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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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“Idhu Enna Maayam”… Fascinating premise, but the film’s a mess

Spoilers ahead… The opening scene of Vijay’s Idhu Enna Maayam reminded me of the younger Kamal Haasan character’s quip to his girlfriend in Indian. He says they should go to a theatre playing Schindler’s List – it’s a very good film, so there’ll be no one in the audience and they can do what they want. Here, it’s an English play – and by the … Continue reading “Idhu Enna Maayam”… Fascinating premise, but the film’s a mess

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A lover, a model and a nose

Remembering ‘jhankaar beats,’ the nineties, and ‘Aashiqui,’ which turned 25 this July. If you were the cassette-buying type in 1990, you probably remember this image. A white background with horizontal, equidistant lines – like a page from a ruled notebook. A boy and a girl in what appears to be an embrace – only, we don’t see their faces. The boy is pulling a jacket … Continue reading A lover, a model and a nose

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“Orange Mittai”… A fairly affecting road movie-cum-drama

Spoilers ahead… You may know Ramesh Thilak as the sidekick from films like Soodhu Kavvum. He’s the guy who looks like Prabhu Deva’s long-lost younger brother. Orange Mittai, directed by Biju Viswanath, is his coming-out party. He plays an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) named Sathya, and the film gets going when he responds to a 108 call from an elderly man named Kailasam (Vijay Sethupathi), … Continue reading “Orange Mittai”… A fairly affecting road movie-cum-drama

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“Masaan”… Worth every bit of the Cannes hype

Spoilers ahead… I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Neeraj Ghaywan’s  Masaan since I saw it a few nights ago. For one, it’s astoundingly good – dreamy and textured and with powerfully understated images that refuse to fade away. Reciprocated love is shown through two red balloons rising into the night. Boys dive into a river and retrieve not just coins but also life-altering lotteries. … Continue reading “Masaan”… Worth every bit of the Cannes hype

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“Naalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Oorum”… A bare handful of laughs in a ‘comic’ parable

Spoilers ahead… Naalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Oorum is the kind of film where we’re not supposed to care that it looks like a Class IV production of Aattukkara Alamelu. The jokes are supposed to be the thing – and for a brief while, they are. The four cops of the title (Arulnithi, Singampuli, Bagavathi Perumal, Rajkumar) live in the village of the title. It’s a … Continue reading “Naalu Policeum Nalla Irundha Oorum”… A bare handful of laughs in a ‘comic’ parable

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Headline news

What is a newspaper’s responsibility? To tell a story? Or draw eyeballs to that story in the first place? I’m not one for pop-motivational quotes on calendars and posters, but I love reading stories about people who inspire through their lives. Many of them, unsurprisingly, are sportspeople. For most of us, that level of control over one’s life, the focus and discipline needed to become … Continue reading Headline news

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Pride, yes. But no prejudice, please.

The closing-night film of this year’s Chennai International Queer Film Festival is about marginalised groups, but not in the way you expect. It’s probably best to hear the story from the man who wrote it. In a Guardian interview, screenwriter Stephen Beresford recalled a meeting with film producer David Livingstone in September 2010. Livingstone asked, “Is there any story you are burning to write?” As … Continue reading Pride, yes. But no prejudice, please.

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“Bajrangi Bhaijaan”… A surprisingly effective return to masala roots

Spoilers ahead… Bajrangi Bhaijaan surprised me in a lot of ways. For one, the flavour of masala here isn’t the flavour we usually associate with a Salman Khan movie. This isn’t outlandish – though that, when done well, can be worthwhile too. There’s a sense of sobriety here. The director is Kabir Khan. To say that this is the best work of his career isn’t … Continue reading “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”… A surprisingly effective return to masala roots

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Radio days

The king is dead. Long live the king. Baradwaj Rangan remembers MS Viswanathan. At 7:59 am, last Tuesday, I got this sms from a friend: You have to write a great tribute. I hadn’t looked at news sites yet, but I knew who the tribute was for. We’d been hearing news about his hospitalisation and the word “critical” was being thrown around a lot. It … Continue reading Radio days

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“Maari”… Some nice bits can’t save a grindingly ordinary movie

Spoilers ahead… Every young Tamil-film hero looking to become a super star (if not the Superstar) makes a film in which he plays a cop. That’s when he announces his ambitions of entering the big leagues. Enough with all this love from the urban pockets. I now want B- and C-centre adoration. Maari is Balaji Mohan’s announcement that directors can do this too. He wants … Continue reading “Maari”… Some nice bits can’t save a grindingly ordinary movie

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Alice in Wonderland

Gautami opens up to Baradwaj Rangan about ‘Papanasam’, her milestone movies, and, yes, Kamal Sir. You know how some actors look even better sitting across you than on screen? Gautami is charmed like that. She could probably jump out of bed and pose, simultaneously, for a keep-your-skin-glowing ad, a be-trim-in-your-forties ad, and one of those ads where a woman gets mistaken for a college-goer until … Continue reading Alice in Wonderland

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Any body cannot dance

With the dance-based ‘ABCD-2’ vaulting over the Rs. 100 crore barrier, a reflection on choreography in Hindi films down the ages. Had I been the kind who rated films, I’d have given Any Body Can Dance 2 (aka ABCD 2) two-and-a-half shrugs – but that’s not surprising. For one, this isn’t a film meant for anyone over twenty. It isn’t for those who don’t follow … Continue reading Any body cannot dance

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“Baahubali”… A triumph of imagination

Spoilers ahead… At the beginning of Baahubali – The Beginning, we’re shown the lay of the land. This kingdom lies here, that one there. It’s nothing new as an idea – we saw this in Lagaan, for instance. But look what the director, SS Rajamouli, does. He renders the map in three dimensions and follows it all the way to a waterfall, which morphs into … Continue reading “Baahubali”… A triumph of imagination

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“Guddu Rangeela”… An action-drama diluted by too much quirkiness

Spoilers ahead… If you crossed Ishqiya with Sholay, you’d have something like Guddu Rangeela. Like the latter film, this one revolves around two small-time con men – one intense, smart; the other a bulb of a lower wattage – who like puttering about on a motorcycle fitted with a sidecar. And like the thakur, one of them has a personal score to settle with the … Continue reading “Guddu Rangeela”… An action-drama diluted by too much quirkiness

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“Papanasam”… A faithful remake, a solid thriller

Spoilers ahead… Let me begin by saying how intensely jealous I am of those of you who haven’t seen Drishyam, the Malayalam movie that inspired Papanasam. Most times, it doesn’t matter whether we’ve seen the original film or read the book the screenplay is based on – because, as the cliché goes, there are only so many stories, and most of what we see involves … Continue reading “Papanasam”… A faithful remake, a solid thriller

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“Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho”… An uneasy mix of laughs and issues

Spoilers ahead… Hindi cinema hasn’t been very kind to lovers of scatological humour. Once in a while, we catch a whiff of flatulence – sometimes in a line of dialogue, sometimes in a throwaway scene like the one where Salman Khan broke wind in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. By these constipated standards, recent years have proved positively diarrhoeal. Delhi Belly treated us to a … Continue reading “Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho”… An uneasy mix of laughs and issues

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Bullet-point Report: “Yagavarayinum Naa Kaakka”

I’m getting increasingly fascinated by our heroines these days. Take the Royal Enfield-riding Kayal (Nikki Galrani) in Yaagavarayinum Naa Kaakka. She knows the hero (Saga, played by Aadhi) is interested in her. She spots him waiting for her outside her college. She approaches him from behind and taps his shoulder. He turns, surprised to see her outside rather than in class. “Waiting for me, no?” … Continue reading Bullet-point Report: “Yagavarayinum Naa Kaakka”

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“Indru Netru Naalai”… A time-travel thriller with more comedy than thrills

Spoilers ahead… Like Appuchi Gramam, Indru Netru Naalai is “local” sci-fi – and this localisation is the best part. The story is about a time machine from the future that falls in the hands of two men in the present who have to go back in the past so they can remain who are… in the present. In other words, it’s the standard time-travel pretzel … Continue reading “Indru Netru Naalai”… A time-travel thriller with more comedy than thrills

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“Moone Moonu Varthai”… An easy-watch comedy

Spoilers ahead… In most films, we can sense the director’s terror that the audience is going to tune out and start looking at their smartphones – hence the frantic cuts, the soundtrack whoosh accompanying the change of camera angles, the insistence that every scene carry a punch. Madhumita’s Moone Moonu Varthai exists at the other end of the spectrum. It’s so low-key that you feel … Continue reading “Moone Moonu Varthai”… An easy-watch comedy

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