Petta Movie Review: The Stars Are Out Tonight

There’s something to be said about the excitement in the air, as one walks into the theatre for a Rajinikanth movie. The old cliché about a Rajinikanth movie being an event didn’t ring true for a while, what with the critically reviled Kochadaiyaan and Lingaa and mixed feelings with regard to Kabali, but with Kaala, it seemed like the star for a change made way for the actor, and 2.0 was for the fans and fans alone.Continue reading “Petta Movie Review: The Stars Are Out Tonight”

Iraivi Movie Review: An Interesting Tale of Three (WO) MEN

At the very outset let me start by confessing that Karthik Subbaraj makes it difficult for critics when it comes to reviewing his films. I say difficult because he comes up with films for which it is tough to analyse things in detail as such and also avoiding serious spoilers as well. At the same time he packs in way too much into his films, that it is tough not to think, assimilate one’s thoughts and then come up with something that you feel is satisfactory enough for the film in question. With his third film, the well anticipated Iraivi now in theatres it’s also heartening to say that Karthik has managed to pull it off once again. He has come up with a film that once again carries his stamp of intelligent filmmaking and is completely different from his earlier works, Pizza and Jigarthanda. With Iraivi the focus is on just a few characters, 3 men and 3 women to be precise. It’s a story of multiple relationships, with nothing seen as simple and straight forward.Continue reading “Iraivi Movie Review: An Interesting Tale of Three (WO) MEN”

Iraivi: Trailer

Iraivi Poster 3Karthik Subburaj the maker of the acclaimed Tamil films Pizza (2012) and Jigarthanda (2014) is back with his next film, Iraivi (Goddess). Iraivi sees Karthik reunite with C.V.Kumar, the producer of Pizza. The film has an interesting star cast comprising of S.J.Suryah, Vijay Sethupathi, Bobby Simha, Kamalinee Mukherjee, Anjali, Pooja Devariya, Karunkaran etc. The music is by Santosh Narayanan while Sivakumar Vijayan is the DOP and Vivek Harshan is the editor.Continue reading “Iraivi: Trailer”

Top 15 Tamil Movies of 2014: Year in Review

Here are my top 15 Tamil films of 2014, in no particular order.

1Goli Soda:


“How will you react, if you are forcibly stripped off your hard-earned identity!?” asks Vijay Milton in this offbeat revenge drama, which traces the adventures of four teenagers, as they travel through the ups and downs of life. Despite being guilty of a few logical loopholes and cinematic exaggerations in the script, and accused of promoting on-screen teenage violence, director-cinematographer Vijay Milton and director Pandiraj (dialogues) join hands to give us a racy, engaging entertainer and the first refreshingly promising Tamil movie of the year. The whole team of Pasanga are an absolute treat to watch in this ‘coming of age’ action film. And the director definitely deserves accolades for choosing the unusual premise and keeping away from formulaic fare. Here is a movie that shows how a little, just a little, inventiveness and restraint in the commercial cinema space wont make the audience look like dim-wits.

Here is our full review.

2. Pannaiyarum Padminiyum:


Pannaiyarum Padminiyum is an example of how an ordinary logline on paper can be translated into an ‘endearing’ piece of cinema onscreen, just by a little intelligent scripting, adding some out of the box sentiments and characters written right out of our neighborhood. The debutante director Arun Kumar never lets any of the commercial ‘must-haves’ come in his way of storytelling, still managing to pull off a riveting drama, especially in the last sixty minutes. The real hero of the movie, other than of course Arun  is the all-talented Jayaprakash, who living the role of the Pannaiyar, shares some sizzling on-screen romance with Thulasi, who again gives another cracker of a performance. Despite its slow pace, you couldn’t but fall in love with this one. The gamut of emotions, a non-living element ushered in the viewer, as the climax unfolded, was proof enough of what the director, the cinematographer and a sincere script is capable of.

Here is our full review.

3. Thegidi:


Not just a breeze. Not just a wisp of fresh air. Not just a gust of seasonal winds. Its a storm. Thegidi is proof that the young directors of today are taking Tamil cinema to the next level by storm. Debutant director Ramesh gives Tamil cinema the perfect recipe for an investigative thriller ‘Masterchef’ style- taking the ‘base’ of a novel script, topping it with some ever-lively buoyant and fiery screenplay ‘sauce’, giving a few clever cool twists and tweaks to the way it is usually made, and finally adding a pinch of a unique tasty ‘secret ingredient’.The secret ingredient? – a well panned out guessing game! The tense ‘unease’ and the ‘nail-biting’ tension in the narration, which the director is able to generate, and sustain in the audience might actually be the real success of the film, the director and the producer. Easily the best suspense thriller in Tamil cinema in recent times.

Here is our full review.

