As I write this, we are 6 weeks into the lockdown, all thanks to the Covid-19 situation & most of us are working from home. With cinemas being closed (and with no clarity of when they will reopen again) and Satellite T.V facing an acute shortage of content (hence the re-runs of old soaps and reality shows), its thanks to the various digital/OTT platforms that we are managing to get our regular dose of entertainment. And with a mention of digital/OTT platforms it is also mandatory to add the point that in today’s times, the language barrier is not as severe as before and thanks to English subtitles (let me not elaborate on this as it requires a separate article by itself) a lot of regional cinema (and web-series) is being watched by people who aren’t fluent with the language in particular. Similarly, Hindi cinema (and web-series) is continuing to reach out to those who do not understand a single word of Hindi.Continue reading “20 Years of Kandukondain Kandukondain: A Pioneering Tamil Film In Many Ways”
It all boils down to the choice I make. I can choose to be brutally honest to my audience and narrate my movie experience as a critic. Or I can channelize the inner Superstar fan in me to take over, and be amazed, enthralled and carried away by the infectious cheer, excitement and joy, a first day Rajni movie can incite. I could risk being termed a skeptic, a nitpicker, a ‘cynic’ blind to the gargantuan amount of efforts which has gone into the movie, in the process of being true to myself and cinema. Or I could choose to disregard anything which could potentially disappoint the avid Rajini fans who are obviously the majority and fill my entire review with words like exhilarating charisma, path-breaking charm, phenomenal aura, shivers down the spine and what not! Yes, Kochadaiiyaan is definitely special. Special in the way that it turns out to be a film which vehemently attracts both the extremes. Either a critic or a Superstar/ Tamil cinema fan talking about ‘attempting an innovation’ and ‘pushing the envelope’. Either this or that! Enough has been said about venturing on the road less trodden and the guts of the makers to do it. Here, I will endeavor to walk the tight rope between the two view-points and give an unbiased opinion on what works and what doesn’t.Continue reading “Kochadaiiyaan Movie Review: For, Of and By the Superstar”
Presenting mini-reviews of all the prominent Tamil movies of 2013 – The best, the good, the bad and the ugly! (In chronological order):
1. Alex Pandian:
Do u need reasons or recommendations to watch a Mani Ratnam movie? But personally, I felt Kadal is not one of his better films. The film starts off very promisingly with a powerful plot, but digresses in the middle because of some unappealing and predictable scripting! Lack of depth in the actual story-conflict makes it a tiresome viewing affair after a point. Having said that I would recommend that you give this one a shot for three reasons – power-packed performances by Arvindswamy and Arjun, eye-pleasing and raw visuals by cinematographer Rajiv Menon, and finally a highly imaginative addictive soundtrack by A.R.Rahman! And not to forget, it’s after all a Mani film! And it matters!
The plot tagline of “Two lives. One name” and names like Vikram and Jiiva sharing screen space with the likes of Tabu and Lara Dutta is reason enough to watch this one! But be warned, in-spite of the refreshing one-liner on paper, the director Bejoy Nambiar fails to translate it cleverly on screen! The final script is not so appealing nor the screenplay that engaging, and so after a point, you start feeling bored, which clearly indicates the film’s lack in pace and intent! But nevertheless, Vikram with his powerful portrayal of an inebriated Goan hunk, and Jiiva as the energetic sensitive youngster give the movie immense strength and appeal. Also worth mentioning is a group soundtrack, with the ‘Kanave Kanave’ number by Anirudh, becoming a favorite melody! May be because of its ensemble cast also, the film feels like a dubbed movie at times and ends up lacking nativity! Definitely a brave attempt, but could have been much better!
KamalHaasan, with a lot of political and philosophical undertones gives us a controversial commercial spy-thriller film this time. Award-winning acting performances,and world-class production values (Exhilarating cinematography by Sanu Varghese, Taut editing by Magesh Narayanan, riveting back-ground score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, first-class art-designing by Lalgudi and spine-chilling stunt choreography by Lee Whitaker) make this one a special Kamal style ‘Hollywood-ish’ action thriller. Do watch it to know the heights, Indian cinema can touch in the technical department. Fingers crossed for the second volume.
