Monthly Archives: October 2012

Mudhalvan Review

If you can’t tell by now, I am going on an trip through various Tamil movies from the 90s and early 2000s that were released during my childhood. Next up is Mudhalvan. This film is interesting because it portrays the standard David vs Goliath story and tackles the theme of corruption in politics in India. I will talk about this more later in my review.

Acting/Characters

First of all, this is a fairly simple story. Unfortunately, it does result in characters that are somewhat 2-dimensional. First off, let’s start with our hero: Arjun as Pughazhendhi. Arjun’s character is the stereotypical good guy hero. He loves his parents, does honest work as a cameraman and is willing to help people. Yes, this appears to be a 2-dimensional character. But this innocence and good guy vibe is very important later in the film. He does grow and change as the movie goes on, so while he appears 2D at first, he definitely becomes more developed towards the end of the film. Unfortunately, our heroine did not fare so well in this film. Manisha Koirala plays Tenmozhi, a village girl who falls in love with Arjun’s character. Unfortunately, that is about all the depth that appears in Manisha’s character. She is just there purely to be a love side story, nothing else. She does not contribute that much to the plot line at all except partially to provide an excuse for the various songs. It really was depressing to see Manisha in this role. Now don’t get me wrong, Manisha did a fantastic job with what she was given. Unfortunately, she was not given enough to work with. There was absolutely no room for her to flex her acting muscle at all. Next up, we have the main antagonist Aranganathan played by Raghuvaran. The archetypal villain, there is not much depth to this character either. While Aranganathan does a splendid job of acting this role, just like Manisha, he does not have much to work with. Overall, this is the most disappointing aspect of this movie.

Score: 5/10

Music

A. R. Rahman is at the helm of the music for this film. As usual, he delivers a great set of songs. Some of them will definitely be making it into my music collection including Shakalaka Baby and Uppu Karuvadu. That said, I was not a big fan of the other songs. While they are catchy, I do not think are quite up to par with what A. R. Rahman usually produces. That said, it is a much better soundtrack that many of the more recent tamil films. So I will give this a decent rating.

Score: 7/10

Cinematography

The village scenes are truly beautiful as well as the scenes used in the dance sequences. Overall, shots were clean and well thought out. There was a number of CGI sequences used in this film. While they do not look splendid in terms of today’s standards, they pretty decent for the Kollywood industry at the time. At the same time, nothing really stood out for me. In terms of song and dance sequences, they were well choreographed, the costumes and sets used were nice and colourful. Again, these are typical of the films of the time in my opinion so nothing particularly stood out for me.

Score: 7.5/10

Plot

This is easily the strongest part of the movie. A good summary of the plot is that a news reporter, played by Arjun, causes the CM of Tamil Nadu, played by Raghuvaran, to mess up an interview. As a result, the CM challenges him to try being a CM for one day just to see how tough it is. Against the CM’s expectations, Arjun’s character manages to do a fantastic job. People are in the streets demanding that he becomes the CM, so the current CM is forced to resign. Arjun’s character is voted into power during a landslide victory. The rest of the film deals with Arjun cleaning up Tamil Nadu and the former CM plotting ways to remove Arjun from power. It is not a complicated plot, there is one main story with a side story of the romance. Unfortunately, the romance feels mostly tacked on and as filler for the first half of the film. The romance is almost forgotten during the latter part of the film and is resolved in a hurried manner in the last few minutes. The not complicated plot works in the film’s favour. Instead of being bogged down by the details of the day-to-day goings of the CM’s job and going into depth on how Arjun comes into power, the film opts for a simple explanation that suffices to move the plot along. The most important part of this plot is when Arjun starts losing everything he holds dear as a CM and eventually how this drives him to put aside the ethics he swore to keep just so he can be rid of Raghuvaran’s character. You see him fighting the urge to become just like the politicians he dislikes. The film also delivers a very strong message to the people of Tamil Nadu and to the politicians themselves. If politicians actually did their job of upholding laws and justice instead of caving in to corruption, think about how much better the state would be. It’s definitely not an easy message to ignore.

Score: 8.5/10

Overall Score: 7/10

While the film does have its flaws, the plot alone is enough for me to recommend this film to others.

 

Dil Se Review

This is a review about the film Dil Se starring Manisha Koirala and Shah Rukh Khan.

