Looking Back at 2016 – Tamil Favorites of the Year

When I was done jotting down my list of my 20 best Tamil films of 2016, all I could see was the astounding amount of mediocrity and missed opportunities which hit Kollywood. The year had a lot of scope and whacky material, but unfortunately, very few directors were able to hold on to the core concept without succumbing to commercial compromises or stale storytelling. However, here is my list of the best Tamil films of 2016, ranked according to how memorable my film viewing experience was. Read on,

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1) Visaaranai

High: On-the-face, ruthless assemblage of truths and reality.

Low: Nothing, barring minor niggles with the continuity.

2) Irudhi Suttru

High: Hardcore team effort, led by the performances.

Low: Slight rush in the second half.

3) Sethupathi

High: Best mass moments in a cop film since Singam in 2010.

Low: More family bonding than its need.

4) Aandavan Kattalai

High: Screenplay of the year.

Low: Dialogue-oriented proceedings occasionally get a little monotonous.

5) Appa

High: Striking dialogues and situational storytelling.

Low: Preachy!

6) Metro

High: Unbelievable level of detailing from a debutant.

Low: Heavy load of violence.

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7) Kodi

High: Great mix of politics and entertainment. Dhanush, wow.

Low: Needed more energy.

8) Kathakali

High: Twists galore. And yes, amazing night cinematography.

Low: First 30 minutes.

9) Ammani

High: Never goes over-the-top.

Low: Slow-paced.

10) 24

High: Hollywood range technical standard.

Low: The inconsistent screenplay lacked fire.

11) Maaveeran Kittu

High: Brave take on caste discrimination.

Low: Becomes a social activist docu-drama in the second half.

12) Oru Naal Koothu

High: Lovely shades of romance and relationships.

Low: Unwanted tangles at the end.

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13) Dharmadurai

High: Fabulous display of family dynamics.

Low: Little bit of a TV serial feel.

14) Thozha

High: A honest remake, with bright visuals.

Low: The Telugu feel was unavoidable.

15) Picchaikaaran

High: What a story.

Low: Over-dramatic maybe?

16) Uriyadi

High: Memorable action scenes.

Low: Budget issues.

17) Joker

High: The impactful second half.

Low: The watery first half.

18) Kutrame Thandanai

High: The climax reveal, where the title makes sense.

Low: Content wise small, should have been an extended short.

19) Zero

High: Writing was just at another level.

Low: Lost the believability factor in the second half.

20) Iru Mugan

High: Vikram, visuals.

Low: Lost the opportunity to crack some wholesomely exciting scenes.

 

Justu Missu: Theri, Kidaari, Accham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada, Chennai 28-II, Velainu Vandhutta Vellakaaran.

 

PS: I feel gutted to miss out the hugely raved Dhuruvangal 16 from this list, but unfortunately, the film has not made it to Dubai and hence I could not see it. There are a few more films such as Pazhaya Vannarapettai that I have missed, so it’s natural that you would not see them on this list.

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Kaashmora Movie Review

It takes great conviction to converge a number of genres into one. With a two-film old director like Gokul trying to mix up horror, comedy, thrills and period spectacles into the tag of an entertainer, the herculean task set before him is something that needs a lorry of Red Bulls. In his latest offering Kaashmora, the director sits as a cat on the wall, taking a safe route in a story which needed a composed head.

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In Kaashmora, what’s the most appreciable, is Gokul’s core idea of blending the lines of a fake black magician with a historical segment which is best explained through the visuals. The thirty minute long episode towards the end is its lynchpin, packed with wondrous staging that is skilfully choreographed as well. But on the way to this much hyped chapter, the film has comic scenes interspersed with serious ones, both of which become an ephemeral ultimately. By the time one reaches the third act, it is easy to realize the ‘something missing’ feel which lingers throughout the movie.

When things are left hanging, the film needed a saviour to bring up the underdevelopments in its script. And to the rescue comes Karthi, who has seemingly walked a different path in terms of his body language and dialogue delivery. He is pretty comfortable as Kaashmora, while the second character Raaj Nayak comes off with terrific styling and costumes. There is also a third surprise suit, which is middling to say the least. On the other side, it is Nayanthara who is the highlight of Kaashmora. Sporting on grand costumes as the brave princess Ratnamahadevi, she oozes beauty all over the screen in a role only she can do. Vivek is present for comic relief and does bring about the occasional laugh, while Sridivya is just there to fill up a space. Some more depths into the characters of Kaashmora would have really made that world more exciting than what it is today.

