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Nenu Devudni (Naan Kadavul) February 9, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Probably the only true auteur of Indian Cinema, Bala returns after a hiatus of 5 years with his latest work. It is rare for a film to be hailed as a masterpiece even before its release which only shows the effect his films have on people. If you thought Sethu or Pithamagan were bleak and depressing then Nenu Devudni/Naan Kadavul takes it to a new level altogether. For those who haven’t seen the film yet, it might seem to be an exploration about the life and practices of the Aghora cult (now popular in Telugu due to the recent success of Arundhati). But actually it only acts as a backdrop – the significance of which will only be clear towards the end of the film.

On the suggestion of an astrologer that he is a bad omen, Rudra (Arya) is abandoned as a child in Varanasi by his father. When his father goes in search of him after 15 years he finds to his astonishment that Rudra has become an Aghori – someone who considers himself to have attained to power to stop the endless cycle of rebirths by blessing the ashes of dead people who he thinks deserve that boon. On his father’s plea, Rudra’s guru allows him one final visit to his village. Once back there he shocks everyone who comes in contact with him. The main plot however is that involving the inhuman business of “begging”. If you’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire then be warned – the few sequences you’ve seen in that movie regarding the same issue would seem like kiddie stuff. Anyways, what happens from thereon is better seen than told.

Whether you subscribe to it or not, Bala has the ability to drag the viewer into his bleak merciless world and this film is far successful in doing that than any previous work of his. I don’t think I can get those visuals out of my mind for a long time and I bet you would have a tough time doing the same. However, as usual with Bala’s films the visceral experience comes in lieu of a coherent screenplay. What I actually found very disturbing is the seeming glorification of the protagonist and his cult. There is a huge difference between certain characters in the film revering Rudra and the film itself projecting him as a hero; and somewhere down the line the distinction seemed lost. What can seem acceptable or even justified as a sad state of affairs cannot really become an ideal. Thanks to a couple of irritating guys in the audience who were constantly whistling whenever Arya came on screen – my perspective about the film’s convictions might be a little skewed but I’d like to hear from others what they concluded about the movie.

Arya undergoes an amazing physical (rather facial) transformation for this role. He is really scary in that look but apart from a standard routine which he seems to perform in most of the film, there isn’t nothing much he is required to do. Pooja is also very good as the blind girl. The real heroes are the supporting cast comprising of real Sadhus and physically disabled people – again better seen than told. The guy who plays the main villain is also extremely formidable. The film is shot beautifully (Arthur Wilson) – right from the opening frame on the banks of the Ganges, the foreboding mood of the film is captured consistently. Ilaiyaraja’s score also enhances the film to a great level.

For all the bleakness in the movie, it must be mentioned that there isn’t any boring moment and uxexpectedly there is ample humor which goes a long way in lightening the proceedings. For all its faults, Nenu Devudni/Naan Kadavul is a testament to the power of the visual medium and Bala’s command over it – and that itself qualifies it to be a masterpiece. A word of caution – don’t venture in if you are not used to disturbing imagery and avoid taking children.

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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.