2.0 Movie Review: Shankar’s Sci-fi Extravaganza

Shankar’s films have always been known for extravagance and visuals. To some of Shankar’s films may be in your face and loud, but for those who are familiar with his work, it is known that they are up for a magical ride of three hours. Shankar and Rajamouli are two of the last showmen in the Indian film Industry. I feel that the last showman in Bollywood was Mukul Anand.Continue reading “2.0 Movie Review: Shankar’s Sci-fi Extravaganza”

I Movie Review: Vikram deserved better!

A young filmmaker way back in the early nineties had the gall to tell the story of a seemingly grey-shaded protagonist who accuses the top government official of the state after looting crores of government money, for his debut film. As if he thought that it was way too much for the audience then to handle, he decided to masquerade it amid-st the rollicking fun of ‘Chikku Bukku’, Gounder’s crude antics, beautifully choreographed yet overtly long action sequences and sadly a cliched heroine’s sister character. The film which was made at a budget of more than five crores for the first time in the South raked in 22 crores at the box-office and shot the young director to instant limelight.

i-am-shankar-interviewAnd thus started the journey of a maker who chose to think ‘large’ (read ‘expensive’) and brand ‘Shankar’ was born. We loved him for what he seemed to be best at – narrating a compelling (though at times flimsy) conflict in the commercial space, while making mainstream cinema seem a lot richer and grandiose than it used to be. He proved this without doubt quite recently in his dream project with the Superstar, when he didn’t sacrifice his story-telling even for satisfying Rajni’s mass appeal, in the process giving us a sincere film that still managed to send the fans into raptures.

Today after seeing his two and half-year old year old mammoth project ‘I’, I had a nagging doubt if Enthiran was only an exception. Had Shankar unknowingly or knowingly reversed his formula yet again? With I, Shankar seems to have taken extraordinary pains to make the final product on-screen look technically astounding, aesthetically stunning, ornament-ally rich and visually exquisite, but has he narrated a compelling conflict in an engaging way? The answer to that would be a more emphatic ‘NO‘ and a less resounding ‘Partly’.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that Shankar is indeed a magician, if not any thing else. It takes a special set of skills and lots of guts to even attempt to visualize and pan out a ‘beaten to death’ linear story of such monotony (believe me when I say that I’s script actually qualifies for a brilliant ten minute short film) into a seeming complex maze of convolutions and grandeur, that we, at times, actually give in to the audiovisual sorcery that is being played on us. Given the discernible illusion of brilliance that Shankar nonchalantly brings to screen, our visual signals to the brain on many occasions trick us into forgetting that the film is dangerously pretentious and shallow. But not for long. Soon reason takes over, and we start questioning the tiresome length and painful predictability. With the film lagging with reference to the key ingredient of good cinema, the I experience turns out to be less wholesome than expected, with visual stupefaction and narrative disappointment constantly at loggerheads.

This is not to say that the writing (by Shankar and Suba) is downright uniformly bad or soul-less. I has its moments of cheer, vibrant energy and some really heart-wrenching poignancy that are lifted by the acting performances, but they are very few and far apart. The treatment falters big time, in the way things pan out in a totally expected manner, with no sight of the thrill factor in a purported romantic thriller. The dialogues at many instances are uninspiring, and fall flat, no way measuring up to the gravity of the situation.The antagonists are all weak unlike earlier Shankar ventures, and they mostly come across as a bunch of jokers.

Shankar-I-Movie-PosterAnother issue with I is the way Shankar seems to go on and on with sequences that literally don’t seem to have any say on the proceedings. And its appalling to see a man of Shankar’s caliber resorting to demean a character by her looks and the consequent stereotyping that happens is all in bad taste (for the reason that she seemingly looks like a transgender). The film’s last forty minutes didn’t work for me totally, and was more a mockery of agonising human suffering. It’s highly unbecoming of the writers to deal with life disasters like fatal disease and burns with such insensitivity, in whatever justified circumstances they are depicted in.

To put things in the right perspective, if at all you decide to see I, it’s for two people who have worked their asses off (for lost causes?) and probably given their career best. No prizes for guessing that they are Vikram and PC. Sreeram. Vikram to me, is more of a hard worker and non-quitter than a naturally gifted actor, and he proves it yet again with tons of conviction in I. The grueling torture that he has willingly submitted his body and psyche to, for slipping naturally into the multiple looks catches us literally gaping and dumbfounded. The more you see his inhumane efforts, the more you doubt the ability of this screenplay to tap it to the maximum potential.

i-movie-poster_141054272400Nevertheless this man, Kenny, gives every scene his two hundred percent and makes the film his own to the extent that if you remove him from the equation, it seems like the film (for whatever its worthy of) is non-existent. Here he takes up the quintessential ‘revenge drama’ script and makes it at-least watchable with his drool-worthy body, electrifying screen presence and stylish charm. As the ghastly kyphotic victim, he comes across more than convincing, managing to communicate with his sharp eyes even with at that heavy prosthetic make-up. But how much of all these can save an average script?! Amy Jackson looks a million dollars and slips into the skimpiest of costumes without seeming lewd or inappropriate. Surprisingly she emotes well too, utilizing her meaty role to the fullest. Suresh Gopi has been wasted in an insignificant role.

PC. Sreeram deserves a handful of awards for redefining ‘cinematic elegance’ and  setting a benchmark in cinematography in I. Be it the action sequences or the magnificently shot songs, he essentially makes the film what it is. The ‘Ladio’ and ‘Aila’ tracks scream of world-class visuals, keeping our eyes glued to the screen, as we involuntarily forget to blink. The VFX by Weta Workshop in the ‘Mersalayitten’ number is top-notch and the pristine beauty of China in the ‘Pookale’ track is a sight to behold. Art director Muthuraj deserves special mention for creatively designing the beast’s abode in the ‘Unnodu’ song. Despite the fact that I is more about painstakingly conceived and splendidly executed songs, its also true that their abundance make a coherent narrative totally impossible. A.R. Rahman scores well with his vivacious numbers and a highly relevant background score. The costume design, stunt choreography and  makeup are all bloody brilliant, making it probably the strongest technical film to come out in a long time,

Shankar with I proves that he is more of a visual sculptor than any kind of story-teller. His weakest script till date, is made occasionally engaging and watchable by Vikram’s sincerity and PC’s insanely lovely frames. I walked out of the theater with this thought eating my mind, “Didn’t Vikram deserve better?”

 

Most Influential Non-living Props/Elements in Tamil Cinema: A Perspective

Engrossing tales have been woven around special props/elements right from the birth of storytelling. Tamil cinema too has had its share of experimentation with scripts based on unique elements, now and then. The latest movie to portray a non-living element with unmatched style and sensitivity was Ranjith’s Madras. The looming shadows, the eerie feel and the flickering lights made the ‘wall’ as central a character in the film as the protagonist.

Here, we take a look at Tamil films which revolve around a particularly significant or influential non-living prop or element. By that, I mean I have included only those movies which fail to exist, if you take out that element from the plot/script. In other words, the non-living prop/element is central and absolutely essential to the film’s narrative. So, let’s start.Continue reading “Most Influential Non-living Props/Elements in Tamil Cinema: A Perspective”

Enthiran Movie Review : Man Vs Machine

Dedicated to the memory of the late Sujatha Rangarajan whose contribution to Enthiran is immense. 


Director Shankar’s much in the news Enthiran finally hit the theatres this weekend and I was one among the curious onlookers on the first day. Curious for various reasons- 1. Shankar’s last film- Sivaji- The Boss had created a mass hysteria in the box office, proving that Shankar + Rajinikanthwas a very lethal combination.2. Also Enthiran was Shankar’s dream project, something which he had conceived nearly a decade ago and so was all the hype justified? 3. How was Shankar going to present the 2 different Rajinikanth’s in the film? 4. With the film receiving such a widespread release (even in the Hindi belt with the dubbed Hindi version) would the strategy work?Continue reading “Enthiran Movie Review : Man Vs Machine”

Enthiran & the Magic of Rajinikanth

As I write this there are lakhs of people across various parts of the Country especially in the Southern States who are all sharing something unique- the joy of celebrating the arrival of the latest movie of their favourite movie star. Continue reading “Enthiran & the Magic of Rajinikanth”