Acting/Characters

With this film, we once again see Shah Rukh Khan’s acting talents on full display. As his character goes through the seven Arabic stages of love, you see him portray a man who goes from a boyish attitude to a desperate man without a hitch. We get to see his character develop through the seven stages of love and each stage is detailed enough to see the character change during the course of the movie. Once again, Manisha manages to deliver another stellar performance as an emotionally scarred young woman who must deal with an inner struggle between her desire to get independence for her state and her love for Shah Rukh Khan’s character. She manages to show her characters inner feelings through subtle emotions and body language. It always amazes me to see the talent of Manisha on display in a film. This film also introduces Preity Zinta as one of Shah Rukh Khan’s marriage prospect. While her performance is not at the same level as Khan’s or Manisha’s performances, Zinta does not drag down the film at all and pulls her own weight. We get a glimpse of Zinta’s character’s love background and while it is not much, it is enough to reasonably establish her character. Overall, the acting and characters in this film are fantastic.

Score: 8.5/10

 

Music

I do not have much criticism for the music in this film. Once again, A. R. Rahman delivers on the songs. They are fantastic, catchy and memorable. Considering the fact that I remember most of these songs (the Tamil versions at least) from the huge number of times they were played during my childhood, I think its safe to say that these songs were a huge hit. In fact, just like Bombay, all of the songs have made it into my personal music collection. In terms of the dance sequences for the song, the director manages to get some amazing locations and choreography going for the songs. One of my favourite dance sequences happens for “Cheyiya Cheyiya” when they are dancing on a moving train as it is going through the countryside. It was one of the most unique dance sequences I have seen in a very long time.

Score: 9/10

 

Cinematography

The locations used for this film, especially during the first half are absolutely stunning. Locations include Assam, Kerala, Kashmir, Delhi and other regions. It was the first time I got a glimpse of the people who live near the India-China and India-Burma border. It was also the first time I got to look at Buddhist monasteries that exist in the desert regions of India. Each of the landscapes was breathtaking to behold and the cinematography is definitely a treat for the viewer. There were no shaky cameras and the angles chosen for many scenes were good. The lighting during night time sequences was appropriate, especially during the fights with the terrorist group, during which it was dark and gloomy to help heighten the tension in the atmosphere. The cinematography during the second half of the film does not quite live up to the first half mostly because the film moves back to Delhi. However, that does not mean the quality of the cinematography suffers. In fact, it is just as good as the first half. Overall, a great job done on cinematography.

Score: 8/10

 

Plot

As usual, we are now at the most important part of the film: the plot. The premise here is quite straightforward, Shah Rukh Khan plays a person who works for the All India Radio station. He travels to the North-East of India to interview separatist terrorists. Along the way, he meets a beautiful woman (Manisha) and attempts to make romantic advances. Manisha’s character constantly refuses his advances but refuses to give him a solid reason as to why. Eventually, we learn she is a terrorist herself who plans to assassinate the Indian president during the 50 year anniversary parade of Indian independence in Delhi. From there, the film continues to resolve the two lovers’ story. During the entire plot, we can see hints of Manisha’s character developing feelings for Shah Rukh Khan’s character despite being reluctant to do so. It is refreshing to see a film where the romance between the two main stars does not instantly occur over a period of like 15 minutes. The romance is supposed to mirror the Arabic seven stages of love. While the movie does not make it entirely obvious which stage Shah Rukh Khan’s character is in during some parts of the movie, there is enough detail that you can guess at each part. The plot is simple enough that anyone can follow it, however it is not too simple that you will be rolling your eyes. The film manages to reveal just enough information about Manisha’s character that the viewer is kept interested without revealing too much at a time. The plot manages to remain lean and on track for the most part. However, I do feel that Preity Zinta’s character and the entire story line about her being a marriage prospect with Shah Rukh Khan was added just as filler to boost the running time. The film’s plot would have been just fine if they omitted Preity Zinta’s character altogether. Another bad point about the plot is the ending. While I will not tell you the ending itself, I will state that it felt kind of like a cop-out ending. While it was certainly conclusive with zero doubt, I felt like the writers took the easy path. Then again, knowing the 7th stage of Arabic romance, I am not surprised by the ending. But I’m always a happy ending type of guy and this sort-of unhappy ending left me feeling a bit cheated.

Score: 8/10

Overall

Score: 8.375/10

Bombay Review

This is a review about the 1995 Tamil film titled Bombay.