Technically, Kaashmora gets past the line. Om Prakash’s camera captures the dark locations with enough detailing, while the editing passes muster. Santosh Narayanan’s music doesn’t work out well this time, paving way to tunes which act as speed-breakers. When it comes to the VFX, sets and costumes, hats off to the team for pulling off the impossible with minimum compromises. The visual grandeur which Kaashmora offers accounts to more than half of the price you will be paying to watch the film.

Kaashmora ends up as a borderline passable multi-genre offering that might pick your interest. The film has a little bit of everything, but what it could have done with is some more clarity. Nevertheless, the horror-comedy genre which is a crowd favorite now in TN is a given, and that should help to get the job done. Let’s wait and see.

Verdict: Generous visuals, middling material.

Rating: 2.5 / 5 

 

MS Dhoni: The Untold Story Review

Biopics are arguably one of the most challenging genres for a director to pick up. And when it comes to the responsibility of a biopic based on someone as big as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the task is a Himalayan climb. Where does one begin, and where does he end? What incidents does he bring to the forefront, and what does he hide under the table? Neeraj Pandey’s latest offering in ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ is a spider that gets caught in a tricky web, but somehow finds its way out by taking the safe route.

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The film is an indulgent biopic that follows a generic pattern, but what makes it interesting are the revelations of some unknown little secrets at regular intervals, which pop a balloon and help you sit up. Without playing around with the format much, Pandey makes it a straightforward set of chronicles that even a little Dhoni fan would comprehend. But in hindsight, this straightforward set also includes a shaky layer of exaggeration, cinematic liberties and tepid love tracks for our hero’s romantic angle.

Despite the odds against it, what really makes MS Dhoni: The Untold Story click is the lead Sushant Singh Rajput, who rips out a total doppelganger of the man he is seen playing. This is a performance which would go down as one of the most authentic portrayals, for he is on point when it comes to reprising the real Dhoni’s voice modulations, body language, batting style and even the helicopter shot. After him, it is Anupam Kher who plays the role of a doting father to perfection. Disha Patani and Kiara Advani come in and out as adorable pairs for SSR, but their character sketches are something that really needed more work on.

Toting up, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story is a definitely watchable record of a man who is loved by almost everybody in India. The film has a charming start, enthralling childhood incidents and gives you some eye-widening moments of Dhoni’s life. But by the end of it all, you’d wish that the director had done away with the chocolate box romance, and given us more of what Dhoni’s professional life, his brave decisions and champion moments. At a length of three hours, it feels long drawn out, and the tacky VFX doesn’t help much either. Nevertheless, worry not, because when things might seem a little bobbed down, Sushant Singh Rajput comes to the rescue and lends you an assuring performance in the titular role. Watch this film for his knockout act, and the feeling of reliving some golden moments on the big screen.

Verdict: Indulgent, yet interesting biopic.

3.25 / 5

Kabali Movie Review

When Superstar Rajinikanth announced a new film with a two-film old director, eyebrows widened. As the film found its shape, people were struck with surprise on the new look and feel of a Rajinikanth movie on the road, the name being Kabali. Today, the film hits the screens, much to the relief of a zillion fans round the globe who rejoice at the end of a long wait.

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Walking in with fist-pumping excitement, I found myself absolutely enjoying the first 30 minutes of the film where we get to see Rajinikanth in a way he’s never been projected before. The sublime combo of deadly looks and a mischievous character took over, and I got myself ready for a huge wave of awesomeness. Little did I know that the film was going to slow down by a mile, as soon as the emotions take over.

Kabali is neither a Rajinikanth film nor a Ranjith film. While the former is awesome with his trademark mannerisms and style, the latter’s effort on the storyboard is underwhelming to say the least. Ranjith gets the action and the swag totally right, but his space of strength which is the depth and connect goes awry here. With too many characters around Rajinikanth including a weak villain gang, the attention fluctuates in and out of the frame, and one starts to ask for quicker proceedings.