4. Cuckoo:


Be warned, this piece of artistic work which is equal parts brilliant and overtly melodramatic is not for all. Certainly not for people who have predefined notions about entertainment. It’s deliberately slow-paced and takes its own sweet time to unfold and strike a poignant chord. And the director also takes some liberties in exaggerating the world of the disabled, especially in showcasing their highly developed senses. A lot of logical discrepancies plague the second half, and conflict seems conveniently forced in. Despite all this,it is only once in a while, there comes a film which kicks all commercial cinematic banalities at its butt, and leaves you stupefied by its raw emotional intensity. Add to it, many overwhelming moments and some exceptionally authentic performances, what you get is a near soul-stirring experience, if you choose to look past the flaws. Watch Cuckoo to understand how, we as an audience have collectively elevated the tastes of the movie fraternity, thereby giving the confidence to directors like Raju Murugan to come out with movies of such class. Definitely not a classic, but for what it is, Raju Murugan, take a bow!

Here is our full review.

5. Inam:


This to me is more a experience than a feature film. A disturbing tale of love and war, captured brilliantly on-screen by Santosh Sivan. With his signature on almost every frame, he has managed to make the public have a discerning look and dwell on the only question which had haunted the lives of many innocent war victims in Sri Lanka…”Why should we suffer for no fault of ours?” The director  even amid-st  all this agony, manages to make a strong statement that there is more to these people’s lives than just blood, bullets, shells and smoke by showcasing their moments of love and cheer. Impressive casting, detailed characterization traits and natural powerful performances by the whole cast makes ‘Inam’ a hard one to digest, and harder to ignore.  Even with all its faults in clarity and focus, this is contemplative unsympathetic cinema at its best, which would sure leave you ashamed, stupefied, startled and staggered.

Here is our full review.

6. Vaayai Moodi Pesavum:


After ‘Kaadhalil Sodappuvadhu Eppadi’, Balaji Mohan attempts to raise the bar for experimentation with this ‘daringly different’ whacky film, that combines the genres of fantasy, rom-com and satire. With his keen eye for innovation, emotions and sarcasm, he keeps the audience engaged through-out with his unsuspecting hilarity and down-to-earth sentiments. Vaayai Moodi Pesavum definitely comes across as a refreshing and welcome change, in times of mindless ‘crap comedy’. Some liberal doses of gags, sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek irreverence make it a pretty delightful watch. Despite its moments of logic-less and repetitice blemishes, it’s a must watch for its ‘first of its kind’ inventive theme and super-cool funky treatment. Definitely, one among the best romantic comedies of the year.

Here is our full review.

7. Mundasupatti:


The comedy of errors that happen when two photographers visit the primitive village, is told in an engagingly funny way by debutante director Ram Kumar. Ram weaves several interesting characters in his tale and takes us on a joy ride filled with rip-roaring jokes and endearing smiles. Through out the running time of nearly one-fifty minutes, despite a few lethargic segments, he never lets the audience off the hook. His knack of writing unassuming humour out of relatable ordinary situations makes it all the more entertaining. Yet again, a mainstream Tamil movie which succeeds in entertaining without established actors and ‘done to death’ formulas. The no-nonsense, sensible, hilarious family entertainer of 2014 has arrived. In style.

 Here is our full review.

8. Sathurangavettai:


Vinoth as a screen-writer/ director impresses with a brilliantly crafted con-caper which incorporates elements of humor, drama, adventure, unusual cleverness and professional audacity in perfect measure. He also shows promise as a film maker in his attention to detail and elaborate shot-making. Sadhurangavettai is basically about a man with a two-pronged ideology 1. Anything which is done without guilt is not wrong and 2. Money is the only thing which doesn’t get clichéd in this insensitive and cruel world. The journey he embarks on, in his mission to make millions in the least possible time-frame and the obstacles he faces is told in an almost fresh and engaging manner by Vinoth. With this film, there is no denying the fact that Tamil cinema is on a role with its experimentation of genres. This hunting game despite having a few dull moments, several logical loopholes and bordering on melodrama for a fraction of a moment certainly deserves a watch for it is at heart – a fresh, sensible and engaging con drama, a rarity by itself.

Here is our full review.

9. Jigarthanda:


In one of the most magical and captivating films ever, director Karthik Subbaraj gives us an audacious blend of contrasting antithetical emotions as he sets out to tell the story of how a filmmaker’s life gets intertwined with that of a a violent rustic criminal who is seemingly ruthless and cynical on the surface. The writing is refreshingly brilliant and reflects Karthik’s burning desire to bridge art-house and mainstream cinema, even if it amounts to resorting to the extremes. in arguably the best character developments in recent Tamil cinema, we get to witness a multi-dimensional protagonist with grey shades all over, but you have to give it to Siddharth for his courage and vision. But the film truly belongs to Simha, who has a field day with his punny punches and dialogue delivery, keeping us thoroughly entertained. Both the scriptwriter and the con-man in Karthik are in their elements in Jigarthanda, as the script keeps us guessing throughout. Jigarthanda is a beautiful work of art and is perhaps one of the best genre defying efforts in contemporary Indian cinema. Hats off, Karthik Subburaj for giving us an entertaining film, where art and commerce make a cheerful pact.

