“Vazhakku Enn 18/9.”… Strife in a metro

All these years, apparently, I’ve been living in a city that’s not the sweetly traditional home of filter coffee and mallipoo idli and the Music Season, but really Sodom and Gomorrah combined and quadrupled and relocated to the Ninth circle of Hell. At least, that’s what a certain stripe of directors in Tamil cinema, every single one a tiresome scold, appears to be telling me with nauseating earnestness. There is something repugnant about the way films like Angadi Theru (see here), Kattradhu Thamizh (see here), Easan (see here) and, now, Vazhakku Enn 18/9 seek to – in their respective ways – denigrate Chennai as a sewer and its denizens as rats, dirty and diseased in mind and spirit, especially in those darned coffee shops, where random Caucasian types lock lips in (you’d better be sitting down for this!) full public view. If I weren’t so outraged, I’d be clutching my sides and laughing till I ran out of breath – because it’s all so simpleminded and ridiculous, like a child pretending there’s no sun by holding up a thumb against the sky. How can supposedly major filmmakers be so myopic in their vision, so bereft of nuance, so black-and-white in their worldview?

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But that’s a different topic for a different kind of rant. For now, though, let’s just thumb through our catalogue of sins, shall we? Better yet, taking a leaf from the writing in Vazhakku Enn 18/9, let’s not bother shaping any kind of coherent argument. Let’s just dump all the “issues” in the most rabble-rousing format. All you need to know is that US refers to Evil Chennai Residents (ECR, naturally; also that highway to hell), callused by city living, while THEM refers to those dreamy, doe-eyed folks from faraway hamlets like Eechambalam, near Dharmapuri.

*

THEM: What do they do upon witnessing the plight of a prostitute? They take all the money they have, the pitifully tiny amount that it is, and thrust it into her hands and seek to rehabilitate her.

US: But what do we do? When we see that this rehabilitated prostitute has turned flower-seller, we refuse to believe her and harass her sexually and drive her out of this city of ours. (Maybe we laugh evilly afterwards, but that detail remains unseen.)

*

THEM: What do their boys do with the girl to whom they profess affections? They sacrifice their lives and lock themselves up in jail.

US: And what do we do? We mow these girls down with the big, flashy cars we’re driving.

*

THEM: They give money to blind beggars. They help handicapped children.

US: We don’t even open our insulated tiffin boxes when called upon to feed someone on the road who’s fainted from hunger. (And of course the camera will capture our callousness with a low-angle shot that frames the scene with these very insulated tiffin boxes.)

*

THEM: They eat idlis.

US: We scarf down sandwiches. In these films, for some reason, the ECR love their carbs. We are always loading up on burgers or pizzas or sandwiches. (The latter is an especial favourite of Balaji Sakthivel, this film’s director, as Tamanna in Kalloori too was an inveterate sandwich-muncher.)

*

THEM: They take care of their parents, even setting off to unknown (and unnamed) cities in North India to make money through menial labour. (Those evil North Indians, by the way, are just like ECR. An employer remains silent about a worker’s tragedy that he learns about through a phone call, so that the man will not leave him.)

US: We extort money from our mothers, issuing threats and throwing tantrums.

*

Wait, you say – that girl Aarti from the Chennai high rise, doesn’t she volunteer information at the police station to save that dreamy, doe-eyed boy from Eechambalam? And doesn’t her mother, in her happiness of a promotion, extend her dabba of sweets to the servant maid as well? Aren’t these nice things that they do?

Well, of course, these are nice things, because they are nice people – from Trichy. Had they been from Chennai, the promotion-awarded mother might have expressed her happiness by tipping the maid over from the terrace of their high rise.

*

US: Our mothers cover up for wayward sons. Our cops are all corrupt. Our education has become a business.

THEM: N/A

*

THEM: When they stumble upon a gold ring while scrubbing a toilet, they return it to their employers, not tempted even for an instant to slip it on a finger and bask in the moment.

US: N/A

*

But what really got my goat was this us-versus-them epiphany, that with THEM, when they set eyes upon women, it’s always the nice thing, the noble thing, the gallant thing that’s done. They only dream of marriage and family and happily-ever-after – everything, in short, is strictly above the waist, with not a hint of carnal mischief. But US, oh, everything is below the waist. All we want to do is peek underneath skirts and make mobile-phone videos and circulate them amongst fellow-students, those other ECR. The point isn’t to defend what the male student does here, which is doubtless reprehensible. But he’s a kid, an adolescent, and whose adolescence isn’t preoccupied with sexual thoughts? Why not give us one redeeming scene where this is the case with THEM too, that they too have itches that make their hands drift southwards? It’s as if they’ve never seen Sakalakalavallavan and films of that ilk, where people like THEM were healthy repositories of lust.

When such a thick line of chalk separates the two teams, it’s hard to take anything seriously, and that’s this film’s major tragedy. Sakthivel has zoomed in on a superb subject, about the have-nots from elsewhere who are forced to seek livelihoods in big, churning cities that grind them into anonymity (the film zooms in on a single have-not and investigates his possible involvement in a criminal case), but these stories, unlike our masala movies where we demand no engagement with reality or plausibility, come with the responsibility that – like the court case of the title suggests – both sides are represented with equal sincerity. And when that doesn’t happen, there’s nothing to do but laugh it all off. How else can you treat a film where a leading man, in a public shooting spot, is revealed not only to be hairless but also equipped with effeminate vocal chords? Had this been a first-timer’s effort, we might have expressed sympathy about good intentions not always resulting in a good film, and patted the director on the back for at least attempting something different – but this is from the man who gave us Kaadhal.

Sakthivel does at least some things right. He opts for a roundabout narrative style, where things are revealed only gradually, and he adopts a Neorealist approach, staunchly refusing to prettify his film, and using real locations, real people. (Even the sole song in the film is a real song, with dialogues in place of interludes.) But there’s a difference between picking non-professional actors and non-actors in a film that often requires melodramatic performing styles. There are many scenes that wilt away because of the incompetence of the people in them, like the one where the protagonist’s parents are beaten up in their village by moneylenders – the staging is nonexistent. For a brief while in second half, the sheer dramatic power of the contrivances grabs us by the collar and makes us watch – there’s a lurid what-next tension in these portions – but the conclusion is ridiculous and seems to happen, like a lot of things in this movie, to shock us into submission. I really wish this had been a worthy movie, but it’s just severely frustrating and I’d talk some more about this aspect, but you’ll have to excuse me now. I have to retreat to my shack by Marina beach and carve up some kittens.

Copyright ©2012 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

159 thoughts on ““Vazhakku Enn 18/9.”… Strife in a metro

  1. Well said BR, all these Chennai is one big kuppai kinda movies irritate big time. and to think that we “conservative ” chennaiites have to constantly defend Chennai against the fans of Bangalore and Mumbai in the pub/club/party discussions who say this city is way too bland and boring.. . Next time someone brings that argument to me id make them watch Eesan.

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  2. “Why not give us one redeeming scene where this is the case with THEM too, that they too have itches that make their hands drift southwards?”

    “..but you’ll have to excuse me now. I have to retreat to my shack by Marina beach and carve up some kittens.”

    Two instant classics!! hahaha!!!

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  3. Superb.One honest review between all those posts,blogs,tweets raving about the film.This, city people are dishonest,evil and village types are honest,modest,humble and pretty much personify only good is getting irritating.

    Do these directors really do some ground work?? I mean,doing work in rural areas for more than 15 months now and I know that these guys are as smart,lazy,cunning as the city ones,if not more.

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  4. Thanks BR..these cliched divisions have existed in our films but now they seem to loom large I remember Kadhal kondan think one early selvaraj film where dhanush was this poor rural boy whose self estemmed stooped lower over not being able to munch evil pizzas!-needed a dip in the coovum after that film to purify myself.There is a great malayalam film called city of gold with prithviraj which beautifully captures the divisions with great compassion and humanity…have you seen it

    This week I just finished reading a wonderful chennai lovestory called tamarind city by bishwanath ghosh..think its a good antidote to the film you had to watch!!-carving kittens while reading tamarind city to the beat it by evil jackson..way to go br!!!

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  5. simplistic,
    juevenile,
    populist,
    puerile

    did you actually manage to avoid these words in your terrific tirade? !

    apart from notorious bores like Manoj ‘the Bharat’ Kumar, Visu the loud-mouth-maama and co., even the better film makers of yore like K Balachander, S Vishwanath, Puttanna Kanagal often yielded to similar temptations of hypocritical moralising throughout their careers.

    like those ‘art’ films from the ’70s, Madhur Bhandarkar continues till date in his monotonous takes on his to-do list of various professions – US v/s THEM, haves v/s have-nots, the rulers v/s the ruled, the glamorous stars v/s the hard-working-folks-with-real-jobs etc.

    it is indeed a pity that a talented director like Sakthivel has degenerated quickly to make his ‘Angadi Theru’ here.

    congrats dr.rangan, you are hereby anointed ‘the most unpopular critic of the week’ ;)

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  6. Reading this was fun… especially when I couldn’t stop to think if we would have felt different if the entire plot didn’t ever involve the filter kaapi stereo typed Chennai. The protagonists may have been MARS for example…Lets us assume there was no US and THEM comparison possible… Let us even stretch our imaginations to even think THEY belonged to the bourgeoisie… My point is this… This is a movie not to be approached with an intellect… In simple words, if you were the girl inside the bars hiding her acid burnt face or if you were the guy who was outside trying to make her feel loved despite the odds you would have connected with the Kaadhal director. Everything else was just a setting. Understand the soul… Setting is individualistic… It is Balaji’s personal choice… He isn’t asking you to appreciate it.. He is seeking acceptance for the soul he has tried to portray…. Look beyond the layers… Look within you..

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  7. Damn !!!.

    Thats a proper tirade . I haven’t seen it but if its anything like Angadi Theru then a one-time look is essential.

