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“Sultan”… A well-made, enjoyable sports drama

Spoilers ahead… Watching a Salman Khan film today reminds me of watching Woody Allen’s films in the 1990s, when the sixty-something actor/director kept pairing himself with decades-younger actresses like Elisabeth Shue and Julia Roberts. I remember thinking: Dude, I’m trying to look at this as just a movie, without bringing your off-screen story in. But […]

Moving images, moving words

A tribute to Abbas Kiarostami in his own words, and words from his cinema. Abbas Kiarostami, the hugely acclaimed and influential Iranian writer-director who passed away this week, was, at heart, a poet. In his contribution to a Guardian series in which photographers talked about their favourite works, he said, “It’s said that in the […]

“Dhillukku Dhuddu”… Neither very scary, nor very funny

Spoilers ahead… Dhillukku Dhuddu is less a movie than a manifestation of Santhanam’s career crisis. What does a comedian do when past his expiry date as the hero’s sidekick? Why, he turns hero, of course. So we get an introduction song, love duets with vapid and fair-skinned North Indian import (Shanaya) who can’t be bothered […]

“Adra Machan Visilu”… Excruciating!

Spoilers ahead… According to Thiraivannan’s Adra Machan Visilu, Tamil Nadu’s No. 1 hero is a 22-year-old played by ‘Power Star’ Srinivasan. Something about this cheesy premise sounds promising. With this actor, you’re never sure if he’s in on the joke that is his screen presence, or if he’s oblivious to it. He wears shiny red […]

Cinema, society, chicken, egg

We need to rigorously study the impact of cinema on society before blaming films for every shocking headline. At least for a while, the case that shocked Chennai played out like a Tamil movie. A dark-skinned boy (Ramkumar) from a small town set eyes on a fair-skinned, upper-class girl (Swathi). He fell in love. He […]

“Shorgul”… A good subject trivialised by bad filmmaking

Spoilers ahead… And the award for Most Gratuitous Item Number goes to… Shorgul. So this is what happens. It’s night. A door opens. A man slips out, clutching a bag. He travels to another part of town. He stops in front of a house. Another door opens. This time, a woman. She takes the bag. […]

Broad Reflections #4: Is it really that short a route from Kodambakkam to Nungambakkam?

Following the grisly Swathi/Ramkumar case, just wanted to open a discussion about Tamil cinema’s depiction of stalking and the actions of this particular deranged individual. One part of me says that there are millions who watch these films and a mere handful who are inspired to do these things, so the problem lies not with the […]


A bit of a rant about how we keep dusting off the same set of “greatest hits” every time we want to remember a composer. It was RD Burman’s 77th birthday last Monday. Google honoured the composer with a doodle. Behind an illustration of RD that made him look like a round-faced schoolboy, there were […]

“Paisa”… Not bad, as moral-science movies go

Spoilers ahead… Among the more heartening trends in Tamil cinema is its gradual detachment from the middle classes, and attachment to the lower income groups. Earlier, films like Pasi were one-offs. Today, they’re practically a movement. The protagonist of Paisa (Murugan, played by Sreeram) is a rag picker. He falls in love with Veni (Aara), […]

“Jackson Durai”… A well-crafted misfire

Spoilers ahead… What the thaali was to Tamil cinema of the 1980s, the haunted house is today – it spells kaching! The spirited location in Jackson Durai is inhabited by ghosts from the British-Indian era, and an SP named Sathya (Sibiraj) is dispatched to investigate the spooky happenings. The lyrically sophisticated song that accompanies him […]

“Appa”… Messages galore, but where the movie?

Spoilers ahead… Samuthirakani’s new film, Appa, contains a scene in which a father (named Dayalan, and played by Samuthirakani) facilitates for his son a cup-of-coffee kind of meeting with a girl from school. It’s not exactly a date, though. The boy, a teenager, is confused by his feelings towards this girl, perhaps towards all girls. […]

“Junooniyat”… An old-fashioned weepie that barely works

Spoilers ahead… A week after Udta Punjab, the spring is back in Punjab’s step. Those big glasses of lassi, they’re back. As are parathas glistening with ghee, fields with yellow flowers. Also back are those ginormous weddings where no one, apparently, just sits around and catches up with family. Instead of an RSVP, the invitation […]

“7 Hours To Go!”… A thriller that tries so hard to be cool, it hurts

Spoilers ahead… Saurabh Varma’s 7 Hours To Go opens with four armed men, in masks, breaking into a hi-tech building. The background music does its best to make us believe Godzilla is in the building too. Who are these men, and what does this event have to do with Arjun (Shiv Pandit), who’s holding people […]

“Raman Raghav 2.0.”… A welcome almost-return to form

Spoilers ahead… Raman Raghav 2.o is divided into chapters whose titles appear in a lurid, pulp-fiction font – and the best chapter is titled The Sister. In a gut-churning subversion of the bhai-behen reunion scenes of Hindi cinema, we see Raman (or Ramanna, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui) walk into his sister’s (a superb Amruta Subhash) […]

Crime does pay

On the tenth anniversary of ‘Pudhupettai,’ a look at other antihero films and what made this one special. The anti-hero has always been a prominent presence in Tamil cinema, but he usually came with a “but only because.” Sivaji Ganesan, in Andha Naal, took to selling Indian secrets to Japan, but only because his big […]

“Amma Kanakku”… A feel-good film with a problem at its core

Spoilers ahead… Despite what the title may have you believe, Amma Kanakku is not about the monthly bills at a certain Poes Garden residence. This amma is named Shanti (Amala Paul), and she has no assets, disproportionate or otherwise. She juggles many jobs. She works at a fish market. She washes vessels at a roadside eatery. […]

“Metro”… A terrific premise, but let down by the cast

Spoilers ahead… Director Anandakrishnan zooms in on a terrific subject in Metro. We read about chain-snatching all the time, but this is the first film to delve into the subject and make it a backdrop – the way, say, Udta Punjab tackles drugs. We see how gold moves through the black market. First, a guy […]

“Raja Mandhiri”… As with most films these days, some scattered laughs

Spoilers ahead… Opening shots can be deceptive. Raja Mandhiri begins with a glimpse of a temple, and the camera glides over trees and fields and finally lights on a house. This is the only part of the film that soars. Outside the house, a child’s parents begin to argue about his first word. The mother […]

“Dhanak”… A ‘cute’ fairy tale that could have used other shades

Spoilers ahead… Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak, set in Rajasthan,  is the story of a boy named Chotu (Krrish Chhabria), who turned blind from malnutrition. His parents are dead. Dhanak is the story of his sister (Hetal Gada), who looks after him. She even fails her exams so that she can be in his class, helping him. Dhanak […]

“Udta Punjab”… Very well made, but also very banal

Spoilers ahead… Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab opens with trees swaying in the breeze at night, topped by a handful of stars. The calm composition is held for a while, but soon, light from a motorcycle pierces this idyll. The sound too. Three men are on the bike. “Packet nikaal,” someone says. You think they’re going […]

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