Monday, January 31

Ithu Nammude Katha - The Malayali Naadodikal are very good!!

Movie - Ithu Nammude Katha (Malayalam)
Director - Rajesh Kannankara
Producer - KC James
Cast - Asif Ali, Nishan, Abhishek, Vineeth Kumar, Ananya, Amala Paul, Lalu Alex, Jagathy Sreekumar, Devan, Kalaranjini Kottayam Naseer, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Jagadeesh
Music - Mohan Sithara, Sundar C Babu
Cinematography - Vipin Mohan 
Editing - V Saajan
Story - Samuthirakkani
Screenplay, Dialogues - Rajesh Kannankara
Release Date  - 28th January 2011

Why would any filmmaker remake a film like Naadodikal which was a huge hit in Kerala into a Malayalam film when most Malayalis would've already seen the original?? This was the question which first came to my mind when I saw the trailer of this movie. Even though that question still remains unanswered, the movie surprised me by turning out to be a fine remake of the brilliant original. I wanted to watch Asif Ali's performance because I've been impressed by his performances in almost all his earlier films and went in for the film, and I must say, I enjoyed watching it. Of course, it doesnt match up to the standard set by the original movie, but still strikes a chord with you. When the Tamil version was more aggressive, the Malayalam remake chooses to stay subtle most of the time. 

Vinod (Asif), Kochumon (Abhishek) and Santosh (Nishan) are 3 best friends who have their own set of joys and sorrows and ambitions. But things take a turn when Vinod's friend Mahesh (Vineeth Kumar) lands in town and asks for their help to get united with his lover (Amala Paul) opposing his mother who is an ex MP (Kalaranjini) and her father who is an influential industrialist (Devan). The trio feel that it is their duty to unite their friend with his lover and embark on the mission. But in the process of doing that, they are wounded for life, either physically, emotionally or socially. How the three of them live their life after the incident is what forms the rest of the story. 

The movie is a formal remake of Naadodikal and the titles begin with the story credits to its director Samuthirakkani. And as in the case of any remake, the impact and comparsions with the original are hard to avoid. But in spite of that, Ithu Nammude Katha stands on solid ground with good performances and a universal theme of friendship which would work in any given milieu, if handled effectively. The director's work could have been better in certain sequences like the Sambo Siva Sambo song (which was the highlight of the original). The desperate situation of our main leads didnt come out as effectively as it did in the Tamil version. But otherwise, he has done a good job of adapting the movie from rural Tamil Nadu to the beautiful Kuttanad. The climax is done very effectively and leaves a solid impact. But every now and then, Suraaj Venjarammoodu is unnecessarily squeezed into the narrative for the sake of creating laughs (I dont understand if he is really cast by the directors or taken on demand by producers and distributors) when one of the main leads, Abhishek quite effectively handles the humour department staying within character. Suraaj's appearance at the end almost ruins the impact of the good climax, but one tends to forgive that because the movie was a good one. 

Asif Ali is nothing short of deadly. This young man got to work with 3 of our best directors in his first 3 films - Shayamaprasad, Sathyan Anthikkad and Sibi Malayil and that experience has definitely reflected in his performance. After the brilliant act in a more mature role in Traffic, Asif scales new heights with his measured performance in this movie. He has performed this difficult role with confidence of a seasoned actor. His voice modulation was criticized initially, and he has taken special care to improve that into a serious man's voice successfully. This guy is slowly and steadily growing to be the young face of Malayalam Cinema. Nishan gives able support and does quite well compared to his confused act in Apoorvaragam, his previous movie with Asif and Abhishek. He manages to pass off decently in the comic scenes and his lip sync in Malayalam has also improved tremendously. Abhishek, one of the contestants of an acting reality show on television and also one of the few good things in Apoorvaragam, puts up a great act in the role played by the talented Bharani in the original. This guy has a great sense of humour and comic timing and that has been effectively utilized by the director. Ananya reprises her role in the original and she does very well even though she's not as bubbly and lovable as she was in the original. Vineeth Kumar & Amala Paul (heroine of Mynaa) play their parts effectively. Jagathy Sreekumar was not very effective in a good role because he was not used well, but the humour he brought worked well. Kottayam Naseer was very good. But Suraaj Venjarammoodu stuck out like and his cheap scenes looked out of place in this good movie. And worst of all, his character's name was Tintumon, an insult to the SMS legend. Lalu Alex was wonderful. Indrans got a very good role after a long time and he did that part proficiently. Devan, Kalaranjini and Jagadish did their parts well. The other girl who played Nishan's pair is absolutely no match to the wonderful Abhinaya who played the part in the original. 

Music is mostly borrowed from the Tamil version as Sundar C Babu's 'Sambo Siva Sambo' and 'Ulagil Entha Kaadhal' are recreated in Malayalam with great results. Mohan Sithara's duet song passes muster. They did away with the festival song and the item song in the Malayalam version, which is a good thing. The background score by Bijibal is mostly different variants of the deadly 'Sambo Siva Sambo' track and it helps the narrative enormously. Veteran cameraman Vipin Mohan's work is just about okay in spite of having great locations to shoot in. The rest of the technical crew have given effective contributions to the film. Action during the Sambo Siva Sambo song could have been slightly better. 