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  8. Though i connected well with the tirade, I was saddened by the fact that this is a blog post instead of a full fledged article. I hope this finds a place in Hindu somehow for a larger audience to realise what they are ridiculing in movies like these.

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  9. 1) esp the scene where the boy in a park asks the gal to send him an mms. ya it happens. but it happens in villages too, where they exchange porn books..

    2) caucasian kissing in CCD. utter nonsense.

    3) and as u said, the director grab our collar and make us watch the climax. totally unwarranted.

    4) perhaps, if the film had been ended at the good cop-bad cop scene, it would have, alteast be satisfying

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  10. I haven’t see n the movie but someone told me the story – But in a movie of 2 hours , with a ‘story’ about certain characters in a city – why should a director care about take a wholistic view about a city ? This is not a documentary, where the middle road has to be taken . . These things do happen in chennai in a certain section in a certain way and that has been highlighted with some cinematic liberties .

    But why include Angadi Theru – Isn’t it about a certain part of the society that has been potrayed sensibly , with few exceptions ? I definitively did not feel so when i saw Angadi Theru or even mor ein the face EEsan – they were all about a particular characters and their view point and i don’t see anything wrong with that .

    ( EEsam to be had brilliant moments – its the length of the flash back that let it down )

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  11. Vasisht Das: Yes, Madhur Bhandarkar is exactly who comes to mind.

    Ramya : Reg. “It is Balaji’s personal choice… He isn’t asking you to appreciate it” Of course, and this is just my personal view. I’m not asking everyone to endorse it. But I do feel a review has to put forth a POV about the elements in a film, and not, just gloss over it in gauzy overall terms.

    I was talking, yesterday, to this Tamil film critic. I said, “Did you see Vazhakku Enn…” She said yes and that she loved it. I said the film didn’t work for me at all. Then she said, “Yeah, it’s not great or anything, but very rarely is Tamil cinema *about* something. We should appreciate that.” And I thought, “Then why not say that instead of saying it’s great?” That, to me, is puzzling.

    ram: “caucasian kissing in CCD. utter nonsense” LOL. That was a real eye-roll moment for me.

    MumbaiRamki: This is not about a wholistic view of the city but about a wholistic shaping of the *people* in it. Seeing the film, we get the feeling that the director is a referee saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, to my left, we have the Sinners. And to my right, the Saints. Let the games begin.” Every single person is a stick-figure caricature.

    This is about showing that the servant girl who finds the gold ring — for instance — could be tempted to slip it on and admire herself before the bathroom mirror before doing the right thing and returning it to the owner. In a two-hour movie, this is going to take thirty seconds. Why not temper at least a couple of “good” characters with a scene or two of “not-so-good” traits (and vice versa?) This is so extreme.

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  12. I think the larger issue is that the makers of these serious but unnuanced films think they are making deep films but really they are trading in broad strokes and black-and-white storytelling as much as any mass masala film. The only difference is that the setting is more realistic.

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  13. Happened to catch this movie last night and I am yet to recover from the shock :( Very disturbing climax to say the least.
    Loved the review. Especially, the US vs Them part. Even I thought about these things while watching the young romeo kattam-kattifying his apartment chick but felt really bad at the end.
    The director has got it all wrong with his generalization. At times, felt like watching the popular talk show Vj Tv where emotion takes over every other thing.

    ~ cheers.!

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  14. Brangan ,

    It also depends on what is that he wants to convey – If he wants to show the have-nots entangled in a city ending up in a sorry tale , you can’t create the chord with the viewers, if they are presented in grey , even for lesser time frame ( and in the end if something bad happens to the have-nots, why would viewers ( ok – u can ask who are the viewers) care ? I think our mind automatically polarizes to emotions based on context – (we care for innocent people in riots, not for assasins) .

    In what he wants to convey, he will choose ;’good’ samples in have-nots and ‘bad’ samples in US and use that for what he wants to convey .It is certainly possible to have such ‘samples’ in the both the universes, but seen as the sole representatives of respective universes is where we have a problem. Im thinking of a movie that had an impact where have-nots are shown in grey and are also a victim of the circumstances.

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  15. US vs THEM can also be experienced in show hosted by ‘Gobinath’ (and other talk shows in that channel) which has enormous amount of Tamil culture specifications in it that they are planning to rewrite Thirukkural.

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  16. I think Chennai is slowly falling into the brink of un-civilized cities like Bangalore, Mumbai, but not yet.
    But go around the barristas and coffee days and Avenue malls, the carb loving, ‘oh India is dirty, where is my audi?’ wannabe ish teens that copy every act from sitcoms like Friends and Big bang theory galore. I moved from a THEM town to US, and I can say I feel very similar to the generalization from this director.
    Its like the movie Fashion in hindi where many of my office mates showered praise for Priyanka when I said, wtf, maybe 5% in beautiful Indian girls could be in modelling, and maybe 2 % would’ve gotten tortured. Now you show all the glittery foreign stuff and foreign attitude and some cry, and you win fans? huh..
    Same with pre-marital sex scene from SMS – would be damned if it is portrayed in a movie taken in THEM town, yes its there – maybe 1% but why to show it. And the thing that ppl were comfortable watching them and accepting , yes it happens, is whats more callusing …

    Great writing, you ought to write a fiction book, I’ll buy it, but please try to step out as a third person when commenting about great tamil movies.

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  17. CORRECTED RE-POST OF A PREVIOUS COMMENT:
    By believing that Chennai is only about “sweetly traditional home of filter coffee and mallipoo idli and the Music Season”, it seems that you have been living in your socially segregated Brahmin supremacist social milieu with no connection, empathy or exposure to the poverty, oppression, disease, insanitation and segregation forced on the marginalized Dalit people living in the slums of Chennai. The poverty stricken marginalised people of society who are impoverished and oppressed by caste and class don’t just disappear because you fail to recognise them while film makers who make movies about the oppressed and marginalised in society should be feted and not derided. According to you Chennai residents seem to be only the “affluent and the educated class”, particularly Brahmin and upper caste whom you categorize as “US”, which is a very bigoted view. Most of Chennai’s residents (just as Mumbai’s Dharavi) are impoverished Dalit labourers living in slums.

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  18. Ha ha Mr.Baradwaj, you’ve the story wrong altogether. You’ve never tried to understand the theme underlying the plot. You went in after seeing the trailer or some posters with an idea about the film and that is what exactly you have seen. It is just your idea overlaid upon the movie.

    Come on chap, The director never said all that crap about the entire ECR kids. I’m reminding you, the girl’s dad and mom was also shown to have resided on the same flat. And remember in one three hours you cannot show everything about a society, not everything. This story is about a boy or say a group of boys who have been mislead due to surplus amount of money that circulates in their hands and absence of parental guidance.

    Pornographic stuffs are usual in the teenage, but shooting the same is a bit unusual. You can see thousands of such vids all over the internet. Have you read todays newspaper? A school kid studying 10th standrad murdered his fellow classmate cutting his neck with a knife.

    And you’re supposed to notice the director has only accussed the so-called ECR fellas. The one kid who jothi takes care of was a son of some loafer and he is the same “THEM” category. so there are sinners also from the “THEM” cader and “US” cader.

    If you’re genuine enough publish this comment.

    P.S : This article revels a shit smelling Racist attitude!

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  19. India needs racists like you, lets get some more racists..

    I don’t get a faint idea the author talks of brahmain supremacist or anti-dalit..
    ‘onnu na ombothu varai solluveengada neenga’.. shame on u.. Am not a brahmin, but enjoyed music season, filter coffee and mallipoo idli’. top of the theme is that you are a ‘Dr’ – proving education and degree are no where related..
    lets get some more racists…

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  20. Then there is a set of film makers who do the same thing with US vs Them….as in Abroad vs Desi. The poor second heroes in these films, midway through the film, turn incredibly corny, evil etc, with no sense of Indian values. These caricatures abound in our films…even seasoned directors like Subhash Ghai are prominent offenders. Even the recent “Mere brother ke Dulhan” (on another note, why would you name your film such and give the story away before anybody even set foot in the theatre?) followed a similar arc. That bugs me a lot as well…

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  21. Its not the Director who is generalising. He is just portraying an incident in his film in which certain people’s lives are intertwined.Its only our blessed self-proclaimed heady reviewer Mr.BRangan who has done a gross generalisation and has drawn his own god damn conclusions reeking of that superior race’s intellectual arrogance with his totally preverted and biased mind, as, he himself admits, he has also done it for Angadi Theru, Katrathu Tamiz and Madhur Bhandrakar Movies. His totally perverted and biased mind is further corroborated by the “oh-so-good” review he has written for 3 (moonu). I clearly dont understand why Indian Express is still publishing his (biased) articles…

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  22. BR : Kalakitta po . Idhuku Raaja Vs. Rahman parva ille poleh iruku.

    Where do all these “new” names come from ? And do we have a valid sighting of Mr Shaktivel ala Mr Menon here ?

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  23. @Balaji Sakthivel, It would be better if you could defend your choices, rather than resorting to shouting loud words into the air.

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  24. Bharadwaj Rangan claims Chennai is all about “sweetly traditional home of filter coffee and mallipoo idli and the Music Season” which smacks of associating Chennai only with the middle class, affluent and the Brahmins, because Brahmins have a monopolistic patronage of the Carnatic Music Season and are generally seen as fans of filter coffee. Moreover, the blogger (Rangan) derides the poor and impoverished people of Chennai as “rats, dirty and diseased in mind and spirit” and segregates such marginalised people of Chennai as “THEM” and also assumes that such impoverished and marginalised people are not representative of Chennai. This naturally led me to conclude that Bharadwaj Rangan is associating Chennai only with the Brahmins and the affluent classes and also made me feel that Rangan fails to see that Chennai is as much a city of the impoverished and dispossessed Dalits living in segregated slums of Chennai (whom he derides as “THEM” as if they don’t belong to Chennai). This is a typical Brahmanical and bigoted view of Chennai. There is nothing racist in my opinion. It is racist to profess superiority and inferiority based on birth and to exclude and oppress people as untouchables based on their birth. It is the Hindu caste system that is repugnant and racist, and people like you who turn a blind eye to various manifestations of caste bigotry who are racist. Go figure!

