Retrospective: Bollywood and more (2010-2019)

I re-structured this piece multiple times, thinking about ways to wrap my opinions on a myriad movie-related things. I started with Hindi only, but while compiling the ‘best’ list, I realized that most of the movies I loved were non-Hindi. But the ‘other-than-best’ lists, trends and benchmarks are still ‘Hindi’, because that is the only film industry I can claim any right to give unsolicited opinions about.

‘Bhai ka pickchur’

Whatever you want to think about the quality of Hindi movies this decade, one thing you cannot argue upon is Salman’s resurgence as the new super-star. He was always a star, but Dabangg (closely on the heels of Wanted) skyrocketed his value at box office. On his tv show Big Boss, while looking back at his career, he noted that how audience took him from Salman to Sallu to finally the Bhai we know of now.  His movies became event movies. His most hated movies of this decade – Jai Ho, Tubelight and Race 3 – also managed to cruise past 1 crore footfalls. We can all argue about the dull and generic quality of his films throughout this decade, but I wanted to make sure that his super-stardom of this decade is noted. Personally, Jai Ho was my favorite Salman movie, especially for being the most quintessential ‘Salman’ movie, with the extension of his off-screen ‘being human’ persona along with the ‘maar-dhaad-kapda-faad’ action he started with Wanted. And the Suneil Shetty-bringing-a-war-tank-on-the-road moment was the absurdity his movies came to be known for.

‘Dialogue-baazi’

Along with the rise of Salman, dialogue-baazi also made a grand re-entrance with Milan Lutharia’s Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. The punch-lines started gaining prominence with Dabang, Rowdy Rathore and Dirty Picture. But the most memorable manifestation of this has to be Singham. The sheer repeat-value Singham has is unimaginable. At family/friend gatherings, Singham has become the common denominator for entertainment. Personally, I’m not too big on the dialogue-baazi part unless it is done with some economy. The way Rajat Arora and Milan Lutharia has abused it, I think it’s on the way out.

Beta (β) is cool as ever’

Macho heroes do drive the box-office, but the appeal of beta males is on the rise, especially in the urban/small-town multiplex audience. In a way it started with Saif in Dil Chahta Hai, but it really caught up steam at the fag end of the last decade with Ranbir Kapoor’s turn as the quintessential urban boy in Wake up Sid, head over heels for an elder woman who transforms him into a responsible ‘man’. Though the decade started with Farhan Akhtar in Karthik Calling Karthik playing the under confident lead, it was Imran Khan who made this role his own with Break Ke Baad and Ek Main Aur Ek Tu. Ranbir later reclaimed it with Tamasha and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Tamasha especially very skillfully explores this gender dynamic (The woman falls for an alpha, but then finds out that he is nothing of that sorts). But the most beta (β)award of the decade can be shared by Ayushman in Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Madhavan in Tanu Weds Manu (and Returns).

Woke cinephilia’

All this talk about alpha-beta might have already triggered the ‘woke’ junta. Which brings me to the birth of a whole new level of Hindi film discourse through the lens of progressive politics (read ‘political correctness’). The surprise hit of 2011 ‘Pyaar Ka Punchnama’ made sure that ‘misogyny’ officially entered the hindi film criticism vocab. It was followed by Habib Faisal’s provocative Ishaqzaade in 2012, when Raja Sen showed disdain for the way the heroine ‘was shown her place’. But the watershed moment was Cocktail (also in 2012), when the hero choses a docile and homely woman over the flamboyant and independent one. Woke cinephiles stood up and took objection. The movie was called regressive. The dam had been opened. All reviews and even retrospectives now had an extra layer of progressive values. In this charged atmosphere, came Raanjhna. It made all cinephiles look back at stalking in Hindi cinema. Poor David Dhawan too felt the pressure when Judwa 2 released. All reviews ensured to condemn the butt-slapping hero. But all this pales in comparison to the reception of Kabir Singh. People outraged over and over again. Personally it was an exciting time to read arguments, counters, counter-counters and so on. At one point it became literally political. Kabir Singh became a stand-in for BJP.  If you are supporting Kabir Singh you might be a ‘sanghi’, if you are against, you might be a ‘libtard’. It was a crazy time and a perfect way to bookend this decade.

