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Veedokkade (Ayan) May 4, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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I had seen the promos of the Tamil version during its release a couple of months back and I wasn’t impressed at all – especially with Surya S/o Krishnan still fresh in my mind. However the release of the Telugu version had me excited quite a bit given the glowing reviews and box office success which “Ayan” garnered.

Veedokkade turned out be a mixed bag but still making me wonder why the original ended up being such a huge hit. I found this one to be a better and well-packaged version of the beaten-to-death Telugu action film but apart from that there wasn’t anything to look out for. Director K.V Anand tries to fill in a bit of everything for everyone the result being a product which cannot completely satisfy anyone. Among the everythings the one being talked about most is the action – the much touted “Yamakasi” sequence is the highpoint of the enterprise. Actually, I didn’t know what it was before so for those of you who are wondering about what it might be – well it is the technical name for those awesome foot chase sequences you have seen in the last Bourne and Bond flicks. In this film too it has been wonderfully done and part of the reason I did not like this movie a lot was the result of heightened expectations at the end of this scene.

The most boring parts are the romance (on the brighter side, great to see Tamannaah return to normalcy after Ananda Thandavam) and the surprisingly insipid music by Harris Jayaraj. The background score was quite good nevertheless. This is Surya’s film all the way – from pirating DVDs to smuggling Blood Diamonds, from foot chases in Africa to car chases in Malaysia he seems be having a blast. Prabhu is also impressive in a meaty supporting role. The cinematography is also worthy of mention – especially in the foreign locales.

Veedokkade could have been a smart action flick had K.V Anand concentrated all his energies on the main plot – excising out some of the unnecessary parts would also have achieved that effect to an extent. It still is a pretty good watch provided you do not have lofty expectations.

Surya S/o Krishnan (Vaaranam Aayiram) November 16, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Apart from being a Gautham Menon-Surya film, this one was in the news during its launch for all the wrong reasons. In the first place this was announced out of the blue only after a couple of films (with the same combination) supposed to begin shooting got scrapped. Also, there were major changes in the casting of the female leads. It’s only very recently I came to know that this was intended to be a personal tribute from Gautham Menon to his father.

Following the death of his father Krishnan (Surya), Surya (Surya) – an army major currently on a rescue mission reminisces his whole life and the relationship he shared with his father; who we get to know turns out to be his inspiration and support at every point in his life. Surya recalls his mom Malini (Simran) telling him how his father “swept me off my feet” in college – through a wonderful flashback sequence. We then move through Surya’s teenage years and college life following which he falls in love with Meghna (Sameera Reddy) and decides to pursue her to the US where she is studying. I can’t say more about what happens from thereon because that would involve giving away major spoilers. Needless to say, every major step Surya takes in his life is inspired by “how my dad would have done it”.

Gautham’s film is uninhibitedly personal and absolutely honest. Apart from including some action episodes for commercial reasons he never really strays from what he is trying to convey. The result is somewhat a self-indulgent effort which is just over 3 hours long but once I was sucked into the director’s vision and the actors’ performances I totally fell in love with it. After the initial wooing sequence between Krishnan and Malini I knew there was no way I am not going to like this one. And it just keeps getting better (for most part). The film actually spans a period of about 30 years and it is so rare to see how much careful thought has been put into the visual detailing of different periods – be it the actors’ costumes or the the surrounding props (vehicles, buildings, billboards etc..). Even the sequences in the US are quite refreshing in terms of the locations. The dialogue is quite contemporary and urban (with the liberal use of English) – however I felt there was a voice-over overdose which was definitely not needed for each and every scene. Harris Jayaraj – in his last collaboration with Menon belts out another hit soundtrack but it is the way he’s experimented with the background score which really stands out.

And now the best part of the movie – Surya. Though he has had great performances to boast of before, I think he’s been quite unlucky when it comes his talent being recognized. Sometimes those films haven’t done well and if they indeed have done well it was overshadowed by a much bigger actor/film. I can only pray that it doesn’t happen this time. For if this film doesn’t do well, not doubt one of the most memorable performances you’ll ever see would go down the drain. Surya gets to play a range or characters right from a teenager to an old man (in a sense he actually does more than that for even the father’s character goes through the same cycle). Be it the body language or the styling, he is just so convincing in each and every frame. And that believability is brought about without the use of any prosthetic make-up whatsoever. He has lost/gained weight (even got a six-pack) as each character demands and by changing his look (hair/beard/moustache) appropriately for each role he plays.

In the past, whenever an actor has gotten to play multiple roles (or even a single “different” standout role) the temptation for some self-serving over-the-top histrionics has always marred the outcome a bit (though that’s precisely the reason they receive accolades). Here, more than anything else Surya’s nuanced, understated delivery for each character is the real stuff you’ve got to give credit for. He is however most comfortable doing his winsome routine chasing Sameera Reddy (check out the Visa Interview scene). Simran is wonderful as the mother. I think she should seriously think of taking up these kind of roles rather than making futile attempts at making a comeback as a leading lady. Sameera and Divya/Ramya look gorgeous (Sameera especially) and they are very impressive. Deepa Narendran – who plays Surya’s sister also makes a mark (don’t recall exactly where I’ve seen her before – probably a TV personality). To sum it up, all actors can easily cite this film for now when asked about their career best performance.

Though the film ends on a happy note, a strong feeling of poignancy took over me as I left the theatre. This is a film which will stay with me for a long time. I don’t know whether I can call it a great flick but Surya S/o Krishnan is unlike any other film you’ll get to see which makes it something you can’t afford to miss.

P.S: Initially I was planning to watch Dostana this weekend but I had to go for this one because I couldn’t get tickets for the former. Now, I am glad I didn’t.

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.

Ghazni August 17, 2006

Posted by Sai in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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Ghazni, which was dubbed into Telugu with the same name and is also to be remade in Hindi with Aamir Khan, was inspired by Memento. When I say inspired, I do not mean that it is lifted. The narrative style and complexity of the original is not suited for the common man. Director Murugadoss has taken the basic theme about a guy with short-term memory loss taking revenge for his wife’s death and made it a good commercial film for the audience in question. The presence of Surya and Asin in the film is a case of excellent casting. Their performances were deservedly loved by most audience members. The love story which was quite enjoyable was supposedly lifted from an old Nagarjuna movie (according to TeluguCinema.com). Though the climax is a bit of a letdown, this film works and Murugadoss should get most of the credit for the adaptation suitable for the target audience. The performances of Surya and Asin alongwith Harris Jayaraj’s music (my favorite is “Oru Naalai” or “Oka Maaru” while I hate the overly sweet “Suttum Vizhi” or “Hrudayam Ekkadunnadi” which I unfortunately had to hear a couple of hundred times at least, thanks to my Tamizhan friends) added to the success level of the film. Though it would rate very low, in comparison with Memento, this is an enjoyable watch for anyone who likes commercial films or thrillers.

I’ve always wondered why this movie was called Ghazni. Wikipedia gives me the following reason: “Ghajini (Ghazni) Mohammed was the man who tried to invade India 15 times, failing miserably on every occasion. Finally, on the 16th time, he was successful. Similarly, the protagonist in Ghajini fails many times in his attempts to murder the villain, yet ultimately succeeds.”