Thursday, June 07, 2018

Kaala - Thalaivar & Ranjith serve up the perfect post-Kabali fix we needed

Just got back from Kaala and I was super pumped to pen down my quick thoughts on the movie. Haven't felt so elated right after watching a Thalaivar movie since Sivaji. I know it's an Apples and Oranges comparison (heck, its a fruits and vegetables comparison) but I am saying it mainly to express my response RIGHT after I was done watching the movie. It took me 3 viewings to fully appreciate Kabali but with even its flaws, fell in love with Kaala right after the 1st watch.

I cannot imagine a better mix of a re-imagined Thalaivar style movie fitted within the confines of a Ranjith film. Loved the way Ranjith has let himself loose when it comes to talking about his politics. What he did in a very subtle way from Attakathi to Kabali, he does it here with no reservations whatsoever. I am so glad that Thalaivar has given all the freedom to Ranjith to express himself and what he stands for ideologically. And for that we have to be thankful to humongous success of Kabali

Nana Patekar - can't begin to describe his performance and how he matched up to Thalaivar in the confrontation scenes. I believe it was in that dining room scene where he just straddles between 4 languages oh-so-seamlessly - Marathi, Hindi, Tamil & English. Thalaivar wasn't kidding when he said Hari Dada is one of the 3 best villains he has faced in his movies. Easwari Rao was another gem of a casting call - she and Samuthrakani were the ones who held up the proceedings in the very few scenes that didn't hold up together well. Dileepan was phenomenal as his Thalapathi, as Thalaivar calls him in a scene. Anjali Patil and Manikandan as his other son Lenin were super impressive as well. Huma was definitely a miss, IMO. Didn't quite connect with her character (especially what she was trting to do with Dharavi) even though I loved Thalaivar's interactions with her when she newly arrives. BTW, what do you think happened when Nana Patekar insists she touch her feet the first time she meets him at his house?

Those 20-odd minutes in the 1st half was when the movie definitely dragged. But Ranjith more than makes up for the sluggish pace from about 20 minutes to go to the interval. He just doesn't take his foot off the pedal until that totally unexpected but beautiful climax. What an awesome way to end the movie! SaNa's score was simply brilliant, as good as his score in Kabali which I go back to listen every now and then 

And finally to Thalaivar - I cannot love this man more than I already do. But wow, just wow! Whether it be the lovely scenes with his family (BTW, how beautiful it is to see him as a grandfather) or his harmless flirting with Huma or the nakkal-filled delivery in the police station scene or the fierce performance in several of the scenes in the 2nd half, I couldn't stop admiring this man. How grateful I am that Linga happened and that has led him to change course entirely to give us a Kabali 2 years back and a Kaala now and hopefully another terrific movie with Karthik Subbaraj next year (The icing on the cake would be that political movie with Vettrimaran that he mentioned at the Kaala audio launch. I know I am asking for the moon but hey, you can't complain about someone who is on a high after having just watched Ranjith & Thalaivar deliver a terrific Kaala)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Where Was It Shot - cataloging filming locations

Like most of you here, I have been a big fan of Tamil cinema all my life and one of the things that has always captured my attention about our movies is the filming locations that have been used in our movies. Frequently I would find myself googling for the name of a location that was used in some song or scene of a movie that I had just finished watching. So, naturally my thought veered towards coming up with a web site for the same. When (I & my friend Amar) we looked around to see if any such sites that already existed, we found none. There were a few sites that were dedicated to documenting the filming locations used in Hollywood movies (even they have not been well maintained) but absolutely none for those used in Indian movies in general and Tamil movies in particular.

So, this was the idea behind the site and thus was born

The problem here though is the sheer magnitude of information that we are looking at here. Hundreds and hundreds of movies released over the decades and thousands & thousands of locations that have been used in those movies. And here we are, just a couple of guys, attempting to catalog them in a site. That is where we are expecting co-operation of like minded movie buffs here.

We have launched the site with around 50 locations and we plan to keep adding new 1-2 locations every week. But like we said, it is just impossible for us to find & publish all those filming locations that have ever been used in our movies. That is the reason we are considering this whole effort as one big social media project that involves contribution from everybody around. And towards that end, we have also created a forum as part of the site.

We welcome everyone here to take a look at the site and if you like what you see, please contribute (in the form of comments, suggestions, pointing out inaccurate information, etc) and introduce the site to your friends as well.

Let me sign off by reproducing the contents of the ‘About Us’ page of our site:

Wait a second. That scene in the song that just played on TV. Where did they shoot it?