(Hindi) So Bad it’s Good

This genre is a dying one now. With evolving sensibilities, it’s become impossible to make an outright bad movie that is entertaining. 90s was peak with tons of B-grade stuff with A-list actors like Dharmendra, Mithun, Jackie, Shakti, Gulshan. The 2000s had some classics like Wafaa and Himesh’s films. This decade it was Abbas Mustan (previous A-Listers) who managed to create some hilarious bad films like Players, Race 2 and Machine. The best of the lot being Machine, a launch pad for their (I mean one of theirs’) son Mustafa. True to their reputation they come up with a bizarre anti-hero story (I guess trying to replicate Baazigar success), with plenty of incredulous and hilarious moments. The best moment being in the climax when the justification of the movie’s title is explained by the lead hero – “I don’t have any emotions, I’m just a Machine”.

Special mention: Prince – It’s Showtime, Genius (Anil ‘Gadar’ Sharma’s putramoh)

(Hindi) Unpopular favorites

Many times throughout this decade, I would read abysmal reviews of movies, but would end up liking them (one of them is on my final top 10). For instance, Kill Dill. I know its not a great one, but it was so much fun. It had my favorite Ranveer Singh performance. The genuine innocence and casualness he brings in the performance reminded me of the khans from early 90s. Complete lack of preciousness. Another example, Break Ke Baad, a wonderful pitch-perfect love story with honest gender-dynamics. But the reviews almost trashed it as another ‘I Hate Luv Storys’. But the most surprising one was Akira. This remake of Mouna Guru (Tamil), was a supremely crafted action-drama-thriller with some great scenes and rousing moments. I was stumped by the complete indifference shown by both critics and audience alike.

Special mention: Rahasya (Manish Gupta)

(Hindi) Great movies.. almost!

There are couple of movies which are otherwise perfect, but due to some fundamental disagreements with the approach, I cannot honestly hail them as the best.

Mukkabaaz – What’s not to like in this cracker of a film by Anurag Kashyap. Well.. Vineet Singh writes a Rocky and Anurag converts it into a politically charged and an almost art-house boxing film. Mukkabaaz fails to rise above the politics of the region the movie is set it, unlike Rocky which soared to celebrate human triumph. There are many glimpses of the crowd-pleasing rouser this film could have been. But all the dramatic stand-offs and seeti-maar moments are either muted or rushed past by Kashyap. The need was a lean and mean boxing epic, but what we got was a boxing drama overstuffed with politics. And I cannot forgive him for it, because Vineet Singh, was on his way to become a STAR.

Talvar – This one is unlike any other Hindi movie we’ve seen. A hard-core procedural, enveloping the viewer with information and unraveling the mystery with great precision. But the entire approach to the movie is extremely biased. It doesn’t take an inquiring approach but rather sets out to prove a theory, which I concede it successfully does in a rather intriguing and enjoyable way. By the end of it viewer feels satisfied and in a way superior to all the incompetent people in the system who botched up the case. Thinking back, it just doesn’t feel right.

Decade’s Best

Before I dive into my all India decade’s best, let me just remind you that different people seek different things from their movies. We value different aspects of movies. The aspect I value most is scale and visceral impact. Its not just the big sweeping landscapes or multi-location narrative that gives scale. It can be achieved in variety of ways like stakes (both existential and emotional), narrative over a long period of time or even sweeping character arcs. I always end up picking an epic narrative over an intimate cracker. Movies which reward a theater viewing with a packed audience. I recognize this inherent flaw, and therefore will start with a precursor list of absolute stunning movies but either felt short in scale or didn’t affect me as viscerally as my top 12. But they deserve every right to be called the decade’s best!

Honorable mentions

Ishqiya/Dedh Ishqiya – This double whammy from Abhishek Chaubey is truly original hindi movie-making. I had completely missed the bus with Ishqiya back in 2010, but as I slowly understood the structure and started viewing it from Krishna’s (Vidya Balan) point-of-view, I couldn’t stop raving about it. The follow-up Dedh Ishqiya might not be as dramatically potent, but is a much more delightful movie set in an environment of Nawabs, Begums and Mushairas, romanticizing and spoofing the royalty in equal measure.

Udaan – This story of a teenager set in a motherless household with a father who is more of a bully than a disciplinarian is an extremely visceral experience. It is as much a prison escape movie as a coming-of-age one.