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  25. Wow! Rangan, I didn’t realise you were somehow an apologist for Brahmin racism, or that your intellectual arrogance shows merely because you expressed an opinion! Which brings me to the question – are critics allowed to have an opinion that does not have mass appeal? And if so, are they somehow open to being personally attacked, on their own blog?

    I can understand disagreeing with what is written – what I cannot understand is the level of invective that seems to be necessary today to express a viewpoint. Or is civil disagreement an unknown phrase today?

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  26. Baradwaj sir

    Im wondering , looking at the comments – If people read Reviews as they see movies – not arguing about the perspective & generalization, but about the reviewer’s mindset ? I really laughed at some of the comments , not because they are right or wrong , but they exactly make the mistake , the one they claim you made while reviewing the film :)

    Except for few comments , most of them are pololarised ( and they also claim you are polarised)

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  27. Sasi kumar acting is so brilliant, there are many messages portrayed in Porali even though some scenes looks so violent and the flashback incidents tries to haunt us it becomes the major plus of the movie. Samuthirakani has shown a strong story-line in a neat way and keeps the audience focused with the film’s narration. With many terrific twists and scenes the film finally comes to an end.PerformanceReally tamil people should take it as a proud moment to thank Samuthirakani for bringing a painful story to life. Sasikumar essays the role very maturedly, his expressions, angers, pain shown is the pulse of the movie. Swathy steals the audience with her charm and softness.Kanja Karuppu and Soori bring the theater down with their funny moments. Jaya Prakash who is well known for supportive roles has proved once again that he is the best choice for Porali. Also Vasundhara who comes in the flashback has scored so well. Not only that each actor is given apt importance to score in the film. With such a good story, screenplay and narration surely Samuthirakani’s Porali is set to rock once again.TechnicalitiesSR Kathir the cinematographer who captured our hearts through Subramaniapuram has once again done his job with perfection. Music by Sundar C Babu is an added advantage the Sambho Shiva Sambho song which gave life to Nadodigal, has re-created the magic once again with stunning Bgms in Porali.Above all it is Samuthirakani the director and writer has proved that he is a creator who can give bold messages in an easier way.AnalysisPorali is a movie to be cherised. There are many interesting things to watch out in Porali. So grab your tickets with ur family and friends to have a quality time spent in the theaters.Mark : 3/5Strength : Sasikumar’s acting, and Samuthirakani’s narration. To be simple It is a team victory.

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  28. Rangan Sir,
    Nice review. I have not seen the movie but enjoyed your review. Though comment section started looking like that of rediff.com now.

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  29. “I clearly dont understand why Indian Express is still publishing his (biased) articles…”

    As opposed to your non-partisan and neutral not to mention cogent opinions, of course…..

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  30. Ha ha ha…looks like you have quite some fireworks here Barad! :) I have not yet watched the film but just wanted to laud your nerve to have given a ‘different’ review of a film almost the whole state seems to be raving about. Of course, you did not do it to be different. I think a true critic goes by what his mind says. Cheers!

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  31. O Brangan! The comments section has gotten spirited and alive, thanks to your ‘biased’ review!

    Did you foresee the manner in which your review would ‘touch’ so many folks?!

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  32. Dr. Iniyan Elango: “Moreover, the blogger (Rangan) derides the poor and impoverished people of Chennai as “rats, dirty and diseased in mind and spirit” — er, no I don’t.

    ambalan: “I clearly dont understand why Indian Express is still publishing…” — er, no they don’t.

    sindu219: I don’t think “nerve” has anything to do with it. It’s just an expression of my personal thoughts about a film. It’s not like I’m raising my voice against the British or something :-)

    niranjanmb: “spirited and alive” — yes, and also populated with all kinds of people. Who’da thunk? :-)

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  33. This is probably the worst review I have ever read from you. Not only are you completely missing the point, but identifying Chennai with “Malli poo, Filter coffee and music season…” precisely means that this film is made for those who associate Chennai with only that. Whose world view, of course, is not only simplistic but completely inaccurate.

    Your moralisation for the benevolent character who gave sweets to the servant just blew it for me. You know they say the worst slave owners were those who were kind to their slaves. You were in United States weren’t you? Haven’t you read of any criticism of Thomas Jefferson, who is, by the way, hailed as the one of those beacons of liberty, but yet was a slave owner.

    Unfortunately, Baddy it is not a sign of kindness but total sweetening (literally) of the master-slave relationship. Blurring the lines of master-slave to precisely continue its existence. How come it never occurred to you, even once, that two girls possibly of similar age were living in the same society – but one as the master, and the other as slave?

    And how, those with the right caste, and right money get away and the violence is simply disseminated based on caste, class and gender basis in our society?! You are one of those favourite critic of mine, but I think you must start reading another great journalist I simply adore – P Sainath. If you get to meet him, just nudge him about the caste system and the intersectionality of the society, and how this is advantageous for the haves – with money, caste and right gender, and for then have nots – this is the entire world they need to negotiate. I have so much to write, but I hope you bounce back from this terrible low.

    I hope I free expression and criticism of ideas is encouraged here, and I urge you to reconsider your views – not just with this film per se. But, the whole idea of caste in the society. A well read person like you must not remain ignorant about the society. Please honestly consider this request from a fan.

    Thank You.

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  34. BR has certain privileges with which he was born with and it is easy for someone possessing it not to realize it! which btw is applicable to his fans as well, but cannot be forgiven for making such an obvious miss!… as kumar alagappan said and myself reminded of my mom’s rather shallow partisan view of Mahanadhi wherein she accused kamal for portraying malayalees as lechers(me happened to be a mallu)…i guess even your understanding of the film too is of such shallowness! the point of contention is this :that your clouded opinion as US versus THEM is similar to how white supremacist accuse the blacks of reverse racism or Bra Mans rather pitiable attempt to portray themselves as “victims” of affirmative action…i still remember how you defended the IITM director’s very privileged opinion that he is the chosen one because of his karma by the almighty as some candor and never were in a position to defend yourself the director for his religious bent when he is a man of science…i am providing this link by Udhav whose review of the same gave me goose bumps as he could portray the travails of the under privileged far better than you did…http://clapsandboos.com/w/index.php#review/20024fa90cbe8b5016_36398059_01
    This lines were bang on target:

    ///This film is by far the closest we have when it comes to reflecting the obvious, but willingly refuted intersectional character of our society. Violence is disseminated on the basis of caste, class, gender and religious inequality. Those on the top of the ladder with just the right caste, right religion, good money (of course a penis between the legs) suffer less than those born into disadvantaged sections of the society. We all need to speak openly about these contradictions in a free country. For doing precisely this; Balaji Sakthivel deserves a commercial success.///

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  35. oru review eluduvadu ivalo periya kutramaa? nonsense.

    “everyone has a right to say an opinion on anything. its the hearer to accept or deny it.”-periyar

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  36. Wokay!!! let us dissect this a little, just for kicks… please note I am not taking any sides or calling anyone racists here, just attempting to dissect to understand this stance better. So now that the disclaimers are in place let us proceed ;)

    a) “which smacks of associating Chennai only with the middle class, affluent and the Brahmins, because Brahmins have a monopolistic patronage of the Carnatic Music Season and are generally seen as fans of filter coffee”
    – Did the blog post say this? Looks like the commenter’s association in general, or more specifically a populist notion, which we shall for now leave as uncorroborated evidence, states that coffee (more importantly filter coffee) and love for carnatic music is associated with the afore said class of people (should it be race of people here?), so who’s to blame here for the association that this meant Brahmins or some affluent class of people? (scratch!!! scratch!!! (the head of course))

    b) “derides the poor and impoverished people of Chennai as “rats, dirty and diseased in mind and spirit””
    – I think the blogger has clarified this, but to nitpick a bit more, the actual post says this – “denizens” which means, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/denizen

    c) So the further point about “segregates such marginalised people of Chennai as “THEM” and also assumes that such impoverished and marginalised people are not representative of Chennai” is null and void due to (b) above.

    d) Hence the “This naturally led me to conclude…” is more of a incorrect assumption? Which nullifies the rest of the post, as I see it.

    Hence maybe Arun feels the way he does? Isn’t the way you read the post arising out of the way you feel/think? Something to chew about Mr Iniyan Elango, no?

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  37. Mr Rangan,

    The movie does convey the reality that one with less money, social status can be suppressed by those with much money and power.

    The THEM does not have money and social status.

    The US mostly has it and has enough connections

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  38. Mr.Rangan, Let’s ignore the comments of some people who seem to forget that this blog is for movie/music reviews. I agree that there’s a general trend of chennai bashing in some of these pseudo-realistic movies, but playing the devil’s advocate for the moment, can’t I argue that movies like Paruthiveeran and Subramaniyapuram tend to portray villagers as simplistic and naive with an inclination for murderous rage and casteist vendetta. Maybe it’s got less to do with actual opinions but more to do with employing easy stereotypical narratives/tools for dramatic effect, for eg: the good hearted prostitute, life saving friend etc.

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  39. I get the feeling that some commenters are looking at the US-versus-THEM structure of this review (for lack of a better word) as something that *I* have propounded, whereas — as always — I am only looking at the FILM and the world it’s set in. In other words, it felt to me that this US-versus-THEM structure was something that the *director* has propounded. And the attempt here is to explain (with a bit of sarcasm) why this simplification got under my skin.

    If a couple of characters are “all good” or “all bad,” that’s fine, but when everyone is painted in monochromic colours, that’s a problem — for me. There are two ways to look at a film. One is to say, “Oh, this film is saying important things and showing things that we need to see as a society, so that’s the only aspect on which it should be considered.” The other is to see how these ends are achieved cinematically.

