“Aambala”… Bits of comedy, a lot of useless filler, and at least one existential question

Posted on January 15, 2015


Spoilers ahead…

The ideal Sundar C movie would last 30 minutes. Don’t believe me? Then do the math yourself. Aambala, for instance, goes on for some two-and-a-half hours. The songs take up about half an hour, and they add nothing – despite the fact that the tunes by Hiphop Thamizha are really catchy. Take away the protracted, been-there-done-that action sequences, and that’s another half-hour gone. That leaves us with an hour-and-a-half of narrative, which is not why we go to a Sundar C movie. (The plot is about the protagonist’s attempt to reunite his family… or something.) Take away an hour of this, and you’re left with 30 minutes of pretty decent comedy – no, not the revelation that Hansika plays a Botany student, but some crack one-liners from Santhanam and a nice little set piece involving a closed window and a stolen bottle of water. The question, as always with these films, is this: Why should we endure the other two hours, when some kind soul will, at some point, put up on YouTube the 30 minutes that really matter?

Since my profession does not allow me the option of waiting that long, I suppose I have to formulate some thoughts around this film. I’ll begin by wondering why Vishal, after Pandiya Naadu and Naan Sigappu Manidhan, is back to this kind of masala. Well, the answer is obvious. These are safer bets. Still… Also, is there a hint of a political career in the offing? Consider his character’s (named Saravanan, not that it matters) retort to a political underling who asks, “Enga edathukku vara aasai padareengala?” Saravanan says, “Unga velaya neenga ozhunga senjaa naan yaen saar unga edathukku varren?” Maybe this is just something that’s trying too hard to be a punch line. Still, you cannot rule out the other possibility. I felt a little sorry for Vishal, though. His name came up first – he is the aambala, after all – but Hansika’s name (her character is called Maya, not that it matters) got more whistles.

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You slowly see why. In one scene, the pallu of her sari gets caught on something and slips, and Saravanan, on behalf of the teenage males in the audience, opens his mouth wide, as if his most fervent prayers have been answered. Later, Maya goes jogging and the camera stops to gaze at her behind – Saravanan’s reaction suggests he’s just been confronted with the marvels of the Sistine Chapel. A little ahead, we find Maya having a furtive phone conversation with Saravanan, and when someone passes by, she drops her mobile into her blouse – at the other end, Saravanan practically passes out. Maybe the camera was on? Ah, Hansika Motwani – the flavor du jour. What a lottery it must be, lucking into Tamil cinema like this. No learning lines, no acting, just a lot of new clothes and the opportunity to travel around the world, plus tons of money – is there a happier life? All my griping about these heroines is probably just sour grapes. Maybe I’d be happier too if someone else was typing out this review and I was just pretending to move my fingers… in Amsterdam.

I doubt Sundar C devotes much thought to existential underpinnings, but the casting of Kiran had me intrigued. Remember her? She was the flavor du jour about a decade ago, and now she’s playing the mother of a girl so grown up, she must have had her when she was 10. Did Hansika meet Kiran on the sets and wonder if she was looking at a ten-years-later version of herself? I’d give good money to know. Anyway, one plot point has Kiran bundled into a sack and carted around by Saravanan and his two cohorts (Vaibhav, Sathish). This is the kind of movie where the number of sacks equals the number of men, and the other sacks are filled with women too – Aishwarya (because you always call on Aishwarya when there are many women-0f-a-certain-age roles) and Ramya Krishnan (because you always call on Ramya Krishnan when one of these women-0f-a-certain-age is a ball-breaker). Prabhu is in there somewhere, attempting to anchor the story with some semblance of emotion. I like this actor. I like his voice. He almost always adds something to the one-dimensional roles he gets. Plus, he can do comedy. Only, here, he’s asked to put on his glum face. But that shouldn’t have been very difficult. One look at the script should have been enough.


  • aambala = he-man!
  • “Enga edathukku vara aasai padareengala?” = Trying to take my place?
  • “Unga velaya neenga ozhunga senjaa naan yaen saar unga edathukku varren?” = If you did what you said you’d do, why would I try to take your place?
  • Kiran = see here
  • Aishwarya = see her in this Ilayaraja song, from about the time he was segueing into his synth-dominant phase
  • Ramya Krishnan = see here

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Posted in: Cinema: Tamil