First off a little background about this film and me. At the time of writing this review, I had just finished watching it for the second time ever. When I first watched this film, I was about 12 years old. Being the young, stupid kid I was, I disliked this film a lot when my mother first showed it to me. I saw it purely as a lame romance film set against a bunch of religious zealots killing each other. Now, 10 years later, while I was surfing YouTube, I stumbled the song “Uyire Uyire” from the film and was actually impressed by the song. So I decided to sit down and re-watch it. Now that I’m older, I was able to appreciate this film much more during my second viewing. I now consider it to be a classic of Tamil cinema. Yes, I know that some people’s definition of classic Tamil cinema differs from my definition, but I was born int he 90s, so films from the 90s feel classic to me. Anyhow, enough background! Let’s get on to reviewing this film.

 

Acting/Characters

All I can say is wow. Seriously, the acting in this film from the main and supporting characters is fantastic. Again, Manisha Koirala shows off her acting skill by portraying a young school girl thrust from rural into city life, and then a distraught mother perfectly. Her acting easily carries the entire film. This film has cemented her in my personal actress Hall of Fame. There are not many actresses who can capture my attention and hold it for a 2.5 hour movie just on the strength of their acting alone. The character she plays in the film is well developed. We get to see her background including her religion, her family and most importantly, how she grows and develops over the course of the film. I can’t say I have seen very many films (Tamil or otherwise) that have shown the level of growth that Koirala’s character undergoes. Of course, Manisha is not the only star of this film. We have her counterpart, Arvind Swamy. While he does not give that great of an impression at a beginning, soon I was impressed by his acting as well. The man really knows how to portray emotions. Again, just like Manisha’s character, Arvind’s character also grows during the film. Then of course, we get to the two actors that played Arvind’s father and Manisha’s father respectively: Nasser and Vasudevan. Both of these men show some serious acting prowess. While you are watching them, you would think that these actors hate each other and hate their contemporary’s religion  in real life. That’s how strong their acting is. Again, both of the characters that these actors play also develop and change during the course of the film. All in all, a solid cast delivering solid characters.

Score: 9/10

 

Music

I think it is safe to say that this is one of the best set of songs that A. R. Rahman has ever composed for a film. The tracks cover a wide diversity of genres from ballads/melodies to more fast-paced dance-ish songs. Each song is memorable and consequently each song has made it into my music collection. They are that good. Rahman takes full advantage of the singers and instrumentals to deliver songs that are powerful and emotional. I actually felt the songs affecting my emotional state as I was watching the movie. Same with the instrumental soundtrack used during the various scenes in the film. The music was perfect in creating the atmosphere that Mani Ratnam wanted to show to the audience. The tracks “Uyire Uyire, “Kannale” and “Malarodu” were incredibly powerful tracks that fit perfectly for the scenes, moments and dance sequences they were used in. All in all, an astounding soundtrack. I will not go too much into the music videos for the songs themselves. They all did a wonderful job of keeping up with the quality of the songs. I would however like to highlight that the music videos for “Uyire Uyire” and “Kannale” were fantastic. The shots used in “Uyire Uyire” were beautiful and the use of nature to accent the emotion of the song was brilliantly done. “Kannale” also managed to keep up with the song itself and showcased some beautiful scenes.

Score: 9/10

 

Cinematography

After watching this movie, it is pretty obvious that the cinematography is amazing. The locations and shots used during the beginning of the film are beautiful to look at. I found myself replaying certain scenes over and over again just to enjoy the landscape and weather. Then there is the entire sequence with the riots in Bombay. The props, the set, costumes and makeup were all incredibly detailed. You saw people’s clothes get dirty as they were moving through the chaos, cars were moving, trash and smoke everywhere. It looked exactly how a riot was supposed to look. The use of cloudy weather was also a nice touch and contributed to the negative atmosphere of the entire riot portion of the film. Mani Ratnam also had no qualms about using tons of extras to feel like the riots actually had mass and momentum instead of looking like it was a small group of people. Indeed, the entire film looked beautiful.

Score: 8/10

 

Plot

Now the important bit, the plot. All I can say is wow. We start off with Arvind and Manisha born into a Hindu and a Muslim family respectively. They are from worlds very different from each other and have fathers who are incredibly religious and dislike the other family’s religion. We see them meet, and see their love overcome their religious differences. We seem them move to Bombay from a rural village and adapt to big city life. We see them raise a family together and teach their kids both religions in a respectful manner. We see their parents come to visit their grand children and how the grand children have allowed each of their parents to come to respect each others’ religion. We the family survive the ethnic 1993 riots of Bombay. It’s not everyday that we see a film about a couple who are from different religions trying to survive in a world where the religions of the couple are at each other’s throats. But, the film is not purely a love story. It manages to delicately weave into the story an exploration of the religious divide between Hinduism and Islam, and how the two co-exist in India in a tense yet mostly stable state. We see what happens when that stability breaks down and both religions clash, how it can escalate into a vicious cycle that feeds itself, and how people can overcome their differences to join together to end the conflict between the two religions. The film has several fantastic moments where various characters highlight how despite being two different religions, Hindus and Muslims are really the same people on the inside. In fact, one moment that really stuck out to me is when the lady that saves one of Arvind’s and Manisha’s kids tells him (and I’m paraphrasing here) “Hinduism is one path to god. Islam is another path to god. They both go to the same god, but I have no idea why people fight like this.” The entire plot takes place over about 6 years from Arvind and Manisha first meeting to the riots. What amazes me is that despite all these different stages of life being shown, the film did not feel overly long. All I can say is that my skepticism from my first viewing of this film has been totally blown out of the water. This is one of those films where I actually was thinking about the consequences of the two main characters’ actions instead of just being pulled along for the ride.

