Petta Movie Review: The Stars Are Out Tonight

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

Trisha Illana Nayanthara (2015): Female characters in Tamil Sex (less) Comedy

Sex comedies are awkward affairs in India, due to censorship which despite doling out the adult rating ensures that film has to be trimmed off most scenes and dialogues. At the end this results in films like Masti, Grand Masti and so on. In the end, there is no sex, just a series of gags with double entendre which appear borrowed from Whatsapp groups.Continue reading “Trisha Illana Nayanthara (2015): Female characters in Tamil Sex (less) Comedy”

Trailer of Aaha Kalyanam: Band Baaja Baaraat in Tamil and Telugu

Aaha Kalyanam-TamilWhen the Telugu film Jabardasth released earlier this year it created a big ripple and shook up YRF. Directed by Nandini Reddy, Jabardasth was a Telugu-Tamil bilingual (called Dum Dum Pee Pee in Tamil) featuring Siddharth and Samantha in the lead and came across as an unofficial remake of YRF’s Band Baaja Baaraat. With YRF already keen to remake this successful rom-com in Tamil and Telugu, they quickly stalled the release of the Tamil version i.e Dum Dum Pee Pee by taking the legal route.This was immediately followed by their announcement of Aaha Kalyanam, the official remake of Band Baaja Baaraat in Tamil and Telugu. Though originally meant to be shot in both languages, apparently it has now been shot in Tamil alone and dubbed into Telugu. A. Gokul Krishna makes his debut into direction with Aaha Kalyanam. The film features Nani and Vaani Kapoor (who was earlier seen this year in Shuddh Desi Romance).

Other actors include M.J.Sriram and Simran. The music is a totally new soundtrack by Dharan Kumar while Loganathan Srinivasan is the DOP and Bavan Sreekumar is the editor. Aaha Kalyanam is all set to hit the screens in both languages on 7th February 2014. Lets see if it can replicate the success of the Hindi original.

Here’s the trailer of the Tamil version.

And here’s the Telugu trailer

Kannathil Muthamittal- An Innocent Journey of a Girl

Sometimes a film impresses you right from the word go. It consistently meets or even surpasses your expectations as the story unfolds, but somehow, just the way it ends disappoints you. Kannathil Muthamital is that kind of a film for me.
Mani Ratnam’s biggest strength is to make films which despite being unconventional are very mainstream. Kannathil Muthamital is no exception. Here he tackles subjects like adoption and the LTTE movement in Srilanka. But he does not fail even once to take the lowest common denominator of the audience into consideration. It is a feature which was evident in the recent Hindi film Paan Singh Tomar as well. In Kannathil Muthamital, an almost 9 year-old Amudha(P.S. Keerthana) doesn’t know that she is an adopted child. Her parents G.Thiruchivelan(Madhavan) and Indra(Simran) have decided to let her know the truth on her 9th birthday. Amudha gets a little disturbed on knowing the truth and is determined to know the identity of the woman who gave her birth. She even flees away from home in her search to Rameshwaram which is Indra and Thiruchivelan’s hometown and also the place from where Amudha was adopted.Thus forcing her parents to tag along who finally give in to her plea and agree to fly to Srilanka to find Amudha’s biological mother as she is most likely to be found there.

In the lovely prologue, we are introduced to Amudha’s biological parents Shyama and Dileepan, a newly married Tamil speaking Srilankan couple. The war-torn land is no ideal place to grow a child and hence Dileepan, who is involved in the war, doesn’t want a child as of now much against Shyama’s wishes. He gets sucked into the war and doesn’t return home for days. Meanwhile, despite their planning Shyama gets pregnant and hence is rushed across the shore to India as there are much better facilities there. The prologue ends withShyama reaching a Refugee Camp in Rameshwaram in India and delivering a baby girl, whom she leaves to the care of an orphanage and returns to Srilanka to join her husband.