A very honorable sincere attempt to showcase the sacrifices a parent has to undergo in raising a ‘special’ challenged child and the efforts he puts in making him realize his true potential! A very poignant tale, told in a very convincing manner, sans any jarring commercial elements, by director GNR. Kumaravelan! Songs could have been totally avoided, but alas! Great casting, experimental subtle color variations in shot composure for depicting different moods by cinematographer R. Rathnavelu, and an endearing performance by the child artiste (Prithviraj Das) make this movie a fascinating watch! A heart-touching tale, told with a lot of sensitivity and restraint – Totally recommended!
“A Bala Film” does have the potential to pull film buffs to the theatres because of the niche he has created and associated himself with – ‘brutal and mercilessly real-life’! And without doubt, that’s what also, Paradesi is all about!. This time, Bala bases his script on real life incidents that took place before independence in the 1930’s, that majorly deal with bonded labor in the tea plantations and the hardships associated with it! With all the actors literally living the roles, and Bala showing no mercy in his actual interpretation of the laborer’s hardships, this film by itself is not an easy watch. It tugs at your heart, shocks you to the core at places and evokes all kind of emotions in you, ranging from pity, warmth, fear, anger, disgust, distrust, anticipation, shame, indignation to surprise! Bala’ passion for the subject he has taken on hand, and the confidence with which he sets out telling his tale are both praiseworthy! The atmosphere of cold reality that Bala manages to create and sustain throughout the movie, touches a very deep emotive chord and leaves you with a lump in your throat. No doubt, a dark film! Definitely not for average movie goers who want fun, cheer, and popcorn in the theatres. This one hits at you, and hits hard! Clean unadulterated cinema, which stays with you for a long time after leaving the theatres! But again, in my personal opinion, not Bala’s best work!
7. Chennaiyil Oru Naal:
A highly sincere well-made remake of the cult Malayalam hit ‘Traffic’ starring Sarath Kumar and Cheran. The film boasts of a very realistic racy screenplay and top notch performances from all the artists. A must watch, if you haven’t watched the original!
A bad forgettable remake of the cult ‘Delhi Belly’! You are well warned to stay off this and watch Delhi Belly instead with/without subtitles! (Subtitles will surely help in case you are not very strong in Hindi!) But remember, never ever be fooled into this!
Another debutante from Vetrimaaran’s stable, director Manimaaran joins the bandwagon this time! A uniquely made slick thriller which has many things going for it – unexpected twists, a racy feel, strong performances, pleasant musical score, an endearing climax and a pretty heroine! But still, strangely, Udhayam (NH4) is not brilliancy personified because of the predictability in the script! All said and done, a very well crafted movie!
10. Ethir Neechal:
This film, for what it is (another rom-com), is definitely much more than what it promised. The first half of the movie is a laugh riot with Siva Karthikeyan, in top form. If you are not in a mood to question or analyse much, you can definitely have a hell of a time with your friends. Only post-interval, when it pretends to turn as a wannabe inspirational sports flick, it falls flat on its face. Still, there are a couple of brilliant moments, where Siva shines as the athlete. Priya Anand, in probably a rare weak film in her career, just needs to look pretty and she does it naturally. Another average mindless rom-com, which you can catch up on DVD on one of those lazy afternoons! Definitely, not bad fare!
11. Soodhu Kavvum:
“Soodhu Kavvum” marks the directorial debut of the maverick young director ‘Nalan Kumarsamy’ who by this single movie, shows Tamil cinema the ‘knack’ of doing commercial, yet intelligent and offbeat comedy films. His potential comes to the forte right from the start and sparkles till the end, where he keeps the audience hooked to his narration, not even letting a moment of boredom, banality or platitude creep into the script. Smartly conceived and executed, with relatable ingenious characters and entertaining situations, the movie takes us through a wacky fun ride! Vijay Sethupathy breezes through his role will able assistance from all the supporting characters. Two other aspects stand out – the astute and brilliantly funny dialogues of Nalan and a great background score by Santosh Narayanan. This clever, quick-witted, landmark attempt at dark comedy is a ‘riot of laughs’! An absolute joy to watch! Definitely in contention, for the best movie of the year!
