Bangalore Naatkal Movie Review

Taking up a remake is always risky business. This is a phenomenon which has been discussed over and over again in the past, and is a great topic of debate in the days to come. The latest remake to hit the marquee is ‘Bangalore Naatkal’, which is Bommarillu Bhaskar’s marginally altered perspective of its Malayalam equivalent.

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There are two things you can do when you remake a film. Either you make it a scene-by-scene translation and play it safe, or gamble around with your own version of someone else’s vision. Bhaskar here, takes the former route. There are very minute, negligible changes, sans which the film is very similar to Bangalore Days. Though the first half is awkward and strives hard to make a connection, the second has a good share of feel-good moments, making it the better of the two. It is only when the film divulges into the sea of emotions that it begins to score, with the little-off-nought performances not adding much to the mix. Above all, it is Bhaskar’s packaging and presentation which makes Bangalore Naatkal a passable, watchable ride.

The biggest drawback of the film lies in its unacceptable casting. While Arya tries his best to impress with his so-called lazy elegance, Simhaa is a complete misfit in a role aced by Nivin Pauly in the original. It is really tough to see him struggle with that kind of an accent, letting go of a handful of good scenes with his amateurish acts. Rana Daggubati is probably the pick of the lot, managing to walk the talk, despite his big built structure being a small hurdle. In return, the girls uphold Bangalore Naatkal, barring the one miss in Raai Laxmi. Sridivya is superb as the bubbly and cherubic Ajju, and she deserves a lot of praise for her dubbing efforts which well match up with her performance. On the other hand, Parvathy pulls off a near-perfect show as RJ Sarah, lighting up the screen whenever she’s on it. It wouldn’t be fair to go off without talking about Saranya Ponvannan, who adds Bangalore Naatkal as another feather to her already overflowing cap. And Samantha, well, some cute smiles in a blink-and-you-miss walkover.

While the cinematography and the editing stays adequate, Gopi Sundar’s music is a blend of his tunes from the original OST and some fill-in-the-blank work. A little bit of trimming to finish the final cut at less than 150 minutes would have helped this too.

Altogether, Bangalore Naatkal would be a fine watch for those who have kept themselves away from Anjali Menon’s ostensibly superior version. For the others, it is a time-pass fare with a few good moments to take back home.

Verdict: Gently absorbing rehash.

2.75

Looking Back at 2015: Favorite Tamil Songs of the Year

As much as 2015 was a good year for the debutante directors, the younger musicians rose up to the occasion and made a mark. Flying through the ARRs and the HJs, there were a pack of composers who served some gems. Down below is the list of my twenty favorite songs of the year. Read on, and see if your favorite made the cut.

Before we get onto that, a special mention to two composers in Hip Hop Tamizha (duo) and Ghibran. While the former struck gold with their foot-tapping tunes and swaggy BGM, Ghibran carved out memorable music through three albums for the Ulaganayagan. Out of the trio, Uttama Villain stood out for me. His diversity and levels of experimentation took me by surprise, making it my album of the year. The songs weren’t radio-friendly, but they sure did make heads turn. In return, I haven’t placed any of Uttama Villain’s music in the 20+5, as it is something special beyond all those listed below. I have also kept away from the year-end releases such as Thaara Thappatai, Kathakali and Gethu since I’ll be giving them some more time before taking a final call.

  1. Thangamey – Naanum Rowdy Dhaan – Anirudh Ravichander

If you’d ask me to pick one song out of the year’s enormously huge list, it would be Thangamey. After taking some stick for his familiarity and youth-centered music, Anirudh bashed all the negativity away with this highly inventive track. Those violin synths along with the extremely peculiar tune made it a song which I still haven’t drawn out of my playlist.

 

  1. Unakenna Venum Sollu – Yennai Arindhaal – Harris Jayaraj

Right on the first day of the year, Harris Jayaraj bestowed this absolute beauty upon us. It is not easy to say no to this heartening composition, which also works thanks to Thamarai’s gentle lyrics and Benny Dayal’s wondrous job on the mic.

 

  1. Aye Sinamika – OK Kanmani – AR Rahman

If AR Rahman is all about slow poison, Aye Sinamika would be the best example to enlighten that. Though I found it a pedestrian track on first listens, I was unusually dragged to it after watching the film. The way it jogs towards the end still gets me high.

