24 (Tamil) – Movie Review


24_poster

At the outset let me confess that I like Suriya more than I like Vijay or Ajith for no other reason other than the fact that he remains the perennial underdog in this trinity of the current crop of stars in the Tamil film industry. Yes, his choice of films and roles leave a lot to be desired, but that being said one has to admit that he puts in his 100% effort in all the films he does irrespective of the box office prospects of the film itself.

Now that I have put that disclaimer there right at the top, let me go on to pen down my thoughts about 24. When I first saw the poster of this movie some time ago I was intrigued by the fact that Suriya chose this particular script and theme not only to star in but also to produce the film itself. From the poster itself, it was quite visible that this was one movie which completely went against the grain of the standard masala movies that most Tamil superstars tend to settle down for and was quite ambitious and bold in its attempt to present a story with a sci-fi bent of mind. And believe me when I say this director Vikram Kumar manages not only to deliver a competent sci-fi movie but also manages to keep the audience entertained for most part of the film itself.

I am a reasonably big fan of sci-fi movies and have devoured the Back to the future series of movies made in the ‘80s more than once. Now while this movie also deals with time-travel at the very heart of its story, the fact remains that there are more than a few logical and ‘time-space continuum’ issues and lapses in it. However, given that this probably is the first large scale project in Tamil cinema dealing with time-travel as its subject I have to say that the director has done a commendable job. The best part is that there are absolutely no loose ends and on more occasion than once the director has left little tit-bits here and there which make sense only when the movie ends. Not one scene (at least the ones relating to the time-travel bits) is wasted and the director has ensured that he has made the most of the screen time devoted to the main plot of the film itself.

What is even better is how he has managed to infuse more than a sufficient bit of comedic element into the proceedings without it feeling forced on us. When Mani (Suriya) first discovers he can travel back and forth in time and essentially bend time itself, what ensues for the next ten odd minutes is nothing short of hilarious and how he initially uses his new found abilities make for quite a few amusing moments in the movie.

While acting in a double role is nothing new for Suriya and he has done it more than once in the past, I personally cannot remember a movie in which he has played a negative role. And from his performance in this movie it is quite visible that he enjoys playing such characters quite a bit, and to be honest, he is quite convincing playing the part as well. Of course it helps that the role itself is quite meaty and is well carved out with more than a few nuances. This is not one of those dumb villains whose actions are mostly reactions to the hero’s, but is somebody whose actions drives the script forward and has got the smarts to outwit the hero more than once. I, for one, would love to see Suriya play the villain more often, if possible with other heroes as well. Would make for interesting hero-villain conflicts in my opinion.

All of the above being said, the only loose end or unnecessary aspect that I found in the movie was the inclusion of the romantic angle with Samantha. Yes, Tamil audiences don’t quite accept a movie without songs, and to hear of a movie with AR Rahman in the roster without songs is quite sacrilegious, but my personal opinion was that Samantha and her romance with Suriya did nothing to the movie. It didn’t add anything at all to the proceedings nor did it provide any eye candy (what with Samantha being among the list of heroines I am better off not watching at all). However, in the director’s and AR Rahman’s defense, the songs are really nice and the soundtrack is one which I intend to download sometime soon and enjoy quite a bit (without the visuals, of course).

In a nutshell, this is one summer movie which you must watch and for sure take your children to see as well. Am more than sure the entire family will enjoy this brave, competent and entertaining attempt at popular science fiction.

Jigarthanda – Movie Review


jigarthanda

Every once in a while you come across a movie which is so refreshingly different and has the director’s trademark style written all over it without necessarily pandering to the ‘lowest common denominator’ (read ‘box office collection contributing viewer’) tastes.

Jigarthanda by Karthik Subbaraj is one such whiff of fresh air to grace Tamil movie screens in the recent past. Along with the upcoming release of Kaaviya Thalaivan co-starring a personal favorite Prithviraj Sukumaran, this was one movie which I have been eagerly anticipating for quite a few months now after having seen their teaser on Facebook. And man, was the wait worth it or what!!!

