Monday, December 31, 2007

Movies 2007: Hallf of Fame/Shame

Hall of Fame:

As far as I can recall this has been a good year, in a really long time, for Thamizh movies. Off-beat themes and classy movies were released this year. Surprisingly the focus on presentation has increased. Stories are narrated in non-linear/interesting ways nowadays. Here are my top movies for 2007. I have not seen 'Kalluri' or 'Billa' at the time of writing this.

9. Naan Avan Illai

It is clumsily taken, awkwardly paced and edited impatiently. It is also not very classy. But I like its spirit. It is a remake of the old Gemini Ganesan/Kamal Hassan movie. Odd choice of a movie to remake but interesting nevertheless. A man, really a playboy, assumes several identities and seduces/robs/dupes several women. He is caught and sent to trial, where he comes up with a simple argument - 'Naan Avan Illai' (I am not him). He leaves no evidence or trail so it is not easy to nail him down. It becomes his word against the women. Interesting argument. Very entertaining. Jeevan fits the role like a glove. Attention has been paid to how the story is told. The different women's story are narrated as flashbacks during trial testimonials. I initially didnt want to include this movie in 'Hall of Fame' but then again I am in a charitable mood :-)

8 Oram Po.

What a well made movie? This movie is a must watch. I saw a rather fantastic trailor for this movie and decided to watch this movie even if nobody I knew had heard of it. I am not aware of its commercial fate but I hope its well received. Thamizh movie has come a long way in finding new narrative techniques. Its a Guy Ritchie kind of movie: slickly taken, narrated with heavy dose of sarcasm, and stylishly presented. A simple story but so very entertaining. From the moment the screen changes to show Annachi's henchman carry the diamond from the shop -> train -> Auto till the final Auto races, I was hooked. Arya cannot act. Thats okay. But what a role for the guy who plays 'Son of Gun'. Son of Gun is the most active, entertaining character I have seen in movies this year. Man! are his dialogs hilarious? Thuthukudi accent rocks. "ennalai naatham pidicha friendshippu, Eee'yum Pee'yum friendshippu. Pee kaanja Eee paranthidumla." There is another dialog that involve fruits and seeds, I'll leave it for readers to catch it in the movie. I loved it for developing a very sophisticated way of telling a story and populating it with very different characters.

7. Polladhavan

This movie, much like Oram Po above impresses because of the way it presents the story rather than the story itself. If you can overcome the bias of watching a Dhanush movie then this movie is well worth it. A boy's bike is stolen and he wants it back no matter what. The underworld don's brother who stole the bike for some other emergency is a weak idiot gangster wannabe, who is desparate to beat up anybody. And bike-boy is as good a target as anybody. The story is told in first person narrative by two people. The gangster's brother and the bike-boy. It switches narratives whenever the character's paths cross. The movie does not do well in making both narratives rich. It is heavily biased towards bike-boy's narrative. It fails there. It also fails when it shows us an unrealistic love segment. If not for that cliche this movie would have rocked. Reminded me of an old(er) Mel Gibson movie - Payback. Very little similarity but sort of appeals to similar emotions. The way the first person narrative switches back and forth between the two actors is impressive. The final climax scene is also very impressive.

6. Paruthiveeran.

Well! this evil twin of 'Ek Duje Ke Liye' became one of the biggest commercial success in the history of Thamizh movies. I could not relate to this movie at all. I found the story pointless and meandering. I did not enjoy the Thamizh heartland culture show and the eunuch's dancing. I found the movie manipulative, a'la' Sethu, by virtue of its unbelievably dark ending. However, it was unlike any other movie I have ever watched. The characters in this story are from another planet. Very different. The ending, though contrived, was bloody, full of gore and shocking. Most of all Karthik's performance belied any indication that this was his debut movie.

5. Guru

I know Guru is a Hindi movie. But any Mani movie is a Thamizh movie regardless of the language it is taken in :-) Its a well taken movie but falls way short of Manirathnam standards. I don't know what is wrong with him and Hindi movies. He hasn't done a good Hindi movie so far. The songs were aweful too. Shame on you - ARR. Manirathnam is a director fading into the sunset. Either he must make a classy movie like Iruvar and KM which are not for the masses or go with mass appeal movies like Thalapathi and Anjali. This inbetween route he has started to adopt recently has become boring. I also do not like this 'let the audience decide who is right themselves' movies when the movie does not make any effective argument at all. Guru only makes several references to possible arguments rather than actual convincing arguments. The best it does is hint at an argument. Vidhya Balan's character, Aishwarya's character were all weak. Mani has the KB disease as far as endings go. The biggest reason why I liked this movie was that this story is difficult to deal with and nobody in Bollywood except Mani would even think of telling us the story of Dhirubhai Ambani.