 

  1. Donu Donu Donu – Maari – Anirudh Ravichander

Anirudh waving his magic wand again. In the peppiest song of the year, he seamlessly blended together some local lyrics and a heavily addictive techno beat. And Alisha Thomas, she was the icing on the cake.

 

  1. Yeya Yen Kotikaara – Papanasam – Ghibran

Truly doesn’t take much time for Ghibran to engulf you with his achingly pleasant melodies. It really jolts me as to how simple he keeps his interludes and rhythms and still belts out lilting, memorable music. This song in particular, inherits the accent and the aura of the film to deliver a soothing product.

 

  1. Mora Saiyya – Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam – Amrit

2015 gave us a promising composer in the form of Amrit, whose Maalai Nerathu Mayakkam still stands as a grossly underrated album. In Mora Saiyya, the composer proficiently blends a simple melody with a high point that’s arguably instilling.

 

  1. Naanal Poovai – Kirumi – K

K is another unnoticed composer in the Tamil scene. His music might not be as diverse as you want it to be, but he makes sure that he has some gems in his discography. Naanal Poovai is one of those songs where a concoction of randomness ends up impressing totally.

 

  1. Eppo Varuvaaro – Oru Naal Koothu – Justin Prabhakaran

When most of the other composers were busy shouting out their rather average soundtracks, Justin Prabhakaran quietly delivered a stunning album in Oru Naal Koothu. Though every song is special here, Eppo Varuvaaro emerges out thanks to the wonderful recreation of one of the most mellifluous devotional songs in history.

 

  1. Innum Enna Azhage – Yatchan – Yuvan Shankar Raja

In an album packed with exciting, fast-paced numbers, Yuvan Shankar Raja revisited his olden days with Innum Enna Azhage. The violin bits are what will stay with you, even if you’ve not heard the song since you first listened to it.

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  1. Kannala Kannala – Thani Oruvan – Hip Hop Tamizha

As I said it above, Hip Hop Tamizha are undoubtedly one of the best things to happen to Tamil cinema in 2015. In their most successful soundtrack of the year, they came up with this lovely melody which went places on the charts.

 

  1. Vaaya En Veera – Kanchana 2 – Leon James

Though this was one of Leon’s first songs, the fact that it was brought to the limelight is a happy one. Shaktisree Gopalan’s flawless vocals are the USP here, with the minimalistic orchestration giving her maximum space to spread her wings.

 

  1. Naane Varugiren – OK Kanmani – AR Rahman

This in my view, is the best female rendition of the year. Shashaa Tirupati proving her worth so early in her career, ably supported by Satyaprakash who almost pushes her off the stage with just a handful of lines.

 

  1. Hey Umayaal – Urumeen – Achu

Another one of those instantly likable songs which come forward to prove that all you need is a talented vocalist and one catchy hook.

 

  1. Kuiyyo Muiyyo – Eetti – GV Prakash

GVP loves his dubstep. From a small portion in Udhayam NH4 to his elaborate background scores in Gangs of Wasseypur, he has always been experimenting with the transformer noises. In Kuiyyo Muiyyo, he waits for a while and then strikes hard, quite an experimental number this.

 

  1. Piravi – Masss – Yuvan Shankar Raja

I really didn’t expect Yuvan to pick Vaikom Vijaylakshmi when I saw the tracklist of Masss. But little did I know he had a track tailor-made for her to come and stamp her class with. Lovable visuals too.

 

  1. Neeye Unakku Raja – Thoongavanam – Ghibran

Kamal Haasan and his modulations, just wow. The song might not stay with you for long, but it surely does have its moments and a fun-filled making video.

 

  1. Vaada Vaa Machi – Demonte Colony – Keba Jeremiah

This is my party song of the year. Trippy to the core!

 

  1. Kannane Kanne – Naanum Rowdy Dhaan – Anirudh Ravichander

That time of the year, where Anirudh did a Santosh Narayanan. Sean Roldan totally owned this track with his unique vocals. Repeat worthy material.

 

  1. Ambane – Asurakulam – Sathya C

Sathya C bringing out his classy side to towering results. Sadly in this industry, you have to come out in the open and promote your work to make it visible, even to those who will be interested.