Touted as ‘a musical gangster story’ in its promotions, the premise of this movie deals with Karthik, a struggling film maker who sets out to make a ‘gangster movie’ and comes to Madurai to research the life of ‘Assault Sethu’ (played wonderfully well by Simhaa of Neram fame), a gangster of some note there. While his initial efforts to get closer to Sethu via his minions come to naught, circumstances end up in a situation where he ends up convincing Sethu himself to volunteer for more information regarding his life.

One would assume that things would ease out for Karthik from this point onwards, but the beauty of the plot is that things take a sudden twist and the movie is pretty much turned around on its head from this point onwards. And that to me, was the beauty with which this movie turned from a relatively brow-beaten plot to something that ended up being immensely enjoyable. Obviously, I am not giving up any more plot points here as that would end up spoiling the entire movie for any potential viewers.

The director Karthik Subbaraj was somebody whose work I immensely enjoyed in his first outing Pizza and true to his trademark style, Jigarthanda also carries his signature all over it. Right from his choice of Simhaa (who seems to be a favorite of his even in his short films) as Sethu, to the choice of the lovely background music score by Santhosh Narayanan, to the awesome cinematography by Gavemic U Ary, this movie is the director’s ‘dark comic’ tribute to all gangster movies of yore.

All said and done, this is one movie which all lovers of cinema must watch in a theatre without fail. And it comes as no surprise that it is the talk of Chennai and its crazy fanatic movie fans nowadays. It appeals to the serious cine aficionado with its technical brilliance and to the regular average Joe movie fan who likes his punch dialogs and punches more. There’s something in it for everybody and that to me is the hallmark of a movie maker who knows his craft and his economics quite well.

One small complaint I have with this movie though is that in my personal opinion (and this is just me, as more than a few others who have seen the movie disagree with me) the ending could have been structured a little differently. In fact, I would even do away with the last three to four minutes at the very end, and this movie would still have been equally, if not more enjoyable to me. But as I stated earlier, this is just my personal opinion.

Just in case, you are not convinced about watching Jigarthanda yet, the movie trailers below will just help you change your mind.

 

Neram – Tamil – Movie Review


Image
These days Tamil cinema is in the middle of a silent revolution. While movies continue being made with big budgets, big stars (such as Singam 2, poised to release on 5th July), there is this entire other stream of movies being made with smaller budgets, smaller ‘stars’ which give much more weightage to crisp scripts, taut screenplays, and an overall appreciation to the different facets of film-making. Some recent examples of this new stream are Pizza, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanam, Soothu Kavvum, Neram, etc, most of which have already become 2013’s so called ‘sleeper hits’. And trust me, as an avid movie-lover (even movies of the big budget, big stars kind), this entire silent revolution excites me a lot. All of the movies named here and others as well have been so good that I cannot stop ‘gushing’ about them and recommending them to all other movie lovers I know.
Neram (classified as a ‘romantic comedy thriller’ film by Wikipedia [Link to article]) is one such movie which captured my attention first because of its hit song – Pistah being played on the Tamil music channels. Apart from the fact that the song went viral due to its catchy lyrics and beats, the fact that the video itself features off cuts from the movie itself piqued my interest in the movie. The catchy tags to the characters – the main villain, the tall villain, the short villain, the fair villain, the dark villain, etc, immediately made me go the web and read up a preview of the movie.
The premise of the movie where the protagonist has just one more day to go before his deadline to return borrowed money expires, was something that immediately made me to put this movie on my ‘must-watch’ list. And believe me when I say this, that probably was one the best decisions that I have made in a long time.
Neram, written, edited and directed by debutant Alphonse Putharen is one movie where people will be extremely hard pressed to find even one loose end. Everything in the movie, all the scenes, shots, situations, characters, dialogs, have a specific purpose to play and no knot remains loose at the end of the movie. As stated earlier, the premise of the movie is very simple, Vetri (played wonderfully well by Nivin Pauly, one of the up and coming Malayalam heroes) has borrowed money from Vatti Raja (portrayed extremely convincingly by Simhaa, a character artist whom I am seeing only for the second time on screen) for his sister’s wedding. Vetri has run out of time and has only till 5 PM in the evening to return the money with interest to Vatti Raja. What follows during this particular day forms the crux of the movie.
The fact that the script borrows the premise for its thrills from the fact that the hero has a clock against which he is running, and this by itself has been made into numerous successful thriller films. What takes the cake in Neram is the fact that it uses the non-linear storytelling technique. While this also is nothing new to Tamil cinema and has been tried in various movies in the past, the fact that the director makes it work wonderfully well, especially in the climax sequence, is what makes Neram stand out from the crowd.
All in all, watch this movie if you want to have an edge of the seat experience wondering what the hero will do and how he will manage to repay the money, if at all, for a crisp 117 minute running time experience.
PS: Veteran actor Nasser makes his presence immensely felt in a wonderful little cameo performance at the fag end of the film. This character by itself can form the subject of a separate movie by itself.
Image courtesy : Wikipedia link to the movie