Summing up, Ithu Nammude Katha is a very good remake of Naadodikal which can be enjoyed by everyone who has watched the original too. And for those who havent, its almost a must watch as it tells a great story of friendship (thanks to Samuthirakkani's script). Rajesh Kannankara has been able to adapt the film well into a Malayali milieu and lets see what he has to offer in the future. Asif Ali is the best thing about this movie and it wouldnt be long before this young man becomes a star who can also act very well. It is sad that this movie is getting a very poor theatrical response. (Shows were being cancelled in the Kochi multiplexes and there were hardly any people in Shenoys and I think its majorly because Naadodikal was such a big hit in Kerala and people have already seen the movie. But the makers should have known that beforehand itself). Anyways, here's wishing this movie picks up through word of mouth and does well. 

Rating - 3.5/5

Arjunan Sakshi - Good, but had potential to be a lot better.

Movie - Arjunan Sakshi (Malayalam)
Director - Ranjith Sankar
Producer - S Sundarajan
Cast - Prithviraj, Ann Augustine, Nedumudi Venu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Mukesh, Vijayaraghavan, Biju Menon, Suresh Krishna, Anand, Salimkumar, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Vijeesh
Music & Background Score - Bijibal
Cinematography - Ajayan Vincent
Editor - Ranjan Abraham
Art Director - Manu Jagadh
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Ranjith Sankar
Release Date - 28th January 2011

Ranjith Sankar had made a sparkling debut with Passenger, thereby announcing the arrival of a genuinely talented writer-director in the Malayalam Film Industry which was starved of young talent. So his second directorial venture was eagerly looked up to with expectation and anticipation if the director would live up to the promise shown by him in his very first film. Well, he does, mostly. But there are many places where he has faltered as well. He has taken up a relevant social issue and has given a wake up call to the citizens of the state to be more responsible human beings rather than just existing as passive spectators. And yes, he has made major use of the media as a strong catalyst in his storytelling this time around as well. 

Anjali Menon (Ann Augustine) gets an anonymous  letter from somebody called Arjunan who claims to have been a witness to the murder of the previous district collector of Kochi, Firoze Mooppan IAS (Mukesh) and that he is afraid to come out in the open fearing the actions of Firoze's murderers. Roy Mathew (Prithviraj) is a suave architect from Mumbai who lands up in Kochi for a great job and a stay at his own home state where he has never lived. But things take a turn when Roy is mistaken for the anonymous Arjunan during a chance encounter. How Roy's life turns topsy turvy after this incident and how he comes out of this situations forms the rest of the narrative of Arjunan Sakshi. 

Ranjith Sankar likes to make a hero out of the common man who is trapped in uncommon situations. We saw that in Passenger and we see that yet again in Arjunan Sakshi too. His movies have educated characters who are part of the metropolitan culture of the bustling city that is Kochi. Roy Mathew, the protagonist of AS wasnt very concerned about the social development of the city he stays in except for some passive references, but once he is trapped in this situation, he realizes that how much of a problem it actually is and decides to stand up for the issue along with his investigation for the truth behind the Firoze Mooppan murder. The first half sets up the premise brilliantly, but the second half of the movie does not keep up the momentum built in the first. There are many loose ends in the script (I'm not going into them in detail), a lot of convenient coincidences and a climax which was predictable. Yet the movie managed to hold my interest and impress me in totality. 

Prithviraj finally plays a part which is completely suitable for him and he does that with gusto. Ranjith Sankar has been able to extract a sensitive and effective performance from the young, good looking star. Fans of the actor might be disappointed to see him not reacting with a stunt sequence even he is pushed to do so, which is a brave thing for the director to do - not to use his star image even when he could have gotten away with it. After a terrible 2010, AS gives a great start to Prithviraj in 2011. Here's wishing that more directors could use the actor in him effectively like Ranjith did in this film. Ann Augustine continues the good work she did in her debut as Elsamma and does her part of a journalist convincingly. And thanks to the director for not implying a romance between the male and female leads of the film. Usually, directors try to force that in somewhere even though its not required at all, but thankfully Ranjith has stayed away from that. Our industry still hasnt been able to utilize even half of the talent of the actor called Jagathy Sreekumar. Films like Passenger and AS where he is cast against stereotype is where this man proves that he is capable of great things even when he is not doing comedy. Ranjith Sankar joins the list of directors like Padmarajan, Venu Nagavalli and Priyadarsan who has used Jagathy Sreekumar in the most effective ways. His short role is perhaps the best act in this movie. Nedumudi Venu is gracious as the editor of Mathrubhoomi (product placement - doesnt do much good for Mathrubhoomi). There is absolutely no suspense in the revealing of the villains and you get to see regular villains like Biju Menon, Suresh Krishna and Anand in this movie as well. The best thing about Passenger was that the negative role played by Jagathy Sreekumar was as interesting as the two main leads of the film. Here the villains are unidimensional and dont work at all. Mukesh was effective in his cameo as Firoze Mooppan. Vijayaraghavan plays a police officer and does well yet again. Vijeesh (Noolunda) is also impressive as Roy's friend. And yes, there's a clear sign of pressure from the producers in the inclusion of Suraaj Venjarammoodu and Salimkumar to a movie like this. But thankfully they dont stick out and Ranjith has been able to use them well without deviating from the narrative. 

