalayittu naattukare vattam karakkiya padam, avasaanam innu vannu. And I should say, it has been worth the wait. The family audience who have been starving for a good movie should be very happy with this one, which comes with the irresistible combination of Mohanlal and Sreenivasan, that too in a Sreenivasan script, after the critically and commercially successful Udhayanaanu Thaaram. Directed by TK Rajeev Kumar who has given us some great films like Pavithram, Chanakyan, Shesham, Kannezhuthi Pottum Thottu etc returns to Malayalam after a hiatus through this social satire. 

The film tells the story of a corrupt Assistant Town Planning Officer Gopi Krishnan (Sreenivasan) and the troubles he causes to an ordinary man Kolappulli Sukumaran (Mohanlal) who wants permission to build a house. Sukumaran is also going through a rough patch in his life where his wife Meera (Sameera Reddy) who is separated from him wants their daughter's custody. The movie progresses with a lot of interesting twists and turns.

The film bears the mark of a typical Sreenivasan satire throughout its length. TK Rajeev Kumar deftly handles the subject, but he, along with Sreenivasan could have made the events in the second half much more spicier. Artistes performing naturally has become a rarity in Malayalam movies, which can only be seen in Sathyan Anthikkad movies. So this one comes in as a breather in between all the larger than life, Tamil style movies and the so-called youth movies that are flooding the industry. It tells the tale of ordinary people and talks about the serious issue of corruption in a satirical way. The plot may seem a little similar to Roshan Andrews' Ividam Swargamanu but the treatment and Sreenivasan's script makes the difference in this one. 

Watching Mohanlal in this movie is a sheer delight, especially in the first half. He transforms effortlessly to the helpless Kolappulli Sukumaran shedding all his superstar glory and even gets addressed as a 'thadiyan' by one of the characters. Mohanlal is the only actor who can get applause from the audience without any dialogues, through his amazing expressions alone. The 'chammal' that we have been missing for long is there in plenty here. He plays an ordinary man, so the weight is not an issue here. In fact, that aspect also has been used well in the movie. His chemistry with Sreenivasan is as usual, fantastic. Malayalis have always loved it when those two are pitted against each other, and it happens yet again in this movie also. There are 2 stunt scenes that seem forced into the narrative in the beginning, but then when Lalettan does stunts, you cant help but watch it in awe. The way he finishes off the stunt with Biju Pappan is too good. Mohanlal and Sameera Reddy dont look all that great together as a couple and their chemistry is also quite thanda. But its great to see him in such a simple role which we have always wanted him to do. 

Sreenivasan plays the corrupt Gopi Krishnan with his trademark sarcasm and plays the perfect foil for Mohanlal's Kolappulli Sukumaran. Both of them share equal screen space throughout the movie, and Sreenivasan makes sure that the role of the corrupt officer with slight negative shades is in safe hands. The scenes involving him and Mohanlal in the first half alone can give you your money's worth. He matches up to Mohanlal in each scene through the cat and mouse games in the second half. 

Nedumudi Venu was superb as usual. The scene at the corporation office with him, Mohanlal and Kottayam Naseer was a howler. This movie is a perfect example of how our comedians can be used effectively. Suraaj Venjarammood who was slowly turning into a disgrace for our films, redeems himself through some neat comedy in this movie (no Trivandrum slang this time around even though the movie is set in Trivandrum). Hope he finally understands that comedy can also be done without resorting to vulgar toilet humour. (Thanks to Sreenivasan). Siddique in a short role proves again that he's an exceptional actor. His acting is top-notch and he gets one of the best lines in the movie as well. Sameera Reddy was just okay. She really didnt have much to do, and her lip-sync wasnt very good. Devayani was really funny as Sreenivasan's wife who loves to play good host to her guests. The girl Nazrin who played Sreenivasan's daughter is promising, whereas Mohanlal's daughter Anu could have been played by a better girl. Manian Pillai Raju, Indrans, etc are just there. 

Sreenivasan proves yet again that he's the best in writing realistic and witty dialogues in Malayalam. The first half is full of such brilliant lines and the movie moves swiftly through well constructed scenes. On the flipside, the second half turns a little slow and predictable here and there and the climax is not very eventful. But that doesnt make the movie bad in any way, just that the tempo of the first half was missing in the second half. The cat and mouse games could have been done in a better fashion. The family angle looked a little half baked, even though the idea of the characters going through a divorce was good. 

Manoj Pillai has done some nice work with his cinematography. His frames which include multiple actors together were done very well and was different from the stuff that we usually see. Cyril Kuruvilla creates the right atmosphere for the movie through his art direction. MG Sreekumar gives his career best as a music director. The song 'Maavin Chottile' is extremely melodious. The other melody 'Paadan Ninakkoru' appears during the end credits as a flashback sequence. Editing by Ajith Kumar was all right. 

On the whole, Oru Naal Varum is certainly the best movie to have come out in Malayalam so far this year. (I didnt get a chance to see TD Dasan Std VI B). It has a brilliant first half and a decent enough second half. A fantastic, light-hearted performance from our Lalettan after a long time, matched by Sreenivasan in full on sarcastic mode; ably supported by the rest of the cast. Families who havent got the opportunity to watch such a nice simplistic movie in a long time, should hopefully be giving a warm welcome to this great movie. And after all those terrible strikes and bans, Malayalam Cinema has a reason to cheer now. Ee oru naal, Malayala cinemaykku oru nalla naal aayi maarum ennu vishwasikkunnu. And this movie proves the fact that  "Mohanlal + Sreenivasan - Cannot Go Wrong!!". 

Rating - 3.5/5 (Being a little extra liberal)

(Photos from