Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020) Telugu Movie Review: A Trivikram Mythology

Trivikram Srinivas is considered to one of the star writer-directors in the Telugu film industry, he has an impeccable filmography. I was excited to watch his new Sankranthi outing, Ala Vaikunthapurramloo, like many others. It is his return to his territory of film making. The movie begins on a dark note, with an exchange of 2 new born kids. But the twist here is that the kids are not exchanged for the reason of their safety but out of jealousy and greed. Trivikram continues with his favourite theme of sourcing from mythology and including the idea of justice and revenge.Continue reading “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo (2020) Telugu Movie Review: A Trivikram Mythology”

VADA CHENNAI Movie Review: The Anbu Trilogy …begins!

During the latter half of the movie, we are watching the episode of a good-hearted gangster in the 80s, a smuggler who has won the hearts of the people of his locality with his generous deeds. In one of the scenes, we see the man walk down the dock discussing business as usual, but hands down a pair of binoculars as a gift to a young boy waiting at the shore.  It is much later that it dawns that what we witnessed was also a handover of viewpoints right there, as we find that this boy grows up and stands as a voice of rebellion for the common man against the politicians and scheming corporations decades later much like the gangster was back in his glory days.

Neither of these two men mentioned here though is our lead man Anbu. Anbu (Dhanush) is a goody next door boy who aspires to be a state-level carroms player or ‘flayer’ as they refer in the movie. He always hoped to live the straight forward clean life, but Vetrimaaran’s movie is about how this lad gets sucked into the whole revenge thirsty gangster politics of the hood. And once sucked it, there seem to be no going back.

Of course, the binoculars do come into play. Anbu uses the binoculars to locate the girl he ran into the other night. He spots her, woos her and then, in an attempt to stand up for his love, ends up getting into a scuffle with one of the local gangster. From here on, destiny takes him on a different path where he finds caught between the gang rivalry. And here he opts to stand for the people who helped in the time of crisis.

However, as the  years go by. it all  eventually takes a toll on him and now Anbu, married and matured, realizes that it is eventually time to stand up for what he truly believes in, come what may.

Welcome to Vada Chennai, or simply put –Once Upon a Time in North Chennai. The tale of a young lad who unwittingly ends up being a part of the dreaded gang war of the hood- the very thing he hoped to avoid.

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Director Vetri Maaran who has earlier given gems like the national award winning Aadukalam and Visaranai, has come up with yet another stellar work in the form of Vada Chennai – which is said to be the first of a trilogy. It is an ambitious project and Vetrimaaran has come out with a film that Tamil cinema definitely can be proud of in years to come.

It is the gritty realistic portrayal and firm storytelling skills that comes to the fore. Vetrimaaran smartly employs a non-linear narrative which sees the story slip in and hop from one decade to another without ever getting the audience confused. He weaves the narration around important events of history like the passing away of MGR, or the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Also, the movie is narrated in chapter format of various episodes of Anbu’s life which means every time the narration begins to lag, there is an interesting chapter around the corner and you find yourselves hooked back again to the happenings of these people. There is no bowing down to commercial factors, there is no cheap double meaning comedies to keep frontbenchers happy…heck, there is no whistle-inducing entrance even for the lead man.

And yet there is so much happening here. It all begins with the death of Rajan (Ameer). What we are immediately thrust into is a brief update on the various gangsters and characters who are immediately affected by the removal of this vital gang leader. Each of them is interestingly depicted that the director can move into the backstory of any of these characters with ease and we would not raise a complaint. Such is the potential of the world that Vetrimaaran has intricately created, that is warrants for a Netflix/Amazon miniseries.  And why not, because as per the director himself, he has written around five-six hours’ worth of material from which he has narrowed down it to this 166-minute film. Not only does he keep you engaged, he leaves us wanting more.