Kabali’s technical departments are rock solid. Cinematographer Murali’s top angle frames and shot creation tactics are a charm to watch, for he knows exactly where to place the camera to pack the best view. Watch out for his work in the climax and the first action block, and you will realize the essence of proper reel registering. The art director and the editor have done a splendid job too, making us delve into the feel of the film, seamlessly. And Santosh Narayanan, wow. Kabali is yet another feather in the cap of this composer who brings his best to the fore with the riveting background music. Comprehending the mood of the scene perfectly, he helps us gel with the situations in the film with just simple tones such as a staggering wobble and horns.

Kabali could have probably taken another route in narrating the chronicles of a gangster. Here, it ends up as a mixed bag of flaky emotions and an impactful protagonist. Rajinikanth truly rocks his part with great character and charisma, but this is a Ranjith film where I would have loved some more of, Ranjith. Definitely not bad, but doesn’t go all the way either.

Verdict: A different Rajini outing. That’s about it.

3 / 5

VVV Movie Review

Vishnu Vishal’s latest offering in Velainu Vandhutta Vellakaaran not only breaches above the minimum guarantee entertainment that director Ezhil usually associates with his films, but also shows us how hilarious comic sequences can be scooped out of formulaic, done-to-death filmy situations. The film is a perfect launchpad for the actor as a mass hero, in order to extend his horizon to the nooks and corners of the state.

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Never taking itself too seriously, VVV (as it is being called) presents itself as a straightforward entertainer, with engaging comedy shouldered by two specialists – Soori and Robo Shankar. The wafer thin plot line rarely comes off as a hurdle here as Ezhil adds enough and more attention to how he gets across the scene rather than what he is putting in it, and why. The film does follow a lot of clichés and textbook rules in order to accumulate a pattern, but what makes it click is the accessible comics which thankfully aren’t overdone at any point. Though there are instances where the film slows down – songs for example, and the occasional comic line going for a duck, VVV ends on a cheerful note which helps you with two hours of solid time-pass comedy.

Vishnu Vishal, who has been streamlined to content-oriented films until now, dons a new hat as a producer and simultaneously starts treading new paths towards the mass audiences. He checks most of the boxes when it comes to being the people’s darling. VVV is probably the first time where you will see Vishnu dance in full swing, and perform long and loud comic sequences. Aiding him equally is Soori, who continues his terrific form which he has been holding strong in 2016. ‘Pushpa Purushan’ is something you will hear a lot from now on. Nikki Galrani and Ravi Mariya do the needful and Motta Rajendran is adequate, but the star of the show is undoubtedly Robo Shankar, who brings the roof down with his bombastic body language and dialogue delivery in the second half. In his best since Vaayai Moodi Pesavum, he exhibits a whacky new shade as the MLA gone crazy.

Technical aspects don’t really come to the fore in a film which focusses solely on entertainment, but VVV does have apt costumes which comfortably co-operate with the mood of the film. C.Sathya’s music is quite inventive, though the songs might turn out to be needless in an otherwise rib-tickling affair.

Toting up, Velainu Vandhuta Vellakaaran is a safe first outing for Vishnu Vishal as a both a mass hero and a producer. It packs in a plethora of funny moments along with a solid ensemble star-cast who complement the situations in the film well. Ezhil delivers his best in recent times, for this is a full-fledged entertainer which should go on to click with the masses.

Verdict: A proper stress buster.

3 / 5

Thozha Movie Review

Films on friendship have paved our shores many a times in the past. And as you would already know it, the core of a film on friendship lies in the rapport between the lead characters, stressing on their camaraderie. Vamshi Paidipally’s latest offering in Thozha lends a fantastic crux from the French, adapts it pretty well with Indian sensibilities, and presents a delightful film for us to watch.

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The film rides on the rope between the lead men in Karthi and Nagarjuna, who form a great pair satisfying both audiences. Thozha gets its right, with its ability to clock hilarious moments out of its melodramatic space, not going over the top. The shifts between the sweet nothings and the teary-eyed scenes are seamless, and that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the rich visuals, neat tech work and the wordplay from Raju Murugan and Murugesh Babu. Though there are a handful of dull moments throughout with the needless songs adding worry, the feeling at the end of it all is near-complete, leaving a smile on your face.

