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Village people

Thoughts on ‘Thithi’, a small film with big buzz and bigger ambitions. The burden of expectation can sometimes be too much for a small film. Raam Reddy’s Kannada directorial debut Thithi won last year’s National Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada, which seems just about right. When we think “National Award-winning film,” we think […]

“Uriyadi”… ?A gritty (and refreshingly grown-up) little film

Spoilers ahead… Uriyadi, set in the 1990s, begins with four youngsters in an engineering college in Trichy. At first, they appear to be fairly typical boys. They’re from smaller towns and they’re enjoying being free, smoking and drinking and celebrating birthdays by smushing cake on the face. Slowly, we see there’s a bit of a […]

“Idhu Namma Aalu”… ?A fairly fun love story that toys with reel and real

Spoilers ahead… As sarakku scenes go, it’s the usual scenario. Two men get drunk. One of them talks about the girl who ditched him, the one that ran away. The other one talks about the girl he loved, the one that got away. (In Tamil cinema, the woman is always the heartbreaker, the man always […]

“Sarbjit”… Another week, another underwhelming biopic

Spoilers ahead… Omung Kumar was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s production designer before he turned director, so certain things are a given. He likes strong women characters. His first film was Mary Kom. His latest is Sarbjit, about the Punjabi man who wandered off into Pakistan and was arrested as a spy – but the film should […]

A king and his times

Looking back at the Ilayaraja era, which began forty years ago, with the release of ‘Annakili’ on 14 May, 1976. So Ilayaraja’s music and I, we’re both in our forties. This doesn’t mean that his is the only music I grew up with. The songs on radio and television came from the 60s, 50s, sometimes […]

“Marudhu”… A generic (though well-shot) action entertainer

Spoilers ahead… The first scene of Marudhu shows a sickle being forged. This can mean only one of two things. Either we’re going to watch a motion picture about the birth of communism. Or it’s a masala movie set in Madurai. With Vishal (as Marudhu) in full action mode, it’s clearly the latter. He is […]

Brief Reel: Kankaanikkum Maranam

I get a lot of requests to watch short films, and I thought I’d use the blog to showcase some of them — this one’s called Kankaanikkum Maranam, adapted from a short story by Azhagiya Periyavan and directed by M Arikarasudhan. Most short film makers concentrate on plot, but this one’s also very well directed, with attention […]

“Dear Dad”… A modest, involving drama about a family coping with a secret

Spoilers ahead… They should invent a name for the genre of films that are small, intimate, about 90 minutes long, infused with a Hollywood-indie-movie vibe, filled with good (but not great) writing and down-to-earth performances, scored with guitar and piano rather than a cascade of violins, carefully (but not fussily) framed and shot, attentive to […]

“Azhar”… A weak attempt to whitewash a disgraced sporting hero

Spoilers ahead… There’s a shot in Tony D’Souza’s Azhar guaranteed to give gooseflesh to viewers of a certain age. The film doesn’t use last names, so we’re watching “Javed” bat. He whacks a ball to the boundary and smirks that “Javed” smirk. He hoists the next ball for what looks like another encounter with the […]

Lights, camera… and action!

Thoughts on fight sequences that are more than just… fight sequences. I sat glumly through the new Captain America movie. It was too long, and it took itself too seriously. There’s probably something to the theory that no post-9/11 superhero film can afford to be, you know, light and fun and nothing but escapist entertainment, […]

“Ko 2.”… A gentler vigilante movie that kind-of works

Spoilers ahead… Sarath’s Ko 2 – an in-name-only sequel that carries over only one character from the earlier film, Chief Minister Yogeeswaran (Prakash Raj) – borrows its premise from the Telugu film Prathinidhi, but Tamil viewers will instantly recall Cheran’s Desiya Geetham. It’s the same one-line plot: the CM is kidnapped. But it’s not quite […]

“Pencil”… A vaguely watchable whodunit

Spoilers ahead… Pencil plays like an Agatha Christie mystery set in a posh school. The victim is Nithin (Shariq Hassan) – he’s stabbed in the neck with the titular implement. (We’re not shown his last words, but allow me a guess: “2B or not 2B?”) In true Christie fashion, there are many with a motive. […]

Broad Reflections #3: Tamil short stories

So this is a plug, not just for the book you’re going to read about in a bit but also for the Tamil short story. The first grown-up stories I read were in Tamil. Enid Blytons and Hardy Boys adventures and other kinds of English reading came from the library, but I’d get done with […]

“One Night Stand”… Material for a major sexual-equality statement is trivialised by cast and director

Spoilers ahead… For a while, One Night Stand plays out exactly like you expect it to. Gauzy red scarves brushing against skin. Horny men in Phuket. And a hookup. He’s Urvil (Tanuj Virwani). She’s Celina (Sunny Leone). His name means “sea.” Her name means “sky.” When he begins to flirt with her, she says sadly, […]

In the hills, they hope for change

The tribals of Sathyamangalam are seeing red during these elections. The Oorali tribals of the village of Kaalidhimbam, in the Sathyamangalam hills, say that the houses they live in were built during Kamaraj’s rule, some sixty years ago. They want new houses. And the government says they can get new houses under the Pasumai Veedu […]

“24.”… An intelligent, joyous mix of sci-fi and masala-myth

Spoilers ahead… A discussion about 24 must begin with Suriya, and a discussion about Suriya must begin with the fact that you have to travel back in time, to Rakta Charitra in 2010, to get anything close to a performance from the actor. Had Suriya been just one of those “mass stars,” from whom we […]

“Baaghi”… A very basic ‘mass’ movie, but the action is tops

Spoilers ahead… As a Tamilian, I’m going to be nursing nightmares for years about Baaghi, for the film features an act of murder using… poisoned curd rice. To those of you who don’t get it, let me attempt an explanation: this is the gastronomic equivalent of the scene in Khakee where Akshay Kumar is betrayed […]

Still talking to us

Forty years on, ‘Taxi Driver’ remains a stunning example of what a great director can do with an already great script. For a film that’s become all kinds of iconic, Taxi Driver has entered its forties with very little noise. It wasn’t until The Hollywood Reporter rounded up cast and crew for an “oral history” […]

“Manithan”… A hmmm-not-all-that-bad remake

Spoilers ahead… Ahmed’s Manithan is a remake of the Hindi hit Jolly LLB, and the surprise is that it Tamil-ises the original without hero-ising it. Udhayanidhi Stalin, who plays small-time lawyer Sakthi, isn’t out to get us with his gethu. Sakthi is a failure in every sense – and he knows it. He laughs along […]

Guest Post: What Queen and Tamasha tell us about gender stereotypes

Beginning a new feature on this blog, features written by others. This is a post by Chinmayee Kantak and Sampada Karandikar. “Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” –  Rumi Vikas Bahl’s Queen, which released in March 2014, deals with the story of a young woman whose […]

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