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 »
Archive for the ‘Other Reviews’ Category
Aagaya Thamaraigal (Suresh, Revathy) certainly doesn’t win any points for originality: it carries the same storyline we’ve seen in a million times in village-based films – the star-crossed lovers, the evil male guardian, the irritating comedy breaks, and so on. Despite the fundamentally cliched nature of the story, it does manage to give some more enjoyable moments than usual. The story revolves around Shekhar (Suresh), who is a bank official visiting the village where Revathy’s character resides. Their initial interactions are extremely hostile, but gradually they soften up to each other and end up in love – to the predictable disapproval of Satyaraj’s character. I felt there were mild overtones of Mullum Malarum due to the “outsider in a village” nature of Shekhar’s character, though Aagaya Thamaraigal never manages to reach the same level of quality.
The one amusing thing about “Idhaya Thamarai” is how transparent the intent behind it is. It seems that the director was trying his hardest to turn the famous Karthik-Revathy subplot from Mouna Raagam into a full-fledged film in its own right with a proper extension and conclusion beyond the college setting, which is where the film begins. Now, such an idea isn’t bad at all, but the execution, in terms of the actual storytelling, feels rather artificial. The movie really lacks an overarching sense of cohesion and moves somewhat clumsily from scene to scene, trying to make a dramatic impact but never quite feeling genuine. What makes it interesting is that it is coated in production values that are very good for its time and feels very sleek on a strictly technical level. The cinematography and visual quality in particular is a treat.
Take the above image as an example – a nicely composed, melancholic image – I can practically feel the raindrops around just by staring at it. The music also seems to want to elevate the film to higher realms, with the angelic song “Oru Kadhal Devathai” echoing in my head as I write this. Plus, you have Karthik and Revathy, who have a natural chemistry that has been exploited well by other directors. Yet, at the end of the day, Idhaya Thamarai just doesn’t work. At all. There is a stilted pace and a choppy quality to the proceedings that robs it of any natural flow, the characters aren’t given time to simply breathe and build personality, and their dialogues never feel like more than words from a script. Karthik’s character in particular, with his mood swings and bursts of anger, doesn’t really convince as a believably flawed person and the way he’s written feels more like a caricature.
If I had to boil it down to one phrase, the film simply seems like it’s “trying too hard”. It uses a whole host of flourishes and editing techniques to feel more cinematic (particularly in comparison to other films of the time), and the camerawork is superb, yet somehow the fundamental component of any film – the story – never manages to shake off a certain artificial quality. It’s truly an odd little film.
Let me say upfront that I walked away from this movie before it ended, so I can’t tell you whether the ending is great, or if the second half improves substantially, which is possible. However, I found nothing of interest in the first half, and decided I had better things to do with my time. I have been reading positive reviews of this film, saying it has “heart”, and I can only conclude that the standard in the industry has gotten so low that something as plastic as VTV could be called a “heartfelt” movie. I saw two characters saying words that people in love might say, but any sincere emotion or chemistry between the lead characters was nonexistent. Instead there’s weak, predictable dialogues, bloated song sequences, awkward English, and random swearing that I suppose is meant to sound “hip”.
Once again we confront the fact that Kamal Hassan really likes Hollywood films and wants to imitate them. Everything about this film, from the heavy English use, to the completely Western-sounding music, to the opening credits, reinforces this fact. Sometimes his Hollywood love is a good thing, and sometimes it’s a bad thing. When I watched Unnaipol Oruvan, it was mostly the bad stuff that stood out to me. Here’s the main problem with the film: Kamal Hassan’s character is supposed to be someone like you (Unnaipol Oruvan) meaning a common man. Now, peppering your Tamil with English phrases like people do in Chennai is one thing, but I find it hard to believe that a “common man” would speak in pseudo-Western-accented English sentences every other minute the way he does in this film.
Well, there’s two things wrong with this movie. The first is that it is too obvious. The movie is meant to make us love our family and siblings when we see the day to day life of these brothers, but it does this in such a blatant way. Especially in the first half-hour, there are just too many sugary-sweet moments that feel too cinematic. When something is too obvious, it doesn’t make an emotional impact because it feels too much like a “movie”, and that’s the problem here.
The other problem is Vijayakanth. I’ve never actually watched any of his movies until now, so maybe he has some other talent that I’m missing, but I really can’t understand why he is a viable “hero” actor. Typically, there are four ways to be a hero: unpredictable talent (like Kamal Hassan), charming appearance (like Madhavan), charisma and screen-presence (like Rajinikanth), or some combination of these three. In this movie, Vijayakanth has none of these. He acts in the exact-same dull way – and dialogue delivery – in every single scene, he looks like my uncle, and he doesn’t have any charisma to speak of. In fact, most of the best scenes are the ones that feature the other characters interacting with each other.