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Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu (Raghavan) March 28, 2007

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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After I fell in love with the music of this film, I was waiting for its telugu version which was rumored to be titled ‘Magadheera’ or ‘Ventaadi Vetaadu’. Since that one doesn’t seem to releasing anytime soon, I caught the tamil version.

Gautham Menon claims that this is “Another episode in the life of a policeman”. That seems to suggest that this a follow up to Kaakha Kaakha in his series of cop films. However, this is a disappointing follow up to Kaakha Kaakha. The film is superficially very similar to that one in many ways and after watching this, I think Gautham Menon shouldn’t do any more “episodes” as he doesn’t seem to have anything fresh to offer.

The film starts off with a stupid action episode where Kamal Haasan beats up tens of goons singlehandedly. You can’t help but notice that Kamal Haasan seems a tad too old and a bit too fat to portray an invincible action hero. This is followed by the Karka Karka song which is imaginatively shot but due to the preceding sequence, it loses its impact. What happens next seems promising. Prakash Raj’s daughter is brutally murdered and Kamal is called to investigate. Though he finds her body, the killer is still on the loose. Few months later, Prakash Raj and his wife are killed in USA leading to suspicion about a serial killer. Kamal now moves to the US to track the killers with the help of the NYPD and thats exactly when things start going wrong with the film.

As far as I am aware, Kamal Haasan doesn’t have an action image that Gautham felt the need to oblige. Hence, the decision to portray him as one is perplexing. The easily noticeable logic-defying moments, some over-the-top dialogue and the overdone background score put me off to a great extent. Coming from Gautham Menon, one expected better.

Gautham does a few weird things in trying to show that Raghavan is very intelligent and can solve things which the NYPD doesn’t manage to. Setting the film partly in America adds to the problems of credibility and logic. Also the film manages the be unintentionally funny quite a few times and features some particularly pathetic dialogue. My favorite is undoubtedly the time when Kamal Haasan mouths “Back home, they call it the Raghavan Instinct”. Is it just me or did a lot of people crack up on that one?

The romance which worked very well in Kaakha Kaakha fails here. Neither the story of Raghavan’s first wife nor his current romance manages to strike a chord. Though the love story doesn’t succeed, some of the dialogue brings back memories of Kaakha Kaakha.

If Gautham does succeed at something, it is at the portrayal of the serial killers. Their psycopathic nature will manage to scare members of the audience. Saleem Baig (Kaakha Kaakha), who portrays Ilamaran and Daniel Balaji (Kaakha Kaakha), who portrays Amudhan do a superb job. The gritty portrayal of some of the incidents also adds to the impact. This part of the plot does work despite flaws and that is what holds the audience appeal.

Apart from the these two actors, the others don’t have much scope to perform. The role of the cop doesn’t make much use of Kamal’s histrionic capabilities. An easy outing for Kamal. Jyothika gets another typical role while Kamalinee Mukherjee doesn’t get much to do.

Harris Jayaraj’s soundtrack is outstanding while his background score leaves a lot to be desired. Manjal Veyil and Uyirile had caught on so much that I know the words to both these songs by heart (and I don’t understand much more than conversational Tamil). His background score, on the other hand goes completely wrong. It is pumped up at the weirdest of places like Kamal boarding the plane to New York. Other technical areas like cinematography (Ravi Varman) are strong.

Gautham’s picturization of the songs was a total disappointment for me, not to mention that they seem to be repetitive. Manjal Veyil, which I had great hopes for, features Kamal and Jyothika walking around in New York with some glimpses of some African-Americans ‘breaking’ in between and some extras including Gautham singing the chorus part (the young boys singing in the back reminds you of a similar bit featuring girls in Jyothika’s introduction song in Kaakha Kaakha). The initial parts of Paartha Mudhal remind you of Ennai Konjam and the later parts bring back memories of Ondra Renda from Kaakha Kaakha (the bike sequence is dreadfully done). There is also an item song as was the case with Kaakha Kaakha. Uyirile is quite a standard duet picturized abroad. Karka Karka has some stylish sequences in it but following the ludicrous fight sequence, it seems laughable at times.