    I am only interested in the latter approach and IMO, this is a film that fails in that aspect because the characters are caricatures. I am not a perfect person and I like it when the characters on screen (at least in these so-called realistic movies) are imperfect. Even the recently released “Kalakalappu” — a Sundar C kaamedy, for crying out loud — has reasonably grey-shaded characters.

    I really am not doing anything here that I don’t always do, which is to (a) take a position on whether the film worked for me or not, and (b) to explain why I had that reaction.

    Nirmuktan: Of course I defended Bhaskar Ramamurthi’s right to have his opinion. Dude, if we don’t accept the fact that people are going to have “flaws” and are going to behave in ways we don’t expect them to, then we’re going to keep frothing in the mouth all the time. Do I share Bhaskar’s opinion? NO. But I respect his right to have that opinion. There’s a big difference, and it doesn’t mean I’m endorsing his opinion.

    Rajmohan: I did say that when I wrote about one of those CineMadurai movies, that the rural folk are probably rolling their eyes at what we are hailing as breakthroughs in narrative. But that’s always the case, no? We can only look at things through our eyes, not someone else’s, and so a review is *always* going to be a reflection of YOU.

    About the second part of your comment, the “prostitute with a heart of gold” is an ARCHETYPE. This is a film with CHARACTERs. These are two diametrically different ways of shading the people on screen. Had it been written with ARCHETYPEs in mind, like our masala movies, that would have been something else. Somebody brought up “Mahanadhi”. See, there too Kamal begins as an ARCHETYPE — the good-hearted man from outside the city who is duped by an ECR.

    But the film is so affecting because gradually he transforms from this ARCHETYPE to a CHARACTER who is unique, someone who’s angry now, filled with murderous rage even. Yes, the saadhu-mirandaal template is not exactly new, but it’s an evergreen way of charting the transformation of an ARCHETYPE to a CHARACTER. Take even “Paruthi Veeran.” The hero there is an emotional fool, filled with violence and also humour.

    IMO this film fails in making its people CHARACTERs because it traffics in grossly simplified US-versus-THEM ARCHETYPEs.

    As I’ve said earlier, when I write these reviews, I don’t give a shit whether the film is “important,” whether it has a “message” — there are op-ed writers who deal with those angles in far-more-qualified ways. For me, this is a piece of cinema — NOTHING more — and I am only interested in seeing how the film achieves its means cinematically.

    Puzzling fact 1: Where does “brahmin-ism” creep into all this?

    Puzzling fact 2: I continue to be amused by how people read things into my review and respond emotionally and then take me to task when I read things into a movie and respond emotionally.

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  40. Here is a take on Mounaguru where I talked about the SAME things — “But just as you sigh and brace yourself for yet another city-people-are-evil caricature, he begins to turn in front of our eyes, proving himself a good son to his mother and a good older brother who doesn’t wash his hands off his sibling’s frustrating antics even when faced with a mildly disapproving wife.”

    Note to self: A positive take on “Mounaguru” yielded 25 comments. A negative take on this film has already yielded twice as many reactions (and counting). Is there a career-crossroads moment here I’m missing? :-)

    Anyway, to all those who are reading my thoughts through an “he is upper class” prism, here are some reviews of “upper-class” films that didn’t excite me as much as they did others:

    Rock On – “the implication that a giant soul-sucking blackness looms over their existence simply because their band broke up and they’re no longer on stage comes off as borderline self-absorption”

    Wake Up Sid – “how you wish a few dashes of reality had been allowed to temper this unrelentingly feel-good fantasy.”

    Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – “Or did the failure of that film necessitate these sledgehammer banalities?”

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  41. I thought my point of privilege was understood by you…but alas you did not.The rather indefensible defense of your overlooked privilege was inane. I make a final attempt to make you understand how intersectionality of identities and privilege overlook causes various biases in our outlook. Hope you read this piece with all earnestness.
    PS: btw does holding on to castiest and racist views or even misogynist look legitimate to you? considering the fact that Ramamurthi’s views was blatantly casteist even with a cursory glance…and i think my respect towards you is slowly waning due to your rather adamant stance on some of your prejudices.

    http://nirmukta.com/2011/08/24/privilege-blindness-and-the-just-world-theory/

    Note: the title privilege blindness which is an ableist remark was subsequently withdrawn by the author

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  42. “Note to self: A positive take on “Mounaguru” yielded 25 comments. A negative take on this film has already yielded twice as many reactions (and counting). Is there a career-crossroads moment here I’m missing?”

    You’re certainly making the most of it by resurrecting old reviews. x)

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  43. ////////////If a couple of characters are “all good” or “all bad,” that’s fine, but when everyone is painted in monochromic colours, that’s a problem — for me. There are two ways to look at a film. One is to say, “Oh, this film is saying important things and showing things that we need to see as a society, so that’s the only aspect on which it should be considered.” The other is to see how these ends are achieved cinematically.///////

    Isn’t this precisely the point you have missed here?

    The whole point is that it doesn’t matter if “US” is also good, and “THEM” are also bad because THEM are the ones who get the raw deal anyway due to their powerlessness. So, you can have a good-natured, filter coffee loving, carnatic music afficianado, Hindu-paper reading Iyer mama – of course there are many who exist- but this film doesn’t need him. A good natured Iyer mama is not victimised anyway. The point is to portray how bad natured Iyer mama, and his family gets away from the law or is always in an advantageous position because he is an Iyer mama.

    Anyhow, what can possibly justify the statement “Isn’t the mom being nice by giving the servant the sweets”. I mean, seriously?! You employ a very young girl as a domestic servant and you become kind by sharing sweets? Isn’t it that YOU are slotting character archetypes as “Evil-Brahmin-family-exploiting-Shudras” without calibrating our very ideas of exploitation which very much happens on the basis of caste. And also, there is a difference between caste and class, and they cannot be glossed over by using them interchangeably.

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  44. have u ever been devoid of food for one session in ur whole shitty life?you sit down in your ac room with ur filter coffee ad fart anything inn the blog

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  45. Sigh ,,, it had to happen i think – we are now in Rediff and TOI land.

    And to think in these very comments you could say Bazin – artifice and expressionism and most people reading would come up with arguments either way.

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  46. Repeat Request, please make codes to add like buttons to comments, but reading through i get the feeling that both the film maker and the critic are seeing the film through their set minds but when a movie tries to make good of the poor, the endowed must be made villainous and vice versa; but i dont see voices raised when an educated hero bundles up goons from the beach cheris; nobody talks about class differences then, only because they have been accepted through the ages. When a critic can question a filmmaker’s sensibilities, then why shouldn’t people extrapolate into the critic’s instincts?

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  47. dear enlightened heavies of this esteemed forum,

    can you tell us non-tamizhnadu-resdiing jokers if there is one single thing that can be discussed there without rapidly sinking into caste-based mudslinging every which way?

    just curious.

    p.s.;
    while sorely missing the divine levity of our curt-jester prof.rameshram, i am reminded of this –

    A tourist visiting New York City stopped a passerby and asked:
    “Excuse me,” he said. “Can you tell me where the Empire State Building is, or are you too going to tell me that i should I go fuck myself ?”

    so, to paraphrase that – will you again yell at us to get our naive asses out of here? ;(

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  48. Vasisht Das : I feel like an old fuddy-duddy but i actually miss “Prof.” RameshRam he at least was trolling on-topic. I prefer him to the foaming in the mouth caste-colour-race based mud slinging that seems to have been unleashed.

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  49. Not that I’ve seen the film, but this review had me in splits :) One of your funniest pieces ever! Don’t seem to get the fuss in the comments section though.

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  50. Until I read this blog post I didn’t know there were only two sets of people in Madras –coffee-swilling, Hindu-reading iyers of Mylapore lording over impoverished dalits from the slums. Whatever happened to the nadars, maligaikada bais, thevars, reddiars, naidus, malayalis, pillais, mudaliars, meenavars, marvadis and anglos? What happened to the Madras I grew up in?

    Rangan, Brahminism entered the moment you mentioned music season and filter coffee. I’m surprised you still don’t get it. The music season is followed by less than 5% of the public (if that), but media portrayals create the illusion that it is somehow representative of the vast majority. Which is sad. Chennai deserves better than this. [LR Eswari's Mariatha songs during Aadi maasam are more probably a better mirror of the city's actual musical preferences. Not to mention film music, which is the true music of the people.] Nothing riles me more.

    Surely you know that Chennai is the f***ing land of chilli beef, filthy wine shops, temples, thieves, pickpockets, whores, movie stars, whorish movie stars, gangsters, brilliant students, cricket lovers, crusaders, frauds, geniuses, perverts, perverted geniuses, casteist bastards, corrupt politicians, scheming auto drivers, enterprising businessmen, singers, dancers, dreamers, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, men, women, children. A million f***ing subtexts and a million f***ing subcultures. An awesome kaleidoscope of a city. Kasimedu is as much part of it as Kalakshetra is. Moviemakers need to stop focusing on Kasimedu, and movie critics such as yourself need to get out of Kalakshetra.

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  51. In his movie Kaadhal the leading pair gets help from the people who were settled in chennai. Yes I agree they are settled here but they are not the real villains in that movie, it is them ( I mean the people from south ) who were evil ..

    Don’t take this movie as personal or on Chennaite or the rich people here. To be honest even in the Climax she didn’t pour acid on the Rich guy it is the one who betrayed them who was punished … And about giving money to prostitute, the Idly shop owner also is a client of her, and I don’t think she is only the client of rich customers and she gets help from the money less people. It is just that one or two guys who are good to her.
    When she turns into a flower seller not chennaiites who didn’t believe her its the same THEM who didn’t believe her.

    The guy selling Dope in the slum isn’t a rich guy he is just a local thug.
    CCD kissing, well I haven’t seen any in real but my friend said he had seen it couple of times.. Even then it is not that normal in our city..

