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An outsider’s perspective to Tamil Cinema

2011 is now drawing to a close and I don’t expect many Tamil Blockbusters releasing in the next month or so. So I thought of, you know, to write about the Tamil movies I saw here in Chennai on the Big Screen.

Now what made me watch Tamil movies? First of all, some of the biggest film personalities in India are from Tamil cinemas – be it the VERSATILE Kamal Haasan, the GREAT Mani Ratnam or superstar Rajanikanth. I have watched a number of Tamil movies over my lifetime – many owing to the DD regional language stuff that used to come on Sundays along with subtitles during my school days. Many dubbed movies like Bombay and Robot (or Enthiran), thanks to the hype surrounding these movies and also I have seen simultaneous Tamil/Hindi releases like Yuva, Guru and Raavan. But, but, but watching a Tamil movie on the big screen with no subtitles sitting along Tamil speaking audience who in some cases idolize their screen gods is a different experience altogether. Another reason is probably the fact that I wanted to improve my Tamil speaking capabilities (not that I had much to write home about). My mother tongue being Tamil’s closest cousin – Malayalam, understanding the movie should not be a big deal, or so I thought.

The downside to watching movies this way is you have to watch the movie all alone, as I don’t have many Tamil speaking movie – enthu friends in Chennai. But the upside is you have to pay maximum 130 bucks (including 10 bucks for service charges) even in the best multiplex. Well then, here I was in a small theatre in Chennai – to watch KO, since that was the biggest release at that time. I asked the guy at the counter who the main actor was and he replied JEEVA. Now I having heard only about Suryas, Vikrams and Madhavans, was a bit circumspect, but saw Harris Jayaraj on the movie poster and immediately made up my mind. Till this point in time, I had not added Tamil movies to my list of Wikipedia pages and hence the ignorance. But started gaining enough wiki insight before any of the subsequent Tamil movies. KO was a pretty decent movie. The storyline was predictable and ordinary. It had been lifted off from 2009 Hollywood film State of Play starring Russell Crowe. The songs were really good, especially Ennamo Edho. Performance-wise, Jeeva and Ajmaal Ameer were decent. The actresses Karthika Nair and Pia Bajpai were also pretty OK. But many violent scenes and the over-dramatized action sequences left a bad taste in the mouth. Interestingly though, the film is being remade in hindi with Akshay Kumar playing the male lead.

Next in line was Nootrenbadhu or 180 (released in Telugu by the name 180). The interesting storyline and the usually bubbly Nithya Menen were the main reasons I went to watch the movie. Must say, I was pleasantly surprised. The story revolved around a too-good-to-be true kind of nice guy who is suffering from a terminal illness and is given 180 days to live. The story line combined with a not-at-all conventional ending made for a good watch. But sadly though, there were numerous songs distracting the viewer and unnecessarily bringing down the pace of the movie. The song ‘Nee Korinal’ impressed me though. The crowd reaction was the most disappointing. It seemed to me that the crowd got irritated by the whole story line and many started chanting ‘saava da’ etc asking the protagonist to die 😛 . The story, screenplay, direction were all up to mark, considering it was being made by a debutant, Jayendra. Though I am not a big fan of Siddharth, must say he did a fantastic job – the storyline was very much dependent on the main character to put in a credible performance.

Next in line was Avan Ivan. I had not planned to watch Avan Ivan, but I ended up watching it eventually as I couldn’t get tickets for some other movie. Since the director was the famed Bala, I thought I might as well watch the movie. But guess what, a big disappointment. I would partly blame my knowledge of Tamil, or rather lack of it for the movie-disaster. The movie had lot of dialogue-based comedy unlike previous movies and the plot was not all that important. The fact that the movie was not in regular Tamil but a particular dialect made matters worse. There were some songs but they were not at all good. All in all, a bad experience. Vishal though did a fantastic job with his squint eyed performance. His character was a bit effeminate but at the same time he had to display brawn power- muscles and all and bash up the bad guys – he could transform easily from one to another.

Mankatha was next. The media was creating a lot of hype and Mankatha was easily the most anticipated film of the period. Personally, I was just aware of the fact that Ajith was one of the big stars around here. Neither did I not know that this was his 50th film nor the fact that he had such a huge fan following. I watched the movie in ‘Escape cinemas’, the patrons of which I have always felt are quite sophisticated or high-end or whatever. And I was surprised to see lot of whistling and clapping in Ajith’s introductory screen and many other action sequences. The film was really likeable as for first time was I watching a Tamil movie where the main character was out and out negative. And the film successfully made a mockery of stereotypical hero image where the hero is always the good guy and saving his girl from the bad guys, saving the world etc etc etc. The songs were also good. As usual there were a bit too many of them in between but all of them were keeping with the mood of the film – most of them were catchy racy numbers. Ajith as an action hero was a first for me especially considering I had seen him earlier only in Kandunkondain Kandunkondain before this. But he carried it off in style. The rest of the cast too did a fantastic job.

7aum Arivu or 7th sense was also something I had in mind since long time, it being a Murugadoss- Suriya collaboration. It was a good movie, the script, the science fiction touch, the Chinese angle all coming off nicely. Suriya’s and Shruti’s performances were also decent. The special effects and action sequences were top class. Have never seen an Indian movie portray Kung-fu and related martial arts in such a convincing manner. Only at one point, though I thought that the director got carried away a bit– the scene where Nguyen directs many vehicles towards Suriya, the scene just went on and on. As for music, I expected a lot from Harris Jayaraj but the music was not all that good. The songs seemed to slow down the already lengthy movie. Yes, 168 minutes long, but thankfully no song in the last 45 minutes or so which was a relief. While rumours were doing the rounds that the movie has been inspired by Inception, Perfume etc but I found a lot of resemblance to Hugh Jackman starrer ‘The Fountain’. Glad to see the movie was completely original and a welcome change from the typical movies.

I would summarize by comparing my choice of movies with the box-office collection. My choice in the descending order would be Mankatha, Nootrenbadhu, 7aum Arivu, Ko and Avan Ivan. Whereas box-office collection so far has been something like this – Mankatha, 7aum Arivu, Avan Ivan, Ko and Nootrenbadhu, with the first four films coming 1st, 2nd, 5th and 8th at the box office respectively.

Deiva Thirumagal was a complete rip-off of I AM SAM and hence I didn’t watch it. Another biggie coming soon is Osthe which is again a remake of Dabangg.

So strictly speaking, from an outsider’s perspective (and in many ways from a Bollywood perspective), though a number of movies are coming out with new/innovative scripts (and some of them completely original not ripped off from Hollywood which is what most of bollywood does). But such movies are few and far in between – most of the movies are the typical boy loves girl kind of movie.

Special Effects and Action – Impeccable I must say, definitely better than what I see in Bollywood. Acting etc – not capable of adding value added comments as I am not sure of the language and hence can’t comment on dialogue delivery and the finer nuances of acting.

The number of songs is are really irritating and the movie makers should keep it in mind that it is not completely necessary to show the songs in between the movie. You can retain the song in the album, keep it for the beginning or while the end credits are rolling or not have it at all in the movie – just use for promotion, as they do in Bollywood.

That’s it for now. Ciao.

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