Director Alphonse Putharen makes his directorial debut in this novel rom-com-thriller bilingual (Tamil and Malayalam) starring the on-screen hot pair Nivin and Nazriya. A fresh non-linear narrative style and a slowly accelerating script, which steadily sucks you into the proceedings, are definitely the film’s strong points. The lead pair look ravishing and share some great chemistry, which is thoroughly enjoyable! But, the lazy languorous pace of the first half, and lack of more genuine laughs gets us a bit uninterested towards the interval. The film picks up some steam post interval, mainly because of some compelling performances by the supporting artists! Overall, a refreshing script on paper, which couldn’t translate as so much engaging on screen, thanks to some sluggish pointless segments and logical ambiguities. A narrative which strives to be stylishly different, great visuals by cinematographer Anand C. Chandran and foot-tapping music by Rajesh Murugesan are surely reasons enough, you would like to catch up with this jolly good light-hearted thriller!
This flick guarantees a couple of hours of laughs without taking itself too seriously, and still managing to entertain for real. Rj Balaji clicks big-time in his limited role, Santhanam has tried an image makeover and has succeeded to an extent (No double entendres mostly). Some of his scenes are truly super funny. Hansika looks slim, chic and pretty. Period. Songs are below average, and the placement of songs are all the more terrible. But overall, a great way to relax, unwind and spend the evening with your loved ones! I believe the director of ‘Soodhu Kavvum’, Mr. Nalan kumarasamy taking on screenplay and dialogues has worked big time for the film.
14. Thillu Mullu (2013)
With Shiva in the lead for the remake of the legendary Thillu Mullu, which showcased the versatility of our very own super star, it’s only natural that you could be a bit skeptical! But for strange reasons, (mainly because we choose to watch with very low expectations), this remake partially works and is somewhat funny too. Agreed Shiva goes overboard at times, but Santhanam is again in its elements. Another brainless average comedy film, which you might care to watch, if you want to while away some jobless free time!
15. Singam 2:
More than the plot, Maryan is about two power packed performances by both the male and female leads. Set in a fishing village called Neerodi and then moving on to Sudan, the script is something not very innovative or engaging. But Dhanush and Parvati by their near-flawless acting take the film to the next level. In fact they compete at heights much above their contemporaries for best actor in their respective categories. Soul-stirring music by A.R. Rahman and breathtakingly contrasting water and desert visuals by Marc Koninckx are, in one word, magnificent! This one is watchable for the strong lead performances and the charm of A.R.Rahman!
This is a good fresh thriller script which resorts to many commercial compromises, losing its lofty ideals in the process to become a rather average film, which has very few moments of charm and brilliance. But the reason behind Bharath working out that 8 pack abs to get that cachectic look, which the film fails to explain or exploit still escapes me! Regular passable action fare, which could have easily been much more, with some more imagination and credibility!
18. Aadhalaal Kadhal Seiveer:
Suseenthiran comes back to his elements in ‘AKS’ after the debacle of Rajapattai. He keeps the script simple, grounded, yet appealing this time. He follows a very linear narrative style, not very innovative for his caliber, but strikes nice and hard in the climax, catching the whole of the audience ‘off guard’! Weaving a tale around a sensitive issue, ‘irresponsible romance’, the director- for the most parts- keeps us engaged with witty dialogues to begin with, and situations which feel very genuine, thus giving the ‘slice out of your own life’ feel to the whole film! With themes centering on pre-marital sex and teen pregnancy becoming almost a rarity in Tamil cinema, director Suseenthiran definitely has to be congratulated for his deft and sensitive dealing of the issue. In spite of its flaws (monotony and predictability, at times), definitely a captivating watch!
An ambitious young female undercover cop who goes to challenging extents to nab a don (our protagonist), has a change of mind, falls for the gold-hearted don, resigns her job, she got by clearing the IPS, wears a saree, mangalsutra, and the works, and ends up offering coffee to the guests by the time the story ends!!!! Yeah you read it right!
Dreams- hard work- persistence- power- fame, in that order for the male lead.
Dreams- hard work- ogling – falling in love – resigning to marital bliss, for the female lead.
So much so for a claimed revolutionary cinema!
Time to lead? Nope! Time to typecast the ladies again!
On a lighter note, maybe we didn’t notice the director planning a shocking twist coming in the second part (Oh my God!) that the wife s actually still an under-cover agent working with crime branch again to nab her husband with concrete evidence… Ha ha.. In my dreams!
P.S: Yes, it’s a Vijay film. And a bloody boring one at that. So much so, for all that ‘leading’ hype!