    Not only rich mom will cover for their son every mom does that no matter how bad her son is..

    It is just a story of rich perverted guy from Chennai who wants to pour acid on a rich girl from Trichy. Two low life people one from Dharmapuri and one from Chennai(yes she is from Chennai ) who get caught in between that .

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  52. BR does not know the worlds outside his upbringing. How much ever he tries to portray himself as an objective reviewer, it just is not working. And there is enough proof here. He himself says that all his reviews are his POV. His POV cannot be divorced from his roots/upbringing/ambience where he grew. So instead of criticizing BR for “narrow” reviews, just see it as a review written by “largely-educated-by-books, upper-middle-class upbringing” man. Matter close. If you want to read the “other side”, go read a review written by a person who grew up in those very places where reality is different.

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  53. Ramesh Chakrapani has hit the nail on the head. And this is not to say Mudaliars, Thevars, Chettiars and other castes do not discriminate those living in the slums….

    The fact is that there is a graded inequality between rich Brahmins, poor brahmins, rich Mudaliars, poor mudaliars, rich dalits and poor dalits in that order. Even today we do not see rich Brahmins marrying rich dalits…or even middle class Brahmins marrying well-to-do Dalits easily. This is what is Brahminism (or Parpaneeyam), the idea of inequality by birth.

    The fact is that Chennai, a city I so absolutely love roaming, is not simply about US vs THEM. Even if you see in the film, the rich mom gets away because of a minister who is explicitly non-Brahmin, made apparent by the Tamil he speaks. He says “Namma Jaadhi Ponnu ya”

    In many cases, educated, well-to-do middle/upper middle class, Thevars/Mudaliars/Vanniyars, who belong to MBCs, do not readily identify with the educated Brahmins. There is a battle for narratives in India, and when you have explicitly said that it is how you VIEW the world, I guess it is only fair to then see where you stand in the society, and which part of the world you come from. Agree?

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  54. BR,
    So I have lived in Chennai too, but seems like unlike you I seem to be more aware of what happens in the seamier side of Chennai. I wonder how a critic like you so uncritically assume this can happen only in Chennai & a caricature of this city. If you have taken time and actually given few seconds of thought you can pretty well imagine this happening in Coimbatore or Madurai (which is even worse cesspit of caste, nepotism & corruption).

    What you call it incompetence, I call lack of guile. I just saw this movie and after a while looked at your blog for review all I saw was indignant incompetence. Sorry you review is hyperbolic, pandering to the Adyar & Anna Nagar crowd. You won’t give a damn, but you have come few notches down in my view.
    I am frequently amazed how easily we take offence, when this mess of a city when it is criticised. How many times have you been to Ayodhikupam, Kannaki Nagar or other slums? Maybe you are the cool types who went to one, had a beedi and took some photos and posted it on FB and got 25 Likes & Chennai rocks comments!

    I claim to be no expert, but I have at least stepped into these holes few times and have a close friend who is a lawyer. The stories he tell me, curdle my blood at times.

    Art has to hold a mirror to society, most movies hold a fantastically painted image not a mirror.

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  55. udhav: I think we’re running on parallel tracks. My objection is to the writing, the detailing of the characters, which IMO is along the lines of Chennai people being evil and such. Of course I’ve taken an exaggerated tone in the review, which is a writing conceit, and maybe that’s what rubbed people the wrong way. But that’s an instinctive call I took and I’m not going to get all apologetic about it.

    The only thing I’d change, in retrospect, is probably that first line , and add a couple of other things to the list — like “pattani sundal on Marina beach” and such — but I was only going for the media-created image of Chennai, which has all these things (filter coffee etc.), just like the media-created image of Kerala has all this lush beauty. I needed a bunch of things to attribute to the city — that’s all it was. Had the tone of my review been less sarcastic, maybe it would have read more clearly. But again, that’s an aesthetic choice, and there’s nothing one can do but submit to the muse.

    Do you really think I haven’t seen the other sides (and there are many) of Chennai? I mean, haven’t you read my earlier pieces about other kinds of films, which have nothing to do with the upper classes? But there’s a difference between WHAT one says and HOW one says it, and if you’re making art (or at least aspiring to it), the HOW is hugely important. IN this film, the HOW was bad. That’s what I’m saying.

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  56. Hi BR, I brought up Mahanadhi which was subsequently picked up by other commenters. I haven’t seen vazhakku enn, but, I genuinely wanted to know whether you liked Mahanadhi or not. Mahanadhi was also a story about a man living a simple life in the city who got lured to the city and lost everything he loved. It might not be a story whose sole focus was to show a class divide and compare how people from different stratas of society react to the similar situations. It was more like a story that credibly depicts shit happens to decent people. But, undeniably it was a story where there director contrasts the simple village life versus a cruel city life. Archetypes, characters etc are beyond me and I havent seen Vazakhu enn but my comment on Mahanadhi was not to undermine your review. I like your reviews and for a change its nice to get a peek into a reviewer’s personality while reading his critique. Movies are like food and people have different tastes, you have yours and I have mine but nothing should stop us from sharing the same table. Its amusing to see how people have reacted to this, on a conciliatory note we can take heart that people in Chennai are passionate about cinema which bodes well for our movie makers and critics.

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  57. Mokka padam machi.
    US vs THEM ….Not OK
    Oppressed vs privileged….Not OK
    For both POV’s , as a ‘film’ it should work
    Honestly it didnt for me.Period

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  58. BR, it appears your sarcasm has been completely lost among the people who are keen to be offended. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed, and is unsurprising this should occur at the same time as the manufactured cartoon controversy.

    At the same time, it’s also odd that — as perceptive a film critic as you are — you focused on the ‘us vs. them’ whereas what I thought the director was boldly portraying, was the have-nots being non-entities in the face of massive corruption, and he did a pretty good job of it IMHO. So it’s unfortunate that you spent time on inconsequential cliches.

    Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I do miss rameshram’s acerbic posts – they delivered shock value but he usually had a point, like southpark.

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  59. 71 comments and rising no doubt.

    B, it seems outside of a Raja vs Rahman debate or one of my one -on-one spats with the Prof, the way to swell the comments section in your blog is to have you tarred as either a stone-cold racist or an unrepentant sexist :-)

    So, methinks it’s time you dashed out another “Matter of Considerable Weight”-type posts. Because, frankly, I’d rather hear from the chicks :-)

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  60. Kumar Alagappan: I wrote about Mahanadhi above, and also in the Mounaguru post linked to above. And the reason I keep bringing up that film while reviewing these films is to show that the same things that Balaji Sakthivel tried to do here can be done with so much class and nuance, with superbly written characters and really great scenes. Compared to Mahanadhi, these films could be directed by Bhimsingh. They are that black-and-white.

    Kamal, as always, was ahead of his time, and the film didn’t do well — whereas, today, that trope has become a ticket to “masterpiece” status.

    Also, regarding “It might not be a story whose sole focus was to show a class divide and compare how people from different stratas of society react to the similar situations.”

    And that’s exactly my point. Even though Mahanadhi was — underneath it all — an US-versus-THEM movie, it all happens beneath the surface. Kamal didn’t throw the class divide or the rural/urban divide at you and rub your face in it. It was a piece of cinema FIRST, and only then a social tract.

    The mere existence of elements cannot make a movie. You have to massage them into “cinema.”

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  61. :”In what he wants to convey, he will choose ;’good’ samples in have-nots and ‘bad’ samples in US and use that for what he wants to convey ”

    Mumbai Ramki, that’s called COPOUT. As BR mentioned above Mahanadhi did it pretty decently long time back.However current directors seem to be purely agenda-driven. They think if the setting is realistic(or if the actors are picked off the street) that makes it a realistic movie.What makes it disappointing to me is that this came from a guy who delivered a pioneering effort in Kaadhal few years back.

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  62. All that needs to be said abt the movie and the review has already been said .. But i believe it is a bit unfair to compare vazhakku enn with mahanadhi .. Mahanadhi is all abt an innocent man’s life ravaged in the city by a bunch of not-so-innocent ppl ..its an awesome take on the age old ‘saadhu mirandal ‘ concept .. whereas movies like vazhakku enn attempt to draw attention to brutal injustice meted out to people living in the fringes in the name of development which has increased very recently .. Balaji sakthivel has done his research unlike this critic ..the movie starts with agricultural laborers losing livelihood to real estate ..its not a coincidence that they are from dharmapuri dt where every other man in working age is off to blore or chennai to wrk in construction sites(I am from dharmapuri)..the director tried to show that there are two indias in India and how the boundary is guarded by a nexus of the draconian caste system and development politics ..katradhu tamizh , angadi theru and many such movies all tried the same with various levels of success ..if what is shown on the screen appears to be over dramatic and manipulating then we must have lost our sense of reality ..

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  63. hmm that was a good one Kurinji…what irks me the most is the notion that any goddammit comment is legitimate if that was the case why not have blatantly racist views…since upholding views happens to be of primary concern of the critic and his fans?

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  64. “Mahanadhi is all abt an innocent man’s life ravaged in the city by a bunch of not-so-innocent ppl” – that is all you got out of mahanadhi?

    and then you go on to write, “Mahanadhi is all abt an innocent man’s life ravaged in the city by a bunch of not-so-innocent ppl”….

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  65. Got this via email:

    Narendran K

    I read your blog post (http://baradwajrangan.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/vazhakku-enn-189-241312444/). your have articulately vented out your jingoist feeling.

    And now I read this one – http://savukku.net/home1/1554—189-.html. This is jingoism of another kind, one that is sometimes seen with people you call ‘THEM’.

    All that you both ‘intellectual’ reviewers have done is to tar a very good film. I just hope this post or any significant part of it does not appear in The Hindu.

    You, for sure, would classify me as ‘THEM’, but frankly speaking, I don’t know where do I belong.