Score: 9/10

 

Overall

Score: 8.75 / 10

This is a must see film, regardless of whether you are Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, or any other religion. As a self-proclaimed atheist, even I enjoyed this film immensely, and I’m sure many others will as well.

Naan Ee Review

Today, I am going to reviewing a more recent Tamil film, Naan Ee. The basic premise of the film sounds silly, a man is reincarnated into a fly. As the fly, he has to defend his love interest from the antagonist of the film. Yes, the premise is totally ridiculous and it is not hard to dismiss this film outright. But surprisingly, this film does not that bad. Read on for more.

Acting/Characters

The three stars of this film are Nani, Sudeep and Samantha Prabhu. The real star of this entire film is Sudeep. The man switches easily from serious action and villain moments to pure silly comedic moments well. It’s hard to pretend you are in a fight against a house fly, but Sudeep pulls it off flawlessly. The femaile heroine, Samantha does a decent job of her role. Unfortunately like many Tamil films, the heroines usually don’t get to show off their versatility very well, and Samantha’s role in this film prevents her from doing anything spectacular acting wise. However, like Sudeep, she manages to interact well with a CGI house fly without looking like she is faking it at all, so she gets points from me there. Finally, there is Nani. I am not going to evaluate his acting much because he was in the movie for like the first 30 minutes. He does a wonderful job playing the love-struck boy chasing after a girl. The characters themselves are not fleshed out very well and are very very 2-dimensional. While this does not detract that greatly from the film, it does result in a few points being taken off for this section.

Overall, Sudeep single-handedly carries the entire acting team through this entire film despite the 2-dimensional characters that are in this film.

Score: 8/10

Music

As far as I can tell, there were two distinct song/dance/music video sequences in this entire film. While both were good, only one song from the entire film will actually make it into my music collection. However, that is not going to result in an abysmal score in this section. Yes, there were not many memorable songs. But let’s be honest, it would be hard to add many song/dance sequences to this film without the sequences looking forced. After all, this film is about a guy and a house fly duking it out. There is not much room for fancy songs. That said, the background instrumental track did its job well during the various scenes of the film and definitely contributed strongly to the atmosphere. Thus, the music gets an average score.

Score: 6/10

Cinematography/Special Effects

This really is where the movie shines. The movie is full of special effects, especially considering the fact that it stars a CGI house fly. I think this is a good movie to use as an example of Kollywood finally catching up to Hollywood’s CGI standards. While this movie is not quite at Hollywood’s level yet, it’s special effects can definitely hold their own alongside Hollywood blockbusters. The house fly itself is well detailed and its movements are convincing. Same with a sequence where there are birds chasing the house fly. There is also a sequence where the antagonist shoots up an entire house and the special effects are good enough that it looks like a classic shoot-em-up Die Hard film. The special effects team should be commended for their great work on this film. The cinematography itself is standard fare for these kinds of films. The colors were correctly chosen, angles were fine, no shaky sequences, etc. All done well.

Score: 9/10

Plot

This is arguably the weakest part of the film. Let’s get one thing straight, the premise of this film does not help the story. It’s very hard to come up a good story for a film about a house fly. While the script writer for this film does come up with a good enough story, the film certainly won’t be winning any awards for this story. The story is simple and straight forward. The antagonist wants the same girl that the hero of the film likes. However, for the antagonist, the heroine also likes the hero. So the antagonist does what any good antagonist would do, and gets rid of the hero so he can have the heroine for himself. Of course, the hero is reincarnated as a house fly and is now out to stop the antagonist from getting the heroine. While certainly many parts of the plot are not very original, they come together well enough to keep the audience entertained for the 2 hour film. There were some plot holes that could have been fixed, but these problems did not ruin the film for me. In fact, despite the premise, I found that I enjoyed the film. There were tons of laughs and some tense action moments. One thing viewers should keep in mind is that this is a lighthearted film not meant to be taken seriously. Thus, I am not going to dock too many points on the plot score.