Here is our full review and here is the Part-1, Part-2 and Part-3 of our trilogy breaking down Jigarthanda..

10. Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam:

Kathai Thiraikathai Vasanam Iyakkam Movie Posters

This is the kind of film, that amusingly takes a dig at each and every rule of screenwriting and film making  ever written on paper. The movie doesn’t have a structured plot structure, any kind of act breakages, or the much emphasized scene flow.  In fact it doesn’t even worry about taking the action forward. The narrative in fact moves from one character to another whenever it feels the urge, and refuses to organize itself around any theme except a good-natured insistence that people are always fascinating to watch, even when they don’t appear to be doing much of anything. Burlesque at times, mostly hilarious, quirky, intelligent and original, this is not the sort of thing you ordinarily find at your neighborhood theaters alongside the latest ‘family action entertainers’. But thanks to Parthiepan, here it is. This interesting experiment by the maverick film-maker deserves a watch, just for its innovation and freshness if not anything else. But in addition, it turns out be engaging and brilliant. If you are a fan of quality cinema, go for it!

Here is our full review.

11. Jeeva:


There are quite a few directors in the industry who push their limits by trying their hands at a variety of genres, and among them, Susseenthiran’s versatility continues to awe me. In ‘Jeeva’, writer-director Suseenthiran who last made the critically acclaimed ‘Pandiya Naadu’ traces the politics involved in the selection process of a sports team in a country like India, and attempts to explore the mindset of a cricketer who is on the verge of ‘defeat’. For that he chooses to portray a talented protagonist who dreams of featuring in the National team one day, and goes on to describe his valiant struggle for recognition in a power dominated industry. Well having said these, Jeeva is not a brilliant film because of Suseenthiran’s need to allot almost one hour of the film’s running time to a largely insipid and uninspiring teen romance, and mundane song sequences.But once it picks up steam in the second half, there is no stopping it. The last forty-five minutes in particular have plenty of heartfelt moments. A good film, that could have been great!

Here is our full review.

12. Madras:


Madras interestingly revolves around a supposedly ill-fated wall of a housing complex in North Chennai and the enmity of two rival political groups over it.  The plot is not something that has never been done before, but Ranjith injects his grippingly realistic way of narration into it and the result is pure awesomeness. They say the context/mood of a film is a cup, and content is what you fill it with. The mood in all probability makes or breaks a film. Ranjith takes us to the lower middle class suburbs and presents the context in bewitching detail. He then writes exciting characters who feel frighteningly real and makes them walk with us.  His deftness at showing these characters help him build up on the existing conflict in style, which catches us constantly on the edge of our seats. It’s a joy to see Karthi on screen and what a hell of a comeback! Great to see that his faith in the script and film-making technique has paid off so well.  Madras reaffirms the fact that good cinema is here to stay.

Here is our full review..

13. Kaaviyathalaivan:


Despite having a very interesting and promising premise, Kaaviya Thalaivan might be falling a tad short in execution.  But I would rather not mind it for the man behind it, Vasantha Balan. He is the kind of film-maker, who does films for the sheer joy of making them, not letting financial concerns bother him. He makes films that he wants to make (not the other way around) and sincerely attempts to make us see through his vision, as in Kaaviyathalaivan, where he sets out to explore the mindset of stage artists of yesteryear, focusing on their personal and societal facets. He aspires to transport us to lesser known worlds, and tries to guide us through the nooks and corners of that milieu.  Yeah, the canvas is obviously exquisite and the intent is more than commendable, but regarding the execution, I would say that he has managed to translate more than half of his vision to the screen. And that to me, is definitely not a mean feat. Kaaviya Thalaivan, for this man and his efforts, proves to be a cinematic experience, actually one of a kind, that can definitely be cherished looking past the flaws.

Here is our full review.

14. Pisaasu:


‘Why not a movie in the horror genre space, which doesn’t have any of the horror genre cliches, but still manages to engage?’ asks Mysskin and takes us through a riveting journey of paranormal exploration in this film, aptly named ‘Pisaasu’. He seeks answers for some bizarre questions with his trademark panache in this film, while in the process narrating a poignant yet suspenseful tale of love, belief, good-will and guilt.Long shots, artistic frames, tasteful camera angles, lingering surreal symbolisms, a haunting background score –‘Pisaasu’ has everything that we love Mysskin for, but with a twist. The man impresses with his knack to inject unconventional scares and sly humor at the weirdest of places, displaying a level of brilliance, that never ceases to surprise you. Dark and Intense, yet refreshingly feel good, ‘Pisaasu’ engages you for most of its running time, soothing you with its compassion and disturbing you with its implications, and as a whole enthralling you typical ‘Mysskin’ style. Here is a filmmaker who pushes the limits not only by breaking the established rules of the genre, but by creating a praiseworthy technique of his own.  Pisaasu deserves a watch just for him.