The screenplay moves at breakneck speed in the first one hour and slows down considerably in the second hour. The climax, where the main brainwave is a hidden camera is easily predictable and something which Ranjith already used effectively in Passenger. Even the construction of those scenes reminds us of the climax of Ividam Swargamanu (minus the humour). There is a scene towards the end where Prithviraj's dialogues seem very preachy. These instances do hamper the film a lot and could have definitely been avoided. But since the intention is genuine and credible, we can overlook these glitches as the movie is able to give a satisfying experience in totality. 

Ajayan Vincent's fantastic cinematography is perhaps the second lead of the film. His camera looms over the city of Kochi and captures some fantastic visuals. The crane/jib shots in the extremely busy Vyttila Junction are excellent. Why was this brilliant cinematographer on a hiatus till 2 years back?? I guess he is making up for all the lost time with brilliant work in all the films he works on - good or bad. Bijibal's background score is very effective and his theme song sounds very familiar (though I cant place which song it is similar to). Ranjan Abraham tries to keep up the pace of the movie through his brisk editing. The chase scene in the first half is spectacularly shot and deserves a special mention for the camerawork, editing and action choreography. 

On the whole, Arjunan Sakshi is a good, effective film which could have been a lot better if the writer-director had paid enough attention to certain major aspects in the second half. Prithviraj comes up with a honest and effective performance utilizing his strengths after a long time. There is a strong social message towards ordinary citizens to act more responsibly and the movie, in totality is a noble effort which should be appreciated. 

Rating - 3.25/5

Sunday, January 30

Traffic is an absolute triumph for Malayalam Cinema!!

Movie - Traffic (Malayalam)
Director - Rajesh Pillai
Producer - Listin Stephen
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Bobby & Sanjay
Cast - Sreenivasan, Anoop Menon, Rahman, Kunchacko Boban, Vineeth Sreenivasan, Asif Ali, Sayikumar, Vijayakumar, Krishna, Lena, Sandhya, Roma, Remya Nambeeshan, Reena Basheer, Prem Prakash & Jose Prakash
Music - Mejo Joseph, Samson Kottoor
Cinematography - Shyju Khalid
Background Score - Mejo Joseph
Art Director - Saburam
Editor - Mahesh Narayanan
Release Date - 7th January 2011

Warning - This is going to be a fairly long post. So kindly bear with me. :) 

Well, I have no words. After a long time, I've had an overwhelming experience watching a Malayalam film and I'm proud of that. After being through endless criticisms, some people finally woke up and showed us what Malayalam Cinema is actually capable of. Traffic is a path-breaking cinematic experience with one of the most flawless screenplays ever written in Malayalam Cinema. Perhaps the first movie with an ensemble cast and no conventional hero/heroine, the script and direction are the heroes of this film. This movie took me through a complete emotional roller coaster. I experienced sorrow, tension, adrenalin rushes, anxiety and elation in those two hours I spent inside the hall watching this movie. I didnt even want the interval to happen, something which I've felt while watching only one other movie - Inception. 

Traffic follows a multiple narrative structure. It tells the tale of many people affected by a road accident at a traffic signal. Inspired by a true event, the entire narrative of Traffic is set in one day, 16th of September where fate plays a game in which the lives of many people become interconnected. A heart transplant surgery is to be performed and the live heart is to be transported from Kochi to Palakkad within a limited time of 2 hours. How this is done, essentially forms the core of this movie. It is a road movie, an action thriller and an emotional drama, all rolled into one. 

The screenplay by the brothers Bobby & Sanjay is flawless to say the least and it is certainly the backbone of this feature film. Traffic is just their third film after the very impressive and effective Ente Veedu Appontem and Notebook, and they've shown such maturity and innovation in their writing that many of our most experienced writers cant even imagine matching up to. There 2 young gentlemen are the future of the Malayalam film industry which was dying without good writers. Rajesh Pillai, who made a forgettable debut through Hridayathil Sookshikkan some years back, makes a thunderous impact with his second directorial venture. He has been able to do full justice to the excellent script by the writers and one can say without a tinge of doubt that no other director, however experienced he might be cannot do a better job than what Rajesh has done for this film. So Rajesh, Bobby & Sanjay, here's a bow from a film lover who feels proud seeing a masterpiece in his language after such a long time. 

Each and every member of the cast has his/her moment of glory in the film. The film does not have a hero or heroine and each character is as important as the other. Remya Nambeeshan who has evolved into a beautiful young lady makes a mark. Roma, acting after a brief gap, does quite well and does not overact. Sandhya also gives a decent performance. But among the ladies, it is Lena who plays the superstar Siddharth's wife who makes a solid impact. She shows that she has immense potential and no one had really bothered to tap into that until now. Her break-down over the phone in the second half leaves you stunned and disturbed at the same time. That scene alone can make all our top-line actresses put their head down in shame. The lady who played Vineeth's mother and the other new girls who made their debut through the film were also effective. 