The plot has ample doses of rich Shakespearean drama as Vetrimaaran lays out his epic tale of betrayal, loyalty and deceit in the narrow lanes of North Chennai. Those who enjoyed those themes in Aadukalam, is certain to get a kick out of this one as well.  The whole thing may play out like a standard gangster fare and does make no attempts to take you by surprise. In fact, you can see where things are headed from miles away, but the scenes are built up in such fine fashion that you are watching it from the edge of your seat in anticipation. One of these sequences is the assassination attempt of one of the gangsters in prison leading us to the interval block. The other is the confrontation scene during a marriage where we watch how things shall unfold, lest it does spill into a Game of Thrones style ‘Red Wedding’.  And of course, the scene where Rajan discovers his gang’s true intention.

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Dhanush has emerged to be a superstar over the last decade, no doubt. But here the actor in him takes precedence. The actor is pretty much relegated to the backdrop for much of the portions and serves us, the audience, as an entry point into the mad bad world of these gangsters. All the performers get ample opportunity to shine in their respective roles be it Samutharakani, Kishore, Pawan, Daniel Balaji as the gangsters or Aishwarya Rajesh as the fiery woman who becomes Anbu’s lady love. Special mention of course to director Ameer  Sultan, who literally becomes the heart of the movie with the flashback portion. Andreah Jeremiah too shines and puts in her best to give depth to one the defining roles of her career.

The real gangsta here is Santosh Narayanan who comes up with a feisty score elevating some moments, and then at some key moments, director Vetri Maaran effectively goes into silence which inscribes the impact even further.

The weakness, if any, is the lack of something innovative in terms of story. The tale of gang rivalry and the scheming politicians who use them for their own goals are as old as the hills. We merely see the same tales being repeated, in various languages with merely a change in the setting, be it the Subramanipurams, or the Wasseypurs. It is only the assured and confident way in which it is handled by Vetrimaaran that makes it truly stand out.

One can also whine about the sudden transformation of Anbu during the corporation meeting and the fallout that immediately follows thereafter. Yes, it does come in a bit rushed. Probably some scenes were left behind on the editing table or was dropped out from the original written script. Knowing Vetrimaaran’s way of dealing with things, the former seems more likely.  Maybe a director’s cut is required, what say?

The leading ladies is also a matter of concern. Aishwarya Rajesh starts off strong and daring but as the movie progresses seem sidelined. I hope she does not go the Tamannah way like we saw in the Baahubali saga. And on a personal note, I thought the role of Chandra required a more senior and powerful actress to play the part. It was the kind of role that I thought Jyothika was headed towards in Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chevantha Vaanam. But alas, it wasn’t to be.  Anyways, I would only be glad to see Andreah proving me wrong in the sequels to come.

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Technically, the movie is outstanding. Velraj’s cinematography captures the time periods well. Costume from Amritha Ram remains natural without being all filmi. And special mention need to go to the set design (Jacki) especially the huge prison sets where most of the first half is set in. And hats off to the hard work put in by editor G.B.Venkatesh, R. Ramar to get this beast in its current form from the possibly massive material. VADA CHENNAI is indeed a great team effort with some brilliant cast and crew under the guidance of Vetri Maaran and that passion shines through in the final outcome.

VADA CHENNAI is one of those layered movie, one certain to keep the deep analyzers and movie bloggers busy for months to come as they dig in deep into the visuals and themes of the movies. A movie that gets it all so right is a rare sighting in any film industry, forget just Tamil. And watching this offering, the first installment has set up the board perfectly. The striker is ready to knock down the whites or the blacks, and the queen has taken the rightful position- right at the center of the playing field. For the carrom flayer Anbu, it is game on!  Bring on the sequels!

 

Cast: Dhanush, Aishwarya Rajesh, Andrea Jeremiah, Samuthirakani, Kishore, Daniel Balaji, Radha Ravi and Ameer

Directed by Vetrimaaran

Music by Santosh Narayanan

 

 

KAALA Movie Review: Black Dynamite!

Cast:  Rajinikanth, Nana Patekar, Huma Qureshi, Easwari Rao, Anjali Patil, Samuthirakani, Sampath

Music:  Santosh Narayanan

Directed by Pa.RanjithContinue reading “KAALA Movie Review: Black Dynamite!”