4. Ammu'vaagiya Naan

When I watched this movie, I kept thinking that every cliche that I expected to see in a movie about prostitutes was absent. It is an impractical movie that deals with an unrealistic story. But leave that aside. Its a mature movie that does well to entertain us. There are several moments when a standard-issue incident would happen and we'd wait for Parthiban to react to the situation. Every path this movie took regarding this was unanticipated and fresh. The problem I had with this movie was that it was more, for lack of better word, "cinematic" than necesary and included an unnecessarily stereotypical villian. Dealing with prostitute based themes has become fashionable nowadays. Most of the recent movies with such themes are unimpressive and try to ride on the scandal-appeal of the theme. This movie is different. The amount of positive spin this movie puts has to be appreciated. Nayagan, Pretty Woman, Mahanadhi are all good movies that deal with prostitute based themes and serve as templates for these kind of movies. However, Ammuvagiya Naan impresses because it pauses and lingers on those uncomfortable moments which other movies gloss over. Like Mahanadhi, it does not suggest. It shows. Not the physical moments but the emotional moments. Like an uncomfortable close-up of someone digging their nose and eating the pickings or a long close-up of a man reaching hard to scratch that umfortable spot between his balls and his ass, this movie focuses on the dirty awkward emotional moments of the characters - Ammu enjoys her life as a prostitute, she really does - a man unknowingly discusses the pleasure of Ammu's "company" with her husband - Ammu is reminded of the hundreds of men she has slept with on her wedding night. Everytime you expect a silly Thamizh sentiment, this movie elevates itself to a different class.

3. Chennai 600028

Movies that capture the pulse of the audience never go unrewarded. Especially movies that understand the concept of 'nakkal' very well. Chennai 28 wonderfully taps people's love for cricket to give a very differnt movie.

2. Mozhi

Here is a complete entertainer. And it tells a very good story. And and and it tells it very differently. None of the sad melodrama that is associated with a deaf & dumb person. The sense of humor is so classy. The characters are delightful and lovable. I was very impressed with the professor who was time-frozen in 1983. He moved me beyond belief.

1. Katrathu Thamizh

Let me say this. Hade he done it, Kamal Hasan would been proud of this movie. He certainly would not have done it better than Jeeva. The biggest flaw in this movie is to have linked the title with Thamizh degrees and make it appear as if the movie is all about surviving in the modern software economy as a Thamizh teacher. The movie as a whole had little to do with him being a Thamizh degree holder. It could have been Katrathu Vedam or Katrathu Sociology or Katrathu History and his frustrations would have been none the different. The movie only deals with the 'qualification' concept for 10% of the time. His frustrations with not getting a job and his anger over a less-intelligent but software-educated Anantha Rangan is atleast from a movie marketing perspective - misplaced. The audience who fills up the (Sathyam) theaters are all Anantha Rangans. I am an Anantha Rangan. Most , if not all, readers of blogs regardless of caste creed or religion are Anantha Rangans. I see no point in alienating the audience when the movie could have actually befriended them. We all made our software decisions because we had the liberty of choice. An argument that Jeeva did indeed have a choice to study computer science is a mere technicality. While making his choice, he unfortunately did not know all his options and their value. He had nobody to guide him. So in reality he did not have a choice.

This movie quite simply is about a person who never gets a good break all his life. It is about his frustrations, his continuous attempts to set life right and his never ending failures. Fate has not been merely cruel to him. It has brutally raped every dimension of his existence. Some of the emotions that have been captured have never been done so in any form of cinema I have ever seen. Gave me goose pimples. There were many moments where I thought the proverbial 'directorial touch' was fantastic. The frustration of the central character, his longing, his dreams were all fantastic. Sometimes when Jeeva would pause, look at the irony in fornt of him, gulp down the dissapointment and continue the conversation - to say the least - is a work of genius. The way certain scenes were constructed, certain dialogs were placed and the way background music was timed just blew my brains out. I wish the director would go on to make many more such movies. More power to Jeeva. Like the many Ian Botham successors to English cricket Thamizh cinema has many Kamal Hasan wannabes. Jeeva has my vote to suceed Kamal Hassan.