Karthi is amazing with his comic timing, with the rib ticklers such as the painting snippets and the episodes with Tamannah working wonderfully. He also emotes excellently, this is arguably one of his better performances till date. Nagarjuna as a quadriplegic on the other hand has limited scope with just facial expressions on his palette, but he makes sure that he doesn’t negate the effect created by the rest. Tamannah’s character lacks depth, but she provides enough and more eye-candy with her glowing, gorgeous appearance. Watch out for Prakash Raj and the late Kalpana, who are much more than just supporting cast here.

PS Vinod’s work in Thozha is a definite treat to the eyes. His commanding control over the visuals are a big plus, especially in the Parisian portions where he gets tons of area to cover. Praveen KL’s unleashes his artistry cutting the right amount of reel, as the film doesn’t feel too laggy even at a length of 2 and a half hours. Gopi Sundar hasn’t made much of an impact with his songs, but he makes up for it with his background score which does impress.

Toting up, Thozha offers straightforward feel-good drama, embedded with cherish-able moments all the way. After long, it’s refreshing to see a film without even a slight grey shade, but made just to make you laugh, and teach you a load of good. The slight inconsistency and the alien feel at places might distort you a bit, but Vamshi Paidipally pins down a film that the team can be proud of. Uplifting, likable drama.

Summary: Thozha offers straightforward feel-good drama, embedded with cherish-able moments all the way. After long, it’s refreshing to see a film without even a slight grey shade, but made just to make you laugh, and teach you a load of good. The slight inconsistency and the alien feel at places might distort you a bit, but Vamshi Paidipally pins down a film that the team can be proud of. Uplifting, likable drama.

 

Verdict: Endearing tug at the heart strings!

3.25 / 5

Kanithan Movie Review

The action thriller bug crawled into the minds of Kollywood directors few years ago, and ever since, they have been trying their best to bring about different topics to the scene. Small, short stories which lie at the little corners of the newspapers have been brought to the limelight through this genre which allows the thinker to infuse it into the commercial format.

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The latest to join this breed of young guns is none other than AR Murugadoss’ protégé, TN Santhosh. In his first outing ‘Kanithan’ he plays out with the infamous fake certificate scans which encircle the common public. With a street smart protagonist and a brawny opposite, Kanithan delivers terrific thrills as it gets over the line with minimum lulls. The films takes 30 minutes of your time to establish its characters with a few comic episodes and a love track, but from thereon, it picks up pace with the central plot gaining momentum. At a breakneck speed, the film gallops towards the interval block, which ends with a superb fight scene. The second half gives you more adrenaline, as the game of cat and mouse between Atharvaa and the stiff but power-packed baddie Tarun gets better with equal shades of brain and brawn.

In his most entertaining film till date, Atharvaa lends out a neat performance as Gautham Ramalingam. Looking his part as a press reporter, he belts out long dialogues with ease and performs his stunts in style. Even in the songs which act as huge speed-breakers, he is extremely energetic along with Catherine Tresa who fits into the shoes of a commercial heroine nicely. Bhagyaraj, Karuna Karan and Sunder Ramu get a scene each to score with the rest of the cast passing muster.

Kanithan is backed by a strong technical team too. While Arvind Krishna generates rich frames even in the road shots, Bhuvan Srinivasan’s neat cuts compliment the film well. The interval block is one scene where all the elements come together very nicely, resulting in a good dose of fun. You would only wish for better songs and BGM.

Toting up, Kanithan is a solid film that accounts as a good watch for thrill seekers. Though the aura of the Thuppakkis and the Thani Oruvans are inevitably present, TN Santhosh comes up with a fairly engaging fare that becomes the big-ticket film for Atharvaa at this point of his career.

Summary: Kanithan is a solid film that accounts as a good watch for thrill seekers. Though the aura of the Thuppakkis and the Thani Oruvans are inevitably present, TN Santhosh comes up with a fairly engaging fare that becomes the big-ticket film for Atharvaa at this point of his career.

Verdict: Brisk, punchy thriller.

3.25 / 5