Score: 7 / 10

Overall: 7.5 / 10

 

Ayan Review

I am going to attempt to do reviews of tv shows, movies, and video games that I play. Hopefully, it will improve my writing which has gotten fairly poor over the past couple of years.

First up, I am reviewing Ayan. Yes, yes, giggle all you want that I am watching this movie 3 years late, but its hard to come by Bluray versions of Tamil movies these days. Anyways, as usual, this review may contain minor spoilers, but I will try to avoid it as much as possible. All of the spoilers will be contained in the plot part of the review, so if you want, you can skip that part. Anyways, on with the review.

Acting/Characters

First up, let’s talk about the main actors and their characters. As usual, Surya does a great job of showing his ability to do a wide variety of scenes from comedy, action, drama, etc. No complaints from him here. Tamannaah, while beautiful to look at, as usual (in my opinion) falls short in the acting department. I saw her first in Paiyaa, and if any of you can recall, she doesn’t talk much or do much for much of that film. While she gets much more dialog here, from what I have seen, her acting is in the good enough category, but it is pretty clear that Surya outshines her in this department. Both main characters are enjoyable to watch in this film. What really amazes me about this film is the side characters. Some of them are cookie cutter and 2 dimensional, but a few of the main supporting ones like Prabhu and Jagan actually act well enough that you can like their characters. That’s all I have to say in this department.

While there are many good performances, some of the 2D side characters and Tamannaah’s acting reduce the score a bit.

Score: 7.5 / 10

Music

There are memorable, catchy tunes in this song. The melody piece is also a nice tune and good to listen to. Once again, Harris Jeyaraj proves his mettle as a music composer. The music videos themselves vary. Some of them are solid with good shots and costumes. Some of them hit their mark. Again some of the transitions into the music segments and back are well done. Some of them are completely jarring. Bonus points also go in this department to the fact that several of the music videos actually contributed to the story and characters instead of being completely detached in remote lands.

Score: 8 / 10

Cinematography

Was it good? Yes.

Was it memorable? No.

The cinematography was good, but definitely not something I will remember years from now. The locations they used for a lot of the film are done well. The action sequences have good angles, no shaky cameras and you can clearly see what was going on. So at this point, so far so good. However, some problems are present. Why is Congo portrayed with a perpetual tint that causes it to lose a bunch of its colour? I know that world perception of that country is not great, but seriously, why must the editors make it look like it is some depressing wasteland to live in. I was definitely not a big fan of that. The car chases also showed problems. It was very obvious that the camera footage was sped up quite a bit to make it look like the fast moving car chases. That works well in straight lines, but when the cars are zig zagging and executing sharp turns, it looks totally cartoonish and shatters the standard set up by the foot and fight scenes. These parts almost ruined the movie for me to be honest.

Score: 6.5 / 10

Plot

The plot suffered pacing problems. The first hour felt far too slowly paced and there was no real villain during that first hour. The fact that it took them a whole hour to develop the film’s antagonist is kind of ridiculous. They could have shorted this film by a good 30-45 minutes if they took out a bunch of extraneous sequences. Did the antagonist really need an hour to develop? Nope, the plot made it fairly clear in the beginning where the antagonist was going. The writer could have just sped up the pace a bit, and we could have gotten a more leaner movie out of it. The movie also walked a very fine line between violent retribution and a more peaceful revenge. The moments where some of the supporting characters died looked like it could be moments where the movie would spiral into the common trope of violent retribution that many Tamil action films devolve into (cough Vijay cough). Thankfully, Prahbu’s supporting character kept it from devolving into violence until the end. I was impressed by how they focused a good chunk of the revenge on a less violent path where they used Surya’s skills to seize drug shipments that the antagonist was importing into India. But again, it was a tight line and at moments, it felt like the film could fall off the line towards the violent retribution path. I’m glad that except for the end, the film continued to walk that line. It is refreshing to see Tamil action films not devolve into the protagonist barging into the antagonist’s stronghold and proceeding to cut his henchmen up. The film ended on a happy note which always gets bonus points for me. Overall, the plot is good enough that you will enjoy the movie, but is certainly not astounding enough for it to be getting critical acclaim.

Score: 7 / 10

Overall Score: 7.25 / 10

Ayan is a solid film that will keep your entertained without feeling like you wasted your time at the end of it.