20. Thanga Meengal:
Once in a while, there comes a film, which tugs at your heart and plays fiddle with your raw emotions! After a while, you stop resisting and give in to the manipulation. This film belongs to that category. Though filled with cinematic ambiguities, ThangaMeengal brims with true heartfelt emotions between a father and his daughter. An endearing script which stays clear of any commercial inclusions, showcases some breathtakingly beautiful visuals and hits hard with raw persuasive performances, making this one- a brilliant watch, although its narrated in a high pitched melodramatic way! This one will work magic on you, if you love to surrender yourself to your feelings!
21. Varuthapadaatha Valibar Sangam:
Strictly for those who want to have some pure silly fun at the cinemas with friends , or looking out for a light-hearted (intentionally imbecile) film which entertains, and doesn’t tax their brains much, or for those wanting to stress out at the end of the day! Sivakarthikeyan and Soori with their impeccable comedy timing, are mostly a riot to watch, but tend to get repetitive! A jolly good mindless watch, but not even close to brilliance!
22. Moodar Koodam :
Moodar koodam (Fools gathering), in spite of having its share of flaws, bowls you over with its innovative brilliance! Director Naveen, attempting the rare black comedy genre in Tamil cinema, comes out flying colors. Funny characterizations, creative visuals and top-notch detailing in screenplay makes this an absolute must-watch!
Mysskin arrives in style, yet again, after the debacle of “Mugamoodi”, with loooong shots ,unimaginable creativity, lingering surreal imagery, Myskinisque camera angles and a level of brilliance, which never ceases to surprise you! Add to it, a haunting background score by the maestro! What more do you want?
Dark and Intense! Yet, captivating! Obviously done on a shoe string budget, Onaaiyum Aattukuttiyum engages you for most of time and enthralls you typical Mysskin style! The super talented writer-director, in spite of accusations of ‘being inspired by Korean movies’, elevates Tamil cinema to an entirely new level through this one! An edge of the seat thriller, which remains an exemplary film in the genre. Easily, 2013’s best Tamil movie and a ground-breaking one at that!
24. Raja Rani:
The director has tried to narrate an entertaining romantic tale on the premise of “There is life, after love failure!”
Why would you want to see it!
1. Nayan as the leading lady- Her charm n screen presence is infectious!
2. Awesome technical stuff- feel-good background score, well-shot engaging songs, and attractive visuals!
3. The amazing chemistry between Nayan as the daughter and her on-screen dad played by Sathyaraj
4. Jai’s characterization, although he goes overboard with the whining sometimes.
5. Spirited Santhanam, but only when he is talking less and emoting more
5. The romantic juices flowing all over !
Why would you rather skip it!
1. Santhanam going overboard with the punches and one-liners, starts getting on your nerves at times
2. The director resorting to provide a very convenient resolution for the failure of both love angles – Unlike in real life, where, its almost always unresolved, messy, and dysfunctional relationships that end in break-ups. The artificial made-up feel of the film predominates!
3. A very predictable ‘testing-your-patience ‘second half compared to the taut and racy first hour.
One of those less clichéd, beautiful looking, romantic comedies that you can go with your date/spouse/friend and have fun! Mind you, most of the ‘entertainment’ might be ‘mindless’ and ‘meaningless’!
25. Idharkuthane Aasaipattai Balakumara:
Even in a heavily caricatured character (Sumaar Moonji Kumaaru) Vijay Sethupathy is in his elements. And that’s the only thing talking about in this movie. Everything else, including the script, mostly falls flat. Pedestrianism runs rampant in the name of comedy. Very ordinary fare!
27. Vanakkam Chennai:
Vanakkam Chennai is not by any means a path-breaking film! But it is for sure a Priya Anand film. And it’s not your regular “Shiva film’ too! With a believable plot, funny sequence and a strong female lead character, this one is another pretty good romantic comedy, which doesn’t mock at your intelligence. Music by Anirudh is funky and contemporary! Seeing Priya do that action segment must have given the audience their money’s worth!
28. Sutta Kadhai:
A disastrous attempt at black comedy by debutante director Subu, which falls flat at all levels. Nothing worth mentioning about the movie other than the unique title, which turned out to be a joke, alluding to the director taking a shot at the brains of the audience!