 

  1. Kannameya – Eli – Vidyasagar

Vadivelu’s enthusiasm and the meaningful lyrics make this a must-listen, even after the old-fashioned instrumentations.

 

Justu Missu: Karuppu Nerathazhagi, Unnai Maatrinaal, Ethanai Kavignan, Azhaga Aanazhaga, Neeyum Adi Naanum

PS: Yes, you won’t find a single SaNa song here. I was disappointed with 36 Vayadhinile, but I am expecting big things from him 2016. Fingers crossed.

Looking Back at 2015 – Tamil Favorites of the Year

In succession, 2015 followed its predecessor when it came to the young blood walking ahead to overtake the experienced batch. There was a lot to like, but I also feel it was the year where we found a large number of ‘could-have-been-better’ films. Nevertheless, here is the list of my twenty favourite films of the year. I’ve ranked them according to my liking, and the amount of engage factor I found in them. Read on,

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1) Kaaka Muttai

High: Fitting so many socially responsible topics into the lives of two kids, and making it entertaining.

Low: Nothing. That’s why it’s here.

2) Thani Oruvan

High: The antagonist.

Low: The protagonist.

3) Papanasam

High: Perfecting a remake to high levels.

Low: Slightly over-the-top at places.

4) Maya

High: The Hollywood-ish making.

Low: Fails to attain full potential at scoring spots.

5) Uttama Villain

High: Initiated a huge post-watch discussion which excited movie buffs.

Low: The script-to-screen translation faltered a bit.

6) Baahubali

High: The world-class final 40-minute war sequence.

Low: The lethargic first half which suffered from zero plot progression.

7) Yennai Arindhaal

High: Ajith’s guts to accept a role sans any heroism.

Low: The familiarity associated with GVM’s cop trilogy.

8) Kuttram Kadithal

High: Nuances galore.

Low: Went bonkers in the third act.

9) Rajathandiram

High: The surprise package of the year.

Low: The usual drawbacks which come along with a small film.

10) Tamizhukku En Ondrai Azhuthavum

High: The excellent concept.

Low: When one side more interesting than the other, things dip a little.

11) Indru Netru Naalai

High: Treading the unexplored concept of time travel.

Low: Takes time to start.

12) Kirumi

High: The most underrated film of the year.

Low: A partially wavered second half.

13) Isai

High: Vintage SJ Suryah.

Low: It takes 50 minutes to get fired up.

14) Anegan

High: KV Anand’s compelling management of a complex base.

Low: Sometimes, complexity can be a bother.

15) Naanum Rowdy Dhaan

High: Memorable characters all over. And Anirudh’s music.

Low: Dialogue driven comedy, so it doesn’t always work and is repetitive.

16) Uppu Karuvaadu

High: Has just enough in it to show that Radha Mohan still has it in.

Low: The subpar making cycle.

17) OK Kanmani

High: Mani Ratnam getting back to his forte.

Low: Not too big a crux to stress upon.

18) Kallapadam

High: A superbly written, low-cost thriller. K’s music, wow!

Low: The acting chops.

19) Thoongavanam        

High: Kamal Haasan kicking ass, with a superb starcast and Ghibran’s techy music.

Low: Carbon copy of the original.

20) Pasanga 2

High: The intent.

Low: The extent.

Justu Missu: Komban, Demonte Colony, Enakkul Oruvan, Kathukutti, I.

 

PS: There are a handful of films which released towards the end of the year, and failed to find an international release. They include Eetti, Bhooloham, Oru Naal Iravil and a few more. I am still yet to watch these, so they will not find a place on this list.

Waiting Movie Review

Nobody likes hospitals. Me neither. The frowning faces, the beeping devices, the distracting smell and things of that sort have always been a pest. To set a film in that premise, to create two impacting characters and to make one sit through it. That is surely some feat. Anu Menon does just that in her latest directorial, Waiting.

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Most of Waiting is set within the confines of a hospital which begets the charming landscape of Kochi in its background. The film begins and ends at this venue, with its pivotal points rooted here as well. Crossing over the stories of two couples – one young and one old, Menon narrates the moving story of Tara and Shiv, two individuals who are ‘waiting’ for their partners who suffer from a coma. The duo develop a peculiar relationship during their tough time at the hospital, learning and unlearning a ton of truths about life and it’s uncanny surprises.