Ugly – Anurag Kashyap’s most focused movie since Black Friday, without his usual indulgences. It is a taut thriller with knockout performances by Ronit Roy and Rahul Bhat

Harishchandrachi factory/Elizabeth Ekadashi – The first one might be my favorite biopic ever. Paresh Mokashi makes a potential idolatry epic into a minor vignette about a cozy family on an adventure. On very similar lines, his follow-up is another joyous adventure with kids teaming up to save a bicycle. Both these films overflow with tremendous goodness in people, which I think is very valuable in the cynical times we live in.

Sundarapandian/Vetrivel – There is something about the craft of these two Tamil village based potboilers. The screenplay and specially the editing is so precise, creating a rhythm unlike any other movie. I wonder if Sasikumar ghost-directs these movies, because both these movies are made by different directors, but still carry the same energy and rhythm.

Dharma Durai/Rekka/Sethupathi – In a way this decade belongs to Mr. Vijay Sethupati, rising from a two-bit appearance in Naan Mahan Alla to the main villain in Sundarapandian and finally becoming a legit leading star (that too with a moniker ‘Makkal Selvan’) in Vikram Vedha. With equal measure indie, rural, a-list, mass movies under his belt, he is discreet as well as prolific. The 3 movies that I selected might raise many eyebrows, but each one is a classically well-made B-movie with Vijay Sethupati adding legitimacy. Where Dharma Durai is the typical rural drama with drunkards and suicides, Rekka is the typical small-town action-drama with goons behind the leading lady, and Sethupati being the most respected of the lot set in a city about cops and gangsters. He is effortlessly relatable in all these 3 milieu. But still the way he breaks into a drunkard dance at a funeral in Dharma Durai remains a clincher for me.

Andhadhun (Sriram Raghavan, 2019) – It does take its basic idea from a short film, but still deserves all the accolades. Especially the first act knocks it out of the park. I still remember sitting through the entire piano-dead-body-disposal scene agape with amazement. The movie takes a darker turn in second half subverting expectations, but it slowly lose its steam as it ventures into black comedy territory. Nonetheless, Sriram Raghavan’s best since Johnny Gaddar.

Here we go….

And here comes my best of the best from 2010-2019. They are mostly listed randomly, except the last one which is closer to my heart than any other movie.

Simha – The film I’ve watched the most (thanks to my wife who loves it too) this decade is Simha. It’s a film that doesn’t need subtitles. Each scene and dialogue is underlined with crazy visual kinetics, making sure it resonates in your body. The over-the-top violence, which is equated with God meting out punishment, is grandly entertaining. And all this is carried by Natasimha Nandamuri Balakrishna’s thundering on-screen avatar. My love for Balayya is difficult to articulate. It goes beyond the so-bad-its-good element. His dancing, overacting, action and angry outbursts, all add up to a unique experience. Josh Hurtado’s letterboxd review of Jai Simha articulates this perfectly. The captain of the ship Boyapati, a true auteur, is the campy version of Rajamouli. He recently took his shtick to crazy extremes in Vinaya Vidheya Rama where the villain is decapitated and his flying head is nabbed by vultures in mid-air.

Natarang – We’ve seen a lot of bright and cheerful follow-your-passion stories, but this one gets to the reality of it, exploring the consequences when a village pehlwan decides to leave his wife and kid to follow his art, also sacrificing his muscular masculinity on the way. Heartbreaking yet rousing. Ajay Atul’s score captures the soul perfectly.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa – In a way I hate Gautham Menon, mostly because he celebrates banal adolescent fantasies of falling in love, mostly at first sight. But most of the times, it cuts a bit too close for me, to ignore him. The joy I get watching his lead pair fall in love is almost too embarrassing to accept. Here he does make a very interesting love story mainly driven by this almost mythical character Jesse who starts out as an opaque placeholder for the guy to idolize and worship, but then slowly revealed to be a girl-next-door with daddy issues. It is largely the AR Rahman soundtrack that justifies this movie as decade’s best.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns – Kanagan Ranaut’s superstar turn in this movie about confused identities is one for the ages. She makes Datto the hero among two confused souls who resent each other but still can’t leave each other. It’s a full-blooded hindi pickchur with seeti-maar scenes and songs. My thoughts here.

Aurangzeb – Another movie with a double role. Another true hindi pickchur, this time with 70s tropes like ‘good’ gangster, imandaar cop, naajayaz aulad, twins separated at birth et al. It’s an expertly crafted action thriller with killer performances from Rishi Kapoor, Sikander Kher and Prithviraj.