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  66. The problem with Rangan is that he thinks that all the films made by Mani Ratnam and Kamal Hasan are great and deseverve the greatest praise. I saw Mahanadhi long back, it is a substandard movie. Script is very poor and not at all convinicing. It is an usual Kamal Hasan circus where he creates situations to show his histrionic acrobatics. Same is the case with Raavan. Rangan praised it to heavens, but in actuality, it is a very poorly made movie. What i request him is he needs to appreciate the films made by people from other communities also.

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  67. I don’t know why a mere mention of filter coffee and music season has been considered to one caste. I don’t think that reviewer is biased, but the people who commented on cast, because I don’t understand where the cast came here, as beverages and music thus not belong to one particular caste. By the way I totally agree with the US vs. THEM, as I never seen a single movie that post a disclaimer saying “we are not categorizing the characters belonging to a certain part of the society”.

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  68. I suggest Rangan to marry a girl from a below-poverty-line family so that he can understand their life better and that helps him to grow as a human as well.

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  69. (kindly indulge this obsitnacy but i want re-post my naive-assed query) –

    dear enlightened heavies of this esteemed forum,

    can you tell us non-tamizhnadu-resdiing jokers if there is one single thing that can be discussed there without rapidly sinking into caste-based mudslinging every which way?

    i mean, look around the planet, there is hardly any media on or offline anywhere else that’s populated by those many frogs croaking in such a small well…

    sigh.

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  70. BR, would you think that movies with a message (especially social ones – leave out the masala movies — and in the Indian context) have to resort to black and white characters to drive home the point ? Grey and more realistic characters may work say in a drama or in movies that are not burdened with social message?

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  71. “BR, would you think that movies with a message (especially social ones – leave out the masala movies — and in the Indian context) have to resort to black and white characters to drive home the point ? ‘

    Not at all, as a random example watch Dead Man walking which makes a subtle statement against capital punishemnt. The death row victim there is not shown as a saint to drive up the sympathy factor and yet the final scenes leave you with a lump in the throat. It all lies in the treatment. Subtlety and greyness seem to be alien to our movie making approach. Our audiences still seem to like being forcefed when it comes to issue-driven movies. I guess that’s what irks BR. Not entirely Balaji sakthivel’s fault, his producer has to make some money

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  72. Movie wasn’t bad. Yes, it did suffer *to a certain degree* from stereotyping, but definitely not to the extent you mention. Actually, I was quite surprised;there wasn’t a single scene to offend the “filter-kaapi-loving Kacheri-going” types that you think Chennai is exclusively home to.

    By the way, as Ramesh Chakrapani has superbly described, that single initial statement of yours irreparably tarnishes the credibility of your article and reveals your own parochial views of the average Chennai resident.

    There was some bad acting and a noticeable lack of nuance in the film(esp. pertaining to the characterization of its upper-middle class characters). True.
    But your own holier-than-thou-“It-was-an-instinctive-call-I-took”-“My-aesthetic-choice” bullshit is the acme of bad acting and the lack of nuance in your own article far exceeded anything the movie exhibited.

    Having, inadvertently(and irrevocably), revealed yourself to be on one side of the divide, why not simply own up to the fact that your upbringing in secluded environs with a certain caste and class background may have contributed to this exaggerated reaction?

    I don’t think you will reply to my query, having side-stepped similar “delicate” questions in the past(does the film 180 ring a bell?) . But I hope you do anyway. Because, Rangan, the introspection would do you a world of good.

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  73. Thats a Brilliant Review BR!! Enjoyed reading and it perfectly throws up what I felt in d recess of my mind. Great :)

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  74. Mohan: You know what? You’re so right. I did a helluva lot of introspection and guess what I found. I finally realised why I liked and lauded all those Bala and Selvaraghavan movies and all those CineMadurai movies. Not because the directors had vision. Not because the directors could actually stage scenes and write non-stereotypical characters. But because they were such bastions of “Brahmin” sensibility. In other words, the reason I really liked, say, “Pithamagan” was due to those marvellous scenes set in the hallowed halls of Music Academy. Phew. Clarity at last.

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  75. @Rangan

    Ah, trying to bluster out, are we? Don’t you realize that your good reviews have all been *only* as long as the “THEM” directors stuck with “THEM” characters. When they start coming anywhere close to your “US” territory, you start feeling all itchy-prickly. Because they showed you a side of “US” that you find unpalatable for personal reasons. Can’t you confront this simple truth that is staring at you? The only “US” depiction you approved was the sugary, feel-good, heart-of-gold caricatures in 180.

    And then you rail against directors like Balaji Sakthivel for creating the “US vs THEM” divide when your own mind is still cluttered with pre-conceived notions of “US” and “THEM”.

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  76. BR, don’t give too much of a value to Mohan’s opinion. He is just brainless and suffers from identify crisis. You should not have answered to his comment. Such trolls should be left alone.

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  77. Mohan: AFAIK, Selvaraghavan makes Chennai-based movies. Mounaguru, from the review of which I put up a relevant comment somewhere above, too had a city-based character portrayed in uncliched ways.

    Regarding the bluster, we choose the weapons we have at our disposal. I opt for bluster. You opt for sanctimony. That’s it, really.

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  78. @Rangan

    True. Selva does make Chennai-based movies. BUT not about the kind of Chennai *residents* you have in mind and that’s really what this is all about, isn’t it? You don’t mind(and in fact critique quite rationally) as long as he is depicting “his” kind of people. It only gets your goat when, God forbid, “his ilk” crosses that Lakshman Rekha and dares to journey into waters you have so childishly demarcated as being fit for navigation only by film-makers from a certain background, namely people like Maniratnam, Kamalhaasan or, more recently, that Jayendra bloke who directed 180.

    And, that, dear fellow, is the problem that you simply don’t wish to acknowledge.

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  79. Mohan, please shut up. You are so clueless, that it would be funny were it not so irritating.

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  80. @abhirup
    Shush child. Don’t work yourself up into a fit over issues that are too subtle for your small brain to comprehend, let alone analyse.

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  81. Deeply disturbing movie. Not very far from reality too, I would think. There are.a number of scumbags like the guy Dinesh depicted in this movie.

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  82. BR:You should make it a policy not to respond to comments that target you as a person and not your work.

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  83. iraanand: Oh I know. And I usually don’t. But sometimes, after 50 or so count-to-ten-and-cool-down-it’s-not-worth-it instances, you have to vent. It’s like a fart, I guess. There’s only so much suppressing you can do :-)

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  84. @Rangan
    As you have yourself rightly noted in a reply to one of the comments on this post:

    “We can only look at things through our eyes, not someone else’s, and so a review is *always* going to be a reflection of YOU.”

    All that I, and some others here, did was to hold a mirror so that you could actually see that reflection, and lo, what do you do:

    1)Keep pretending that you don’t see it.
    2)Let off steam(or as you now reveal, fart) about something entirely unrelated to the point on which you are being pressed upon; In this case, by conflating the average resident of Chennai with that of Mylapore and trying to use them interchangeably.
    3)Play victim(aided, of course by trusty sidekicks who come just at the right time when you are running out of ways to avoid coming clean on the topic).

    The supreme irony of the third point is that your feigned victimhood is based on allegations that I am “targeting you as a person and not your work”, while YOUR OWN QUOTE shows that the two are inextricably linked.

    To top it all of, you too hypocritically go along with your saviour’s words, entirely abandoning your earlier stance.

    Aren’t you the slippery eel! ;)

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  85. That’s a bit rich coming from you, mohan, given that you still wear diapers, ans that your brain is nut-sized…

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  86. “… ans that your…”

    In your desperation to engage me in puerile tit-for-tat, even your spelling is suffering.
    And all that hurry to post what is, ultimately, a pretty lame rejoinder. Try harder next time. ;)

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  87. The review was about people from rural background being shown as innocent, heart-of-gold characters who do no evil but are unfairly stepped on by an evil city dwelling populace. Every place has its fair share of oppressors and oppressed. But it also has regular people who go about their life, helping people if they can do so without bending over backwards. You know the ones that land up in the purgotory (@Mohan: Purgatory’s kind of like the in-betweeny one. You weren’t really shit, but you weren’t all that great either.) All that Rangan said was show them as they are, with good and bad streaks that plague everyone of us.
    If this is too much to comprehend, then I wonder if you’d be able to spot six differences between a hole in the ground and your own @*****e.

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  88. Abhirup: I’m sorry I had to delete the latter part of your comment, as it was abusive.

    Can we try to ease up on the invective? Thanks.

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  89. mohan: Congrats! You detected a typo! Must be the biggest achievement of your hitherto miserable, pointless life. As for lame rejoinders, you sound like the pot that calls the kettle black. And no, I won’t try any harder, because moronic posts like yours do not deserve any better responses than what they have received.

    Mr. Rangan: My apologies.

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  90. @rr
    1. Using swear words doesn’t make you sound cool. It just makes you seem like a retard with nothing meaningful to say.

    2. If parroting Rangan is the best you can do, you really ought to take a knife to your fingers.

    3. Don’t come back till you can actually think of some credible answers to my specific questions. Or, in your case, just don’t come back. ;)

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  91. Cho chweet … inimelenthu nalla acharamana padama paathu unna kutindu po sollaren… nalla kutcheri, kaapi raagathula paatu , vetha kozhambu sutta appalam irrukara padama paathu kuttindu po sollaren… romba bayanthuduthu pola irruku kozhandai… venda poda chellame… kochikathe na? Balaji sakthivelu kaaa vittudu :-)

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  92. @abhirup
    Seeing that you are clearly off your meds, I’ll henceforth ignore your pathetic attempts at abusing me. Gutter slime like you are best left to wallow in your pitiful existence.

    Good bye.

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  93. BR, please tell me this is the most ‘popular’ post on your blog :)
    Some of the comments are unnecessarily harsh on you than your reviews, of course that line is not easy to define.
    IMHO it’s a guileless, good movie & you needlessly tore into shreds making some very polarisng comments!