Wikipedia tells me that this is the biggest grosser among tamil films in 2006 and is the biggest hit in Kamal’s career. I am not sure if that is true, considering that it wasn’t dubbed into telugu. If you have seen a few serial killer films from Hollywood in the past, this might not hold your interest. If you aren’t too familiar with the genre this might appeal to an extent despite its shortcomings. Those who’ve seen Kaakha Kaakha and liked Gautham’s work very much might want to stay away from this one.

Bommarillu – Love makes life beautiful September 11, 2006

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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There was so much hype around this movie after it released. The audience was mesmerized. The critics raved. All the NRI students talked about the praise from Jeevi (the very famous online film critic for Idlebrain.com). Discussion boards were filled with comments comparing the movie to films like Ninne Pelladatha, Nuvve Kavali, Arya, Nuvvosthanante Nenoddantana and even films of Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar. So the expectations were humongous to say the least. However, I tried to keep my expectations low and watched the film. The verdict? When I left the theatre I felt that this was a beautiful film. As I continued to mull over the screenplay, I realised that comparisons to some of those movies is not really uncalled for.

Recently, when I wrote about Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, I mentioned that there were few movies that aptly depicted a conflict arising due to love between two people. This movie depicts such a conflict realistically. In that movie there was a very relevant social issue like race that provided the conflict. In this movie it is a more simple issue yet very relevant to the Indian community as such. I mentioned earlier in the discussion about Good Will Hunting that Indian parents tend to decide most things for their kids (or at least have a great influence on the decisions) from their career path to their life partner. The issue here is about parents who believe that they are doing the best they can for their children without realising that what is best in their minds is not really what the child needs or wants. This is the crux of the film. Some of the families that came to this movie enjoyed it as much as I did but little did they realise that they themselves are doing some of the things that the father does in the film. In fact some of my friends probably don’t realise enough that we would probably commit some of the same mistakes that the previous generations have been committing. Kids who are like Subbalakshmi (Neha) may not find an issue while kids like Sidhu (Siddharth) will suffocate.

Some of my friends ask me if I mean to say that our parents are committing mistakes when they in fact have our best interests in their mind. Having best interests and doing the suitable thing are two different issues. Every individual has a justification for every action however wrong it may be. We do not act until we satisfy ourselves that it is fine to act that way. Mistakes are a part of every individual’s life and just like us, our parents are no exception no matter how much we love them. I have many friends whose descriptions fit Sidhu, Haasini and Subbulakshmi in the film as far as the relationships with a parent goes (and this relationship might differ between the two parents too). Some have more freedom while some do not have as much breathing space to let their feelings out while others get used to a dependent life and cannot even take a simple decision without enough support. I am generalizing but you should get the picture. I was really moved in the final confrontation between the father and son when I realized that there is so much love, affection and commitment from both parents and children and yet it still creates a confused and unsatisfied child (some people may say that it was the child’s fault because he did not open up earlier but it is the upbringing that makes the child what he is and that is the reason that the child cannot open up to his father). Simple understanding of what a child wants would have gone a long way in creating a happier child, not to mention a more satisfied parent.

Coming back to the movie (written and directed by Bhaskar), this is a magnificent screenplay first of all. We have had a writer-director like Chandrasekhar Yeleti (Aithe, Anukokunda Oka Roju) who has given us tight screenplays without loopholes or the inclusion of irrelevant matter. If Yeleti brought class to the thriller genre, Bhaskar brings the same class to the family entertainers. The brilliance of Bhaskar lies in the fact that the taut script is character driven more than anything else. At many places in the movie, you feel like he might compromise the characters but he stays true to them (especially when Genelia speaks up after the “week” is over). The characters and dialogues are close to reality and reminded me of many people throughout. Of course, the script may not feel perfect to some but better ones are rare in Telugu cinema of recent times. The director rarely tries to manipulate you and the drama nevers gets melodramatic. The movie is abundant in humor as is the current trend for family cinema. There is some really neat stuff here (check out what happens as the titles roll). As a director too Bhaskar is good and there is a lot of attention to detail. Bhaskar seems to be a perfectionist and he definitely has a strong will to succeed. I think he is a superb find though a couple more movies would be needed to decide how good he really is.