The Best of Tamil Cinema in 2016

2016 was an interesting year for Tamil Cinema with a variety of topics being explored. Some big films didn’t do well, while some small films made impact. Certain stars did well,while some of them didn’t really do well. Here are the films in my opinion which stood a little apart from the rest of the pack and made an impact this year.The movies aren’t sorted in any order of merit. Sorting is done based on release dates.

Continue reading “The Best of Tamil Cinema in 2016”

Oppam Movie Review: Priyadarshan and Mohanalal reassure us…to an Extent

It is a little surprising and also comforting to see a new Malayalam film begin with a scene involving veteran actors like Innocent and Kaviyoor Ponnamma. The introduction to the film begins with a family gathering in the ancestral home and we get to realize that the protagonist who is visually impaired is seen to be the near perfect son of the family, ever sacrificing for his siblings. And if you are wondering if this is going to be the tone for the rest of the film, then let me assure you that there is more to the film than just this aspect. As the protagonist prepares to return back to the city, he goes on to talk to someone on the way and just for a brief moment there is a mention of Kalaripayattu. And wait, there’s more to follow, he goes on to follow that with a semi classical rendition while on the ferry ride back to the city.Continue reading “Oppam Movie Review: Priyadarshan and Mohanalal reassure us…to an Extent”

Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum Movie Review: Unlike Poles Attract Each Other

Back in school and college I was quite patchy when it came to sports. Unlike academics or extra-curricular activities I could somehow never become consistently good when it came to sports. On my good day I would perhaps have a blast be it while playing Volleyball or Ball Badminton. But there were days when I would routinely hit the net with a pass or fail with my serve, to the desperation of all others in my team. So I can in a way relate to someone who feels that he has it in him to be a big gangster, someone who can trade off punches quite well and win any brawl. But in reality the person actually turns out to be diametrically the opposite, failing in form and technique very often when facing his opponents in a fight. Added to this is the burden of the person in question being a loner of sorts (here I defer), both wanted and unwanted by the people he works with, depending on the situation.Continue reading “Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum Movie Review: Unlike Poles Attract Each Other”

Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum: Trailer

Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum Poster 2Nalan Kumarasamy shot to fame with his very first Tamil film Soodhu Kavvum (2013). He also shot a crucial segment in the collective film, X: Past is Present and is now back with his second Tamil film, Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum (love shall also pass too). Produced by C.V.Kumar and K.E.Gnanavel Raja, this is an official remake of the Korean hit, My Dear Desperado (2010). Interestingly the Hindi version of the same, Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story (2013) was not well received. Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum or Ka Ka Ka Po as its also referred to features Vijay Sethupathi in the lead along with Madonna Sebastian of Premam fame and Samuthirakani.Continue reading “Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum: Trailer”

Visaaranai Movie Review: Brutal yet Realistic Tale That Leaves You Pondering

I have lived across the country in various places, across various states without ever facing any problems in terms of adjusting to the new place. Of course I have been lucky for 2 reasons, for one I have been fortunate enough to be able to blend into any city that I have been part of, without really having any major cultural issues as such to handle. Secondly I never had to struggle for work, accommodation or food wherever I went, which I consider to be an advantage considering that the majority of the people who migrate to other locations, do so in search of better pastures and are not lucky enough to have access to resources easily. So these days when I see hordes of people from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal in Kerala or in Gujarat, I do wonder what is it that makes them leave their own home state and go all the way to a totally different part of the country armed with just hope, hope of a better future.Continue reading “Visaaranai Movie Review: Brutal yet Realistic Tale That Leaves You Pondering”

Massu Engira Masilamani (Masss) Movie Review: A Venkat Prabhu Sixer?Not at all

The Tamil film industry is having interesting  times, on one hand we have new filmmakers pushing the envelope and on the other we have stars doing the routine stuff. Even in their prime Rajni and Kamal tried to do some films which pushed the envelope, but to expect that from current troika of superstars Vijay,Ajith & Suriya would be far fetched. The problem in Tamil Industry is that everyone wants to be a Superstar, but that chair has already been taken. Having an intro song and punch dialogues does not make anyone a SUPERSTAR.Continue reading “Massu Engira Masilamani (Masss) Movie Review: A Venkat Prabhu Sixer?Not at all”