Hall of Shame:

5. Pokkiri:
This movie is the biggest pile of nonsense I had seen in a while. Prabhu Deva took a respectable Telugu movie, shaved off all the good contents and gave us a bald 'vijay' movie. This movie's huge commercial success proves that the average Thamizh movie goer is an idiot ready to be duped.

4. Vel

Surya attempts to imitate Kamal Hassan by alternating between class and mass movies. Some other blogger gave a one word review for this movie and that word rhymed with 'vel'. I am tempted to repeat that here but let me resist it. This is a bad masala movie. One should watch Enga Veetu Pillai, Rajadhi Raja and Athisiya Piravi to get a good idea of how to make entertaining 'role interchange' movies. A good masala village movie is Sakalakala Vallavan or Thambikku Entha Ooru. Looks good even today. Surya makes a movie literally for idiot movie goers in B and C centers. His dialog during his introduction scene was a load of crap and set the standard for a bad movie to follow. Comedy, songs and every other aspect that puts the 'garam' in the 'masala' was absent. Its not old wine in a new bottle. It is piss.

3. Sivaji

This is the worst Shankar movie I have ever seen. Worse than Boys. This is also Thamizh cinema's biggest commercial hit ever. I think it ran because AVMs astronomical never-heard-seen-anything-like-this-before marketing effort. People were duped into buying tickets because of AVMs marketing effort. If not for Rajinikanth and AVM this movie would have suffered a worser fate than Boys at the Box Office. This is also the worst Rajinikanth movie I have seen in a while. I recently watched Rajinikanth's Billa to get a sense of expectation for Ajith's Billa and thought Rajini's Billa was really horrible. I saw Amithabh's Don before Sharukh's Don. Unlike Amithabh's Don - Rajini's Billa has got no vintage value and is really unwatchable now. With Thengai Srinivasan, Major Sunderrajan, Asokan, and host of other idiots in funny wigs it was a bad movie. Billa, Rajini's come-back-after-quitting-movies vehicle, was his biggest hit in the 80s. Sivaji is 10X worse than Billa and it is Rajini's biggest hit ever. I can never understand this. Rajini has made good masala movies that are fantastic entertainers. Padayappa, Annamalai and Rajadhi Raja were superb entertainers. Somehow when good directors sample him they don't rate him highly as an actor and make nonsense movies with him. For example Why couldn't have Shankar cast Rajini in a 'Indian' like story? Why does he think Rajini couldn't have done that role? I think Rajini would have done that role. Sivaji, because of its obscene marketing has become the face of Thamizh cinema. Outsiders will now judge the industry based on this one movie. It has and will continue to embarass every self-respecting Thamizhan for quite a while.

2. Unnale Unnale

It is sad that this is crap that people will get to remember Director/cinematographer/photographer Jeeva by. Not a fantastic movie like 12B.

1. Azhagiya Thamizh Magan

SP Muthuraman, the creator of new age larger-than-life 80s Rajini will have to take the blame for encouraging hero-worship movies. Rajini wannabes like Vijay and Ajith make a serious effort to destroy Thamizh movies and for that matter Rajini's brand value. At least Rajini is a respectable actor with some charisma. What do you say of ugly mugs like Vijay and Ajith? I haven't seen Billa yet but I don't understand how people can bring themselves again and again to watch the expressionless Ajith. As far as expressions go Arya is a dead tree branch on sedatives and Ajith is Arya on sedatives. Vijay is Ajith in a comatose state. Watching a movie in which Vijay acts defies human logic. I'd rather watch Dhanush or T.Rajendar movies. At least hero-worship is absent there.


maxdavinci said...

brilliant compilation! totally agree with you except wud swap sivaji and polladavan. Blame it on my rajni bias and dislike for dhanush.

I just can't believe that I have seen all 5 films on your hall of shame and only 3 of your best movies(excludin guru)...

Loads to download in the morning...

Deepa said...

Good post but not with you on Katradhu Thamizh and Sivaji.