Hasn’t that question crossed our minds? Haven’t we all at some point of time thought ‘How cool it would be to have a web site dedicated to documenting locations where movies are shot?’? We heard you. This web site is our answer to all your calls to put together a comprehensive collection of movie locations on the internet. Having spent so much time on blogs, discussion forums, Orkut community forums, we realized that the movie buff in every one of us has always been curious about the locations where the movies we love, were shot. We have done the job for you, as we scoured through the bottomless abyss called the internet and have come up with this collection of Indian movie locations.

As you can see, this is strictly a Work In Progress site, which means only 1 thing – valuable inputs from users & visitors like you. We are considering this as a huge social media collaboration project. So, if you know of any movie shooting spot location that you don’t find it here or you notice an error in our records, shoot us an email –

The locations have been categorized based on languages (currently, only Tamil, Hindi & Telugu), geography (North America, Europe, India) and people (your favorite actors, directors). You can either browse through the entries or search for the entries with a query.

Don’t forget to check back, as we are constantly adding more entries to our collection of movie locations.

Looking forward to your enthusiastic participation and response to our humble effort!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Best songs of the year - 2009

I know, we are in the 3rd week of 2010 but here I am publishing a post on the best songs of the year, 2009. This is one post that I kind of keep on editing throughout the course of the year and it is precisely for this reason that I do not want to miss out on publishing the same, even though it is coming about a month late.

My self defined 'rules' that I followed in coming up with this list haven't changed form the last 2 years and here they are, one more time:

1) All songs should fit in a 80 min audio CD
2) There shall be no more than 1 song from any given movie
3) The album should have been released in the year 2009.

So, here are the best songs of the year 2009 (in no particular order):

1) Kannil paarvai from Naan Kadavul
2) Mella oorndhu oorndhu from Nandhala
3) Kadaloram from Kunguma Puraavum Konju Puraavum
4) Ragala Kaara from Odippolaamaa
5) Vizhi moodi from Ayan
6) Kooda varuviyaa from Vaalmiki
7) Oru Chinna Thamarai from Vettaikkaaran
8) Rayilin Paadhaiyil from Appaavi
9) Kannil dhaagam from Achamundu Achamundu
10) Aval appadi ondrum from Angaadi Theru
11) Maalai neram from Aayirathil Oruvan
12) Oru vetkkam varudhe from Pasanga
13) Naan Pogiren mele from Naanaiyam
14) Thuli Thuli from Paiyyaa
15) YaarOru yaarO from Yogi
16) Tharai Erangiya from Eeram
17) Yogi theme music (filler)

Honorable mention or the second CD:

1) Onnukkonnu from Nandhala
2) Ading Ading from OdippOlaamaa
3) Oru nimisham from KPKP
4) Oru Kal Oru Kannaadi from SMS
5) Enge povadhu from Vaamanan
6) July maadhathil from Muthirai
7) Poo Sirikkudhu from Valmiki
8) Kadhaigalai pesum from Angaadi Theru
9) Adada Mazhaida from Paiyya
10) Karigaalan from Vettaikkaaran
11) Edho Seigiraai from Vaamanan
12) Latcham vaarthaigal from Modhi Vilaaiyadu
13) Nenje Nenje from Ayan
14) Mazhaiye Mazhaiye from Eeram
15) Nee Thaane from Sarvam
16) Yaaradhu Yaaro from Yaadhumaagi
17) Poove Poove from Sidhu +2 first attempt

Other awards:
Album of the year: Modhi Vilaiyaadu, Sarvam, Eeram, Ayan, KPKP, Aayirathil Oruvan were the contenders for me. My choices for the best songs and the best album usually go hand in hand with the most popular picks in their respective categories. But this time around, my choice might baffle a lot of people as Kunguma Poovum Konju Puraavum is my choice for the best album of the year. There was no other album where I loved almost every single song of the album like KPKP and that includes the 'Naan Dharman-da' song sung by SPB.

Music director of the year: Has to be Yuvan again. Except for KPKP & Sarvam, he didn't have any album that can be called oustanding. But even in the other albums he had (like Muthirai, Vaamanan, Yogi, SIva Manasula Sakthi and Paiyyaa), he had some very hummable & high quality numbers. For that and also for the lack of competition form other music directors (with James Vasanthan being the only one who came even remotely close to being considered), Yuvan is my pick for the music director of the year.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Aadhavan - mediocrity at its best