It surely is a fascinating plot and Mani Saar, as expected, is up to the task. The prologue very effectively gives you an idea of the whole situation of Srilankan Tamils. Also,the soulful Vellai Pookal sung and composed by A.R.Rahman plays in the background during this part, all of which enchant you instantly. But the high point of the film for me is easily the camaraderie among Amudha and the family which has adopted her. The film has quite a few exceptional scenes involving Amudha, Thiruchivelan and Indra. One of them is a scene where Amudha after a long and hard try does manage to make Indra forgive her mischief. At this moment Thiruchivelan is keenly observing the mother-daughter pair embracing each other as Indra accepts Amudha’s apology. Well aware of Thiruchivelan’s habit of getting inspired from real life situations in his writing, Amudha and Indra both playfully threaten him from including the just happened events, involving themselves, in his novels.

Madhavan’s performance was a revelation for me. This is by far the best I have seen him acting on screen. The character sketched for him by Mani Ratnam is definitely a triumph. A popular andemphatic writer, Thiruchivelan is a thoughtful, polite, firm and straightforward man. He doesn’t like free advice andcounts the belief that to become a writer you need to have a spark since birth as an absolute lie. Thiruchivelan always has his wits about himself and to pacify Amudha he does give in to her demand and decides that they will go to Srilanka to search Amudha’s biological mother.

Simran too is spot on playing Indra. The slightly low-tempered but a caring and loving mother, Indra is also a news reader on a TV channel. She is particularly impressive in the flashback romance segment of the film. Here too Mani Ratnam shows his class. Ravi K. Chandran’s cinematography also shines out in this part which is shot in the coastal town of Rameshwaram.Neighbours since childhood Simran&Thiruchivelan have a thing for each other. And it is Simran here who is chasing Thiruchivelan. A scene where she is trying hard to keep up with Thiruchivelan on her bicycle while he is riding a scooter impresses you with its freshness and unconventionality. Thiruchivelan wants to adopt a little girl(Amudha) but can’t as he is a single man and thus finally expresses his love to Indra and they decide to get married. This is why he tells Amudha that they didn’t choose her but she chose them.

But the star of the film is without doubt the little Amudha played by P.S. Keerthana. The talkative, slightly mischievous character could have easily become highly irritating (like in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain), but it doesn’t and thus Keerthana’s performance deserves appreciation. With Anjali, Mani Ratnam had ample experience of extracting the best from children which is a difficult task indeed. Nandita Das, as usual, is up to the mark and J.D. Chakravarthy too doesn’t fail to leave an impression in his short role.

The music by A.R.Rahman without doubt is top class. However, some songs like Vellai Pookal and Amudha’s intro song Sundari gel very well with the film but others like KannathilMuthamital don’t take the story one bit forward. But to compensate the song Kannathil Muthamital has been shot marvelously. Ravi.K.Chandran has been given a free hand and he holds nothing back with a number of breathtaking helicopter shots, crane shots etc on the vast empty expanse of a beach. Even in this highly stylized song there is one moment which stands out for its innocence which is when the camera attached on the crane comes closer to Amudha we see her just about managing to keep her dress from blowing up because of the breeze, a la Marylin Monroe, and hence she gives animpromptu sweet-shy smile.

What also adds to the film’s victory is the writing by Mani Ratnam and Sujatha. Getting to make a film against the back-drop of the Sri-Lankan crisis was never going to be an easy task at all. While we can always debate as to how effective was the portrayal of the conflict in Sri Lanka as shown in the film, we definitely need to admit that there was no glorification of the issue , any overt statement issued or a stand taken per se. In the end in spite of the serious context of violence hovering around, Kannathil Muthamittal still fundamentally remains a simple story of a girl in search of her parents. That we remain glued to Amudha’s journey till the end is in itself a victory for Mani Sir as most of us might agree by now.

Now, let’s come to the disappointing part. It all starts when the family flies to Srilanka. Though the introduction scene to LTTE activism is brilliant, some scenes after that start to get a bit conventional. Some even defy logic and thus leave you disappointed. But nothing upsets you as much as the finale. Mani Ratnam, as a director, is brilliant in the rest of the film but wonder why he opts to finish of the movie in such a manner. The restraint and freshness visible right throughout the film suddenly gives in to melodrama. Some dialogues become predictable and the background score also becomes loud. Sadly, the finale pales in comparison to the excellent built up.