Gangs of Wasseypur Part 2 – Apart from the explosive first 30 mins of Part 1 in the mining fields of Dhanbad, Part 1 left me generally cold with its wandering narrative.  It just felt like a setup for the explosive Part 2, where Nawaz becomes the vengeful Michael Corleone. But for whatever reason, part 2 delivered the bang that was promised, an epic revenge drama spanning over multiple generations. Anurag Kashyap outdoes himself with great use of songs in action set pieces, notably the chase sequence set to ‘Chhi Chha Ledar’ and a desperate escape set to ‘Moora’.

Arjun Reddy – Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s unabashed, untethered and unpretentious exploration of an alpha male’s journey from sublime to destruction to redemption is probably the most debated movie of the decade. General audience loved it, cinephiles were polarized. My thoughts here.

Sairat – Nagraj Manjule gives us a typical Indian love story which encompasses all aspects from heavenly infatuation to societal resistance to elopement to married couple squabbles to finally honor killing. In process he delivers a visceral epic which did shake my general apathy towards ground reality. My thoughts here.

Angamaley Diaries – It is a sensory experience like no other. The sight, the sound, the food. It overloads the viewer with these elements each designed to just leave you with an effect, an impression, coherency be damned. And then for the finale, it decides to just pause and take in all the chaos in a single 12 min immersive and a thrilling take.

Visaranai – A powerful rebuke of the middle-class convenient morality.  Unflinchingly explores the moral landscape of a city. Each one is culpable. None of us is holier than thou.

Jigarthanda/Iraivi – Though vastly different, it both explores how audience sympathy can be precisely shifted around to drive home a larger point. Jigarthanda sees a mafia boss earning grace after suffering terrible humiliation, while a wannabe director turns into a movie mafia after a success. Iraivi on the other hand was best described by Baradwaj Rangan – “ is an unusual feminist film, in the sense that it’s seen entirely through the prism of sympathetic male characters”

Bahubali: The Conclusion – Cinema for the big screen. Epic in every sense. Rajamouli creates his own mythological world and delivers a rousing tale of jealously, betrayal and loyalty in true Telugu hyper-real fashion. Not surprisingly it was the most watched Hindi movie since Gadar, and probably the most watched Indian movie ever. Genuine blockbuster cinema!

and by a mile at least, the best of the decade for me is ….

96 – A thrilling tale of unfulfilled love with nothing but grace from start to finish. The soul-stirring music elevates the movie to dizzying heights. Intimate yet epic!

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”

62nd National Film Awards (2015): List of Winners

So the 2nd National Film Awards for Indian Cinema of 2014 has just been announced a short while ago.  The awards will be distributed on May 3rd this year. Given below is the list of winners-Continue reading “62nd National Film Awards (2015): List of Winners”

Top 15 Tamil Movies of 2014: Year in Review

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

1Goli Soda:

golisoda

“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:

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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:

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:

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:

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:

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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:

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:

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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:

jig

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:

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

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:

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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:

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:

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:

vip

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.

 

The Best of Indian Cinema in 2014: A Perspective

At the very outset I wish to express that I personally felt that 2014 was overall an ordinary year for Indian Cinema. It was largely devoid of truly path breaking content and Hindi Cinema in particular was very disappointing, especially the second half of the year. This is even more alarming considering that the 1st quarter of the year saw some decent films like Dedh Ishqiya, Hasee Toh Phasee, Highway, Queen and true blue indie films like Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, the long pending Om-Dar-B-Dar of Kamal Swaroop and Rajat Kapoor’s Ankhon Dekhi. The last among the films mentioned (Ankhon Dekhi) in particular was a delight, more on that later. But with subsequent weeks throwing up disappointment after disappointment, I had almost given up on the year but thank goodness for the last 2 Fridays of the year which brought in some relief. 19th December saw Raj Kumar Hirani’s Aamir Khan spectacle PK release, one of the most awaited films  of the year while 26th December saw Anurag Kashyap’s long pending Ugly release. PK for me is Raj Kumar Hirani’s weakest film, but it is still an earnest film and Aamir thankfully is good in the film. So while I have no problem with the film’s spectacular success, I do oppose the way the so called moral and religious police are dragging it into an unnecessary controversy.Continue reading “The Best of Indian Cinema in 2014: A Perspective”

The 2014 Tamil Cinema Awards and Hall of Fame: Year in Review

It’s that time of the year when we usually reflect back upon the past twelve months and figure out how things have been for Tamil Cinema. This is also the time when we tend to look out for the films that impressed, the actors, directors and other technicians who’ve been in top form and also reflect upon how the future would turn out for them. Film as an art form though universal in appeal, still has the element of personal choice/ preferences playing upon us when it comes to forming an opinion. While it’s very rare to find a near universal acceptance of an opinion, when it comes to films especially these days, the finest contributions really deserve our awards and accolades.