Among the men, there is the veteran actor and uncle of the writers, Jose Prakash making a film appearance after a really long time and his role essentially becomes the starting point and the inspiration for the main plot of the movie. The writers' father Prem Prakash also has a good role of that of a surgeon who makes the proposition of this heart transplant. Vineeth Sreenivasan's Reyhaan stays with us till the end of the movie as a sorrow. Vineeth gives a fine, natural performance in the very little screen time that he's got. Asif, who plays his dedicated best friend, is excellent and matches up to the amazing talent around him in every scene, thereby showing great promise. Anoop Menon plays the Kochi City Commissioner who takes up this extremely risky operation under his responsibility and I must say, that it is his second best performance till date after his award winning act in Thirakkatha. He represents the audience and their tension and anxiety throughout the movie and when his mission succeeds, we feel as happy and proud as he feels. Watch out for his performance in the single shot in the interval scene and the one towards the end where he stands there with tears in his eyes after his mission turns into a success. Rahman plays the arrogant superstar with elan and reminds us of one of our favourite superstars at many instances. He is super-effective in the scenes towards the end of the movie. Sreenivasan as the cop who takes up the responsibility of the mission to get back his lost pride and honour, is as bankable as he always is. He is someone whom Malayalis blindly trust, and that is exactly why his casting as the key character in this movie works big time. I've said this before and I'm saying it again - Kunchacko Boban is not the chocolate boy we saw in Aniyathipravu and Niram anymore. He has matured into an absolutely wonderful actor who can play any role with consummate ease. He proved that in Elsamma and with his performance as a doctor guilty of his own conscience  in Traffic, he has just reinstated that fact. This actor must be given due recognition and much more such opportunities to showcase his talent. He is just too good. And the best among the lot is none other than Sayikumar, who plays Vineeth's father. Each scene he appeared, he managed to make my eyes moist as I could feel the exact pain that his character was going through. An absolute triumph by the veteran actor in such a short role. Vijayakumar and Krishna were also good in their respective supporting roles. 

A lot of movies claim to be edge of the seat thrillers with nail biting action, but there would be nothing like that when we watch those films. But Traffic, despite being heavily loaded with emotions, is an action packed thriller which you can watch only with bated breath. My eyes were glued to the screen and many a times, I couldnt handle the tension and I remember clutching on to the seat, literally sitting on its edge. Inception did that to me last, and I dont have a memory of a Malayalam film doing that to me, ever. Apart from Rajesh Pillai's deft direction, this is also a result of the excellent work by the technical crew of the film. The movie is so engrossing and engaging that it is difficult to pay attention to the technical aspects of the film in detail. Camerawork by Shyju Khalid is the best this movie could have asked for. He takes us in between the action with his shots and editor Mahesh Narayanan confirms that the audience feels right in the middle of the entire action of the plot. The movie is so tightly scripted and edited that even a minute lesser or extra would have done a lot of damage. After going through all these emotions, action, tension and anxiety and reaching a finale, Mejo Joseph plays the soul-stirring theme music of the film and we cant help but feel elated just like the characters feel at that point. The song right at the beginning of the film was also very good and gave a peek into the lives of all the characters. 

Traffic shows how a disaster can be turned into a noble deed when good people come together and work towards it putting all their heart into it. It starts with specific characters and by the end of it, the entire society becomes involved and concerned about the situation and tries to do whatever little they can towards making this mission a success. A rock solid screenplay with no loose ends, impeccable work by the director and his technical crew and awe-inspiring performances by the actors make this one of the best movies ever made in Malayalam Cinema. The screenplay of this movie should be studied academically by people who are interested in making innovative cinema. People who've been complaining of the deterioration of Malayalam Cinema can feel relieved now, our cinema is in safe hands with the likes of Bobby, Sanjay and Rajesh Pillai. Traffic is perhaps the only movie in the last 5 years to be unanimously liked by people across the state, after Udayanaanu Thaaram & Classmates, and I can proudly say that this movie is even better than those two also. So once again, Hats off to Rajesh Pillai, Bobby, Sanjay and the entire team of Traffic. You've done us proud and given us reason to believe that there's still a future for Malayalam Cinema. I'm proud to say that I know many people who were associated with this film. Thank you for this movie!! 

Rating - 4.75/5

Saturday, January 22

Dhobi Ghat leaves you unsatisfied.

Movie - Dhobi Ghat (Mumbai Diaries) [Hindi, partly English]
Director - Kiran Rao
Producers - Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao
Cast - Prateik, Monica Dogra, Kriti Malhotra & Aamir Khan
Cinematography - Tushar Kanti Ray
Music - Gustavo Santaolalla
Editor - Nishant Radhakrishnan
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Kiran Rao
Release Date - 21st January 2011

Aamir Khan Productions was always associated with different and quality cinema and they had maintained that even in a commercial venture like Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, and during the promotions of Dhobi Ghat, Aamir was quite insistent that Dhobi Ghat is not your regular mainstream cinema, it belongs to the arthouse genre and is meant to watched seriously. He was quite right as Dhobi Ghat is not your regular movie. It is more about the city of Mumbai rather than a plot or its main characters. But the problem with the movie is that it never really grows beyond that, and remains an ode to the city which leaves one unsatisfied with the experience. 

Dhobi Ghat tells the story of four people - Munna (Prateik), a dhobi by day and a rat killer by night (he also has another embarrassing job, which if revealed would be a spoiler); Shaai (Monica Dogra), an NRI investment banker on a sabbatical to do her own thing of photographing of 'poor India, hungry India' in black & white; Arun (Aamir Khan) a reclusive artist who runs away from relationships and people as such, but intrigued by a discovery of a Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra)'s newly-wed life in Mumbai recorded on DV tapes as letters to her brother, which she never sent. And then there's the fifth character- the city of Mumbai itself which is the most important of all of them, as the movie is all about the effect the city has on these people. 