Vaanam – Movie Review




While the posters of Vaanam bandied around Anushka dressed glamorously, Bharath posing with a guitar and Simbu in various poses, it gave me the impression that this was a run of the mill masala movie with the usual mass elements such as songs, dances, fights, glamour, etc etc. However, people who actually went to the theatre and watched the movie gave quite decent reviews and asked me to watch it at least once due to the fact that it was quite a different movie, in a nice way.


However, when I did pop in the VCDs into the player I personally didn’t expect the movie to be as good as it actually turned out to be. And that’s probably why I felt quite refreshed and did quite enjoy the movie as well. Guess having low expectations and having them belied works well in some cases. 


An ensemble cast of Simbu, Bharath, Anushka, Prakash Raj and Saranya make the most of the limited screen time given to each of them. Five different stories of each of these characters, each of them making up a nice short film by itself, each one of them promising to be reasonably good and meaningful by itself and how they all end up converging at the climax makes for an interesting premise.


With movies like these where there is more than one single primary story line, it is quite a tricky job tying up all the loose ends and making a coherent movie. Krish more than manages to do this, and in the process ended up making a nice movie. The one single theme through most of the movie revolves around the difficult circumstances for each one of these characters. 


While Simbu and Saranya are struggling for some money, Prakash Raj is looking for his brother who disappeared three years ago. Anushka wants to get away from the clutches of her villainous pimp, and Bharath is in the process of rediscovering himself. While each one of these story lines pull their weight in the movie, the themes surrounding Prakash Raj and Saranya can probably be made into individual movies by themselves. And kudos to the director Krish and the respective actors that they bring a lot of credibility to these roles with their prowess. 


All in all Vaanam probably was the most under-rated, under-hyped and good movies to hit Tamil movie theatres in a while. A must watch movie for all movie lovers.


Related links
Wikipedia link to the movie


Trailer


Raavanan – Movie Review


Am sure that by now all readers of Jairam’s Jives would’ve watched Avatar at least once and been awestruck by the amazing psychedelic world that James Cameron presented to us with in the form of Pandora. Truth be told, I was blown away by the first sight of that magical forest in Pandora, especially the first brush that Jake Sully has with the ‘touch-me-not’ flowers which wrap up whenever anybody touches them. Now before you start wondering why I am talking about Avatar and Pandora so much in a review of Raavanan, I am just trying to give you folks a context, a yardstick, a frame of reasoning to measure the cinematographic efforts of Santosh Sivan in Raavanan.

