Mistress of arts

Whether comedy or drama, Manorama’s success sprang not just from her remarkable talent but also her amazing ability to adapt. Maalayitta Mangai, the 1958 drama produced by Kannadasan and directed by GR Nathan, is remembered mainly for two reasons today. One, the magical Viswanathan-Ramamurthy score, studded with hits like Naanandri yaar varuvaar and Senthamizh thenmozhiyaal. And two, the actress listed as “puthumuga arimugam” at the … Continue reading Mistress of arts

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Sagara Sangamam - Salangai Oli (9)

The invisible man

Thoughts on the often-overlooked producer of a film, occasioned by the passing of Edida Nageswara Rao. When I heard that Edida Nageswara Rao had died, my first thoughts were about the three films – Shankarabharanam, Sagara Sangamam (Salangai Oli in Tamil), Swati Muthyam (Sippikkul Muthu in Tamil, Eeshwar in Hindi) – that defined him as a certain kind of producer, at least to non-Telugu audiences. … Continue reading The invisible man

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“Andhadhi”… An unsatisfactory thriller

Spoilers ahead… With first-time filmmakers, you feel, sometimes, that you should be an indulgent parent, not expecting miracles, just appreciating the effort. It takes so much to make a movie, and you want to say, Hmmm, not bad. Now let’s see what you can really do. But then, you remember films like Burma and Kirumi, which were made by first-timers but which did not seem … Continue reading “Andhadhi”… An unsatisfactory thriller

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“Masala Padam”… Scrappy, but some good light moments

Spoilers ahead… Laxman Kumar’s Masala Padam opens with a commemoration of Tamil cinema. We see leading men down the years – MK Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, right down to Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth. This, combined with the title and the fact that ‘RJ’ Shiva plays a role, made me expect a sly take on heroism. Instead, we get a takedown of critics, those annoying … Continue reading “Masala Padam”… Scrappy, but some good light moments

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“Puli”… A colourful diversion for undemanding kids

Spoilers ahead… If Chimbu Deven’s brief was to create a colourful diversion for undemanding children, then Puli, starring Vijay, must be counted as some sort of success. Through his career, the director has pitched his tent a couple of feet away from the mainstream – here too, his quirky inventiveness is charming. It isn’t just that an interlude in this Chosen One Saves The World … Continue reading “Puli”… A colourful diversion for undemanding kids

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“Kirumi”… A superb, low-key character study masquerading as a thriller

Spoilers ahead… Sometimes, five minutes is all it takes to assure you that you’re in the hands of a genuine filmmaker. Anucharan, who makes his directorial debut with Kirumi, is one. In those five minutes he establishes everything – tone, texture (you can feel the milieu like fabric), and the fact that this is an anti hero film. Not an antihero film – heaven knows … Continue reading “Kirumi”… A superb, low-key character study masquerading as a thriller

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“Kuttram Kadithal”… Very well done… up to a point

Spoilers ahead… The crux of Kuttram Kadithal, which was recognised as Best Film in Tamil at the National Awards announced this year, is the blurring of the line between religion and humanity – rather, the blind belief in a higher power versus the more rational belief that humankind is capable of many of the things (retribution, absolution) we often associate with God, and is therefore … Continue reading “Kuttram Kadithal”… Very well done… up to a point

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“Trisha Illana Nayanthara”… An okayish sex comedy where the joke is on the hero

Spoilers ahead… Adhik Ravichandran, the director of Trisha Illana Nayanthara, loses little time in establishing that his film is indeed the adolescent-male fantasy that the trailers promised. In the very first scene, set in a train, at night, a girl occupying the top berth invites a boy to share her space. The ‘sleeper class’ jokes write themselves. Later, Ramya (Anandhi) calls her boyfriend Jeeva (GV … Continue reading “Trisha Illana Nayanthara”… An okayish sex comedy where the joke is on the hero

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“Savaale Samaali”… Yawn!

Spoilers ahead… In the absence of remarkable films, let’s see if there are at least some remarkable statistics. For instance, was last week the first time we saw the release of two films whose names harked back to older hits? Paayum Puli was one. Sathyasiva’s Savaale Samaali is the other – and it has nothing to do with the Sivaji Ganesan drama about his villager … Continue reading “Savaale Samaali”… Yawn!