  • Easily the worst movie that I have ever seen, which featured either Surya or KSR
  • Seriously, can't understand why an actor who has tried to do something different, signs to do a movie like this.
  • Makes you think you are better off watching a Vijay movie, given the fact that one is guaranteed to see some genuine & good looking dance movements that only he can do
  • Vadivelu's comedy, to an extent, was the sole saving grace of the movie. But there is only so much he can do, given the movie's mind-numbingly stupid screenplay
  • Surya's performance, for all the effort he has seemingly put in, falls flat and after a point, he becomes just unwatchable.
  • And Surya can now officially be called Salman Khan of Tamil cinema, as his directors come up with situations just to show off his well-toned body
  • We all know that the standard of Tamil cinema's special effects & graphics is just appalling but Aadhavan has done the impossible of pulling it down one notch further below.
  • The sheer stupidity of the underlying setup of the movie is mind boggling. Imagine this - a judge is about to submit a crucial report in 10 days but he has come to Kolkota with (literally) a truck load of family because they are on vacation and he wants to spend time with them too. What a boat load of crap?!
  • The tortured logic that goes behind the 'Vaaraayo vaaraayo' song will even give the worst director of Tamil cinema, P. Vasu a run for his money.
  • Saroja Devi is irritatingly bad and gets on your nerves, right from the get-go. Reminded me of MSV's 'cameo' roles in Kaadhala Kaadhala & Kaadhal Mannan.
  • Harris Jeyaraj needs to do something. I mean, how long is he planning to blurt out such songs that seem to have the same age-old template? And what was that English song in the background score all about?
  • We all have seen that even the best of directors age not so very aesthetically. And KSR, while cannot even be remotely called great, was a good director who could churn out watchable entertaining masalas in his sleep. But I think the day has come up for him to do some introspection and come up with a watchable movie, even if it takes a while longer for the movie to be made.
Surya takes a huge step backward with this crapfest called Aadhavan.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Khuda Ke Liye - Must-watch movie

Again trying to just list out some thoughts on the movie instead of writing a full-fledged review where I will have to worry about some sort of coherence. So, here you go:
  • A movie whose makers should be appreciated for the kind of problem that the movie tries to tackle and the kind of message that it tries to convey.
  • A moderate Muslim family in Pakistan with 2 brothers, who love music but decide to go opposite ways, from the perspective of Islam;a Muslim girl born & brought up in London, her father who is apologetic for all that he had done against Islam and is attempting to clean up the mess that he feels he has created; an American girl who falls in love with one of the brothers who comes over to the US to live the American life.
  • The film is almost like an appeal by the moderates in the Muslim community to the extremists both inside & outside their religion, as it tries to tackle many of the misconceptions Westerners have about Islam. Most of this explaining though is done in one very long speech by Naseeruddin Shah towards the end of the movie.
  • Sheds some light on the kind of paranoid patriotism and panic that engulfed many of the Americans post 9-11 and how that resulted in the Americans compromising on many of the moral values they used to stand for (enhanced interrogation techniques and et al).
  • Couple of very hummable songs in the movie but the BGM was so inadequate that I was literally imagining how someone like the Maestro would have scored for a movie like this.
  • Apart from the length which could have definitely been much shorter, another thing that stood out to me was the very average acting, that does not get salvaged by a cameo by Naseeruddin Shah at the very end. The casting was great but the acting was bad.
  • At 160 mins, a slightly lengthy film but a very good film nevertheless.
If not for anything , this is one of those movies that the 'They hate us for our freedom' crowd must watch.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weekend Hike - Mail Box Peak

You are at a get-together with fellow hikers and you throw around something like 'I did Mail Box Peak over the weekend' and you will notice that your friends start looking at you with new found respect. That should tell everything one wants to know about this brutal hike.

It is as though the trail was designed & conceived by a hard task master who is mean and who was at his foulest of moods when he designed the trail. Bcos there is no other way you can explain the logic behind the way this trail has been designed. As it is frequently pointed out, it is like being on the stair-master for 2.5 hours straight (put in the number of hours it takes for one to get to the top). There is just no respite from the steepness throughout the hike. Each and every step you take, you gain some elevation. And there is one point in the hike almost 3/4ths of the way where I thought I had reached the summit only to be disappointed, bcos the summit was a good 45 mins away. Finally, after a lot of huffing & puffing, got to the top.

Though there is a 360 degrees view at the top, I wouldn't go far enough to say that it was all worth the pain getting there. There is indeed a mail box at the top (picture of which can be seen below) that has a registry, some dog tags and a few envelopes. Since it was October, it was way too cold at the top. Should have been in the high 20s. Since I had forgotten to take along any gloves, I couldn't stand the cold and after experiencing hypothermia for a few fleeting seconds, we started our descent.