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  94. Figured this is a better forum for discussion than facebook and so re-posting here….

    Iyervaalukku padam pidikala pola irruku… needed to be lot more great than the following characters.

    1.Super sweet tormented hero
    2.Sexually charged adolescent city brat
    3.Super sweet & reticent heroine who has a marxist blood line
    4.Scheming mother of adolescent city kid
    5.Super scheming inspector and chamcha policemen
    6.Bad politician
    7.Super sweet friend of the tormented hero

    May be the village hero was too sweet – we should have had a scene where he eyes jyothi’s iduppu like in Kushi to just bring home the point that any adolescent guy would have sexual urges … and also he could have a photo of silk smitha in his purse cover, along with heroine’s photo but well hidden but that is the photo unfortunately heroine sees when his purse drops and mistakes him for a lecher…

    May be the city dude – should have a scene where he is shown as a tormented soul due to his family & upbringing – like we could have a scene where he was actually molested in his childhood leading to his incessant sexual urge … and then in a series of shots we can also show how that is the same plight with the other poor innocent city students … and may be a scene where he stops the car in the next street and repents a bit by sounding his horn continuously in an empty street for having hit that girl…

    May be to set right the wrong impression that sex scandals dont happen in towns and villages, we could have these city kids browsing in net for sex scandals and finds a sex scandal video which happens in a government school in dharmapuri featuring village kids too …

    Also we need to give a bit of grey to the city boy’s mother as someone who had been sold by her parents to a brothel in the first place and that is how she is what she is now… and add a scene where she in a rush of innate compassion gives a seat in her school to a struggling girl child without taking donation so that she doesnt turn out to be like her.

    Then even the politician and the policeman should have some scenes which show that even they have a bit of humanity… like the policeman has a tyrant wife who want a house and beats him up every day and threatens him that she will tell the world he is impotent. He is actually gay and to suppress that he has become evil. He during the construction of his house, some little kid gets injured and out of sudden compassion, he gives some money to treat him in a hospital.

    The politician’s upbringing is in a christian orphanage where the father molested him…

    Then we can show the actor friend of the village guy stealing some money from him to pay for a photo shoot for his future film career… but repenting it later when village hero offers money himself…

    Then ofcourse we have to include an arrack shop in trichy where there is lot of smooching happening on the side as a brothel is attached to it … an item song if you will… to offset the coffee day smooch scene.

    The policemen who beat up the hero – each one of them want to send their kids to US for higher studies and need the money and that is why they are doing this.

    The super sweet Jyothi can be shown as actually stealing the ring but then after a night of reflection brings back the ring fearing of police intervention and also remembering the lessons of her revolutionary father

    Ofcourse how do we leave the watchman… let us show him saving money given by this rich brat kid to donate to a school for mentally challenged making the connect with that other kid in the movie… as watchman had lost his child who was mentally challenged.

    I suppose I have covered all characters to add a bit of grey in everyone … may be the movie should be shot in black & white and with all this grey in that B&W movie it would make such an artistic statement!!

    The pursuit of grey-ness is the true benchmark of a good movie! It definitely gives an impression that this director takes his audience for a ride and assumes that they are a bunch of outdated morons stuck to age of B&W movies! I hear you! Keep writing such insightful blogs!

    And let no one comment on Mahanadhi – it is one of my favorite movies!! If that is not grey then brain is made of white matter and universe is made of … ok i will leave that – doesnt work in this statement.

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  95. @Mohan
    The whole point was that your questions weren’t credible. But seeing as your head is stuck firmly where the sun don’t shine, there is no point trying to hold a torch for you to find light. Happy trolling. Ciao!

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  96. Not abusing you, mohan; simply telling you the truth about what you are–a cretin with less linguistic skill and thinking power than a newborn chimpanzee. Too bad if you “can’t handle the truth.”

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  97. I have liked most of your movie reviews except for all the “US vs THEM” movie you have listed in this review. I was also born and raised in Chennai in a middle class neighborhood but i never felt offended by any of these movies (except Kattradhu Tamil to some extent) nor do i think they stereotyped Chennai residents. I think you extrapolate and take these charcaterizations too seriously because they offend you someway personally.

    Coming to this movie, there is a simple reason why the “THEM” love is shown to be pure and “US” love is shown otherwise. It just depends on protagonists characterization which even his side-kick says “doesn’t know how to lie” and “spent most of his adolescence without contact with outside world” – he is just naive and good hearted. And of course i don’t know how a one-sided love of this kind can think of her in a “below the belt” way because he doesn’t know her that closely. And of course the “US” protagonist is a dirty rich kid who just likes to play with girls – he obviously doesn’t represent middle class Chennai school going kid. Of course the number of his friends who passively engage in such activities with him is more but this is actually a “grey” characterization – not dark.

    Reg. the tiffin box incident i think more than insulated tiffin boxes it reflects overall lack of trust in a city neighborhood – even people who may want to help don’t know whether the pleas for food are genuine or is staged – this is a overall result of income inequality and rising crime and there is no single side which is accused here.

    When the “THEM” protagonist helps the prostitute it is not for any prostitute on the road, it is because she was the one who fed him and got him a job – otherwise nobody would think of helping a prostitute – “US” or “THEM”.

    And of course you forget to mention that the “THEM” heroine is not shown to be a recent immigrant but still goes all out to help the “THEM” hero.

    We can argue there is a clear dichotomy in this film based on whether people are “dirty rich” or poor and the middle class is shown in shades of grey (like the “US” heroine). I think this is intended because the director is showing how rich people with influence can subvert the system – i think this is also what films like “Eesan” tried to show and not really all Chennai residents as evil.

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  98. Baradwaj,
    Having been a regular reader of your writings, I can understand why you are frustrated with the film’s black and white characterisation, but I completely agree with what the Tamil film critic you spoke to had to say — barring a handful (if it comes to that), most Tamil films that we get to see today have become cringe worthy and I’m saying this as someone who has no option to avoid them. There are people making films out there just because they can.

    In such a scenario, even an average effort might seem great and since I am among those critics who have rated it so high, I confess that this was the foremost thought going through my mind as I was writing the review.

    Luckily, the film was screened for the press quite a few days in advance, which was a blessing as I had the time to replay the film again and again in my mind, if only to find any major flaws that I might have overlooked and the two things that really were jarring to me were the village scenes (that was clearly Angaadi Theru territory, a movie that I found manipulative to the extreme) and the climax which could have been staged better. Also, the decision to alter the screen size for the past and present scenes came across only as an experiment that added nothing more to the film.

    But, the characterisation needed to be black and white here because the director clearly wants you to side with the poor guy, which I don’t think is a crime. Also, this is not an Us vs Them commentary but an observation on how impotent the poor are and how the rich and mighty can get away with anything. I had likened this to A Separation in my review for the paper, and I feel if one were to adapt that brilliant film in Tamil, this will be the closest one can do. The inspector, since he is the stand-in for the audience, has to be grey because when he tricks the hero, you are not only shocked but repulsed and feel better when he gets his just comeuppance.

    I would like to know what your reaction would have been if the poor guy & his little friend were shown just as a street kid raised in the city rather than as people who have migrated to Chennai. Also, since you have written a script for a film, I, like sridharmahadeva would like to know if it is imperative that all characters be painted grey?

    PS: Sorry about the slightly-longish comment as I was quite surprised that you chose to tear the film apart and dismiss it as a trifle despite its considerable merits.
    PPS: At times, in your Between Reviews, I find that you are far more lenient with Hindi films. For eg, your write-up on Aadukalam was more on the slips while that on say, Mausam, was more on the plusses. Is it because you take the failures of our films a bit too personally (in a naama padam sense) and are easily disappointed with their failures?

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  99. suganth: “if it is imperative that all characters be painted grey” – not at all. but if all characters are painted black-and-white, then how can we take anything seriously. I think you are misunderstanding what I mean by ‘grey.” I’m not saying he should murder someone, but if look — for instance — at how nicely the hero of “Rattinam” is written, how “complete” and “grey” a character he is — and this is by a first-time director. (Will write more when I review it.) Wanting to show the powerlessness of the poor, the dominance of the rich — that’s fine. Laudable even. But not when you do it the Madhur Bhandarkar way. That was my whole issue with this.

    As for Mausam thing, it’s personal preference. When I DON’T value certain films highly (like Taare Zameen Par, with its overly manipulative second half, or Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara), I get beaten up for that. And I when I do so (with Mausam and Rockstar), then I get beaten up for that too. How come you don’t question me about my overall-positive estimation of Aayirathil Oruvan, for instance? With Aadukalam, I wish I’d written a comprehensive review instead of a bullet-point report, but I did really like the film.

    Different people have different ways of evaluating films, and for me it’s how something achieves its aims — or even what it aims for. I don’t want films to be perfect. Aayirathil Oruvan certainly isn’t a perfect film. But the writing and what’s on screen should at least reflect some sort of ambition (even if it’s just to make people laugh) that goes beyond simplistic heartstring-pulling.

    And I think that attitude you endorse is wrong. If you find “Vazhakku Enn” a good movie, then by all means say so, along with the reasons for this estimation. But saying it is good because so much of Tamil cinema is bad is not helping anyone, IMHO.

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  100. Oh, no. I think I put certain points badly I guess. I mentioned about the bad films only to say that in such a scenario one can easily overrate even average films. And, also, reg the reviews of Hindi & Tamil films, I wanted to know if you feel let down just that bit more when it comes to Tamil films, as hey are from our industry. After all, as you have been driving home time and again, reviews are mostly personal observations and I totally agree with that.

    Where I disagree is that you don’t find this film ambitious enough (not just going by the present crop of films) and why you find this doing a Madhur Bhandarkar. Because, to me at least, it didn’t come across as preachy or finger-pointing. TZP and Angaadi Theru certainly belong to this club but not this film as it is more about the events related to one particular case – the titular Vazhakku Enn 18/9.