Siddharth does an excellent job as the son whose thoughts/ideas/decisions are nipped in the bud. His character is key to the movie and his casting is a good decision. His telugu diction is not really perfect but it is pardonable considering his effort to learn the language. His dances are passable. Genelia’s Haasini character is very believable to me because I have closely known a few people who are childlike in their behavior and are always happy and bubbly. Their enthusiasm rubs over to you. Sidhu’s character falling in love with Haasini’s is very believable because of the fact that she is able to do what he cannot (though love at first sight may seem a bit of a stretch). Haasini’s characterization reminded me of Rekha’s in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Khoobsoorat (one of his great comedies which is not as famous as his others). If you did not like Siddharth in Nuvvosthanante Nenoddantana or Salman Khan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or Kajol in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, you will not like Genelia here but believe me such people do exist. I really did not believe that Genelia could act before this one but the director gets her to emote well (though she overdoes it here and there). Some of the mannerisms are definitely based on the director’s observations. She dances horribly (she actually jumps instead of dancing) but doesn’t do much of it anyway. Savita Reddy’s dubbing has really gotten monotonous over time.

Prakash Raj is perfectly suited for the role of the father (you are also reminded of another excellent portrayal of a father by him in Trivikram’s Nuvve Nuvve). Jayasudha does not have much to do overall but her expressions from time to time add to the movie, justifying her presence. From among the rest of the cast, Sunil is as always excellent (he is one of the few comedians that shows an appreciable variation in the way he portrays different roles). Satya Krishnan (who had a great role in Sekhar Kammula’s Anand) does not have much to do here. Neha (who acted in V.V.Vinayak’s Dil) gets a cameo and does well.

The music by Devi Sri Prasad is very good and so is his background score (compared to the composers from this generation like R.P.Patnaik and Chakri, Devi Sri is the only one that does a decent background score). He comes back to form with this one. If I had to pick a couple of songs, I would pick Appudo Ippudo (sung pretty well by Siddharth with Devi Sri chipping in the background to great effect) and Bommani Geesthe (reminds you of an Ilayaraaja number from Chinna Rayudu but is definitely not a lift) apart from the music bit. The lyrics of Bommani Geesthe are quite good (Bhaskarabhatla).

Coming to the comparisons with various movies. Aditya Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge which ran for over 500 weeks (and is probably still running in Maratha Mandir) had many good things about it but it still manipulated your emotions. The plot wasn’t as character driven as this one and the conflict isn’t as identifiable. Karan Johar’s flicks are all about manipulating your emotions (though they have great humor) as are many flicks from the Chopra/Johar camp. Krishna Vamsi’s Ninne Pelladatha had little manipulation and great identification factor except for the conflict (which to some was not as believable). Vijaya Bhaskar’s Nuvve Kavali, scripted by Trivikram had the best humor of the time when it released but it never had the brilliant characterization of this one though the conflict was believable. Prabhu Deva’s Nuvvosthanante Nenoddantana lacked in originality being a mish mash (an excellent one though) of so many bollywood flicks ranging from Maine Pyar Kiya to Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya to Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (M.S.Raju’s script is to blame). Sukumar’s Arya was never really that realistic though the Arya character is what drives that movie. I could go on but comparisons with what are favorite movies for many is probably unnecessary. My point here is that the character driven screenplay, the identification factor and lack of manipulation of your emotions are the key strengths of the movie.

Don’t expect too much from this movie (you may not like it as much as you should if you expect too much). This is a great family entertainer even if you don’t really care about story, screenplay or direction. Watch it even if you do not want to think. Watch it if you enjoy cinema.