The descent is equally painful. Beyond a point, it became so arduous & painful on the knees, that I started cursing but with no one else to blame for my decision to do this hike, the cursing did not go all too well. I surrendered myself to my fate and started looking forward to that trail head that I so badly wanted to get to.

I hike with one or 2 of my hiking buddies. And our usual routine is that we chit chat all the way during both our ascent and the descent. But was not the case with this hike as the only things we kept on repeating, after seeing switchback after switchback and one steep slope after another, were 'Are they serious?' or 'Is this hike for real?' After all, when every inch of your lower body is in unbearable pain, you can't really chit-chat, can you?

Some stats about the hike:

Distance: 6 miles RT
Elevation gain: 4000 feet
Time up: 4 hours
Time down: 2.5 hours
Difficulty level: Most difficult

Though my hike to the summit of St. Helens (done over a year ago) still remains the toughest of my hiking career, this one comes a close second. Overall, a memorable hike that you can be proud of yourself.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Unnai Pol Oruvan - A pale imitation

When I heard the news that Kamal is going to remake 'A Wednesday', let me just say that I wasn't too thrilled. I mean, the biggest plus of the Hindi original was the way Naseeruddin Shah's character was shaped & portrayed, as a common man who was just taking out his frustrations on the inaction & indifferent attitude of the government to the specter of terrorist attacks unleashed on his city by terrorists. My biggest concern was this: even given how good an actor Kamal is, he can never be the 'common man' that was so central to the plot of the movie. And the moment I saw him mouth his heavily accented English dialogs in the trailer, I could see my fears coming true. And now after watching the entire movie, surprise, the movie just goes on to prove that my original fears were fully warranted.

I mean, I don't know. May be, I have the advantage of comparing his performance against Naseeruddin Shah's in the original but his heavily accented English & his frequent use of English dialogs only alienated me from the narrative. It's not like he always talks like this. In interviews that he gives to TV channels, his English comes across as more original. But when he starts talking in a movie, that fake desi accent comes into the picture and that irritates the hell out of me. And when it happens to be in a movie like this, it sticks out like a sore thumb even more.

Then in the most crucial scene of the movie a.k.a. the outburst/ justification scene, Kamal HAD to have that scene which was not there in the original, where there is a 60 second sequence of Kamal narrating a gory incident and more importantly, taking that as an opportunity to tell us one more time that 'Look, I can act great'. Well, we do know that you can act (and quite awesome at that) but was it really necessary in this movie? I didn't think so. It is in subtle things like this that UPO loses out to its original, to whom it stayed quite faithful other than these minor wanderings. Same can be said about Kamal's performance too - a rare occasion the actor in Kamal loses out to another great actor.

If you ask me to name 6 differences between the 2 movies, let me give you a couple that should tell you why I felt that the subtlety of the original was lost in this one. The scene in question is this one where Ganesh Venkatraman goes to the house of the informant to beat the constable who was sent for his family's protection but was flirting with the informant's sister. This (YouTube link) is how the scene plays out in the original whereas in UPO, the director HAD to show the sister coming out with a cup of coffee and the constable flirting with her, before Ganesh Venkatraman takes out his rage on the constable.

The second instance is almost similar to this one. This got to do with where Naseeruddin Shah places the bag with the bombs in the original (he places it in a crowded train terminal) whereas this one Kamal places in the same compartment where the wife of the police officer is traveling (& right next to her seat, at that). And just in case we missed it, they make sure to show the bag with the bomb one more time, sitting right above the seat where police officer's wife & kid are sitting

Some of the other issues/ grouses I had with this one:

- I am no big fan of Vijay but did they have to take that potshot at Vijay through that Sreeman character?
- Having someone to mimic Karunanidhi. Again, not a big fan of MK, but did they have to do that?
- Lakshmi. Enuf said.
- What was that all about showing the TV reporter smoking & Mohan Lal's not so subtle poke at the same?
- Mohan Lal's Hindi & Tamil accents, which just didn't sit easy on my ears. I mean, I am big lover of the Tamil accent of Malayalam actors but this one was a tough pill to swallow.

One might ask 'Aren't there anything noteworthy in this movie?' Yes, there definitely are some. Shruthi's BGM was a surprise, as in, she does so much better than expected for a debutant. It fit the mood of the movie, except for the scene where the twist happens. The dry humor in Era Murugan's dialogs were good, but some of them were lost in the confrontational scenes between Mohan Lal & Lakshmi, due to Mohan Lal's horrible Tamil & English accent.

Bottom line - If you have watched the Hindi original and if you are not a fan of Kamal, this is one below-par effort of remaking.

Labels: , ,