    I think Balaji Sakthivel grasped on to a real-life incident with an effective emotional pay-off in the end and decided to work backwards while scripting and maybe that is why some people find it manipulative. But, actually, that only makes it even more daring and unconventional. That it also manages to succeed in what it aims for – recounting the events related to a case from the POV of the wronged side – is actually a shot in the arm for filmmakers who yearn to tell stories only the way they want to.

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  101. oh yes Mr.Mohan, Bala never mentioned Brahmins in Pithamagan. And yes, Selvaraghavan’s Mayakkam Enna didn’t feature any Brahmins. And about the critic in question here, why don’t you try to understand that its just the stereotyping of characters that he has opposed? If you have been following this blog for long enough, you’d have probably realized the degree of importance this critic attaches to character sketching. You just have to take a look at his “Avan Ivan” review and his beautiful theory about Bala’s inquiry into gender. And please read his views on films made by the likes of Bala and Selva. The aesthetics are being questioned here, please don’t look at everything through a casteist prism.

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  102. Sridhar Mahadevan: ROFL…hopefully the parts of the film which irritated this revered critic ruined the bigger perspective of the point that the director wanted to convey that unrecognized privilege is something we all do…but is it a crime to point it out?

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  103. very insightful comment this [i] Mihir, thanks for the article. I wouldn’t say its the best I have read in a long time, etc…. But I thank your for it, since it again gave me a chance to look at how people with all the ‘infrastructure’ actually complain about the government not going much and how people are angry about what you have written such a piece that looks down upon the so called middle class because they cant understand why the ‘lower caste’ (and class) ‘cant do their own thing’? The smug thinking and the divide of ‘us vs them’ is so clear in their thought. I am not sure if anyone will get true education in these ‘elite’ schools where both the school and the parents delineate ‘social justice’ from ‘education’.[i] from the comments section of this link:http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/our-creamy-layer/471249/

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  104. WTF! Why do you need to make feeling…caste oriented… you are a shitty brahmin…i guess… and i knw this comment will be moderated… bcos mr.rangan is another shitty brahmin….

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  105. Mohan,
    As I ve said on a previous message board : do calm down .This is a film review blog by (imo) an articulate man passionate about cinema .It is hardly decorous to step into his living room and make personal attacks. As a non Tamil myself , I see no casteist motives in this review . You do need a good introspection and a bit more grooming before you step out in public again and engage in what you think is a discourse . Be dignified ,it does relect class . And Abhirup ,isn’t it really past bedtime ?BR ,keep up the scribing :it does make my day often !

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  106. A dumb review.. Can you let me know where was a reference to chennai being made in the movie? Bet you were one like that city teen capturing private moments of a girl when you were in you teen or may be even now..

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  107. “DDK”, do you realize, in retrospect, how moronic your comment was? Or are too dull to even know what ‘retrospect’ is?

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  108. Rangan, I bet you must have be bored to death on following the comments on this review by now…so much so that I wonder if you will give more than a fleeting glance to any new one. But okay, that is just my assumption. I will hope I am wrong.After watching the movie, I thought I had to share this with you.

    I agree, there was a stereotypical way of showing things. Excellent observation from you. But maybe he didn’t want to take any chance in the empathy getting lost. Even if it was a wrong approach, tell me Rangan, it that ALL you could take from the movie?

    I don’t know about your approach towards movies. Maybe it is an aesthetic art form to be precisely dissected for you. But for me, they are the most powerful tool to transform the thinking of people. I watched the movie in Satyam with probably around 200 people. I bet most of them are not intellectual critics. They don’t know about the vagaries of film criticism, camera shots, symbolism etc. For them, it is mostly entertainment. And this is why, we need to support and encourage directors whose intentions are respect-worthy. I will gladly over-look a few mistakes of theirs because I want their tribe to increase. Only then can the medium evolve. And I think critics like you have a huge role to play in this. Maybe it will be a wonderful thing if they had your support too, albeit alongside criticism.

    I am disappointed you had no good words for this movie at all. You could at least devoted one paragraph for it. But you know what, all the 200 members of the theatre stood up and clapped at the end and I think that speaks of the true success of this one!

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  109. @Mr Rangan – To begin i must tell you,i am big fan of your writing and never knew film review can be so analytical until i started reading your reviews.I have always been a passive consumer of all your thoughts and for the first time i have tried to put forth my view,so pardon my thought process and writing if its not up to the mark.

    Now coming to the case in point,arent we supposed to view any film as a set of events involving only those characters in the film .I am just trying to understand where the US vs THEM is coming from,I dont think that’s the focal point of the film.IMO the film is neither about people from village being good hearted nor about those from city being evil minded it is just about one guy who comes to Chennai from a village, and how a set of other characters and one corrupt cop influence his life.

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  110. Bharadwaj Rangan, did not expect this from you. Is this all you have to say? Is this the only aspect of the film that you saw? If you feel as a film-maker Balaji Sakthivel is not objective (which I totally disagree with), as a reviewer you have fared worse. What a terribly attitudinal and horribly boring piece of writing!

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  111. As is tradition I came running to your site after watching the movie and your review made me question my own judgment…., so I re-watched this on a DVD and perhaps I can now convince you why “we” think it’s a very good movie. In fact if anything Cinema as medium has finally been bent, shaped and respected within “Kollywood” to produce this masterpiece (yes i think it is one!)

    http://senthlpk.blogspot.in/2012/06/vazhakku-enn-189-visual-essay.html

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  112. @ PK – Nice analysis of the foreshadowing & the framing techniques employed in the film. But, after a point, when you started subtracting frame rates, I was convinced you were doing a spoof on Baradwaj Rangan’s oft-mentioned reading-too-much-into-the film style of writing. Nice one dude! :D

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  113. Mambazha Manidhan: Thanks a bunch for that :-) But what did you think about the film? Not sure if you wrote about it elsewhere…

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  114. I was very wary of including the “time-line” details as I do understand it is a “derived interpretation” more than anything else. However since this essay stemmed from ‘Rangan’s review” and given his stance on “reading a film” this should be treated more as an homage to Rangan than a spoof or maybe both :).

    That said it’s not uncommon for directors to play around with “Movie Time” – the easiest one that jumps out is Memento but then I am sure the darlings of French new wave Godard & Resnais played around with it enough to treat is as a valid narrative technique.

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  115. I was initially distracted by the awful dubbing and the on-the-nose dialogues. I thought they betrayed the realism that the production values inc. the DSLR cinematography strove to achieve. The characterization was so strictly functional that one would think Balaji Sakthivel had a chat with his ex-colleague Vasantha Balan on how to make their brand of reality cinema commercially compatible.

    But, when the film takes off, it really takes off. Though the supporting characters are all caricatures, I thought the central foursome was well etched and that’s what matters in the end for the film to work. And, it worked for me.

    Both the stories were engaging.The climax, in particular, had me stunned. Not the gory reveal, but the unexpected turn of events. When the stage is all set for a yet another pointless, tragic ending, a powerful reversal takes you by surprise and uplifts the hitherto unrequited love to lofty levels of sacrifice.

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  116. I haven’t watched the movie, but reading your review and the comments and your responses, it looks like the US vs THEM caricaturesque portrayal has hit a personal nerve and you are trying your best to justify it in general artistic terms. I remember from your review of Manmadhan Ambu that you had praised the portrayal of the iyer girl who wore a modern dress and yet spoke Iyer Tamil. That portrayal was ridiculous for different reasons: one the acting of the girl was horrible, second, the iyeresque enunciation was too artificial and ‘caricaturized’. It was merely inserted to prove a point. So your appreciation, I felt at the time, was not from an artistic view of the scene but merely an emotional one to the idea. To me, it looks like the MMA portrayal and the VA18/9 portrayals both touched a nerve, one the right way and the other the wrong way.

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  117. I am surprised you put the villainous teen in the us category, the middle class girl and her family can be the only us in this movie.

    The pervert teen ( getting a girl to a hotel room and capturing her isnt a normal teenager of any class’s activity)… his mother’s past and connections.. … there is no us in this set up.
    There is that scene where middle class girl’s father has a fight with school correspondent..

    Balaji Sakthivel isnt as bad as a samathrakani.

    Having said that, this is no path breaking movie as it is made out to be from any angle – story/direction. It doesnt deserve a noble hat at all.

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  118. I came to this site through my search for “conversations with Maniratnam” The reviewer comes across as a person gifted in language but lacking a certain intellectual honesty.

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  119. Never thought a national award winning critic(yes our very own BR) would have such a narrow minded drivel to pour an very good if not an outstanding movie,,,if you are looking at this comment BR, one suggestion to make it your POV is to replace ‘US’ in the review with ‘YOU’ (and your thereabouts)..that would make a fitting ‘your POV’…Being a native of this beautiful city, I cant just relate myself with ‘US’…BTW I am a fan of most of your reviews :P

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  120. @mohan-the reason y brahmins take objections to negative portrayals by non brshmins is bcos wen u take a film about villagers or slum ppl it’s mostly not possible to identify ne one particular caste.u can only identify them as non brahmins.so it isn’t very offending to u non brahmins.whereas wen scum like u fart ur Dravidian ideology Its obvious whom ur targeting.in films which mock brahminical dialect or culture it’s quite obvious that ur jealousy and hatred show out.its not a generalisation.it amounts to targeting a particular caste.not hard to understand is it dimwit?.BR is right about the portrayal of us vs them.but that apart its ok.not bad.worth watching if it comes on tv.not a great one but not too bad either.certainly way better than eesan.that was rubbish.or katradhu tamizh.idiotic film that one.

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  121. And I don’t always agree with Rangan.Mahanadhi,manmadhan ambu,and other films seem to b reviewed more from a fans point of view than from the POV of a neutral reviewer.but that apart he’s among the best reviewers around.which is more than wat one can say about the Dravidian minded morons who have taken to farting their brainless ideology on the net.;)

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