Venkat said...

good list Hawkeye!

only differ on :

Katradhu Tamizh would fall into the top of my shame list - it's a movie that confuses frustrations with conviction and therefore manipulative.

Puthandu Vazthukal..

I said...

Koodal Nagar irukum, one would think.

LuckyKabutar said...

lovely selections

Anonymous said...

katrathu tamizh and paruthi veeran deserve to share No:1 in hall of shame.The directors had their coaching in 'Bala' tutorial college and they can never show the brighter side of things.They target the namma ooru psyche of associating anything dark and depressing to world-class films.

Shivaji certainly doesnt deserve to be in the hall of shame. we all know what rajini movies are and who the intended audience is.


Nilu said...

It's alright if one has a bad story and makes a bad movie. One can be excused for being the product of the system. When one has an excellent story like Katrathu Tamil and still manages to make a horrible movie -- with atrocious casting, cliched dialog writing, poor editing and lazy screeplay -- that is when the director deserves a kick.

If you are willing to overlook all the flaws and still rate it highly, I guess it only reflects the bad state of Tamil cinema.

Regarding the other movies movies in your list: I did not watch any.

Gasquet Fan said...

I saar,

What's with your Koodal Nagar pitching? The name of the movie itself is bad.

Jupe said...


I couldn't have nodded my head to this post more...Agree with you on almost all your movie choices and reasons for the same..

I was so bemused being the lone voice to say Guru is an average movie with very average songs (and ARR actually rates it as one of his top 10 albums) till I saw this post where you seem to share my views... Now I have company....

Am I the only person who feels Jeevan and Arya have no clue about voice modulation and dialogue delivery?

Btw, dunno about you but one movie I was really looking fwd to was Priya's second after Kanda naal muthal but it sure left me disappointed...

PS: Puththaandu vaazthukkal !!

Santhosh C said...

"As far as expressions go Arya is a dead tree branch on sedatives and Ajith is Arya on sedatives. Vijay is Ajith in a comatose state." - Well said! Especially when you see Vijay in pokkiri as he tries to do the role of a cool guy throughout the movie.
Infact your usage 'vijay acts' is an oxymoron.
And TR's movie does have hero worshipping. If you see his last movie Veerasamy, from scene one TR is praised in one form or the other. But then his movies have loads of unintended comedies leaving the audience craving for more unlike Vijay's (and Ajith's) movies

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with you about most of the movies , especially about the manipulativeness of "Paruthiveeran" , and the total non-sense of "Sivaji", which wud have been a flop had it not had the Rajini tag.

Anonymous said...

Hi b/b

Happy new year.


SRI said...

Agree with you on most of the movies, especially sivaji. But I was surprised to see Katradhu Tamizh in this list. Not because of its quality, but because of its rhetoric against IT. One can understand the "total loser" hero hating the IT people and their in-your-face splashing of money everywhere. But the directory should realize that its not fair to blame the IT people for getting high salaries. Instead blame their lifestyle. Not sure how the director got this "IT killing Tamizh" idea. There are other real dangers for tamizh to worry about.

But the central character of this movie is well defined and excellently portrayed by Jeeva. The overall script is poor, nevertheless a stunning movie. The director looks to be highly talented, should be encouraged.


bala said...

definitely polladhavan deserves a much more rank than what you gave..Shivaji review was awesome...Shankar and Rajini are clever to think about millions of idiotic thamizh fans as fools and played the hype. they are ultimately curbing the intellect of a thamizhan to entertain different genre of movies... Shame on them.....

Mozhi - is a classic
Chennai 600028 - the entertainer of the year.

I'm very happy to see ATM in the shame list...Infact I was immensly happy to see Vijay flopping..He's also on the same lines as Rajini thinking that just hardcore masala will sell...Spit on him.

Chenthil said...

I have been shouting myself hoarse to friends about Kattradhu Tamil - "forget the Tamil / IT issue. The movie is about a guy who gets only bad breaks all his life". Glad to know that I am not the only one to think so.

Vel is a commercial hit in B/C Centers :-).

Anonymous said...

Ajith can't express? Man you gotta be made of something.. Probably you need to revisit Vaali, Kandukondein, Mugavari etc..

Swapna said...

Disagree only on Sivaji. I loved it. But then I'm a Rajini fan. :)