With huge logical loopholes in the script and screenplay, Arrambam turns out to be just another slick action flick, lifted directly from any random Hollywood -Bond/Statham movie, the only extra-special element here, being Ajith’s charisma and dare devil stunts! Ajith caries the salt and pepper look successfully yet again! Songs hinder the flow of narration big time and it’s sad to see Ajith resorting to mass- introduction songs again, especially after his brief stint at moderately experimental cinema! The average background score by Yuvan doesn’t help the proceedings much! Arya is getting typecast, Tapsee is cute and Nayanthara, surprisingly has nothing much to do! Rana Daggubati, as a cop, is a revelation though! Like all of VishnuVardhan’s earlier films, illustrious cinematography, top-notch action sequences and colorful costumes are definitely the positives! An action thriller, alright, but not a very intelligent or innovative one at that!
30. All-in-All Azhaguraja:
31. Paandiya Naadu:
When definitions of heroism blur, good cinema is born!
Vishal by agreeing to produce and act in the most restrained down to earth role of his career, and Suseenthiran by putting tremendous confidence on the maturity levels of the audience, strike back with a sensible riveting revenge tale, putting quite a lot of hush-hush about Tamil cinema becoming unrealistic and hero-oriented, to rest.
The compulsive climax, where Vishal stands with trembling hands and staggering legs, constantly searching for props to defend himself and determined to survive, is reason enough for you not to miss this one!
May be you will find loopholes and logical ambivalence’s as the film sinks in, but the success of the director lies in his ability to make believe that they don’t exist. A soul stirring performance by veteran Bharathi Raja, pleasing music by Imman and some breathtakingly believable stunt choreography by Anal Arasu make the film, a sensible and captivating revenge drama!
32. Pizza 2- The Villa
The second part of the Pizza franchise is so named just because of its similarity to the new genre Pizza created- Soft horror (No overt gore. No excessive scares).
Touted to be a psychological thriller, the film’s only high point happens at the pre-interval block, which gives the audience a bit of jitters! Before that, and after that, debutante director Deepan Chakravarthy, though having got the basic premise and plot convincingly on paper, loses it on screen trying to give overtly boring scientific lectures, for all paranormal activities.
Having said that, the film does have its moments of brilliance and shock, but they are very few and far apart. The climax is however conceptualized and shot well! An original fiery plot, which had lots of potential to be really scary, turns out to be a rather ordinary affair dealing with the supernatural!
33. Irandaam Ulagam:
Another experimental film, which went awfully wrong from maverick director SelvaRaghavan. Mindnumbingly boring screenplay and some pedestrian VFX spoil the whole viewing experience! Brilliant visuals and some great music by Harris and Anirudh are the only life-savers!
But dear Selva,
What I felt about the movie are all inconsequential -compared to the million dollar nagging question, which was eating my brains – throughout the running time of one sixty five minutes. What the hell, do you smoke, man?
34. Vidiyum Munn:
‘Vidiyum Munn’ is definitely worth your time and money! Dealing with an uber-sensitive issue, Balaji K Kumar delivers a master-stroke of sorts, bringing you to the edge of your seats for most of the two hours. Slow paced, but top-notch engaging thriller! Great performances by the two female leads – Pooja Umashankar and Malavika Manikuttan, and innovative cinematography by Sivakumar Vijayan makes this one a compelling watch! Another must watch movie of 2013!
KSS comes as another wisp of fresh air in Tamil Cinema. A delightful film ,with a neat script, a charming screenplay and endearing performances – Kalyana Samayal Saadham totally bowls you over! Director R.S Prasanna has tried his hand at adult comedy taking a sensitive theme, and handles it with maturity and style. A mighty show of guts by actor Prasanna, who by accepting to play the role, shows ‘what manliness is al about’ and ‘what it means to stand up for your girl’. Strewn with some funny dialogues, this one is a must-watch unique film, Tamil cinema has come to age with!
36. Ivan Vera Mathiri:
With undue over the board action sequences, a linear narrative style with no obvious twists or turns and another comical flimsy romance, Ivan Vera Mathiri disappointed me a little! But there are quite a few instances which are gripping and endearing too. But coming from a director like Saravanan, the expectations were much more and the director definitely hasn’t lived up to it You can give this one a miss if you are pressed for time! Just ‘better than average’ fare!
37. Dhoom 3 (Tamil)
Dhoom 3 is definitely a technically loaded, action thriller- the surprise package this time, being Aamir! Though it’s sheer joy to see him perform, sometimes we do get a feeling that it does no justice to his full potential! Also the film looks and feels like one of those direct rip-offs from Hollywood! The screenplay is mostly incredibly dull and predictable. Top notch cinematography and the usual breathtaking Dhoom stunts combined with Aamir’s screen charm, makes the movie barely watchable!