The movie begins as a romanticized account of the city of Mumbai and tries to shock us by showing the grim reality of the city by the end of its narrative. I'm not quite sure if that is the theme that Kiran Rao wanted to portray through this movie. There are way too many coincidences and the four different characters distinctly different by class and societal statuses, keep bumping into each other quite often in the movie. So many coincidences are hard to believe in a movie which is supposed to be realistic. Even the slight shocks that the director tries to give by the end of the movie does not really come across as shocking to the audience as it was already predictable. Even the underworld angle which is included towards the end of the movie does not fit into the movie. The major problem with the film is that its story does not have enough meat to be a feature film, even though its running time is just 95 minutes. 

But there are many other things that work in the film. First of all, the beautiful portrayal of India's busiest city in all its glory, shot at locations and angles which filmmakers havent explored prior to this one. Tushar Kanti Ray's exceptional camerawork gives a new perspective to the city of Mumbai - its busy streets, its beaches, its people, its monsoons and its dark nights. The video diary format used as part of Yasmin's excitement in moving to Mumbai was another great touch. There are some wonderful moments in the movie - like the one where Shaai's maid brings chai for the dhobi in an ordinary glass while its a porcelain cup for Shaai; Shaai's photoshoot for Munna who aspires to be Salman Khan someday;  the one where Munna chases her car towards the end of the movie and the shock on Arun's face when he's done with Yasmin's tapes. All these are great cinematic moments, but they are far in between in this slowly-paced movie. 

The performances are fantastic. There should be no more discussions or questions if Ranbir or Imran is the future, it is Prateik. This guy has enormous screen presence and that is something everybody realized with his delightful cameo in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na itself. As the dhobi Munna who lives multiple lives, Prateik is so natural and much at ease with his character. He definitely has inherited his acting genes from his exceptionally talented mother Smita Patil and there is ample evidence for that in his performance. Monica Dogra is wonderful and her subtle portrayal of Shaai who wants to explore the city on one hand and extend her relationship with Arun beyond a one-night stand was extremely effective. Kriti Malhotra was endearing, and during most of her screen time, she is talking directly to the camera thereby engaging the viewers in a direct way. Aamir Khan is not Aamir Khan, the superstar in this movie. He is just one among the characters in the movie, the one with the least dialogues and his restraint throughout the movie makes his character seem very real. The audience get to see a different Aamir Khan in the movie, stripped of all his superstar glory by his wife in her debut film. And of course, the brilliant actor gets to show off his acting capability in a great moment towards the climax, something which we already discussed. 

We've already talked about how effective the cinematography of the film is. In fact, even when the film turns out to be really tedious, the cinematography is what keeps our interest. The musical score by Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla (Brokeback Mountain, Babel) elevates the movie and haunts you much after you leave the hall. Nishant Radhakrishnan could have made much difference in this multiple narrative story with his editing, but his editing hardly has any effect except for some very interesting cut-to-cut edits. The black & white still photographs of Mumbai are brilliant, but we've seen such stuff so many movies the latest being Wake Up Sid. The final painting done by Arun inspired by Yasmin's life is some form of modern art which is very difficult for the ordinary public (including me) to comprehend. 

On the whole, Dhobi Ghat is the love-child of Kiran Rao's love to the city of Mumbai. It fails to rise above that many a times and remains a weak screenplay which could have done with a little more drama and a concrete plot. It has some wonderful moments, has terrific work by the technical crew and flawless performances by its four leads. It is unusual, and not meant for the regular cinema going crowd. And by the end of it all, it leaves you unsatisfied despite having great potential. 

Rating - 3/5

First Look - Delhi Belly

Movie - Delhi Belly (Hindi/English)
Director - Abhinay Deo
Producer - Aamir Khan
Cast - Imran Khan, Shenaz Treasurywala, Rahul Pendkalkar, Vir Das, Kunal Roy Kapoor, Poorna Jagannathan
Release Date - 1st July 2011

Yamla Pagla Deewana - Mast Hai!!

Movie - Yamla Pagla Deewana (Hindi)
Director - Samir Karnik
Producers - Nitin Manmohan, Samir Karnik
Cast - Dharmendra, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Kulraj Randhawa, Nafisa Ali, Anupam Kher, Punit Issar, Mukul Dev, Sucheta Khanna & Emma Brown
Music - Laxmikant - Pyarelal, RDB, Anu Malik, Nouman Javaid, Sandesh Shandilya, Rahul Seth, Sanjoy Choudhury
Cinematography - Kabir Lal, Binod Pradhan
Editing - Mukesh Thakur
Background Score - Sanjoy Chaudhury
Action - Anal Arasu
Art - Jeetendra Karwa
Writer - Jasvinder Bath
Release Date - 14th January 2011

The movie begins with a narration by Ajay Devgn about how Indians love movies which have estranged families reuniting in the climax and takes the example of the umpteen hit movies with this formula in the 70s and 80s. Its been a long long time since such a movie has hit our screens, and YPD taps into that genre which inevitably leaves Indian audiences happy each time it is told on screen. And the director Samir Karnik had a winner in his hands when he managed to get the real life father and sons Dharmendra, Sunny & Bobby Deol to play the leads in this comedy. Bollywood loves this family, especially Dharmendra and Sunny Deol and that was why even a terrible movie like Apne managed to become a success. But unlike Apne, YPD is a very entertaining film that celebrates and spoofs the careers of its 3 leading men, with a certain tongue-in-cheek attitude. The trailer was loved by everyone and the movie is also turning into a hit thereby proved that if they get the right movie, the Deols still have it in them to strike box office gold. 