Despite the final moments, Kannathil Muthamital is an eminently watchable film. The performances, the music, the cinematography would definitely not leave you disappointed as a whole.

Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:

1. Pallavi Anupallavi (Kannada) 2. Unaroo (Malayalam) 3. Pagal Nilavu (Tamil) 4. Idaya Kovil (Tamil) 5. Mouna Ragam (Tamil) 6. Nayagan Tamil) 7. Agni Natchathiram (Tamil) 8. Geethanjali (Telugu) 9. Anjali (Tamil) 10. Thalapathi (Tamil) Take 2 Thalapathi (Tamil) 11. Roja (Tamil) 12. Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) 13. Bombay (Tamil) 14. Iruvar (Tamil) Take 2 Iruvar (Tamil) 15. Dil Se…(Hindi) Take 2 Dil Se…(Hindi) 16. Alaipayuthey (Tamil) 17. Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) Take 2 Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) 18. Yuva (Hindi) 19. Aayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) 20. Guru (Hindi) 21. Raavanan (Tamil) 22. Raavan (Hindi)

Kannathil Muthamittal – When Mani Sir Bid Adieu

Of course GURU was a proficiently manufactured biopic, but it could as well have been made by Milan Luthria. AAYUTHA EZHUTHU had its sparks of brilliance, yet one struggles to even remember the names of its lead characters. And RAAVANAN, well, we Mani Ratnam fans bought that DVD just so we could burn it on Dussehra. And because of these films, KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL will always be that special one with which we saw the last of Mani Sir, the master who wielded the power to etch characters in your mind for a lifetime, the craftsman who mesmerized you with visuals so simply executed, yet poetic enough to make you gape with awe, the genius who ensured even the most stone-hearted left the theatre with that lone tear struggling to squeeze out of the corner of their eye.

KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL, or A PECK ON THE CHEEK as it was known in the international film festival circuit, stands tall in Mani Ratnam’s body of work not just for its superlative craft, but more so for its emotional connect. A film Iranian in its approach, yet replete with spectacle synonymous of Indian cinema, Ratnam explored an issue as significant as the Sri Lankan civil war through the eyes of Amudha, a nine-year-old girl. Beautiful characterization, heart-wrenching performances, superlative usage of music and song to express emotion, and gorgeous cinematography are just some of the aspects that make this film so memorable.

Fans of pre-Roja Mani Ratnam often argue KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL is overtly melodramatic, slow, sappy and too simplistic a view of a very serious issue. Ratnam would perhaps plead guilty, but quite unapologetically at that. Ultimately the perspective of the film is that of a child who could not possibly comprehend the complexities of war, but become aware of and be terrified by it. As it is with most Ratnam films, the big canvas of the war is simply an excuse to draw importance to a very simple story at the crux.

On her ninth birthday, Amudha’s parents disclose to her that she was adopted. Her parents, Thiruchelvan and Indra are progressive thinkers who believe she has a right to know the truth. Despite repeated warnings from Ganesan, Indra’s father, who argues that a nine-year-old will find it difficult to process something like this, the couple reveal the truth anyway. Amudha instantly regresses into a state of confusion, her mind filled with questions about why her birth-parents gave her up. She confides in her grandfather, who explains to her that she was adopted from a refugee camp. One fine day, Amudha goes missing, having hopped on a bus to Rameswaram. When Thiruchelvan and Indra find her, realizing how important it is for her questions to be answered, they agree to take her to war-torn northern Sri Lanka to locate her birth-mother.

A lesser director would have perhaps resorted to keeping identities of characters a mystery, trying to surprise audiences by connecting dots at key points to keep audiences interested. Ratnam instead lays all the cards out face-up from the beginning. He opens his film with Dhileepan and Shyama’s marriage (J.D. Chakravarthy and Nandita Das in delightful cameos). The Sri Lankan army encroaches into their territory soon after as Dhileepan leaves to fight for his people while a pregnant Shyama is forced to escape to India on a raft. On the journey, she hears from the boatman that Dhileepan has been injured in an explosion. Shyama arrives in India, gives birth and Ratnam cuts directly to nine years later to Amudha introducing us to the people around her and drawing us into her world. From here on, KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL unravels through her eyes.

