Archive for the ‘Other Reviews’ Category

Maybe: Aagaya Thamaraigal (1985)

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.

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Review: Idhaya Thamarai (1990)

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.

Review of “Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya”

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”.

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Review of “Unnaipol Oruvan”

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.

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Review of “Vaanatha Pola”

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.

Review of “Avvai Shanmugi”

Kamal Hassan obviously watches a lot of foreign cinema and likes the idea of introducing certain story concepts and ideas into the Tamil industry.  Avvai Shanmugi is pretty much a copy of Mrs. Doubtfire, an American movie, but this kind of a concept is pretty much alien to Tamil films.  They add the conservative Brahmin family element into Kamal’s version, but the movie still feels like “Ms. Doubtfire played by South Indian actors” instead of “A South Indian re-imagining of Mrs. Doubtfire”.  I didn’t really enjoy it that much, mostly because I didn’t really like any of the characters on a personal level.  And that’s a problem – how can I stay interested in a movie that’s 3 hours long otherwise?  Especially the ex-wife, who comes off as very unlikable, and Kamal’s character himself – though he has a soft side – didn’t really make me think of him as a great guy either.  There is a great cameo by SP Balasubramaniam as a doctor, but the dancing girl who has an interest in Kamal is merely annoying in every scene she appears in.  I understand that the movie is a comedy, and it can indeed be pretty funny at times – though most of the jokes are cheap, but jokes alone can’t sustain 3 hours of film.  I would say this is one of Kamal’s “misses” and unfortunately did not earn a spot on my “Good Tamil Films” list.

Review: “Deiva Vakku” (1992)

“Deiva Vakku” is a film with an interesting premise, but as often happens, the result does not really fully exploit the potential of that premise. The main actors are Revathy and Karthik, who are known (at least to me) to share a great chemistry on-screen, though this film does not call for the playfulness of their interactions in Mouna Raagam or Thotta Chinungi.  The story is about Hamsaveni (Revathy), who since an incident in her youth has been regarded as having divine powers and is revered by the villagefolk – whether she likes it or not.  Though she sometimes becomes uncomfortable at the way some villagers worship her, her brother prods her to continue since it means a steady income.  Also living in the village is young Thambudarai, a well-meaning but ill-mannered man with a dark past.  After some initial meetings including one in which he rescues her, she begins to feel she can help his troubles and eventually falls in love.

The problem with the film is that the director has chosen to focus on the more commonly taken route when it comes to framing the story – he paints it mostly as a “star-crossed lovers” story between people of different status with the requisite disapproval from the scheming older brother.  It would have more interesting to explore the idea of a woman who has been almost worshipped her entire life, finally meeting someone who treats her like a normal person.  Or to go further into the idea of Hamsaveni being unwilling to be the object of “worship” any longer.  To be clear, these latter ideas do, in fact, appear in the film, but I feel they are brushed aside to make way for a more typical scenario: man and woman fall in love, the brother tries various schemes to stop it, and in the end he learns the error of his ways.

There are some nice scenes, though.  The scene pictured above where Thambudarai visits Hamsaveni in the middle of the night has a nice charm to it and has been acted out very well by Revathy and Karthik.  It is also difficult to forget the lovely Ilaiyaraja melody “Valli Valli Enna”.  I must say, though (and I realize many people will hate me for saying this), that I felt that the song would have been perfect had Yesudas been singing the male vocals instead of Ilaiyaraja himself.  Overall, Deiva Vakku scores a few points for having an interesting concept, but loses them for not exploiting it properly and instead relying on more common story patterns.