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“Paayum Puli”… Awful, with few silver linings

Spoilers ahead… The director Suseenthiran’s career is something like that line from Forrest Gump about life being like a box of chocolates… You never know what you’re gonna get. Sometimes you’ll get a delectable Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer. Sometimes you’ll get a Jeeva, half good, half bad-taste-in-the-mouth. And sometimes, there’s a Paayum Puli. This isn’t something made by the man who made Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer and … Continue reading “Paayum Puli”… Awful, with few silver linings

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“Yatchan”… A well-crafted black comedy that isn’t all it could have been

Spoilers ahead… Imagine you are a filmmaker given these ingredients: murder; shattered dreams; a young woman’s (Swati Reddy) fear that her boyfriend may have run off with someone else; more murder; and a series of riffs on the notion of doppelgangers. Chinna (Arya) and Karthikeyan (an energetic Kreshna) are both outsiders in Chennai, and they’ve both fled from sticky situations – Chinna’s committed murder, and … Continue reading “Yatchan”… A well-crafted black comedy that isn’t all it could have been

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Musical meditation

Thoughts on the philosophical song, so much a part of our films at one time, but not anymore. As a movie, I did not care much for Manjhi: The Mountain Man, but there are some interesting things in it, like the song O Rahi. I’m talking about its lyrics, which go Chal apna rasta bana… Badlega khud ko to hi badlega yeh jahaan… Chingaari hogi … Continue reading Musical meditation

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About and around pop culture

When it comes to writing about cinema, the bad films are as important as the good ones. “What makes you go watch this film despite knowing full well that it is nothing but trash?” Some version of this question crops up every time a critic reviews a “bad” movie. As subjective as the qualifier is, there are two kinds of “bad” movie. The first is … Continue reading About and around pop culture

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“Thani Oruvan”… A pretty smart, pulpy thriller

Spoilers ahead… When we first meet Mithran (Jayam Ravi), he’s just the best cop ever. He knows exactly where to be, what to do, whom to shadow – it’s like he can do no wrong. And then he meets his match in Siddharth Abhimanyu (Aravind Swamy, underplaying nicely). Siddharth gets a terrific introduction. I’m not talking about one of those scenes where the villain’s face … Continue reading “Thani Oruvan”… A pretty smart, pulpy thriller

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“Veerapandiya Kattabomman”… Much more than just that one scene

Spoilers ahead… It’s the film that fuelled a thousand acting dreams. For generations, Veerapandiya Kattabomman isn’t the story of a brave king brought down by the British. It’s essentially a single scene – the scene in which Kattabomman (Sivaji Ganesan, who’s beyond magnificent) gives Lord Jackson the chaste-Tamil equivalent of a giant, upraised middle finger. On the big screen, the speech is more resonant than … Continue reading “Veerapandiya Kattabomman”… Much more than just that one scene

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“Vaalu”… A not-bad star-dispensing machine

Spoilers ahead… It’s pure formula. The primary ingredient is the hero (Simbu) who’s a “Plus-Two fail.” An aside may be necessary at this point: How strange that on the one hand we celebrate a Sundar Pichai while on the other our heroes positively revel in their lack of education. The hero’s name is Sharp, and he doesn’t speak very good English (he’s challenged by the … Continue reading “Vaalu”… A not-bad star-dispensing machine

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Common men, uncommon stories

On the eve of the release of ‘Manjhi – The Mountain Man’, Baradwaj Rangan traces the journey of our biopics, which are no longer just about larger-than-life achievers. It all began in 1959, when a landless Bihari from the Musahar community, a scheduled caste that traditionally made a living as rat catchers, decided to make a road through the Gahlaur Ghati hills, to ease passage … Continue reading Common men, uncommon stories

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“Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga”… Where are the laughs?

Spoilers ahead… Let me begin by mimicking a Santhanam routine. I’ll say, “Let’s grab a drink,” and you’ll say, “Well, hurry, don’t crawl like a crab,” and then I’ll say, “Maybe we’ll have rum,” and you’ll say, “Don’t speak like your mum,” and I’ll say, “Oh look, my shirt is without a button,” and you’ll say, “Stuff your ears with cotton,” and I’ll say, “This … Continue reading “Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga”… Where are the laughs?

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“Chandi Veeran”… A disappointingly generic drama

Spoilers ahead… As Chandi Veeran opens, enraged men brandishing weapons descend on a village and all hell breaks loose. A bomb explodes under a woman and her young daughter – they fly into the air and land charred, dead. A few feet away, a man lies splayed on the ground, his face bisected by a sickle. And young Paari (who grows up to be Atharvaa) … Continue reading “Chandi Veeran”… A disappointingly generic drama

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“Sakalakala Vallavan”… How do you say ‘trash’ in Tamil?

Spoilers ahead… Sakalakala Vallavan, directed by Suraaj, belongs to the genre I like to call the “whoosh movie.” Every edit is accompanied by a whoosh on the soundtrack. The idea is to give the impression that something is happening all the time – and if nothing is happening, if it’s just a simple edit taking us from one place to another, then at least put … Continue reading “Sakalakala Vallavan”… How do you say ‘trash’ in Tamil?

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