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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 […]

In verse

April, I hear, is National Poetry Month. Only in the United States, technically, but we can, we should appropriate it for the global village too. And so here I am, wondering how to celebrate NPM this morning While at my desk, waiting for my phone to charge And the laundry cycle to finish. Maybe I’ll […]

“O Kadhal Kanmani”… A lightweight but enjoyable romance

Spoilers ahead… After a long time, I caught myself smiling while watching a Mani Ratnam movie. The cuteness, the zingers, the youngness – it’s all back. Seen one way, O Kadhal Kanmani is something of a greatest-hits package. It’s as if the director is telling us: “So you didn’t like it when I went too […]

“Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varaverkirathu”… A sprawling, unwieldy drama about strugglers

Spoilers ahead… Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varaverkirathu is a variant on Angadi Theru. This, too, is about people from outside Chennai who come to the city with dreams of making it big, but find that life here is the stuff of nightmares. And yes, one of these dreamers – Chellapandi (Bobby Simha) – is a wannabe […]

“Broken Horses”… A wan remake of ‘Parinda’

Spoilers ahead… Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Broken Horses is about two brothers, Buddy (Chris Marquette) and Jakey (Anton Yelchin), and it opens with a note that this story is set 15 years ago. You could go back further – not just to Chopra’s Parinda, of which this is a loose remake, but to 1950s Hollywood, when […]

Towards a better critical culture in Tamil cinema

With the Internet’s help, we finally seem to have entered an era with more people being able to say what they really want to say. No wonder actors and filmmakers appear rattled. There used to be a fairy-tale time when only a handful of reviewers opined about a film with some kind of seriousness. These […]

“Dharam Sankat Mein”… A necessary film, though not a particularly good one

Spoilers ahead… The cleverest thing about Dharam Sankat Mein, directed by Fuwad Khan, is that title. The plot kicks off when Dharam Pal (Paresh Rawal), a sacred thread-wearing Brahmin in Ahmedabad, discovers he’s really a Muslim. So the obvious meaning of the title is that Dharam is in a sankat, crisis. But reduce his name […]

“Ek Paheli Leela”… A terrible reincarnation drama which may really be about Sunny Leone’s second avatar

Spoilers ahead… Let’s face it. Sunny Leone isn’t being hired for her face. It’s a pretty face, but it isn’t what’s getting her hired. Neither is she being hired for her acting, which, to put it kindly, makes Katrina Kaif look like Smita Patil. No. Sunny Leone is being hired for her unswerving obedience to […]

Something old, something new

Nice-ish. That’s the word I have right now for O Kadhal Kanmani, AR Rahman’s latest album for Mani Ratnam. It didn’t make me wince the way the soundtracks for Lingaa and Kochadaiyaan did. It didn’t activate every single one of my pleasure centres the way the soundtrack for I did. It’s somewhere in the middle. […]

“Sagaptham”… Uh, um, well, cough-cough, whatever

Spoilers ahead… How does one talk about Sagaptham, directed by Surendran? Maybe we could begin with the scene where ‘Power Star’ Srinivasan gets out of his Jeep, unzips and begins to urinate. We hear the unzipping sound, then we cut to water gushing out of pipes in a nearby tank. Visual metaphor, I think this […]

“Nannbenda”… No wit, but plenty of twits

Spoilers ahead… So who’s the target audience for Jagadish’s Nannbenda? If you say it’s summer-holidaying families, I’d say not. An early scene has Sathya (Udhayanidhi Stalin) walk into a room filled with actors rehearsing a play, and he says he wants the villain’s role. Why? Because then he’ll get the “gilma scenes.” Try explaining that […]

“Detective Byomkesh Bakshy”… A tedious origins story

Spoilers ahead… Some thirty minutes into Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshi!, based on the character created by Saradindu Bandopadhyay, I realised I still hadn’t gotten a lock on whatever was going on, and my mind began to drift to Banerjee’s Love Sex aur Dhokha. In that film, he made us believe we were watching a […]

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