Here is my list of the very best, Tamil cinema had to offer in 2014.

1. Best Actor in Lead Role – Male:

The nominees are

best actor1. Dinesh for his stunning portrayal of the nonchalant, confident and happy-go-lucky sightless youth in ‘Cuckoo

2. Aari for his natural act as violent and rustic highway burglar in ‘Nedunchaalai

3. Vishal for his authentic depiction of a narcoleptic in ‘Naan Sigappu Manithan

4. Siddarth for his feisty acts as the self centered, yet persevering filmmaker in ‘Jigarthanda’ and the emotionally torn stage artist in ‘Kaaviya Thalaivan

5. Karthi for his neat portrayal of the North Madras middle-class youngster in ‘Madras

And, the winner is Dinesh for ‘Cuckoo’.


2. Best Actor in a Lead Role – Female: 

The nominees are

best actress1. Nayanthara for her flawless portrayal of the woman seeking justice in ‘Nee Enge En Anbe’

2. Salony Ruthra for her bold and boisterous act as the mysterious twins in ‘Sarabham

3. Pia Bajpai for her act as the misunderstood rebel in ‘Nerungi Vaa Muthamidathey

4. Vedhika for her sincere portrayal of the lovelorn singer cum dancer in ‘Kaaviya Thalaivan’

5. Ananthi for her terrific peformance as the orphaned girl who falls blindly in love in ‘Kayal

And, the winner is Salony Ruthra for Sarabham


3Best Actor – In a Negative role: 

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Vamsi Krishna for his intense act as the covetous cricketer in ‘Vallinam’

2. Bobby Simha for his no-holds-barred performance as the ruthless gangster in ‘Jigarthanda

3. Prithviraj Sukumaran for his portrayal of the scheming and jealous stage artist in ‘Kaaviya Thalaivan

4. Ashutosh Rana for his unbeleivably subtle act as the invisible mafia don in ‘Meaghamann

5. Natraj Subramaniam for his portrayal of a man of brains, who lives by certain principles. albeit crooked in ‘Sathurangavettai’

And, the winner is Bobby Simha for Jigarthanda.


4. Best Debutante Actor in a Lead Role – Male:  

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Abhinav Vaddi for his near-perfect depiction of the maths wizard in the biographical ‘Ramanujan’

2. Shabeer for his performance as the honest lorry driver in ‘Nerungi Vaa Muthamithade

3. Ashraf for his act as the psychologically traumatised husband in ‘Ra’

4. Naga for his understated performance as the man caught between rationality and paranormality in ‘Pisaasu

5. Chandran for his raw, natural act as the lovable vagabond in ‘Kayal

6. Dulquer Salmaan for his breezy role in ‘Vaayai Moodi Pesavum’

And, the winner is Chandran for Kayal


5. Best Debutante Actor in a Lead Role – Female:   

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Malavika Nair for her splendid performance as as the visually impaired girl who yearns for love in ‘Cuckoo

2. Sugandha Garg for beautifully portraying the pains of love and war in ‘Inam

3. Shivada Nair for her role as the loud, aggressive and righteous dhabba owner in ‘Nedunchaalai

4. Akhila Kishore for her alluring portrayal of a sensitive woman in ‘Kathai Thiraikadhai Vasanam Iyakkam’

5. Mia George for her natural act as the innocent school girl in ‘Amara Kaaviyam

6. Catherine Tresa for representing the true North Madras girl in ‘Madras

7. Prayaga Rose Martin for her physically draining performance as the ghost in ‘Pisaasu’

And, the winner is Malavika Nair for Cuckoo


6Best Actor in a Supporting Role- Male:

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Jayaprakash for his simple yet stylish portrayal of the naive Pannaiyaar in ‘Pannaiyarum Padminiyum