However strong a script may be, the main box you’ll need to check are the artists who are going to take your story to your audiences. In this context, we have Kalki Koechlin and Naseeruddin Shah, who bowl you over with their standout performances. Kalki as the coming-of-age girl is a revelation, with her impatience and instability hindering her path. Watch out for the opening sequences right after hearing the news about her husband. Much needn’t be said about Naseeruddin Shah, who is an auteur par excellence, being the boss of whatever he does. With these two at the centre, it is Rajat Kapoor who makes a mark as the negative-minded doctor, with an applause to the scene where he teaches his disciple. Waiting also has interesting cameo appearances from Arjun Mathur, Suhasini Mani Ratnam and ‘Koya’ from ‘Premam’.

The icing on the cake are the visuals that the film brings you, where Menon incorporates a fresh new sleeve onto Kochi’s natural scene. Apart from this, the vibrant costumes manage to catch your eye and help making the experience a touch more pleasant.

On the flip-side, the film shifts down in gear towards the end by a bit, losing the momentum which was at a breakneck right from the start. In a dialogue-oriented narrative, it is really important to keep away from repetitions, which lead to monotony. However, a cute little episode between the elder pair will surely bring the smile back to your face.

At an aerial view, Waiting succeeds thanks to its matured writing, neat direction and expectedly solid performances from its leads. Watch it when it comes out, for this is something worth a wait.

Verdict: Engaging, enlightening tale.

3.5 / 5

Dhanak Movie Review

On very few occasions do you come across a film which is made to make you happy, on the whole. The basic point of the film is to keep you smiling throughout, sometimes even after you leave the hall. Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak anagrams to this, a heartening piece of cinema which bowls you over with its towering levels of innocence and reality.

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Dhanak is carried forward by two small at size, big at heart kids, known as Pari and Chotu. While the former is a responsible little girl, the latter is a chatterbox, who has lost his eyesight due to an avoidable mishap in the family. Keeping things cute and kiddish without being overly pretentious, Nagesh takes us on an unforgettable journey with the two kids, who travel across the state to meet one special person and ask for his aid.

The most beautiful aspect of Dhanak is the excellent writing, which connects very quickly, taking you back to your childhood days in a flash. From the word go, the film is belted with lovely moments to cherish, where you cannot help but go ‘aww’. On their journey together, Pari and Chotu come across a flurry of interesting characters, both good and bad. Every single person manages to leave an impact, be it a small role or a big one. My favorite ones however, are the superb episode with Douglas Adams – the foreigner and Badrinath – the truck driver who doesn’t even bag a line of dialogue.

Krish Chabbria, the little kid who plays Chotu is a live wire. Taking Bhai’s side against his sister who loves SRK, he puts up an exuberant show with a special mention to his blind act which turns out to be something you’d overlook while falling for his mischief. The little girl Pari is an exact depiction of maturity blended with beauty, tucking in a ton of morals into the film. Watch out for some wondrous scenes such as their conversation while biting on a roti, the twist with the truth-spitting grandma and the hilarious scene between Chotu and his new-found friend which will surely have you in splits.

Dhanak is also splendidly shot throughout Rajasthan, with bright visuals and some simple but effective musical cues.

Above all, here is a film which brings some much needed realizations to the fore. Trust, goodness, peace and kindness are all simple messages that are nuanced into the screenplay. It deserves your eyes for all these reasons. And more. Take a bow, Nagesh Kukunoor.

Verdict: Enchanting piece of cinema. A must watch.

4 / 5

Puli Movie Review

On how many occasions have we seen big pockets, a grand canvas, a huge starcast and tech teams coming together, only for the director to screw it all up? Vijay’s Puli is a perfect example of this occurrence, where a visionary director in Chimbudevan gets it right on paper but messes it up in the script to screen translation.

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Somewhere through the second half of the film, you get this feeling that both the baselines of Puli and Baahubali are surprisingly so similar, right from the first frame. When it comes to period films, it is sad that our directors opt for the safe (not anymore) revenge sagas rather than bringing interesting events from history to our knowledge. After starting off pretty decently, the film goes bonkers in the second half, with the introduction of the second Vijay in the infuriating, cringe-worthy flashback sequence. It is Chimbudevan who has to take up the blame here. Though his imagination range is evident, he fails to transform it into a narrative. Most of Puli feels like a parody. Yes, a parody.