One of those numerous unremarkable ‘ten plus one’ tomato rice-biriyani, served in the name of ‘dum biriyani’! What a sacrilege? Things do get better towards the very end, but the damage has already been made- done and dusted! Arguably, the director’s worst film till now! A VenkatPrabhu cliche!
39. Endendrum Punnagai:
A ‘done to death’ run-of-the-mill bromance -comedy, which ‘tries’ to be different, showcasing a super arrogant protagonist, played convincingly by Jiiva! Gorgeous looking trisha and in-form Santhanam are the saving graces! Overall, the film is nothing but a few smiles and more than a few sighs, and will appeal to the fans of the bromance genre!
The decks are all set for the release of probably one of the biggest Indian films of late, Kochadaiiyaan. Earlier today the audio launch happened in a grand function in Chennai, and now the official theatrical trailer has been released as well. Produced by Sunil Lulla (of Eros) and Sunanda Murali Manohar, Kochadaiiyaan is directed by Soundarya Rajinikanth Ashwin and written by K.S.Ravikumar. Featuring the one and only Rajinikanth in the lead, the film has an ensemble star cast which includes Deepika Padukone, Shobana, Sarath Kumar, Nassar, Jackie Shroff, Aadhi etc. Music is by A.R.Rahman while Rajiv Menon is the DOP and Anthony the editor.Continue reading “Kochadaiiyaan: Trailer”
After a lot of delay and confusion regarding the release of Soundarya Rajnikanth‘s Kochadaiiyaan, featuring her father and the one & only Rajnikanth in the lead, the film is finally all set to release on April 11. Kochadaiiyaan is scaling up for a massive Worldwide release across 6000 + screens and the release will be happening in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi and Bhojpuri versions. For the International markets there will be a special English version also being released. The audio launch is expected to happen towards the end of February.
You can check out the teaser here.
The much awaited teaser of Superstar Rajnikanth‘s Kochadaiiyaan is finally here. Produced by Eros International and directed by Soundarya Rajnikanth Ashwin, the film sees Rajnikanth in dual roles.Continue reading “Kochadaiiyaan: Teaser”
Produced by Gemini Film Circuit and Madras Talkies, written by Jeyamohan and Mani Ratnam, directed by Mani Ratnam and starring Arjun, Arvind Swamy, Gautham Karthik, Thulasi Nair,Lakshmi Manchu and Ponvannan, Kadal is a story about sin and redemption, about faith and humanity and revolves around the life of Christian Fishermen, set against the backdrop of a sea side town near Tuticorin.Continue reading “Kadal Movie Review: Unconventional Yet Disappointing”
One of the most anticipated films from the time it was announced, ‘Bombay’ created a big furore over its content and was an extremely controversial film due for release. Even though the Tamil version had a smooth projection in March 1995 but the Hindi dubbed version was making sensational headlines on front cover pages with almost all political activists like Shiv Sena etc. calling for a ban. Being an ABCL presentation helped it to a great extent as Mr.Bachchan’s proximity with Mr.Bal Thackeray helped in getting the movie a clearance, who had his own reservations even with the name of the film but, eventually gave his consent.
But that was not the case with the Muslim fundamentalists as they objected to a lot of scenes in the movie (lifting of the burqa by the male protagonist, the female protagonist taking the quran while absconding to Bombay with the chanting of verses in the backgroud are the ones to name a few) and needed a cut even after the Censor board had cleared the same. The movie was pulled out of theatres from the first day of its schedule release in Mumbai without a show being live and there were violent protests all across here. Finally it got released on the subsequent Tuesday amidst heavy security with cinema halls looking like a battle fort and strict policing as the movie went on to create history.
I have great admiration towards Mani Ratnam for making films on various subjects which take inspiration from real life and that includes famous epics, social issues, terrorism, politics and history. His films are always an excellent combination of his vision with great camerawork and amazing music.
I can recall very few films being viewed in theatres during my earlier days and Bombay is one such film that still remains etched in my memory mainly due to the topical theme and the turmoil it created near its release.