Here is our full review.

15. Meaghamann:


Magizh Thirumeni who was critically acclaimed for his earlier film ‘Thadayara Thaaka’ uses every opportunity he gets in his latest film ‘Meaghamann’ (captain of the ship) to establish himself as a film-maker to reckon. Magizh in fact makes no bones about the fact that he is not doing a path breaking film or something that sends the critics into raptures. He wants to do a ‘commercial’ film with a certain amount of conviction and grace. He sets out to engage, thrill and entertain his audience for a little more than two hours and succeeds in style. He also impresses with his technique of overriding logical glitches in the script with irresistible engagement in story telling so much so that you tend to overlook these seemingly implausible things which can’t/wont probably happen in real life for the kind of entertainment it provides. Packed with fervor and lots of intelligent action, this neatly done action thriller is more a director’s film than an actor’s, as Magizh shows us how a commercial action thriller is made without belittling the audience’s tastes. That’s more than a cool reason not to miss it.

Here is our full review.

Special mention:

Vellaiyilla Pattathari:


Vellayilla Pattathaari is not an exceptional film script-wise with all the makings of a mundane commercial potboiler, replete with the string of cliches that have been etched in our minds since the time we started going to the theatres. In the absence of an innovative story line,  a screenplay that is super-fast and engaging is needed to make the audience forget the obvious shallowness of the happenings on screen. But that is not enough. It takes a natural performer  like Dhanush with extraordinary screen presence to make a routine film seem special. With the last two points working in its flavour, VIP definitely impresses, more so in its first half. Though the plot is wafer thin, the writing is surprisingly fresh and devoid of the usual ‘beaten to death’ jobless hero antics and tantrums. Addressing a burning issue and filled with lots of local zeal, this smartly packaged film is sure to keep you engaged. But let me warn you, don’t go for VelayiIla Pattathari expecting something which it doesn’t promise. Go for it to be royally entertained.

Here is our full review.


Aadama Jaichomada Movie Review: Silly and Irreverent Fun

A cabbie proposes by getting an ‘idli parcel’ from his sweetheart’s road side shop and returning it back to her with an engagement ring stuffed inside the idli. The ‘idli kada‘ lady promises to marry him if he could afford a room with an attached posh restroom! An upright and sincere inspector walks inside an interrogation room, closes the recording camera with his cap and proceeds to tickle the suspect. A senior police official is made to pledge on his head by an accused when investigating a major sport betting racket. A rookie producer proudly showcases a highly emetogenic action movie titled ‘Sooravali’ starring his ‘gubeer sirippu’ star-son to his forlorn looking financier. A cricket bookie is found mysteriously  with a ‘laughing face’ rigor mortis inside the room of a star hotel.  Well, good luck trying to connect the dots.Continue reading “Aadama Jaichomada Movie Review: Silly and Irreverent Fun”

Breaking Down Jigarthanda’s Recipe For Awesomeness: Final Part Of The Trilogy

What makes Jigarthanda so special? Here are my thoughts about the recipe for the movie, penned down in chronological order as per the running structure of the film. (Contains Spoilers)

Here is the link to Part-1 and link to Part-2 of this article.


Plot point 2:  shock it up!

As I stressed earlier, the director is not about half measures. If you want to shoot a scene in a bus, better make it engaging. If you want to record an interview, have it brimming with nervous energy. If you want to stage a spirited folk song, better put it inside a goddamned empty well! Simha taps the raw performer inside him as he gyrates wildly to the delightful beats of “Puzhudi Parakadhu”, clad in a dhoti! The tempo rises slowly and we are literally on our feet. This to me, is a perfect example of intelligent film making – having only one full track in your script right at the 100 minute mark. Myshkin did it in style in his ‘Yudham Sei’ and here Karthik repeats the trick. At a moment of heightened spirits, Karthik brings in plot point two through Lakshmi Menon, who is hungry for revenge against Sid for having used her just for gathering information about Sethu. In a fit of contempt, she suggests Sethu to play himself in the movie based on him. And that’s it! We laugh with Sid. But after a minute, we smile. Wow, here is a leading lady who doesn’t behave like one! When Simha gets obsessed about it, we know all hell is about to break loose. The mood is further intensified by Simha’s ‘maranakuthu’ right after his revelation – something I would cherish for long! Watch out for a follow-up scene where Sethu proceeds to give a taste of fear to Sid, where the proceedings are intelligently interwoven with the screening of ‘Thalapathi’ on television. The whole of this segment truly belongs to Simha, who has a field day with his punny punches and dialogue delivery, keeping us right at the edge of our seats.

Jigarthanda Poster 5

All is lost. Or is it?