The beauty of this film lies less in the plot points and more in the way Ratnam writes and shoots each scene. To begin with, his casting is detailed and absolutely flawless even in the smallest of roles. Be it Nandita Das and Pasupathy as siblings or Prakash Raj as the Sinhalese friend who helps Thiruchelvan’s family look for Shyama, each look their part to perfection. Even gutsier is Ratnam’s audacity to cast two significant stars of the time, R. Madhavan and Simran and relegate them to supporting roles, allowing P.S. Keerthana to take the lead as Amudha. Madhavan as the obnoxious writer is a scene-stealer while Simran as a mother of three made the best of what was her career-best role. And trust Mani Ratnam to extract ridiculously real performances from children. P.S. Keerthana’s performance exemplifies the kind of maturity and multi-faceted emotions seasoned actors are associated with. If for nothing else at all, filmmakers who are fortunate enough for an audience with Mani sir should pick his brain about how to communicate with child actors. The scene below where Thiruchelvan reveals the truth to Amudha about her adoption exemplifies not just Ratnam’s mastery of directing performance, but the genius with which he can shoot and construct such a simple piece of plot in such an interesting manner.

The Truth Disclosed

With the bulk of the film banking on an emotional connect with Amudha, Ratnam almost stops his film at points of her emotional turmoil and accentuates, explores and expresses those emotions deeper using music. For example, after Thiruchelvan’s talk with Amudha at the beach, she sits with her mother on the swing being fed her dinner, confused and scared of how her brothers might react if they find out that she was adopted. She incessantly and insecurely asks question upon question, an entire gamut of thoughts running through her mind as her mother struggles to comfort her. It’s almost as if at this point, Ratnam decides that a conversation simply will not do. The scene seamlessly leads into the haunting “Oru Deivam Thantha Poove” song where Vairamuthu’s lyrics and Rahman’s music capture what the mother wants to say, while Ratnam and cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran use the visuals to explore Amudha’s emotions. The song opens on the beach with Amudha standing atop an uprooted tree, a metaphor for how she feels, unaware, confused about her own roots and beginnings. In the subsequent stanza, Ratnam has her run up and down inside an abandoned boat as Chandran follows her movements with his camera. The same song is repeated later in the film, picturized with father and daughter this time, as a search for peace and meaning after Amudha witnesses a suicide bombing in Sri Lanka. No multi-million rupee sets, no European locations, just some magic-hour sunlight and simplicity creating meaning and images that refuse to leave your mind.

Exploring Emotions through Simplicity

KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL was Mani Ratnam’s first collaboration with cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran who contributed a unique style to the director’s visual language. Ratnam’s previous collaborations with P.C. Sriram, Rajeev Menon and Santosh Sivan exemplified a more classical visual sensibility. While Sivan played with light and composition, Chandran played with movement. In much of the film, the camera is almost always moving, almost as if to emulate the protagonist’s energy. The film marked Ratnam’s transition to a post-modern visual language. This film stood strong because that transition still remained anchored and grounded in the director’s penchant for character depth and emotion. In his subsequent films however, that post-modern visual language gained prominence while characters became flatter and drama watered down.

Watered-down, the drama of KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL is certainly not, for Mani sir milks each and every scene dry to its last remaining drop of melodramatic value. Amudha, like any other child, never quite has much clarity of thought, and Ratnam uses this quality throughout to extract and play on conflict, internal and external alike. One moment she resents her mother, the other she fears hurting her. One moment she appears understanding and appreciative, while at others she can be downright rude and cranky. Indra isn’t the unrealistically strong mother either. She has her moments of weakness, her own insecurities. In the midst of it all stands Thiruchelvan, willing to put his life aside for his daughter, to help her find peace, no matter what the circumstances.