Shekhar (Arvind Swamy) is the youngest son of traditional Hindu parents and working as a journalist in Bombay with The Indian Express. On return to his seaside village he catches the glimpse of a young burqa clad woman Shaila Banu (Manisha Koirala) when her veil is lifted by the breeze. Infatuated in love instantly with her (Mani Ratnam doesn’t waste much time to make his characters fall in love), Shekhar spots her the second time at a Muslim community wedding which is shot against the backdrop of the beautiful song ‘Kannalane/Kehna Hi Kya’. Shekhar’s intensity grows in stature accordingly with such small occasional meets and does not care for the consequences of being in love to a girl from different community neither hesitates to express it. On the other hand Shaila is reluctant initially but eventually agrees to his passion. Please listen to my favourite song here.
Obstacles and trouble arise when Shekhar takes the marriage proposal to Shaila’s father, who is furious and unwilling about it. Shekhar’s father too disagrees and lands up confronting Basheer to keep his daughter away from his son resulting in a fallout with Shekhar who returns back to Bombay.
Always in touch with Shaila through letters, Shekhar sends her rail ticket to Bombay who eventually runs away from home and on arrival they both get married on the same day at a marriage register office. Being happily married with twin sons, the film goes in dark territories as tension sparks in the city with communal riots happening after the demolishment of Babri Masjid, where thousands are killed in the violence. It moves on to a powerful drama of the religious fights that tore the city apart and how bigger tragedies occur to their peaceful little world and to the city which never sleeps. Mani Ratnam hurls all the horrors and chaos of fusing religious fanaticism in your face.
The second half of this film works very well where the riots are depicted with outstanding authenticity and is disturbing as well. Relationship between the fathers of the main protagonists which is very tense initially melts away as they accept their children’s marriage over a period of time. Both Nasser (Narayan) and Kitty (Basheer) who portrays their respective role, having silly fights when they come to Bombay are a joy to watch. Some scenes between the two are excellent and particularly one is a masterstroke where Basheer comes to Narayan’s rescue after making his way back home from Aarti and confronted by people belonging to the minority who stops and questions them. Basheer intervenes and informs them that Narayan is his brother and gets emotional for having saved his life and the state of affairs around.
Or the scene where Narayan risks his life to take Basheer’s quran and the cylinder blasts while they try to get out of a brning house. The background score for the second half is an achievement and enhances every moment. The transvestite guy who shelters and feeds one of the twin kids is marvellous in a small role. The best moments in ‘Bombay’ are captured while the city burns in hell and is Mani Ratnam’s attempt for bringing the issue of religious divide. What begins as an innocent romantic fluff becomes a heart tugging, almost claustrophobic experience as the two parents look for their children lost in the confusion.
Technically Bombay has terrific camera work and an amazing score. Mani had briefed Rajeev Menon that the film being about riots, they needed the 1st half to be as beautiful as possible. Having a lot of blues the exteriors where shot in Kasargod-Kerala and the interiors of homes in Pollachi-Tamil Nadu. The moist atmosphere in the opening scene and the rains in village are magnificently captured on screen.
The city of Bombay was created on two streets and even Thota Tharrani deserves a special mention for his brilliant artwork in recreating the riot filled atmosphere.
A R Rahman’s outstanding soundtrack as well as the BGM is what makes ‘Bombay’ a wonderful journey, be it ‘Kannalane/Kehna Hi Kya’ or an emotionally filled ‘Uyire/Tu Hi Re’ and the catchy ‘Humma Humma’, all songs still make for a melodious listen and have tremendous recall value. Bombay Theme is one of the best instrumental pieces in world music and was even used in Andrew Nicol’s Lord of War.
Arvind Swamy is convincing with his performance as the romantic lead first and then a concerned father and husband post interval. Manisha Koirala’s performance is a revelation and this was her big ticket film where she is charming as a sweet and innocent Shaila and equally warm and protective as the mother. There are some tender moments aplenty between Arvind and Manisha, and they share a terrific chemistry making them highly believable as a couple on screen. Prakash Raj is in a blink and miss role as a police inspector with Tinnu Anand and Akash Khurana as the religious heads being adequate.
At the heart of ‘Bombay’ lies the message of peace and unity regardless of our religious background and it also makes a point that such fights are senseless, where innocent lives suffer more often than not. ‘Bombay’ is a beautifully told story with Mani Ratnam at the peak of his powers, making it an unforgettable film.
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