Paramveer Singh Tillon (Sunny Deol) is married to a Canadian national Mary (Emma Brown) and is settled there with his wife, 2 kids and mother (Nafisa Ali). His mother had been separated from his father Dharam Singh (Dharmendra) for a long 30 years because his father couldnt leave his profession as a con-man and he left the family taking her second son Gajodhar (Bobby Deol) along with him. Paramveer learns that his father and brother are now Benaras and sets out to India to bring them back to his mother. In India, Paramveer meets his brother and father, who is not ready to accept the truth. So he joins their gang and their activities and when his brother Gajodhar falls in love with a Punjabi girl Sahiba (Kulraj Randhawa), he decides to help him win his girl's hand against the oppostion of her army of brothers led by Joginder Singh (Anupam Kher). The fun and confusions that happen eventually forms the rest of the movie. 

Now, with that kind of a plot at hand, the director has had a lot of fun with his characters and the movie gets much more interesting when it shifts to Punjab in the second half a la DDLJ. But the movie works majorly because of the chemistry between the real life father and sons and their own brand of humour. The confusions and the bunch of interesting characters give rise to more fun in the second half, leading to a slapstick climax which again spoofs and celebrates the Deols. There are great Sunny Deol fights, lovely Dharmendra moments, 2 great songs and lots of fun. On the flipside, Bobby Deol's romantic portions dont work and there are another 2-3 unwanted songs which could've been done away with. The first half could've been tighter but as soon as the action shifts from Benaras to Punjab, the movie becomes much more exciting. Usually, it is in the second half that most movies falter, but YPD gets it right in the second half after a not-so-great first half. 

The Deols are nothing short of brilliant in the film. Sunny Deol takes the cake among the three. After so many years of appearing in mundane action flicks which people wish to forget, the National Award winning actor has clearly enjoyed his role as the lovable NRI Sardarji Paramveer Singh. We get to see a lighter side of the actor which hasnt been utilized by any of his earlier directors. Its a delight when he has fun at his own expense in many scenes in the movie. There's a laugh out loud moment in the climax where his famous roar shatters the entire building and throws away both the good guys and bad guys. It is delightful to watch Sunny Deol in form after a long long time and you cant help but whistle when he beats up the baddies effortlessly with those 'dhaai kilo ka haath's. Dharmendra has also had a ball as the con-man baap. He is constantly dressed in colorful and vibrant clothes and his performance is young and energetic. He is endearing in the comedy scenes and powerful in the emotional ones. And of course, he also has a lot of fun spoofing and being spoofed. I am a big time hater of Bobby Deol and his movies, but I must say Bobby, the youngest and the least talented of the Deols, has done extremely well in this movie. In fact, this would be his career best performance. He just stays back and has fun making fun of his dad and big bro most of the time and his comic timing has also improved tremendously. He does fairly well in the romance portions also but those scenes hamper the pace of this comedy film and do not work very well. Kulraj Randhawa is a beautiful young lady and by her performance in this film, it looks like she can act too. She is sure to go places soon. Anupam Kher in a comic role after a really long time is brilliant. Mukul Dev is superb and its a surprise that he wasnt working for such a long time. Sucheta Khanna is lovely as the 'Caneda' loving Poli. Amit Mistry, the funny guy from 99 is very good. Nafisa Ali was hamming a bit too much. There's Johnny Lever also in one funny scene. Emma Brown, the firang who played Sunny's wife was also very good. 

The music of the film is a mixed bag. It has two great songs - the remix of Dharmendra's biggest hit 'Yamla Pagla Deewana', which also serves as a theme track for the movie; and a beautiful Punjabi melody 'Charha De Rang'. The rest of the songs, including two item numbers do not work at all. The background score is very effective and peps up the proceedings. Cinematography by veterans Kabir Lal and Binod Pradhan is wonderful and showcases the beauty of Benaras and Punjab. Action by famous South Indian fight master Anal Arasu is kickass and Sunny Deol's fights are one of the highlights of the movie. Art by Jeetendra Karwa was also effective. Jasvinder Singh Bath's screenplay could've been tighter in the first half but is very effective in the second half with hilarious sequences coming one after the other. The dialogues are first rate. 

On the whole, YPD is a wonderful throwback to the good old masala entertainers of the 70s, 80s and 90s in this age of sophisticated movie-making. And it is also a celebration of one of India's most loved celebrity families - the Deols. They have had a lot of fun making this movie and that reflects on the audience too, making them have as much fun watching this movie, as they did making it. When Hindi Cinema has been making terrible films in the name of comedies and entertainers like Tees Maar Khan & No Problem, Yamla Pagla Deewana shows how its done the right way. Lets hope we get to see more of the Deols in such refreshing movies hereon. Watch it for the fun, the madness and of course, the Deols!! 

Rating - 3.5/5

Tuesday, January 18

Aadukalam is a must watch!!