2. S. Karan for playing himself as the mentally handicapped war victim in ‘Inam’

3. Nasser for his portrayal of the strict family head in ‘Saivam‘ and the experienced guru in ‘Kaaviyathalaivan’

4. MS. Baskar for his contribution to spicing up the drama in ‘Arima Nambi’

5.  Radharavi for his poignant portrayal of the bereaved father in ‘Pisaasu‘.

6. Kalaiyarasan for his impactful performance as the budding politician in ‘Madras’

And, the award is shared between Nasser for Saivam and Kaaviyathalaivan  and Kalaiyarasan for Madras


7Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Female :

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Thulasi for her grounded act as the wife of the village head in ‘Pannaiyarum Padminiyum

2. Sujatha Sivakumar for her portrayal of the loving and protective Aachi in ‘Goli Soda’

3. Saritha for her touching depiction of the mother figure to war victims in ‘Inam’

4. Saranya Ponvannan for her spontaneous performance as a loving mom in ‘VIP’

5. Ritwika for her sensuous and appealing character sketch of a loving wife in ‘Madras’.

And, the winner is Ritwika for Madras


8. Best Actor in a Comical Role:

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Bhagavathi Perumal for entertaining us with his looks and lines in ‘Oru Kanniyum Moondru Kalavaanikalum’

2. Pandiarajan for sending us into raptures of laughter as the minister in ‘Vaayai Moodi Pesavum

3. Karunakaran for his brilliant act as the friend in ‘Jigarthanda’ and ‘Yamirukka Bayamey’

4. Kaali Venkat for his sparkling sense of humor in ‘Mundasupatti

5. Bala Saravanan for superbly complimenting Dinesh in bringing the roof down in ‘Thirudan Police

And, the winner is Karunakaran for Jigarthanda and Yamirukka Bayamey


9. Best Child Artist:

FotorCreatedThe nominees are

1. Sara Arjun and 2. Master Ray Paul for their delightful performances in ‘Saivam

3. Vasanth, 4. Gaurav Kalai and 5. Praveen Kishore for their acting escapades in ‘Poovarasam Pee Pee’

And, the winners are Sara Arjun and Master Ray Paul for Saivam


10Best Original Screenplay:

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Vijay Milton for his skill at telling a revenge story in a refreshingly innovative way in ‘Goli Soda

2. P. Ramesh for his efforts in writing a novel and compelling conflict targetting the thriller genre in ‘Thegidi’

3. H. Vinoth for his sarcastic and painfully real depiction of the ugly truths in ‘Sathuranga Vettai

4. Karthik Subbaraj for his pure magic on screen in ‘Jigarthanda’

5. Parthiban Rathakrishnan for challenging the rules of ‘Syd Field’ in ‘Kathai Thiraikadhai Vasanam Iyakkam

6. Pa. Ranjith for weaving a ‘slice of life’ drama in ‘Madras’

And, the winner is Karthik Subbaraj for Jigarthanda


11. Best dialogues:

The nominees were

1. H. Vinoth for ‘Sathurangavettai’. “Unnai oruthan emaathunaa avanai edhiriyaa nenaikaadha! Oru vagaila avan unaku Guru!”

2. Karthik Subbaraj for ‘Jigarthanda’. “Enga area la ponnunga irukaanga. Aana unga area la aambalainga illaiyaame?”

3. Parthiban Rathakrishnan for ‘Kathai Thiraikadhai Vasanam Iyakkam’. “Neenga edukra cinema va neenga paathutu daan theatreku anupveengala, illa apdiye straighta theatre ku anupiduveengala?”

4. Raju Murugan for ‘Cuckoo’. “Ovvovurthiyum Saami da! Pombalaingala thittradaiye oru fashiona vechitu alaiyireengalada?”

5. Suseenthiran for ‘Jeeva’. “Pinnaadi Tatti kuduthaarnu nenachen, aana thadavi paathaarunu apuram daan therinjidhu!”

And, the winner is H. Vinoth for Sathurangavettai


12. Best Cinematographer:

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Santosh Sivan for providing a realistic and unsympathetic feel of war in ‘Inam’

2. Jeeva Shankar for capturing the lush green rustic essence of Ooty in ‘Amara Kaaviyam’

3. Gavemic U Ary for showing the alluring beauty of the temple city in all its grandeur in ‘Jigarthanda’

4. Ravi Roy for his unconventional frames and lighting in ‘Pisaasu’

5. Vetrivel Mahendran for recording the pristine beauty of Ladakh and Kanyakumari in ‘Kayal’

And, the winner is Ravi Roy for Pisaasu.


