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“Tanu Weds Manu Returns”… A romance that struggles to measure up to its heroine’s performance

Spoilers ahead… What an odd title: Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Considering the audience just needs to be told that this is a sequel, was Tanu and Manu Again unavailable? Tanu Weds Manu Returns sounds like Tanu weds and Manu returns. The blue-penciller in me kept wanting to insert a comma midway. Though, really, it’s Tanu […]

You’ll run out of adjectives raving about this one

Spoilers ahead… You may have seen a lot of David Lean comparisons in the reviews for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s not difficult to join the dots. The scope is epic. It all happens in a desert. Tremendous emphasis on visuals, with extraordinary use of screen space as well as 3D technology. Had […]

“Purampokku Engira Podhuvudamai”… An entertaining prison-escape drama that also manages to make you think

Spoilers ahead… A lot of filmmakers make “message” movies. SP Jhananathan makes propaganda movies. His films aren’t about walking home with a warm glow and a trite little homily ringing in the head. He weaves complex tapestries from skeins of impassioned ideology. His first film, Iyarkai, an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s White Nights, was something I […]

“Bombay Velvet”… An Anurag Kashyap film with bafflingly few traces of Anurag Kashyap

Spoilers ahead… When I heard Anurag Kashyap was making a movie about Bombay, I wondered – despite the heavily Hollywoodised imagery – if he would tip a hat to the “Bombay movie.” Bombay Velvet opens, instead, as a Bombay documentary, with grainy, sepia-toned footage that gives us glimpses of the city, round about 1949. There’s prohibition. […]

“36 Vayadhinile”… Worth a cheer, despite a broad TV-soap approach

Spoilers ahead… In Rosshan Andrrews’s 36 Vayadhinile, Jyotika plays an alien. What else could the character, named Vasanthi, be? She’s 36. Her eyesight is no longer what it was. Her hair is turning silver. She has a teen-aged daughter. She works in a government job and lives in a joint family. And to unwind, she […]

“Gabbar is Back”… One of those masala movies that’s too “cool” to be one

Spoilers ahead… Gabbar Is Back, directed by Krish (and based on an original story by AR Murugadoss), keeps making us think it is the real deal, a real masala movie. We see dabbawalas. We witness a lavani performance. We step into a barbershop. In other words, we see not Mumbai but Bombay, which is always […]

“Piku”… An irresistible amble with a dysfunctional family

Spoilers ahead… We haven’t seen a heroine like Piku (Deepika Padukone). That’s an odd word to use in this case, heroine – it suggests not just the female lead of a film, but the Rani of Jhansi, or at least the Rani Mukerji of Mardaani. Piku, on the other hand, is simply an Everywoman, bringing […]

Crowd funding inititative for Orson Welles’ last film

Got this via email. Now go do your good deed for the day. Hi Mr. Rangan, Without mincing words, I am writing this mail to you to seek the help of your name. A crowd funding Inititative has been started to finance the completion of Orson Welles’ last film “The Other Side Of the Wind”, his […]

“India Pakistan”… A not-so-bad comedy

Spoilers ahead… Midway through India Pakistan, Karthick (Vijay Antony) and Mellina (Sushma Raj) – Chennai-based lawyers both – find themselves in a village. Karthick is hanging out with some guys who think Mellina is easy: andha maadhiri ponnu. It’s the kind of cheap talk you hear all too often about urban women who have a […]

In Salman, they trust

A fascinating documentary shows us what Salman Khan means to an India that’s not quite shining. One of the more perplexing moments on Season Four of Koffee with Karan was when Salman Khan made an appearance – his first on the show – and declared, “I am a virgin.” He added that he was going […]

“Vai Raja Vai”… An inoffensive caper

Spoilers ahead… Aishwarya R. Dhanush likes men who see things. The protagonist of her first film, 3, saw holographic demons. Or something. The protagonist of her follow-up, Vai Raja Vai, sees the future. At least, he knows what’s coming. That’s his boon and the film’s curse. Early on, we get a hint that the clairvoyance […]

“Uttama Villain”… A superb core let down by lackluster filmmaking

Spoilers ahead… Kamal Haasan’s films suffer sometimes because they end up looking like vanity projects, but Uttama Villain, directed by Ramesh Aravind, couldn’t be anything else – for this is the story of a vain star named Manoranjan (Kamal Haasan). This is cinema about cinema, and because Tamil cinema is really about the hero, the […]

Terms of indoor-ment

Every time I return from a trip abroad, the one thing I’m glad to return to is the health faucet, even if I’ve never really figured out why it is called that. We are unafraid to announce other parts of the anatomy. Without a care, we say “eye shadow,” “ear buds,” “nose ring,” “tongue piercing,” […]

“Court”… An impressive achievement

Spoilers ahead… Note the way Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court begins. An old man. A bunch of kids. The setting: an unremarkable room. The old man is trying to teach the kids something. He’s teaching them about butterflies. He’s teaching them about the country’s geography. Now, note the way Court ends. Another old man. Another bunch of […]

Comments? Or bulletin board?

After going through the comments under the “O Kadhal Kanmani review,” a reader wrote in via email that not many people read the comments section and therefore it might be useful to… I’ll let you read for yourself. Any thoughts? Just read the comments to your befitting review of OK Kanmani. What wonderful conversations. Lot’s […]

“Margarita With a Straw”… A light, lovely tale of sexual awakening and other things that make up life

Spoilers ahead… Laila (Kalki Koechlin), the protagonist of Shonali Bose’s Margarita With a Straw, is like any other person in their late teens/early twenties. She’s on Facebook. She’s terrific at chess. She’s into music – she writes lyrics for a band called Tribe. She’s friends with these musicians and she has a crush on the […]

“Mr. X”… A sci-fi disaster

Spoilers ahead… Vikram Bhatt’s Mr. X is an irredeemably bad film, and proof of its irredeemable badness arrives very early. We are with Raghu (Emraan Hashmi) and Sia (Amyra Dastur) in their bedroom. They’ve just made love – at least we think they’ve made love. We don’t actually see anything. This coyness is a little […]

Caste and class in popular Tamil cinema

Observing and interpreting class or caste markers in the discussion of a film isn’t the same as celebrating them. I co-wrote a screenplay some years ago, and we named the hero Rahul. We hadn’t thought about Rahul’s caste.  The only thing he was, in our minds, was young – and Rahul sounded like a young […]

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