Movie - Aadukalam (Tamil)
Director - Vetrimaaran
Producer - Kathiresan
Cast - Dhanush, Tapsee, Kishore, Jayabalan, Jayaprakash, Nareyn
Music & Background Score- GV Prakash Kumar
Cinematography - R Velraj
Editing - Kishore TE
Art - Jackie
Stunts - Late Rambo Rajkumar, Rajshekhar
Sound - T Udayakumar
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Vetrimaaran
Release Date - 14th January 2011

Dhanush and Vetrimaaran came together in 2007 for the first time to give a mindblowing film called Polladhavan which was a completely new experience to Tamil Cinema viewers. The experiment stayed within commercial cinema constraints, yet had a distinct style and approach which was new to Tamil Cinema. It was lauded as Dhanush's career best performance, and now, with the same team, Dhanush has outshined his own career best though KP Karuppu in Aadukalam. A brilliantly made movie which would satisfy fans of both commercial and realistic cinema, Aadukalam is one of the best Tamil movies to have come out in recent times and the clear winner among the Pongal releases. 

Pettaikkaran (Jayabalan) and the cop Rathnasamy (Nareyn) are arch rivals in the rooster fight competitions that are the life and soul of many people in Madurai. Dhorai (Kishore) and Karuppu (Dhanush) are Pettaikkaran's trusted aides and they have been doing extremely well in training roosters for fights. Rathnasamy is from a family which used to be known for its victories in rooster fight tournaments since the time of his ancestors. But for a very long time now, Rathnasamy has been losing out on every damn rooster fight against Pettaikkaran. He wants one last fight with Pettaikkaran's roosters to prove his honour in front of his dying and ever-complaining mother. Pettaikkaran on the other hand had decided to stop having rooster fights with Rathnasamy. In the meanwhile, Karuppu meets Irene (Tapsee) during one of his escapades and falls head over heels in love with her and slowly tries to woo her in every possible way he knows. The story then proceeds through a lot of twists, turns, jealousy, betrayals and lot of high voltage action. 

Vetrimaaran must be lauded for taking up a subject which is strikingly different from the regular fare we're used to seeing. And he has also managed to make Aadukalam stand out from the so-many Madurai based movies that have been coming out since the success of Paruthiveeran and Subramaniapuram. Rooster fights is an interesting concept that no director has tried before and this sets the backdrop for Vetrimaaran's tale of relationships, jealousy and betrayal. Despite being Chennaiites, both Dhanush and Vetrimaaran have created a Madurai which is as real as it can get. Vetrimaaran's script is strong and tight and explores relationships with a microscopic view, staying within an entertaining format. The rooster fights make you bite your nails with anxiety, and the second half the action transfers to the trainers from the roosters. The characterizations are done brilliantly, and so are the dialogues. Even the climax of the movie is extremely different from conventional endings. Another fact which deserves special mention is that Vetrimaaran has included filmography and bibliography of films and books that have been useful for reference in making this film, ranging from Amorres Perros to Virumaandi and Thevar Magan. Now, not many directors do that. 

Dhanush delivers his career best performance as the lovable KP Karuppu. He is definitely one of the best actors in the country. He may not have six pack abs or Greek God looks, but every single person who has seen his work can blindly say that he is a stunning actor. Dhanush gets the Madurai lingo flawlessly right and slips so naturally into the character that it is hard to imagine that he was performing as that character. Watch out for him in the romantic scenes and the one scene where he talks to Tapsee after a tragedy in the second half. He is mind blowing. Tapsee is one of the cutest things I have seen on screen in a long long time. Each time she appears on screen, she just lights it up. Her acting is not bad and has a wonderful screen presence. The only problem was her lip sync in an otherwise decent act. Kishore, as we all know is a fabulous actor and he reinforces that fact with his performance in this film. Looking drastically different, his Dhorai is one of the pillars of the story. Jayabalan as the manipulative guru Pettaikkaran is brilliant and extremely natural. Nareyn as the cop Rathnasamy was also very good, but his character loses prominence in the second half. The wonderful Jayaprakash makes a fleeting appearance as well. The rest of the supporting cast, most of which comprises of newcomers are extremely natural and effective. 

GV Prakash's music was a chartbuster since the audio release of the film. 'Yathe Yathe' has been on loop on almost everyone's playlists and that song is just too good and no words can describe the experience of listening to that song. 'Otha Sollala' is another beautiful kuthu song where Dhanush breaks into an impromptu jig in the middle of the Madurai roads, his mind going wild with love. 'Ayyayyo', a beautiful song by SPB is also wonderfully picturized showcasing the nightlife of the ordinary, in Madurai. The Porkkalam rap is also juxtaposed well into the narrative. GV Prakash has also excelled with the background score of the film. 

Aadukalam has a very strong technical side as well. Cinematography by Velraj is painstakingly realistic and the kind of shades he has given to the visuals completely complemen the raw treatment of the film. Kishore's editing also keeps the film going in a steady flow. Stunts by Rambo Rajkumar & Rajashekhar are bloody real. Art by Jackie and Sound by Udayakumar are also effectively handled. The computer generated rooster fights are also very effective and realistic. The rooster fight sequence just before the interval is one of the highlights of the movie. 