The moment a battered Sid is joined by shop vendor Palani in the streets, we know we are in to witness an epic scene. Karthik weaves some pure emotional magic as Palani starts recounting his early days as an assistant director, with dialogues like “The thing about opportunity is that it mostly strikes only once. A lot depends on how you choose to treat it!” Piloerection stuff, again. And as the scene progressed, I was wondering at the screen writer’s skill at inciting his protagonist and the audience using the power of words. Here was a scene, where a character spoke a few lines, but conveyed a lot of unspoken emotions. Karthik has managed to charge us up for the last act.

The knight rises

In what pans out as a separate film altogether, Sethu and his henchmen are directed to take acting classes for the film by Sid. But I also had a feeling that this transition in mood was intentional. This segment of the movie has perhaps the best moments of the film humour-wise, but it’s also true that the character arc of Sethu doesn’t sync with this kind of a drastic transformation. True that Sethu has seen the potential for fame, and will go to any lengths for the sake of it. But the kind of abuse he withstands from his acting teacher, though hilarious, kind of undermines the character. But Karthik knows this and hits gold with casting Simha as Sethu. Simha’s ease at both ruthlessness and comedy comes to his rescue, as he along with Karan and his gang take us through an insanely funny ride, so intense that our stomachs hurt. Karan in fact tries to steal the thunder right under the nose of Simha with his Silambattam practise, while Simha hits back by bringing the roof down with his attempts at romance.

Jigarthanda Still 4

Lights. Camera. Laughter!

Jigarthanda-Simha 2Enter ‘Aaranya Kandam’ fame Guru Somasundaram as the acting guru, and what had already been a laugh riot, just turns totally explosive. Still trying to make sense of the bizarre con-job that had been played on us, we laugh our guts out at Simha and Karan explaining parotta and mutton sukka in ‘gibberish’. In an extremely manipulative move, Sid returns the favour to Lakshmi by hooking her to Sethu, and the dialogues here like ‘Ivaru periya Virgin Rowdy!’ at unexpected times work really well. Karunakaran’s emotive brilliance shadows all others in an extremely well executed scene, where Guru shortlists the actors. We are still caught between getting lured into this and asking “Why the hell then did Karthik build up Sethu’s character so much in the first half?” But before we start looking for answers, the atrociously hilarious ‘shooting sequence’ starts in the background of Santhosh’s inventive ‘Baby’ soundtrack. Despite the characterisation going for a toss, Karthik Subbaraj does sell off his deception pretty well, mainly because of some smart writing and non-stop black comedy sketches. Take Simha off from the equation, and this part of the film might fall flat. Every movie will have a line which defines it. You would know when you hear it! Here, it comes from Simha in a moment of mismatched sentiments. The way he mouths the “Acting the part of a gangster is tougher than being one!” line is enough to identify the real protagonist of the movie. Though the director is able to extract what he wants for his storyline, it’s also true that some of the sequences feel like a stage drama. But we don’t care. We have been sucked into the con-labyrinthine with a confidence and freshness that couldn’t be debated.

The reveal

As the film featuring Sethu is completed, curiosity about the consequences starts getting the best of us. Karthik deftly builds up the suspense here by including some tongue-in-cheek scenes, showing Sethu’s ‘heights of power’ techniques to bring in the audience to the theatres. As Sid waits outside and the first show is screened, Karthik takes the final plunge. I found the reveal perfectly timed (literally, with a countdown!), logically quite well-explained and skilfully orchestrated. Though it reminded me of quite a few earlier films, I found Karthik’s version different. My greater concern was in fact the way he was going to plot Sethu’s character arc and take the story forward from here. Sethu had been royally transformed from an arrogant fearsome gangster to something very polar, without his knowledge. Would that mean something?  We can’t take our eyes from the screen. We are glued waiting for answers.


The final showdown

The beauty of the final showdown is that it is shown as repeating jump cuts of events occurring in three contrasting places – A beautiful landscape, a house with an ongoing funeral and a theatre. That’s certainly a award-deserving, phenomenal show by the editor Vivek Harshan, who silently proves his brilliance with every opportunity he gets.  Cinematographer Gavemic brings in frames which seem straight out of a big budget Hollywood movie. The final confrontation in the open fields in particular is so well conceived and crafted that along with Santhosh Narayanan’s soulful background score, it becomes an instant classic! There is a particular long shot where Sethu opens the tall doors of the theater and walks in, the sole window lighting casting a long shadow behind him,  which slowly reduces in length as he walks into the theater until it becomes the same as the man. Talk about similes! Having wondered about the significance of Sethu’s mother in this story, I was literally moved to tears when the scene involving her unfolded. Sethu realizing the fact that spreading happiness is much tougher and more rewarding than demanding fear has been brought out exceptionally well by Karthik by staging some well-planned and written sequences. We have been just treated to a stunner!