But it’s not all just family drama Ratnam serves up. In fact, the director can barely resist his penchant for romance and subtle humour as he cuts to a poignant flashback where Thiruchelvan explains to Amudha how she adopted him and Indra as opposed to it being the other way round. The romance begins with Indra reading a heart-wrenching story Thiruchelvan writes about Sri Lankan refugees and a lone child born to a woman who decides to go back to her homeland. The scenes of Thiruchelvan proposing to Indra so he can adopt Amudha, the subsequent scenes breaking the news to his elder sister and Indra’s father are laced with subtle, real humour, poignancy and the signature Mani Ratnam class.

Romance is not all that Ratnam shows off, for with his new-found cinematographer and editor, the shutter speed on the camera is cranked, bombs explode and limbs fly in a spectacular battle scene between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil fighters. “Ridley Scott ain’t got nothin on me!” screams Ratnam as in the midst of all this razzle-dazzle, he still ensures he maintains Amudha’s point of view.

In the Line of Fire

With ALAIPAYUTHEY, Ratnam had changed editors from the very talented, classical and seamless Suresh Urs to the more edgy Sreekar Prasad. Though also contributing significantly to Ratnam’s transition into a post-modern cinematic language, Prasad ensured that the basics of emotional juxtaposition were always in place. In KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL, he exhibits a tremendous sense of pacing and rhythm, while not missing opportunities to have a little fun cutting songs and action scenes. The ramp effect is perhaps one of the most annoying additions to post-modern film editing, yet Prasad uses it tastefully in songs like “Sundari”. KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL won a National Award for Best Film Editing, in addition to awards for Best Tamil Film, Audiography, Child Artiste, Lyrics and of course Best Music for the Mozart of Madras.

One of A.R. Rahman’s most underrated soundtracks, KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL is also one of his most soulful. Be it the hypnotic “Vellai Pookal” that Ratnam uses to open the film with, or the Sri Lankan styled “Signore”, Rahman attempts several innovations that sadly went unnoticed and unacknowledged by the public at large. His background score was impactful, though some argue that it was perhaps a tad over the top, almost too Hans Zimmerish in many a scene.

While Mani Ratnam certainly strikes a chord with character and drama, KANNATHIL MUTHAMITTAL has been called for its overt Pro-Tamil stance, and even for its simplistic portrayal of the Sri Lankan Civil War. These criticisms are perhaps out of place for if anything, the stance Ratnam takes in this film is purely humanitarian. Yet he doesn’t shy away from expressing concern. In a seemingly preachy discussion between Harold Vikramasinghe and Thiruchelvan about war, Ratnam includes a line about how Amudha’s generation might perhaps be able to find a solution to end the fighting. This, right after Ratnam follows an irate Amudha into a marsh where she is suddenly surrounded by child soldiers with AK-47s in hand. Mani sir often writes between the lines, and we have learned equally well to read between them. The only problem now is that he has stopped writing in those places while we still continue to search there.

Writing Between Lines

Read more reviews on MANI RATNAM BLOGATHON:

1. Pallavi Anupallavi (Kannada) 2. Unaroo (Malayalam) 3. Pagal Nilavu (Tamil) 4. Idaya Kovil (Tamil) 5. Mouna Ragam (Tamil) 6. Nayagan Tamil) 7. Agni Natchathiram (Tamil) 8. Geethanjali (Telugu) 9. Anjali (Tamil) 10. Thalapathi (Tamil) Take 2 Thalapathi (Tamil) 11. Roja (Tamil) 12. Thiruda Thiruda (Tamil) 13. Bombay (Tamil) 14. Iruvar (Tamil) Take 2 Iruvar (Tamil) 15. Dil Se…(Hindi) Take 2 Dil Se…(Hindi) 16. Alaipayuthey (Tamil) 17. Kannathil Muthamittal (Tamil) Take 2 Kannathil Muthamittal(Tamil) 18. Yuva (Hindi) 19. Aayutha Ezhuthu (Tamil) 20. Guru (Hindi) 21. Raavanan (Tamil) 22. Raavan (Hindi)