On the whole, Aadukalam is a definite must-watch for Vetrimaaran's deft handling of a very interesting subject, Dhanush's flawless performance, an adorable Tapsee and some great music by GV Prakash. Its hard to find such a realistic film within the commercial format. Its completely different from Polladhavan, yet almost as good as it. The film can boost Vetrimaaran up to the big league of directors in the Tamil industry. Tamil Cinema has opened with a bang in 2011. Do not waste any more time, go watch Aadukalam!! 

Rating - 4.5/5

Saturday, January 15

Siruthai - Karthi makes it worth a watch!!

Movie - Siruthai (Tamil)
Director - Siva
Producer - KE Gnanavel Raja
Cast - Karthi, Santhanam, Thamanna, Baby Rakshana and a whole bunch of Telugu villains and supporting actors/junior artistes
Music - Vidyasagar
Cinematography - S Velraj
Editing - VT Vijayan
Stunts - Ganesh
Art - Rajeevan
Screenplay - Siva
Release Date - 14th January 2011

Siruthai is the Tamil remake of the Ravi Teja starrer Vikramarkudu which was a blockbuster directed by SS Rajamouli in Telugu. And it is done clearly with the objective of bringing out the star in Karthi. And what his elder brother Suriya got to do in two distinct films like Singam and Pithamagan, Karthi gets to do in the same film, in the form of a double role. And it is only because of him, that this movie is worth watching. 

Rocket Raja (Karthi) is a happy go lucky young man who makes a living out of conning people and picking pockets in Chennai along with his aide Kaattu Poochi (Santhanam). He meets a pretty young lady Shwetha (Tamannah) during one of his escapades and falls in love with her. In the meanwhile, there are a whole bunch of Telugu rowdies who are on the lookout for a cop Rathnavel Pandian (Karthi again) whom they thought was dead, but is still alive. Raja steals a container from a Rajasthani lady and finds that instead of gold, there was a girl child inside and she identifies him as her father. Raja is bewildered and later comes to know that she is the daughter of a person who looks exactly like him - Rathnavel Pandian. How Raja's life becomes intertwined with that of the honest cop's is the story of Siruthai.  

The movie starts with a disclaimer saying that the setting is a remote area in Andhra Pradesh, hence justifying the behaviour of the very loud and and exaggerated villains in the movie. Siruthai has a distinct Telugu feel to it, except in the portions that are shot in Chennai. The villains, supporting characters and junior artistes and even the locations are mostly from Andhra, that we sometimes forget that we're watching a Tamil movie. But leaving all that, and another major factor called logic aside, this movie is all about its leading man and his ability to convince the audience that all the silly stuff that is happening in the movie actually did happen. And that, Karthi does with elan. Every damn formula is in place, and this movie solely rests on the charm of its leading man to pull them off well. I had an issue with the portrayal of Malayalis in the movie. During a wedding, we see a Malayali man with a 'kondai' and a weird hairdo right out of the vadakkan pattu movies and in another scene we see two sluts dressed in traditional Malayali attire of blouse and pavada. Such kind of looking down upon Malayalis were not needed at all. We're not like that and its high time people from other states understood that. 

Karthi is absolutely fantastic. He makes you laugh hysterically with his rollicking as the pickpocket Rocket Raja and gives you an adrenalin rush each time he appears as Rathnavel Pandian IPS. He handles both these distinct characters effortlessly, but it is certainly Rocket Raja that wins your heart. His scenes with Santhanam and Tamanna are hilarious and it is his entry towards the climax is what makes the movie lively despite the whole Rathnavel Pandian episode in the second half. The problem with the cop role is that he is too much of a superhero and that seems slightly cliched having seen umpteen number of films with the same characterizations. But Karthi is sincere towards it and it comes out effectively too. Just that if the character could have been developed in an innovative way, it would have made a lot of difference. Santhanam is hilarious as Raja's sidekick Kaattu Poochi. After Boss Engira Bhaskaran with Arya, he has struck a great rapport with Karthi on screen and each scene with the both of them together is a riot. Tamanna looks great and plays the regular dumb heroine who comes at the right times for romance, songs and in the end, to get kidnapped by the villain so that the hero can rescue her in the climax fight. The cute little Baby Rakshana does well too. All the other actors are all right out of Telugu Cinema and everything about them is so Telugu flavoured that it is weird hearing them speak Tamil. Even the villains are no great shakes except that they're really scary looking. 

Vidyasagar has constantly been disappointing with his music off late. What happened to the great composer who used to give only gems till not so long ago. Only 'Rocket Raja' sounds good in the entire movie. Background score (by whoever it is) was effective. Cinematography went well with the requirement of the film. Art Director Rajeevan showed his creativity in Rocket Raja's hangout where he has kept stolen stuff ranging from a telephone booth to a police road block. Editor VT Vijayan has managed to keep up the pace of the movie throughout. It doesnt lag anywhere at all. Stunts by Ganesh were great to watch. The dialogues and the comic situations in the first half and towards the end of the second half were hilarious and due credit must go to the makers of the original for that. 

On the whole, Siruthai is a mindless masala entertainer which works mostly because of its leading man Karthi's charm. It may not match up to the masala-ness of its original (for people who've seen it), but it is certainly enjoyable for people who like this genre of movies. Watch it for the star in Karthi, Santhanam's comedy and of course, the guilty pleasure of watching an escapist masala entertainer. 

Rating - 3/5