Stunning closing images

In arguably the best resolving sequence in recent Indian cinema, we cross-cut between the first scene we were introduced to at the beginning and another scene involving Sid narrating the story of his next film to Vijay Sethupathi. The first scene is played from the front this time, and Santosh again grabs the opportunity to show why he is such a talented musician. The scene involving Sid and Vijay Sethupathi amused me to the core, especially for the subtext in it. Does Karthik Subbaraj convey a subtle message, to be picked up only by the discerning eye? Was it an indirect reference to the plight of directors who want to stay true to their script? Is this the only way, a filmmaker today can pursue the film of his dreams today? As Sethu started falling off the chair in slow motion, and Sid began walking back from Vijay’s office, I was smiling uncontrollably. And as the screen turned black, the theater rose for a standing ovation. I had just witnessed a beautiful work of art, which was perhaps one of the best genre defying efforts in contemporary Indian cinema. Hats off, Karthik Subburaj for giving us an entertaining film, where art and commerce make a cheerful pact!

The end.

Breaking Down Jigarthanda’s Recipe For Awesomeness: Part Two Of The Trilogy

What makes Jigarthanda so special? Here are my thoughts about the recipe for the movie, penned down in chronological order as per the running structure of the film. (Contains Spoilers)

Here is the link to Part-1 of this article


The nerve-wracking ‘Game of Thrones’

You have been warned. “When you play the GOT, you win or you die” 

Karthik Subbaraj’s dazzling writing prowess blends with some top-notch technical assistance from cinematographer Gavemic and editor Vivek (akin to milk, china-grass and nannaari syrup in Jigarthanda) to make this segment of the movie delicious, yet brimming with raw gritty nervous energy. Karthik stages a couple of convincing incidents to get Sethu suspicious of a clandestine spy shadowing on him. Lo and behold, the game of thrones swings into motion and the tension is gradually mounted as Karthik Subbaraj makes an attack on Sethu seem imminent. In this tense atmosphere, he again brilliantly sneaks in a ridiculously funny segment where Sid and Karan get caught spying on Sethu’s house. Karunakaran in particular is at his hilarious best in this scene, completely overshadowing Sid with his impeccable timing in slapstick. This segment results in a young enthusiastic chap (Soundar) from the gangster gang being called upon to have an eye on Sid and Karan. While this prospect has us expecting some hard-core action, Subbaraj utilizes it initially for extracting some nervous chuckles. Intelligent! Somewhere in between these riotous scenes, when we are least expecting it, Karthik once again unleashes the trickster in him, in style.

Jigathanda-Siddharth and Simha

The chef-d’oevre sequence

In probably Karthik’s master-scene, Gavemic’s camera shows the gangster gang sharing a loud joke in a theater canteen, while Sethu gets up with a bhajji in hand and starts walking. The camera follows him as he makes small-talk with a cook and proceeds to take a plate to protect himself from the rains as he crosses over to the adjacent theater premises. The tense unease keeps scaling as the camera still follows him through the hall’s passage to the toilet, where he meets the cleaner. Still nothing. We wait in bated breath for the scene to explode. But not yet! Where is Karthik leading us to? A vomiting alcoholic is about to get thrashed. Is it? No. Then it happens. We stare astonished at the pomposity of the scene, and the way the scriptwriter in Karthik has staged it in the background of the “Ennadi Meenaatchi” track from ‘Ninaithalae Inikum’. And after a minute of mixed emotions, when Sethu nonchalantly proceeds to do the ‘thing’ he came for, we just can’t help but clap at the brilliance we have just witnessed. Simha makes it look so easy and believable, and it has grandly served its purpose. We are hooked, surrendering ourselves to the mastery.

Deception’ – Level: Awesome

The master of deception in Karthik starts to take over slowly. On befriending ‘Soundar’ from the gang, Sid hides a spy mike inside his MP3 player after coming to know that the chap has been called upon for accompanying Sethu for an ‘event’. Here again, the detailing is top-notch as the ‘shadow-trail’ is triggered into action. The sketch to murder Sethu’s rival Sekar is so convincingly pitched that even with our now heightened cop instincts, we fail to doubt it. Now, Sekar has to make an escape! But Karthik doesn’t want an inch of lazy film-making in his frames and hence what we get is a hint of a bizarre half-orgy, which has us pondering over the countless possibilities it opens up for the next scene. But then, in a moment of sudden reveal, the tables are turned and we gape at our glorious deception. Having been royally cheated, we turn our attention to the plight of Sid and Karan, who have been eavesdropping on these events through the spy-mike. But the awesomeness of that sequence is not over yet. In another esoteric and superbly offbeat moment, Sethu wearing a Leonardo mask himself, returns the favour to Sekar. Now if that’s not genius, what is?

Jigarthanda Still 2

The electrifying mid-point

Karthik wants to heighten the tension a notch higher and raise the stakes of the protagonist. What better way to do it than have Simha (playing Sethu) converse directly over the microphone to Sid. Sparks fly and incessant claps mask the words, as Simha in a tight close-up once again proves why he is such a versatile actor. His eyes speak volumes and his tainted teeth grit in anger, as he figures out the people behind the spy job. And the inevitable happens within minutes. Santhosh Narayanan and Gavemic make this sequence stirringly ‘Tarantinoesque’ with an outré background score and awe-inspiring visuals. As Sid and Karan trying to make an escape, are greeted at the door by Sethu’s gang, our pulses go racing to one twenty beats per minute. And as the letters ‘Intermission’ pops out of the gun with a whistle, Karthik Subbaraj can take pride in making our hearts pop out to our mouths.

The ‘real’ con-job begins

In a unique demonstration of one of the best con-jobs ever done on a cinematic audience, Karthik Subbaraj pulls off an extreme sort of irreverent hilarity on us, the unsuspecting spectators, especially after a nail-biting interval segment. Personally, when Sid and Karan lure Sethu into being excited at the prospect of a feature film based on him, I found it quite convincing (at least at this moment, especially with the ‘Thalapathi’ reference and all). Karthik uses this platform to create an uproarious interview segment with the gang facing a mounted DSLR. This did offend the rationalist in me for a while, but the explanation that Sethu was blinded by a strong yearning for fame sounded quite persuasive. Here again, the unapologetic tone with which Karthik Subbaraj continues to portray his protagonist surprised me. Sid wants real crime events for his script and he doesn’t give two hoots about the appalling nature of the offences, narrated to him by Sethu and his gang. He even breaks into a broad smile as he fixes Vijay Sethupathy as Sethu in his mind, and lets the events narrated by Sethu play out in his mind as an organised screenplay.


Irreverent humour, brilliantly unleashed!

The character delineation of Sethu is set up from an interesting incident in his school days, which later comes across as an extremely smart move by the director. The writing is exquisite in these Sid’s script-writing sequences, with some spine-chilling dialogues delivered in a comic tone. Simha as Sethu lives up to his part and Santhosh provides the necessary mood with his quirky ‘Thanda’ soundtrack. Two absolute gems in ‘black comedy’ in this segment, one involving Sid asking Sethu to infuse some real action into a Panchayat scene while filming it for his reference and the other involving a charge-drained camera, delve deep into the character of Sid, in addition to bringing down the roof with laughter. Karthik writes arguably the best hilarity of all, when he doesn’t spare even the Russian roulette in his spoof. In yet another side-splitting scene, Karunakaran and Simha are at their rocking best when the former gets his throat almost split. Writing comedy is no mean task, and the element of surprise is what makes it click. Surprise, yes! Both the scriptwriter and the con-man in Karthik are in their elements as he slowly steers the story away from our imagination.

To be continued…

Breaking Down Jigarthanda’s Recipe For Awesomeness: Part One Of The Trilogy

What makes Jigarthanda so special? Here are my thoughts about the recipe for the movie, penned down in chronological order as per the running structure of the film. (Contains Spoilers)

PART- 1 

The magical intrigue

In one of the most enigmatic opening sequences ever in Indian cinema, Karthik Subbaraj gives us an audacious blend of contrasting antithetical emotions, when the camera follows a character into a make-shift bar in a closed warehouse setup, who eventually gets a ‘gift’ from someone called ‘Karthik’. The song ‘Malarndhum Malaradha’ from Paasamalar is being projected on a huge screen when the ‘act’ happens, and subsequently the camera lingers on the screen for a minute in a ‘divine moment of introspection’, as we see Sivaji on-screen epitomising ‘tender care’. The ‘unserene’ act of brutality has been rendered in an atmosphere of serenity. The character has been taken care of. Karthik Subbaraj’s magic of juxtaposition has started. The audience have been irreversibly intrigued.


The grand thematic premiseJigarthanda Poster 3

Karthik Subbaraj and his able cinematographer Gavemic with the help of sound engineers Vishnu and Sree, take us through an exceptional audio-visual journey, as Siddarth is followed from the back-stage through dark alleys to emerge on the dais for the decisive judgement of a short-film competition. We get a brief, yet aesthetic glimpse of the film’s theme in an exceptional single shot. An ugly spat unfolds between an award-winning director and a pragmatic producer over the protagonist’s rejection, which is taken to the next level by Karthik’s clever injection of the film’s undertones into it. While Nasser, the director snubs the film as garbage, the producer sees it as a crowd-pleaser. When you scratch the surface, what you see is a heated argument, cut in stylish shots. Dig deeper and the subtext catches you grinning. The conflict has been established in style in probably the best thematic scene in recent years. The protagonist is not named ‘Karthik’ by routine or accident. Karthik Subbaraj wants us to take a cue from his protagonist on his burning desire to bridge art-house and mainstream cinema, even if it amounts to resorting to the extremes. Boy, are we in for the ride!