13. Best Editor:

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Leo John Paul for spicing up the tempo big time in ‘Thegidi

2. M.V. Rajesh Kumar for the slick cuts in ‘Velaiyilla Pattathari’

3. Vivek Harshan for his unique style of intercutting sequences in ‘Jigarthanda’

4. Praveen K.L for the seamlessly flowing narrative in ‘Madras’

5. Gopinath for maintaining the sinister atmosphere and eerie feel in ‘Pisaasu’

And, the winner is Leo John Paul for Thegidi.


14Best Director:

This category considers the making skills of the artist in question, and the way the script is translated to the screen.

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Vijay Milton for his confidence and trust in the audience for ‘masala’ cinema in ‘Goli Soda’

2. Balaji Mohan for his courage to experiment in ‘Vaayai Moodi Pesavum

3. Karthik Subbaraj for his flair for genre defying cinema in ‘Jigarthanda’

4. Pa. Ranjith for his gritty take on caste politics in ‘Madras

5. Suseenthiran for his guts and responsibility to address a sensitive social issue in ‘Jeeva

6. Mysskin for his inspiring style in redefining the horror genre in ‘Pisaasu

And, the winner is Mysskin for Pisaasu.


15. Best Debutante Director:

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. S.U. Arun Kumar for taking us on an emotional journey in ‘Pannaiyarum Padminiyum

2. P. Ramesh for thrilling us with a riveting script in ‘Thegidi

3. Raju Murugan for showing us new dimensions of love in ‘Cuckoo

4. Ram for taking us on a hilarious trip in ‘Mundasupatti

5. Vinoth for amusing and shocking us simultaneously in ‘Sathuranga Vettai

6. Dharanidaran for his jazz and style in crafting a heist thriller in ‘Burma

7. Caarthick Raju for his comical take on a drama in ‘Thirudan Police

And, the award is shared by P.Ramesh for Thegidi and Vinoth for Sathurangavettai.


16. Best Original Background Score:

The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Nivas. K. Prasanna for ‘Thegidi’

2. Vishal Chandrasekar for ‘Inam’

3. Santhosh Narayanan for ‘Cuckoo’, ‘Jigarthanda’ and ‘Madras’

4. AR. Rahman for ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ and ‘Kaaviya Thalaivan’

5. Arrel Corelli for ‘Pisaasu’

And, the winner is Arrel Corelli for Pisaasu.


17Best Music Director:

 The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Anirudh Ravichander for ‘Maan Karate‘ and ‘Vellaiyilla Pattathari’

2. Ghibran for ‘Thirumanam Enum Nikkah’

3. Santhosh Narayanan for ‘Cuckoo’, ‘Jigarthanda’ and ‘Madras’

4. AR. Rahman for ‘Kochadaiiyaan’ and ‘Kaaviya Thalaivan

5. D. Imman for ‘Kayal

And, the winner is Santhosh Narayanan for ‘Cuckoo’, ‘Jigarthanda’ and ‘Madras’.


18Best Art Director:  

 The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Sunil Babu for recreating the war field and atmosphere in ‘Inam’

2. CR. Velu for his mammoth efforts for achieving the period feel in ‘Kochadaiiyaan’

3. Gopi Anand for recording the bygone era with perfection in ‘Mundaasupatti’

4. Santhanam for authentically recreating the stage drama in ‘Kaaviya Thalaivan’

5. T. Ramalingam for attempting the North Madras feel with lots of conviction in ‘Madras’

And, the winner is Sunil Babu for Inam.


 19Best Lyricist:

 The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Vaali for “Onakaaga Poranthaenae” (Pannaiyarum Padminiyum) and the ‘Alli Arjuna’ series (Kaaviyathalaivan)

2. Kabilan for “Vinmeen Vithaiyil” (Thegidi)

3. Yugabharathi for “Aagasatha” (Cuckoo)

4. Vairamuthu for “Maattram Ondrudhaan Maaraadhadhu” and “Manappenin Sathiyam” (Kochadaaiyaan)

5. Karthik Netha for “Enthara Enthara” (Thirumanam Enum Nikkah)

And, the winner is Vairamuthu for the tracks “Maattram Ondrudhaan Maaraadhadhu” and “Manappenin Sathiyam” from Kochadaaiyaan 


