Mouna Raagam: 30 years

August 25, 2016

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Just read on the net that the film that was Mani Ratnam’s first hit — the first film that we can now identify as “a Mani Ratnam film,” with all the auteurist implications of the term — turned 30 this month. I haven’t seen ‘Mouna Raagam’ in a while, so I don’t know how I’ll […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

“Happy Bhag Jayegi”… Should have been much better, but some really big laughs

August 19, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… Imagine you wanted to make Tanu Weds Manu 3 and Kangana Ranaut did not have the dates. Who would you cast? Who else, among the current set of actresses, can embody this… this… force of nature? Anand L Rai, director of the Tanu Weds Manu films and one of the producers of Happy […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Dharmadurai”… A terrific story loses its way thanks to literalness, noble-mindedness

August 19, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… At first, it appears like another lazy appropriation of a Rajinikanth film title, in accordance with Tamil cinema’s belief (or maybe desperate hope) that some of the Superstar’s luck will rub off on the film: a decent man named Dharmadurai (‘Makkal Selvan’ Vijay Sethupathi, phoning in his performance) exploited by unscrupulous brothers. But […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

“Rustom”… Vaguely watchable, and that may be overstating it

August 13, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… I hadn’t heard of the Nanavati trial until I watched Bombay Velvet, and then I realised I’d seen two films loosely based on it: Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke and Achanak. These films – like Rustom, the latest iteration – don’t really try to recreate the sordid (and sensational) case. They are content […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Mohenjo Daro”… Every bit the film the trailer led us to fear

August 12, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… Ashutosh Gowariker’s Mohenjo Daro opens with a big disclaimer that none of what’s to follow should be taken too seriously. I suppose this injunction is meant for those who missed the trailer with the flying crocodile, but it does make sense, especially when you see what it really means: This isn’t a history […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Joker”… Despite the preachiness, an affecting drama

August 12, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… When we first meet Mannar Mannan (Guru Somasundaram), the protagonist of Joker, he’s squatting behind his home, reading the newspaper and relieving himself. The crudeness of the image is intentional – everything about it is. We’re meant to see that there’s no proper toilet, and slowly, we will see how important this toilet […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

“Wagah”… A misfire on many levels

August 12, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… In Wagah, Vikram Prabhu plays Vasu, a young man from a village in Sivagangai who joins the BSF and ends up patrolling parts of Kashmir abutting “the most dangerous border in the world.” But Vasu is no patriot. As a boy, he enrolled in the NCC because the girl he liked was in […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

The five-ringed circus

August 10, 2016

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Do you find it odd that every four years, we sit in front of the television and watch someone be declared the world’s best at… javelin-throwing? I can understand the allure of the sport before, say, the invention of guns. Had television existed a millennium ago, it’s not hard to imagine Native American tribes setting […]

“Budhia Singh – Born to Run”… A solid drama that transcends rah-rah sports-biopic clichés and raises big questions

August 8, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… A quick refresher from Wiki is all you need to know why a movie was begging to be made from the story of Budhia Singh: “Budhia Awooga Singh (born 2002) is an Indian boy and the world’s youngest marathon runner. Singh was born in the state of Odisha. He ran from Bhubaneswar to […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“The Legend of Michael Mishra”… A painfully strained attempt at quirk

August 8, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… Manish Jha loses little time letting us know that he’s made a quirky film. Over the opening credits of The Legend of Michael Mishra, we hear this song: “Film shuru hui hai, kursi pe set ho jao…” Jha wants us to be aware that he’s aware, that he’s not taking any of this […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

Box-office blues

August 6, 2016

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Thoughts on a summer season where a new ‘Star Trek’ movie or a new Spielberg movie no longer guarantees a blockbuster. Early on in the new Star Trek movie, Captain Kirk is in an existential funk. It’s the third (or maybe fourth) year of a five-year mission, and life on the Starship Enterprise has become […]

“Thirunaal”… Nicely made, but still pretty generic

August 5, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… The trailer for PS Ramnath’s Thirunaal made me expect yet another “rowdy movie,” and the film is that – but it’s also a little more. This time, the rowdy doesn’t even have a name. He’s known by his implement of choice, a razor blade that he snaps in half and tucks into his […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

“Namadhu”… Complex issues, but a very simplistic film

August 5, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… Now, this is not nice. When you advertise a film as a trilingual (Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil), the viewer thinks it has been shot in all three languages. Okay, maybe production constraints may result in a street name appearing in Telugu when you’re watching the Tamil version, but this is a minor miss. The […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

How do you solve a problem like Rajini?

July 30, 2016

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Reflections on the week leading up to “Kabali,” and questions about the years ahead. After the deafening hype, Rajinikanth’s Kabali opened bookings last week, and this created a fresh round of hype. People were glued to their computer (or phone) screens, waiting for theatres to announce show timings. Usually, most theatres open bookings on the […]

“Dishoom”… Disappointing action film, or a prototype of the Modi-era masala movie?

July 29, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… John Abraham’s thesping skills have always been suspect, but after seeing Dishoom, where he plays a special agent named Kabir, I’m wondering if he’s losing the ability to do more basic things. Like smile. Or bring his hands close to his body. His torso resembles a tree trunk, and his hands angle downwards […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

Guest Post: Petition against stalking

July 26, 2016

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Regulars here must be aware of the petition that Iswarya and others started in Change.org  #CallingOutStalking in Tamil films. You can find here all the updates and follow-up action on the campaign. Those who wish to contribute to this effort can mail antistalkingpetition[at]gmail.com. Also see comments in this post, for more context.

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil, Society

“Madaari”… An unremarkable vigilante drama, with some Irrfan moments

July 26, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… Madaari is about the catastrophic aftermath of a bridge collapse, but director Nishikant Kamath wants us to know that the film is about so much more. He gives us split-second visuals of the Uttarakhand floods, about farmer suicides, about train collisions, about petrol/diesel price hikes. Within five minutes, he wants to stir up […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

In her shoes

July 23, 2016

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A breathless, fascinating account of a woman who keeps hurling herself into gruelling tests of endurance. As someone who goes to bed praying the morning papers will publish findings that pizza is good for weight loss, two questions popped up when I read Anywhere but Home: Adventures in Endurance, written by Anu Vaidyanathan, “the first […]

Posted in: Book Reviews, Books, Sports

Deconstructing Woody

July 23, 2016

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Thoughts on Woody Allen as he completes half a century as filmmaker. And why ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ is his defining film. It’s hard to believe, today, that What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, Woody Allen’s first film as director, began with a series of James Bondian action scenes (flamethrowers! murderous discs with serrated edges!). Harder to believe […]

“Kabali”… An unsatisfying clash between the impulses of star and director

July 22, 2016

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Spoilers ahead… Recently, I saw a Malaysian film titled Jagat, directed by Shanjhey Kumar Perumal. The films from the country are usually in Bahasa Malaysia, but this one is in Tamil. It’s about the plight of Malaysian Tamils who used to work on estates, but were forced to migrate to the cities when these estates […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil