Monday, January 17, 2011

Aadukalam: Of Schmucks and Suffering

Vetrimaran's Aadukalam is the tale of a young man,Karupu whose blind trust is repaid with betrayal. The director takes you into a world where a man's honour is tied to his cock or prize rooster if you prefer, where friends become bitter foes over imagined quarrels, and where lives are sacrificed in order to nurse an old man's injured pride. It has a good script, is technically sound, has great music, and boasts of some fine performances. And yet it missed its mark for this reviewer.

Why is that? On paper it is an interesting concept to study the extremes of human nature but on the big screen when you are subjected to gritty scenes depicting the sheer misery of the human condition brought on by the petty foibles that characterize our lot, it gets really depressing. Having your spirit lacerated by the sufferings of the schmucks, on screen is far from a pleasurable experience. Vetrimaran is very talented but is not Shakespearean enough to sell tragedy on such a scale to the audience.

Yes, I say schmucks because Karupu (Danush) and Dorai (Kishore) are blinded by their own stupidity and are largely responsible for their lives falling apart. The Iago inspired Pettaikaran(Jayabalan)who is the mentor and boss of the two men becomes jealous when Karupu steals his thunder at a cock - fighting tournament and is worried that his younger assistants will have him put to pasture. So he decides to turn them against each other and destroy Karupu in the process. The machinations of the old man lead to tragic consequences and an unexpected climax, though one wishes Karupu had shown more gumption when he found out about the betrayal.

Dhanush is impressive in this movie and so is Kishore. Jayabalan as the evil old man who stings with a gentle smile and an arm thrown over your shoulder is disturbing. Taapsee as Karupu's love interest suits her character to the letter. Kudos to Vetrimaran for extracting such brilliant performances. But perhaps in his next movie he will forego the pity- party and return to his rocking Polladhavan days.

Last Word: You can watch it once for the innovative script and the performances if you don't mind getting a severe case of the blues.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kaavalan - Boring Bodyguard!

Watching a movie like Kaavalan is like popping a piece of gum in your mouth only to discover that every last bit of flavor has been sucked out of it. You chew on in confusion and just when you have given up on it and are getting ready to spit it out your mouth is flooded with a burst of gorgeous flavor. But by then it is too little too late and you spit it out nevertheless. Not the most elegant of metaphors but that is Kaavalan in a nutshell for you.

Vijay plays Bhuminadhan who is roped in to play bodyguard to a goon turned respectable gentleman named Muthuramalingam. Incidentally the said gentleman saved a yet -to - be -born Vijay and his mommy from sure death so grown- up Vijay holds him in great esteem. Muthuramalingam's household includes a moody wife (Roja), a beautiful daughter, Meera (Asin) and a visiting buddy of Meera's, Madhu. And Vadivel follows Vijay around to provide comic relief.

Vijay is assigned the task of protecting Meera from some bad guys and dutifully accompanies her to her college. Playful Meera makes a prank call to her too - strict bodyguard to get him to lighten up (without revealing her identity) and sets in motion a series of events that changes the lives of them all. It is an interesting premise but unfortunately the director, Siddique's treatment of this concept leaves a lot to be desired.

The 'different'love story that unfolds on screen gets really trying after a point and makes you impatient with Meera as well as her lover (who is kinda confused as to who exactly he is in love with). Meera we are assured has a heart of gold but given her conniving ways and the ease with which she toys with the hero's emotions she comes across as a conniving witch (or something which rhymes with it). And then we have the hapless lover, Bhuminadhan who is hopelessly in love with a voice on the phone and spends his time cuddling the phone and mooning over the carefully modulated 'sweet' voice. And of course he takes the time out to break into a song and dance routine or a fight sequence which are both mandatory in Vijay films.

And so it goes on and on with Meera continuing to pull on the hearstrings of her lovesick puppet as she becomes more and more embroiled in her own plot. Kaavalan continues in this vein till you become sick of it all and wonder if Siddique had fallen asleep while filming this giant bore of a film. And then towards the end of the flick when you are thinking of walking out and swearing off Vijay films for life, there is a dramatic twist in the tale that sucks you back into the lives of the hitherto insipid characters. A dull flick that was meandering along lazily suddenly becomes a gripping human drama. And then it is all over and you walk out in a daze.

Vijay is a wonderful performer and turns in a solid performance. He is particularly good in the climax. Asin is rather disappointing with a heavily made - up face and a wooden performance. The supporting cast has little to do. Vadivel tries his darndest to elicit some laughter but there are hardly any funny moments in the film.

Last word: Give it a miss.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Siruthai: Average fare Awesome Karthi!

Siruthai is intended to be a complete entertainer with liberal proportions of humour and blood. So we have Karthi in a dual role - Rocket Raja who doles out the comedy bits and Rathnavel Pandian IPS who gets to spew forth pages of 'dialogue' and beat the stuffing out of the bad boys.

KArthi absolutely rocks in his Rocket Raja avatar. And Santhanam as his side - kick is howlarious. Between the two of them they had the audience in paroxysms of mind - blowing mirth. Karthi has made the lovable rapscallion character truly memorable and endearing as he lies, bluffs, loves, and frolics his way through a film mired with pitfalls. This dude has the makings of a superstar and someday, his fans in Tamil Nadu will cheerfully build shrines honouring him or make him the CM if he so desires.

As for Rathnavel Pandian, first of all why did the makers choose this particular moniker? It draws comparison with Alex Pandian, the character Rajnikanth immortalized in Moonru Mugam as the greatest screen cop of all time and places too heavy a burden on the talented shoulders of KArthi. Besides this character is horribly written and is beleaguered with truly awful lines. (There were times I had to admire Karthi for mouthing the cheesy dialogue without choking or puking his guts outs, I am guessing those bits were edited out)That being said he still does a tremendous job with the lousy material he had to work on. Therefore, while Rathnavel Pandian is not likely to be venerated he won't be execrated either. And Rocket Raja more than makes up for the deficits, so the film is saved somewhat.

The director, Siva maintains a rollicking pace throughout except for the flashback which follows the lamentable career of Rathnavel PAndian through its highs and lows, but I daresay it will strike the right chords with the audience for which it was intended. Needless to add, the cop is heartbreakingly upright and spills his blood for 'the people' and the villians - Bhavuji, his brother Bhadra, and rapist son are perfect caricatures of blackhearted villains who rob, burn, murder etc. with earthy gusto and cackling laughter. Their evil henchmen complete the picture with unwashed hair, rotting teeth, and serious weight and anger issues.

This portions of the film lags as there is too much heavy - handed sentiment, crappy dialogues, and unnecessary violence. But just when you are thinking that Rathnavel Pandian should hurry up and die instead of inexplicably hopping back and forth between his hospital bed and the bylanes of Chennai while continuing to thrash the bad guys the makers oblige by finishing him off. Then Rocket Raja comes back into the picture like a breath of fresh air amidst all the enervating staleness with his not - so trusty sidekick and makes you laugh almost all the way to the finish line.

Tamanna aside from making you wonder how she maintains such a fabulous body is largely forgettable. Her character has little to do besides fluttering her false lashes and flitting about like a pretty butterfly. The music is another letdown with only 'Rocket Raja' being hum - worthy. The other songs are hard on the ears and eyes and stuck in all over the place like unnecessary appendages.

Siruthai has a distinct telugu flavor to it owing no doubt to the fact that it is a remake of a Ravi Teja flick. One wonders if this will sit well with the Tamil audience.

Last word: Watch this one for Karthi.