20Best Male playback singer:

 The nominees are

FotorCreated1. RR for “Potta Pulla” and “Manasula Surakatre” (Cuckoo)

2. SP. Balasubrahmanyam for “Engae Pogudho Vaanam” and “Meduvaagathaan” (Kochadaiiyaan)

3. Arun Raja for “Ding Dong” (Jigarthanda)

4. Shadab Faridi for “Enthaara” (Thirumanam Enum NIkkah)

5. Haricharan for “Alli Arjuna” ,“Sandhi Kuthirai” (Kaaviyathalaivan) and “Paravaiyai Parakirom” (Kayal)

6. Gana Bala for “Kakidha Kappal” (Madras)

And, the winner is Haricharan for the tracks “Alli Arjuna” ,“Sandhi Kuthirai” (Kaaviyathalaivan) and “Paravaiyai Parakirom” (Kayal)


21Best Female Playback Singer:

 The nominees are

FotorCreated1. Saindhavi for “Vinmeen Vithaiyil” (Thegidi)

2. Kalyani Nair for “Agasatha” (Cuckoo)

3. Shruthi Haasan for “Un Vizhigalil” (Maan Karate)

4. Chinmayee for “Idhayam” (Kochadaiiyaan) and “Enthaara” (Thirumanam Enum Nikkah)

5. Rita for “Kannamma” (Jigarthanda)

6. Shaktishree Gopalan for “Naan Nee” (Madras)

7. Kaushiki Desikan for “Chillendra Chillendra” (Thirumanam Enum Nikkah)

8. Sweta Mohan for “Yaarumillaa” (Kaaviyathalaivan)

9. Shreya Goshal for “Yengirindhu Vandhaayo” (Kayal)

10. Uthara Unnikrishnan for “Nadhi Pogum Koozhangal” (Pisaasu) and “Azhagu” (Saivam)

And, this award is shared by Shaktishree Gopalan for “Naan Nee” (Madras) and Uthara Unnikrishnan for “Nadhi Pogum Koozhangal” (Pisaasu) and “Azhagu” (Saivam)


22. Best Dance Choreographer:

 The nominees are

dance1. Baskar for  “What a Karvaad” (Vellaiyilla Pattathari)  and “Paandinaattu Kodi”  (Jigarthanda)

2. Shobi Paulraj for “Pakkam Vanthu” (Kaththi)

3. Raghuram Master for “Thirupugazh” (Kaaviyathalaivan)

4. Satish for “Kakidha Kappal” (Madras)

5. Yuvraaj Jayakumar for the Rudhratandavam dance  (Kochadaiiyaan)

6. Gururaj for “Petromax Lightaedaan Venumaa” (Aranmanai)

And, the winner is Baskar for  “What a Karvaad” (Vellaiyilla Pattathari)  and “Paandinaattu Kodi”  (Jigarthanda).


23Best Costume Designer:

The nominees are

costumes1. Sathya NJ and Vasukhi Bhaskar for ‘Maan Karate’

2. Khushbu Doshi  and Eka Lakhani for ‘Inam

3. Neeta Lulla for ‘Kochadaiiyaan’

4. Jegathesan for ‘Mundasupatti’

5. Perumal Selvam and Niranjani Agathiyan for ‘Kaaviyathalaivan’.

And, the winner is Neeta Lulla for ‘Kochadaiiyaan’


24. Best Make-up Consultant:

 makeupppThe nominees are

1. Ranjith Ambady for ‘Inam

2. Lalitha for ‘Yaamirukka Bayamey’ and ‘Pisaasu’

3. Niranjani Agathiyan for ‘Kaaviyathalaivan’

And, the winner is Niranjani Agathiyan for ‘Kaaviyathalaivan’


25. Best Stunt Director :

 stuntsThe nominees are

1. Peter Hein for ‘Kochadaiiyaan’

2. Anal Arasu for ‘Meaghamann’

3. Tony for ‘Pisaasu’

4. Mahesh for ‘Burma’

5. Supreme Sundar for ‘Golisoda’

And the winner is Supreme Sundar for Golisoda


 

26Best Crew: For the film Jigarthanda


 

27. Best film of 2014: Jigarthanda.

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.

PART-3

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.

Jigarthanda-Siddharth

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

PART-2

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.

Jigarthanda-Simha

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…