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Friday, January 14, 2011


After fighting an enduring battle outside the theatre to get myself a ticket, I entered the cinema hall, battered and bruised, all set for Aadukalam nevertheless. The ambience was just right; I was watching a movie in a village after a long time as I hadn’t booked tickets in advance. The mood of the people around seemed to be in blissful confluence with the onscreen characters.

The movie starts off with a breezy voiceover by Vetrimaaran, a slide show encapsulating the history of rooster-fighting making up the background. As the title suggests, the movie is about battlefields and the fights that are orchestrated on and off the same. It’s also a tale of pride, ego, confidence, revenge and infidelity.

Rooster fighting forms the backbone of the movie; the movie see-saws through the lives of characters in the heart of Madurai who are solely dependent on the same for livelihood. The resulting possessiveness about the “art”, the honour and pride that comes with it proves to be Aadukalam’s Aadukalam. The characters, their emotions and their actions are chiseled in accordance with the happenings on the battle-field!

Everything that happens as a result of the battlefield endeavors and results make perfect sense; they take the movie towards the rightful destination modeled on realism. But it’s the side-tracks and the romantic interludes that fail to strike a chord. The romance in this movie can be compared to that in “7g”: in both cases, the heroine accepting the hero’s proposal seems impossible just because the female leads in both the movies find their respective pairs repulsive initially; also for the simple reason that their characters are diametrically opposite and so are their family backgrounds. The scenes outlining the lead actress’s disgust for the hero are so strong in both the movies that, though the directors of the respective movies try very hard to make us comprehend to the ensuing battle of love between the two at an emotional level, they fail. But I have to add that Vetri’s effort to fool us with his romantic fantasy has surely met with more success than Selva’s.
Acting is reason enough to give this movie a shot. I loved the old man who plays “Pettaikaran” more than Dhanush in this flick. Dhanush’s acting prowess, especially in the movies where he plays the “locallu” guy is well known. To emulate Dhanush and make a mark when Dhanush is playing his favourite character takes a lot of effort and surprisingly, the old man seems to have done it with graceful ease. Having said that, Dhanush himself has come up with a cracker of a performance. He reverberates with oodles of energy scene after scene and after Selva, Dhanush seems to be very comfortable working with Vetri! The partnership is a success again. Kishore is another asset to the team.

GV has come up with beautiful songs for the movie and they have beautifully blended with the mood; the placement of the songs warrant mention. The BGM though, didn’t appeal to me. It seemed very repetitive and monotonous. Editing is one big letdown in this movie: I wonder why our filmmakers are so intent on stretching a movie to 150 minutes and beyond. To make things worse, a lot of scenes have been scissored abruptly. Aadukalam is what it is solely because of its screenplay. The emotions have worked wonderfully well and the innovative engineering of a plethora of reactions around the red-hot core of rooster fighting made for intriguing viewing. The computer generated rooster fights have come out very well and the level of interest here is sure to keep the audience on seat edges. Lighting seems to be another neglected element in the movie, with the director making it difficult for us to differentiate between characters in a few scenes. Apparently, the director has employed this technique to reflect the emotions; but he needn’t have done it to this extent! It also takes the sheen of the otherwise flawless cinematography. One big surprise in Aadukalam was the disappearance of a seemingly important character after the end of the first half, who was apparently used only for the build up.

To sum it up, Aadukalam is refreshingly innovative and deserves applause for Vetrimaran’s eye for excruciating detail and desire for perfection. The movie is not without its set of flaws though. Go enjoy this flick and raise the bar on your expectation meter for Vetrimaran’s next venture! Hope he comes up with such innovative themes devoid of clichés in the future.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lost and forgotten

2010 turned out to be a highly satisfying year for the Tamil film industry. As box office success stories were scripted one after another, producers went laughing all the way to the bank. A lot has been said and written about these movies. But a lot of commendable efforts went down the drain too. Genuine hard work miraculously escaped the discerning eyes of the critics; failure at the box-office added insult to injury. A look at the unfortunate underachievers of 2010:
1. Porkalam: Ten minutes into this movie, I realised that I was in for something different, though I wasn’t sure if the movie viewing experience was going to be a satisfying one. The bizarre cinematography, the confusing colour tones and the insanely illogical screenplay backed by the disturbingly imposing imagery received a judicious justification by the end of the first half! Every missing chunk, every seemingly non-reasonable action of the characters acquired new meaning as turbidity made way for supreme clarity and excruciating detail. What possibly worked against the movie was the clichéd second half. The minimal dialogues that made viewing such a pleasurable experience gave way to a badly narrated flashback. A disappointingly scripted climax, festooned with formulae followed. Nevertheless, the overall movie experience was good and the movie surely deserved more than what it got.
2. Aayirathil oruvan: Though this one was mediocre at the box-office, thanks to its celebrity director and an enviable star cast, the movie got a rough deal from the critics. I’m yet to recover from the shock that I experienced when I saw that a “top” movie website had given it half on a scale of five! The sheer scale of the movie and the ambition of the director deserve mention. The whole film industry shamelessly went gaga about Endhiran whereas they unanimously chose to ignore the eruption of a classic among their ranks. While the whole film industry is fuming over the inability of today’s directors to churn out a script depicting the problems faced by the Eezham, Selvaraghavan quietly did it quite effectively and indirectly in the closing scenes of the movie. The superbly composed and meticulously written “Thai thinra manne” is one of the most under-rated songs of the year. Another heart-warming thing about this epic is that, it placed the spirit of Tamil at the centre of everything. I felt shame when I realised that I couldn’t understand my own mother-tongue completely when it was spoken the way it’s got to be. On the flip-side, Selva paying scant heed to the diction of the lead actresses in the first half of the movie was disappointing. So many cogent and powerful voices speak volumes about the importance of Tamil dialogues in Tamil cinema but hardly does anyone implement it. And when a director as significant as Selva did it, all the big-mouths slipped into hibernation mode!
3. Naanayam: Films based on bank robberies are not new to the world of cinema but it’s certainly something that’s hardly put its head up in Tamil cinema. Though this movie was laden with a few avoidable sequences, it certainly had scenes brimming with novelty. The interesting casting and the impressive background score added sparkle to the proceedings.
4. Vamsam: The director of “Pasanga” returned with “Vamsam” and the result was an intriguingly scripted drama which had its share of witty humour. A tale that narrated the history of various communities and the importance of retaining the pride of the same, the oft-seen climax involving a one on one tussle between the hero and the baddie proved to be its undoing.
5. Mandhira punnaghai: This psychological drama stood out for its inventive character sketching and dialogues. The protagonist reminded me of the lead character in Ayn Rand’s “fountainhead” and the concept of imagining non-existent characters brought back memories of “The beautiful mind” and our own “Kudaikkul Mazhai”. Though the influences are obvious, the treatment remains novel. Had the director worked on the casting and an alternate climax, this one could have been one of the many success stories of this year
6. Goa: The movie on the outset was a highly boring one and many jokes fell flat. But the expansive scope for a homosexual character was one of the few highlights of the movie. Cheers to the director solely for being bold enough!
7. IKMS: Yet another movie with a novel theme. Worth a watch purely for the satire factor. Compromises aplenty and a carelessly woven screenplay, the deft final touches and editor’s scissors were found wanting.
There were a lot of other films I missed out on. Orr iravu, Thaen maerku paruva kaatru to name a few, which “others” reckon, are pretty good. Sad that good attempts occasionally fall out! I sincerely hope people recognise novel attempts this New Year and such underachievers effectively pull off the disappearing act!