While James Cameron required a whole lot of blue screens, props, and a helluva lot of computer imagery to bring to life his vision of Pandora, Mani Ratnam and Santosh Sivan required an amazing scouting crew (or location crew), some crazy trekking adventures in places such as Tumkur, Hogenekal, Athirampalli, Malayattoor, jungles in Maharashtra to bring to life, Mani Sir’s (as he is fondly known by anybody who works with him) vision of Vikramasingapuram and its surroundings to life. The jungle is where Veera rules, his happiness, sorrow, anger, frustrations, love, hate, all of it is inextricably linked to the jungle. He is lord and master of all he surveys in this jungle, and this is beautifully brought out in the first scene of the movie where he is perched on the top of a 90 odd foot cliff overlooking a flowing river. The camera pans out from over his shoulder down into the gorge below, and the next shot is a long one from below, which gives the audience the sheer magnitude of the cliff he is actually overlooking. Sheer brilliant opening to a wonderful movie.

Veera (Vikram) is a Robin Hood type renegade brigand in the forests running a parallel kingdom of his own. Though he is not shown to be engaged in anything unlawful, the fact that the people of Vikramasingapuram pay more heed to his words and deeds than ‘official’ ones by the Government is something that irks the authorities. The movie opens with how Veera kidnaps Raagini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), the wife of Dev Prakash (Prithviraj), the local Superintendent of Police. This small 2-3 minute sequence in which Veera trashes the boat of Raagini and takes her hostage is reminiscent of some of the best action sequences in any Hollywood blockbuster.

Dev’s incessant search for Raagini through the jungle, Veera’s persistent efforts to keep her away from Dev’s clutches, why Veera kidnaps Raagini, these 3 themes form the crux of Raavanan, the movie. Interspersing all these 3 linked plots is a water-tight screenplay which doesn’t go loose for even one moment (except probably for 2 songs, which serve as breaks for the audience to gather their thoughts). In the middle of all the traipsing around the jungle and multiple failed attempts to escape, Raagini gets to see the real Veera, who she realizes is as human (or probably more human) as she is or for that matter Dev is. Whether Dev manages to catch up with Veera and rescues Raagini makes up for the rest of the story, and if I say anything more I will surely end up spoiling the movie-watching experience for the viewers.

Dev’s brooding intensity and single minded focus in bringing Veera to justice is wonderfully brought out on screen by Prithviraj. I personally haven’t seen him in a movie in which he portrays such intensity throughout the movie, and he was a revelation. Little wonder then that he is considered among the better breed of actors in the Malayalam movie industry. Aishwarya Rai has always been Mani Sir’s muse when it comes to giving her enough space and a meaty character which plays to her strengths. Her portrayal of Raagini, who is pretending to be brave through her ordeal while in reality she is scared to her wits, and terrified at her situation is brilliantly brought out in the scene where she prays out aloud to an abandoned ruin of Goddess Parvathi in the jungle. Vikram as Veera is the life-line of the movie. Almost single handedly he carries 3/4ths of the movie on his shoulder. This is probably his best role yet, running a close second only to Pithamagan, in my opinion.

A few things most people might tend to overlook in this movie is the shimmering chemistry between Veera and Raagini, which gradually develops over the course of the movie and reaches its peak in the last frame of the movie. Another notable directorial touch is the fact that Dev’s character is so obsessed with justice and doing the right thing, that he takes it to any length which is again brought out in the last 5 odd minutes of the movie. While most people might disagree with the means, Dev is somebody who seriously believes that the ends justify the means. This to me, is the most ‘stand-out’ aspect of this particular character.

AR Rahman and Vairamuthu have combined once again to merge wonderful Tamil and music together to give us an eminently listenable album in Raavanan. It would be extremely pretentious of me to comment on the excellence of either of them. Suhasini’s dialogues and AR Rahman’s background score also deserve special mention, and so do the Art Directors of this movie. All in all, I personally believe that Madras Talkies, Big Pictures and Sony Pictures have a winner on their hands. Go watch this movie to enjoy a thorough visual treat.

Related links


Trailer