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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.