Setting up the catalyst

The protagonist’s dramatic need and the ensuing drama are delightfully set up by Karthik, when the producer throws up an exciting challenge on stage. He then proceeds to troll himself and the industry amusingly with a scene, where the producer asks Sid to just remake ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Pulp Fiction’. What follows is a witty tracing of the protagonist’s character arc, with Sid on the lookout for a blood-curdling gangster to base his film on. Sid’s meeting with the police officer Ajay Ratnam through his journalist uncle turns out to be the perfect catalyst scene, which teases us with disjointed horrific facts and vivid imagery about Sethu (Bobby Simha). The magician in Santhosh Narayanan (Background score) and the sorcerer in Gavemic (camera) together with the performer in Simha bring alive Karthik’s visualization of Sethu’s menacing ‘intro’ scene happening in a barren landscape. That’s some bewitching stuff! We are hooked and we are dazed. So, very much unlike Siddarth who is more vocal about it, we break into a silent whisper “Bring it on, man! Talk about effectual catalytic set-ups. We have just witnessed a live demo.

Jigarthanda Banner

The hilarious debate

Karthik Subbaraj is not happy with anything that rhymes with the word ‘routine’. So even in an otherwise ordinary scene, he makes an attempt to escape the constraints of lazy screenwriting. So when he writes a scene where Sid has to land in Madurai in a bus, he gets us tensed and curious by having an auto driver nearly man-handling Sid to his auto, which has the poster of Sethu on its rear end. And the moment of reveal is staged in style, with the slowly emerging Bermuda pyjamas. Karunakaran as Oorani starts his riotous antics and smirk reactions without a moment’s delay. His initial interactions with Sid are cheery, but truly he brings the roof down with his brilliant overnight transformation. Karthik Subbaraj is spot on with his lively and witty dialogues in this segment, which travel seamlessly from grumbles to self-doubt to excitement and finally to inappropriate heroism. Gavery’s to and fro shots from Sid’s point of view on the wooden swing make this scene a memorable one.

Plot point – 1: The journey starts

In arguably the best character developments in recent Tamil cinema, we get to witness a multi-dimensional protagonist who goes about his goal of researching the life of Sethu, with the conviction of a real spy for his ‘based on a true story’ gangster movie.  It takes a lot for a young actor to accept a role with grey shades all over, but you have to give it to Sid for his courage and vision. Sid plays the self-centred Karthik, who is ready to fake friendship, false-hopes and even love, in return for any reliable information about Sethu. Each of the three characters, Sid singles out to milk details about Sethu has been detailed to perfection by Karthik; while among them Sangili Murugan playing the unsuccessful director – turned shopkeeper impresses with veteran ease, narrating his hilarious ‘Sivanesan and Kuruvamma’ stories non-stop. The ‘hallucinating’ scene of Sid and Karan is definitely one of the better thought-out comic sketches in recent times. The adult film episode and the bar sequence have also been cleverly tapped for some worthy chuckles. And in the midst of all these light-hearted mayhem, Sethu (Simha) struts around in his red Mercedes with the air of a cold-blooded murderer. Santhosh Narayanan chips in brilliantly yet again here with his ‘Ding Dong’ rap number, which lifts the character establishment scenes of Sethu to a totally new level. That ‘gethu’ moment when Simha goes into the Mercedes wounded and comes out through the other end after one hell of a shoot-out, with the scorching sun and the lines “Villaadhi Villanendru Perudutha… Seiyaadha Paavam Ellam Serthu Veika!” in the background… Goosebumps! Karthik’s writing has no dull moments as he cleverly uses the backdrop of some genuine laughs to build up on the gruesome Sethu. Brilliant!

Jigarthanda-Simha and Siddharth

The B story

Karthik Subbaraj brings in the ‘B’ story or the love angle in yet another departure from the etched ‘hero’ standards. Having failed in all three attempts in getting to know Sethu’s journey, Sid targets the daughter of Sethu’s chief cook for source material (played by Lakshmi Menon). Lakshmi’s introduction is innovatively staged, and her subsequent encounters with Sid are tastefully done. But the love which Lakshmi seems to develop for Sid never gets justified. Lakshmi Menon also comes across as somewhat bland and one-dimensional in these episodes, though quite a lot is salvaged by some skillful cuts by Vivek Harshan (editor) who makes the transitions between the infiltration attempts and the romance smooth and offbeat. Karthik does away with dedicating a full song sequence to the couple at this time, and in good sense too, as he cuts the proceedings back to the gangster drama within a minute of the ‘Kannamma’ track. We second guess that the plot B might serve to bring in a pivotal twist at a later stage and keep watching in curiosity. Despite Lakshmi’s weak character sketch, Karthik Subbaraj does manage to hold on to our attention in probably the weakest segment of the film. And that’s a feat for sure.

To be continued…

Jigarthanda: Six Red Herrings

Moments after the final reveal begins (there is even a countdown before the final reveal!), Karthik Subbaraj shows us a few moments from  Chaplin’s “The Circus” and chooses to lay bare the reveal for discerning movie-goers. I could not help but smile at the clever audacity. The same concept was used in a Malayalam film before and its Tamil remake, but Karthik Subbaraj has the craft to pull this off and the way he pulls this off would have even made the Little Master smile!Continue reading “Jigarthanda: Six Red Herrings”