Sargam (Malayalam)

Sargam is a delicate and highly musical story told using a subdued emotional palette and a wonderful backdrop of Carnatic music.  The story revolves around two characters, Hari and Kuttan Thamburan, who have grown up very closely right through childhood.  One forms a close bond with the lead female character, Thangamani. Kuttan Thamburan, however, has a recurring problem of fits, and eventually it is advised that he marry Thangamani.  Although the elders are aware of Hari’s love for her, they make their decision and he defers to them out of respect and leaves the village.  Soon after, Kuttan Thamburan learns that he has unintentionally betrayed his friend and commits suicide.  The sight of his body sends Thangamani into a state of trauma for the next several years, after which  Hari returns to visit his home and comes to terms with what has happened.

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Musical Moment

Let us take a break from film discussions to enjoy a violin treatment of a favourite raagam, the peaceful Mohanakalyani, performed by Arun Krishnamoorthy.  If you check the related videos, he also does a fine Charukesi as well.

Payanam and Radhamohan’s Standards

A few days ago, I sat down in a theatre for the first time in a long while to watch a new release, which itself probably warrants a post.  Payanam is Radhamohan’s latest contribution, and was often touted as Radhamohan stepping out of the comfort zone that defined his feel-good films like Mozhi and Abhiyum Naanum.  Let me say upfront that I like Radhamohan’s films and I appreciate his consistent principles when making them.  On the other hand, when I hear people heaping praises on his films for “breaking conventions”, it rankles a bit, because Radhamohan, as much as I respect him, could be described as somewhat reactionary rather than ambitious (although Payanam does indeed break a few formula conventions). Continue reading

Excellent: (Malayalam) Bharatham

Classical arts, particularly Carnatic music, are something I generally value very highly.  So coming across a film which is either based or revolving heavily around classical arts can either be a real gift or an embarrassment, depending on its implementation.  However, considering the esteem with which Bharatham is held, I went into it with great expectation, and was not disappointed in the slightest.  The movie as a whole is of very high caliber in scripting, direction, and acting.  Right from the very opening credits sequence, which superbly provides both a visual and musical prelude to the story while also introducing its characters, it is very clear that this is a film made with care and purpose.  It is ostensibly a mixture of a family and musical drama, with the second half leaning more towards the former, and manages to deliver a familiar idea in an exceptional way with only a few, subjective missteps.

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Ponniyin Selvan

No, not the historical Tamil novel by Kalki which appears to be on its way to being butchered on-screen with an adaptation (last I heard, Vijay was playing the lead role, let’s not even mention actresses.  Hopefully this project breaks down before too much damage is done to this brilliant work…).

But I digress.  Today’s topic is the completely unrelated Ponniyin Selvan by Radhamohan Continue reading

Good: Kizhakku Vaasal (1990)

Kizhakku Vaasal is a rustic story which finds Karthik in a familiar carefree, enegetic sort of role as a singer and dancer in the village of the same name.  There are two threads in the story, one involving the zaminder’s daughter (Kushboo) with whom he has a genial relationship which mistakenly turns to a marriage proposal (furiously rejected by the zaminder), and the second relates to Revathy’s character, a young orphan who was brought up by a rich man’s concubine and who does not want to follow in those footsteps.  The second thread stood out the most to me (of course, I am biased, but it’s also because the former thread has been told to death in Tamil cinema).

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Excellent: Uthiri Pookal (1979)

When watching the New Years special of “Neeya Naana”, in which directors and actors gathered to discuss the merits of art films versus commercial cinema, it was simple to notice one film whose name kept being repeated in the discussion.  Uthiri Pookal.  It seems that simply mentioning the name of Mahendran’s film elicits a clear idea in everyone’s mind of the kind of filmmaking the other person wishes to discuss.  Mani Ratnam once said that he would be satisfied if he could make a film like Uthiri Pookal, and it is extremely common to hear directors discuss how they entered the industry with inspiration from that film.  Uthiri Pookal did not, as one might hope, suddenly bring forth a wave of sensitively told stories but it had its impact all the same.

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