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“Kallappadam”… A meta movie with good ideas that needed better filmmaking

Spoilers ahead… In Jigarthanda, we got a meta movie that was about moviemaking itself, and the meta-ness was underlined by the protagonist being named after the director. Kallappadam tries to go one-up – or maybe we should say four-up. The film features a quartet of protagonists, and they’re all named after the behind-the-scenes people. Actually, […]

Thoughts about the news out there

I hate it when they build statues for great men like Gandhi. This isn’t about the man, really, or what matters about him, what he left behind, what we should imbibe from his life. This is about you, showing that you are awesome enough to have a statue built for Gandhi. This is about a […]

“NH10.”… An unsatisfying thriller with too much on its plate

Spoilers ahead… When a smart, talented filmmaker takes on genre material, there’s often the tendency to inflate it, to make it mean something – and sometimes the material just buckles under this baggage. The visceral thrills, the purity, of the genre get blunted by the efforts to make things “classy.” Something like this happened when […]

Retracing a father’s footsteps

Dissuaded by his father from joining the family shoe-trading business, Atul Sabharwal turned filmmaker. Now, in a documentary titled ‘In Their Shoes’, he looks at the shoe trade in Agra – how it began, and what it is today. After Aurangzeb, a big, fat mainstream movie for Yash Raj studios, what made you decide on […]

“Mahabalipuram”… A “Subramaniyapuram” wannabe that’s just crude melodrama

Spoilers ahead… The quick way to sum up Mahabalipuram is that it’s a veritable how-not-to manual. How not to write characters. (A thus-far decent-ish bloke suddenly becomes a rapist.) How not to develop convincing situations. (One moment, the heroine is angry with the hero because he tried to feel her up in a movie theatre. […]

“Rajathanthiram”… A solid heist thriller

Spoilers ahead… Rajathanthiram is a curiously old-fashioned title that suggests Machiavellian – or closer home, Chanakyan – deviousness in matters of statecraft, and it’s perhaps the only false note in this very twisty, modern-day thriller. Arjun (Veera) is a small-time conman and, at least initially, he’s content lording over his teensy-weensy empire of crime, with […]

“JK Enum Nanbanin Vaazhkai”… A melodrama pulls its punches by getting all hip on us

Spoilers ahead… A glance at the title of Cheran’s new film, JK Enum Nanbanin Vaazhkai, is enough to give you the heebie-jeebies. That word: nanban. Friendship has been reduced to such a boisterous, backslapping cliché in our cinema that we sigh and brace ourselves for a ceaseless stream of wisecracks from Santhanam. That we get […]

“Coffee Bloom”… A well-acted drama about how the past never leaves us

Spoilers ahead… Dev Anand (Arjun Mathur) is a coffee expert in Bangalore, but his heart is probably in the Himalayas – he wants to get away from it all, become a sanyasi. He keeps listening to spiritual discourses on his earphones, and his only friend appears to be Sondha (the charming Ishwari Bose-Bhattacharya), a cheerful […]

“Bench Talkies”… An okayish showcase for amateur talent

Spoilers ahead… Short films come in two flavours. One, the really professional kind, made by real filmmakers – these are shown at festivals, nominated for Oscars, and they do everything that feature films do. Check out, for instance, the insanely inventive German short The Centrifuge Brain Project, which lies somewhere between a mockumentary and a […]

“Enakkul Oruvan”… A knockout conceit, a middling movie

Spoilers ahead… One must hand it to Siddharth. For an actor whose successes have come mostly from playing characters in a narrow bandwidth (Kadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi, Rang De Basanti), he sure keeps trying to cover the spectrum. His earnestness is touching – it’s like watching one of those Oscar-ready, inspirational, against-all-odds movies where someone learns […]

“Dum Laga Ke Haisha”… An enchanting rom-com with a surprisingly dysfunctional core

Spoilers ahead… Sharat Katariya likes to take familiar stories and set them in places you don’t expect. In his first feature, 10ml Love, he relocated A Midsummer Night’s Dream to modern-day Mumbai. In Dum Laga Ke Haisha, he transports the rom-com – a traditionally urbane genre – to Haridwar of the 1990s. The era is […]

A place far, far away from Tamil cinema

Notes from an afternoon spent listening to the “Uttama Villain” album and talking to the composer Ghibran. A little after 12 last Saturday, I stepped into a recording studio in RA Puram. The television set in the reception area said that UAE were 36/3 in their World Cup match against India. There were a couple […]

“Ab Tak Chhappan 2.”… A needless sequel that feels like a relic from another age

Spoilers ahead… News is just out that they’re planning a sequel to Blade Runner, which was released in 1982. So as belated follow-ups go, Ab Tak Chhappan 2 isn’t all that belated. Still, the decision to add another chapter to Shimit Amin’s 2004 film (this one is directed by Aejaz Gulab) is a curious one. […]

“Kaaki Sattai”… Heavyweight film for lightweight hero

Spoilers ahead… Sivakarthikeyan’s star is on the rise, so you can’t just cut to him in the midst of a scene in your movie. But he doesn’t have that larger-than-life image – not yet, anyway – and he’s still known more as a comedian. How, then, to plan the hero-introduction shot? In Kaaki Sattai, the […]

“Badlapur”… A stunning thriller about PTSD

Spoilers ahead… The tag line for Sriram Raghavan’s new film Badlapur is “Don’t Miss The Beginning,” and we wonder, first, what’s so missable about it. Everything’s so… ordinary. We’re on this side of a street in Pune. At the other end, there’s a bank. There are a few passers-by. There’s the noise of traffic and […]

“Qissa”… A chilling tale about what it’s like to be in a limbo

Spoilers ahead… The Partition saga Qissa (in Punjabi) is ostensibly about a woman who’s brought up as a man, but the film isn’t about gender identity at all. At least, not in the way we talk about it in these LGBTQ times. The director Anup Singh is after something looser, vaguer. His entire film seems […]

“Shamitabh”… Mostly good, madly inventive, and then there’s that ending

Spoilers ahead… R Balki was put on earth for two reasons. One, to provide exciting projects for Ilayaraja and ensure that the maestro doesn’t languish in the south. Two, to provide exciting projects for Amitabh Bachchan and ensure that the superstar doesn’t languish in the shadow of his super-image. About the latter, first. When it […]

Apples, oranges, and a lot of stale cheese

If you want to know what was wrong with this year’s Oscar telecast, just Google up “2013 Tony Awards: Neil Patrick Harris Opening Number HD.” Now that is a show. There’s singing. There’s dancing. There’s acrobatics. He leaps through a hoop. And there’s magic – literal magic. Harris steps into a box on stage and […]

“Yennai Arindhaal”… A first-rate Ajith movie

Spoilers ahead… Before we begin to discuss Yennai Arindhaal as a Gautham Vasudev Menon film, we need to discuss it as an Ajith film – because he’s the elephant and you can’t get a proper look at the rest of the room without regarding him first. On the surface, this is very much a mass-hero […]

“MSG The Messenger of God”… You’re going to need God-given strength for this one

Spoilers ahead… As I was stepping out of a screening of MSG: The Messenger of God – as opposed to, you know, MSG: Do You Really Need It In Your Kitchen? – a man who was in the audience came up and asked how I’d liked the movie. I’d have told him the truth, but […]

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