Puli is more of a Vijay film than a Chimbudevan film, and that is not a good thing. There are a ton of political mentions which make you ponder whether they were floated in by the director or the actor. His characterisation too, doesn’t correspond to the situation. Ostensibly, Chimbudevan brought in Kathiresan from Kaththi and pushed him through a makeover. It would have been so much better if Vijay had put in some efforts from his side to suit the role. Finally, it boils down to his cherubic expressions and the dance which have to make you content. Of course, we cannot conclude without appreciating the guts to do a fantasy film at this point of his career. Apart from him, the two leading ladies have no lead in the film, and Sudeep has been wasted in a negative role of sorts. Sridevi has made a comeback, that’s about it. In this puzzle, it is Sathyan, Thambi Ramaih and the rest of the comedians who offer the occasional laugh which tickles the funny bone.

The tech team of Puli has done a commendable job to make it a visually satisfying experience. Be it Natty’s stunning camerawork or Muthuraj’s artwork, the result is flawless. I also liked the way how the costumes slowly got better for Vijay in ascendance, good job there. Some scenes really did take me back to the childhood fantasies like Kutti Chaatan. But yeah, even those had better music.

Yet, the air of creativity that you usually associate with Chimbudevan’s films is present in Puli too. There are talking birds, miniature men and the 180-year old adviser is not a long-haired sage but a huge tortoise. Though the director has chosen to narrate a familiar story in an unfamiliar land, the setting and the never-seen-before characters that you find in the film are those that help you sit through it. The stunning CGI work which was the punching bag before release, turns out to be the life saver here. And that somehow equalizes to Puli’s result – a glossy looking comic-book which isn’t completely enjoyable when you read through it.

Verdict: A triumph of creativity, taken to the gutters.

2.5 / 5

Maya Movie Review

The situation in Tamil cinema is both a boon and a bane for horror films. There is at least one scary flick coming out every weekend, which makes it quite a challenge for directors to churn out a film which stands out from the rest. The good side of it, is that all the horror films have been making decent money at the Box Office, irrespective of their quality. Amidst a truckload of so-called horror comedies which infuse provocative clothing, double-meaning dialogues and women objectification in the name of entertainment, Maya comes off as a genuinely terrifying film which ups the standards by a mile.

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Ashwin Saravanan. There’s a lot to like about this guy. It has been quite a while since we have got to see a horror film with zero (I repeat, zero) commercial compromises. There are a 100 ways in which Ashwin could have made this film jog towards being more entertaining. But he decides to not let any of that in, and sends it back at the door itself. And that’s where Maya clicks – right from the first frame, it doesn’t let you settle and makes you play the guessing game rather than serving you the plot on a platter. You will be confused, thrilled, connected and left screaming. But at the end, you will get your answers.

In just his first film, the director takes it by the horns and sneers around with dual coloured, non-linear narration. Though the connection point did puzzle me a little, I got myself back on track soon enough. The first half takes a little time with character establishments (quite a long list) and bringing about the emotional embrace, but the second pans out as a thrill-a-minute whodunit which keeps you on the edge of your seat. With minimalistic production values, Maya sets a benchmark on how great films can be made with stoopingly low budgets.

It is heartening to see Nayanthara come out of her comfort zone and essay the role of a single mother. At such a towering point in her career, the woman is making the right choices with her films and Maya is yet another feather in her cap. With little or no make-up, she brings the right amount of emotions without overdoing anything. Believe me, nobody can cry as well as she does. Aari is the next bullet in the gun, doing a fine job with his underplay. With a strong supporting cast which boasts of the proficient Lakshmi Priyaa and a bay of male artists such as Mime Gopi, Amzath and Robo Shankar, Maya has live, believable acting.

Hats off to the technical team for matching up with Hollywood’s range in terms of their professionalism. The stupendous camerawork along with its blue-ish colouring and the editing which doesn’t feel like it are the sure perks of this film. A special mention to the sound team, who have created an atmospheric experience which will crack you out at places. The chilling background cues – phew!

In all its glory, Maya is a stunning, no-nonsense horror thriller which is sure to raise your eyebrows. The fact that it has come from a team of relatively new talents (mostly debutants) doubtlessly makes it a masterstroke. Miss it at your own risk.

Verdict: Unmissable is the word.

4 / 5