Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum!

I had the same feeling at the end of Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum that I had after watching Pizza (I chose not to review Pizza because I was quite undecided). It’s a combination of an admiration of the simplicity of the story, a blur line that differentiates the characters from the actors and a generous load of benefit of the doubt for the team! Now you see why I was undecided about Pizza?

Anyway..

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum pans out like a silly mistake that could happen to any of us – the friends almost like the ones any of us would have. The irritating Bags, sweet-as-hell Saras, always-awkward Balaji are the kind of people who remind one of people they’d known or friends they’d had. Even though half the film’s dialogue is “enna aachu? Cricket vilayaada ponom……Sari aaydum”, every time Prem says it, we hope nervously for him to recover and say more.

The film is endearing in more ways than its simplicity. It remains a single tangent about what happens among the four friends. Other characters come in and leave when their job is done – there is a man in formals who joins the game but promptly drops off when it’s done, that Dhanalakshmi character doesn’t venture beyond the wedding sequences, one obscure ‘Sir’ character comes and drops some free advice – but the film is about the medulla oblagantta and that’s what it remains.

While we are at it, I cannot resist mentioning the very regular love-marriage, family sandai, problem about the make up and all that’s clichéd. But we perhaps let that all pass because these are the kind of clichés that life is filled with. Or perhaps we don’t.

In essence, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kannum is new and refreshing and that is welcome. On the other hand, it is also amateur and superficial.

Saguni – will turn in his grave

(Lack of) Direction: Shankar Dayal (Sharma – as Kalaignar TV just called him)

Featuring: Karthi, Santhanam, Pranitha, Prakash Raj, Nasser, Roja, Radhika, Kiran, Kota Srinivasa Rao mattrum palar

Political thriller (was it?)

Our politics begins and ends with electoral politics. So, Boopathi is a cruel-mindless-evil politician (played rather convincingly by Prakash Raj) who doesn’t think twice about murder, theft, inducing riots or even wickedly eliminating competition. There is no good side to him. He is evil and is going to ruin Tamilnadu for his personal benefit.

One victim of this politician’s pursuit of personal benefit is Kamalakannan (Karthi, the hero) who wants to retain *his* property and stall the construction of an underground subway/ underpass. There is an explanation about how he has been wronged. But in essence, this is the *struggle* of a man who refuses to let go of his *personal property* for infrastructure development of the state.

From there, he uses his brains, sends Santhaanam to jail, manipulates a saamiyaar, starts wearing glasses, becomes a *king maker* and establishes the *right* rule *for the people*.

Common man at politicians’ mercy

Like every other political film that Tamil cinema makes (Dhool, Ko etc. being examples), the common man (of course not the hero, you dud) is always at the mercy of these high and mighty politicians. Saguni, being the story of a *king maker* only accentuates the lack of public participation in *king making*. With this being very close to real life, I don’t know if it (the realistic representation in the film, I mean) is a good thing or bad.

Women power

This is the most bothersome part of the film for me (it is a feminist’s blog. What exactly were you expecting?) The film has unnecessarily many female characters – but I am going to bring up each of them and discuss (of course).

The eye candy lot

There is Sridevi (the hero is named Kamal, you see?) who dances in foreign locations, looks pretty, uses the hero to protect her against miscreants but later ignores him on instructions of her mother. We could have done without her. But you see, the film is all talk about her (love) – so one number heroine has to be shoved on us. And on the hero in the last scene.

Then there is Anushka and Andrea just to hype up our hero (Oh-my-god-he-is-so-desirable)! Even Rajini Appadurai (Santhaanam, as you’d have guessed) has a *jodi* who ignores him when he is a driver but is impressed with him when he becomes the Mayor’s PA (the job that he got on the recommendation of Kamal who has the Mayor on speed dial. There is no hint that he is even qualified for the job. Anyway, the woman isn’t looking for any such thing, is she now?)

The family lot

The atthai (Roja) is a selfish woman who takes her share of property and leaves for the city when the others in her family are giving away everything they have for *feeding* the poor. She uses her nephew (?) as a driver and throws him out when the job is done.

Devadharshini appears in one scene and weeps for the death of her parents (though plays no role in avenging or even seeking justice for it).

Then the political lot

There is this role played by Kiran – an ambitious woman who wants to make it big in politics. She is dressed in sexy sarees and appears as Boopathi’s set up. She displays no intelligence, finesse, political ability or even just independent thinking. She is Boopathi’s puppet, just sometimes being an annoying woman who could be eliminated (which Boopathi attempts later in the film).

There is Ramani Akka (so much for Radhika playing this role) who goes from idli kadai to kandhu vaddi vasool rani to Mayor. If you’re convinced that is a common woman’s guide to an empire, hear me out. She makes no decision on her own – she is asked to contest in elections by Kamalakannan and she does so. He plans her election campaign and gives her the *out-of-the-box idea* of distributing cricket bats to voters’ children (as bribe, of course). He stops her while she is about to withdraw her candidature in return for money. She is also a puppet. She is mightier because she is the hero’s puppet. That is all. Kamal, however, goes as far as to use her for his personal benefit (of saving his house, #youremember). She becomes the Mayor because the Mayorship this tenure is *reserved* for a *woman* and she is the only woman councillor in Chennai. She implements his plans to demolish the property that may belong to the CM. So on and so forth.

In short

~      The first half is unnecessary – so is most of the second half.

~      There is no logic to most of what happens in the film nor there is any meaning.

~      Santhanam is funny – Karthi not so much (there is a scene where he says “thanni, kanni, su….” and waits only to complete that with soodhu. Sigh).

~      (Personal) good wins over evil

~      People dump money on Saamiyaars even if they were sitting around smoking beedi

~      Political thriller, my foot!

Further reading

I hear from people very often that my reviews tend to be biased and (unreasonably) negative. So, I’ve decided to also put up some links from other reviewers. Here are some other reviews I read today. Will update when blog reviews come up.

Pavithra Srinivasan – Rediff

Bharadwaj Rangan – The Hindu

Romal M Singh – DNA (positive review. lol)

Kanasemba Kudureyaneri – I’m not the only one!

Direction: Girish Kasaravalli
Written by: Amaresh Nudgoni, Girish Kasaravalli
Featuring: Vyjanath Biradar, Umashree, Sadashiv Brahmavar

The film won National award for Best Feature Film in Kannada and for Best Screenplay.

After college (at MIC, Manipal), I’ve not seen a Kannada film, that’s in over 5 years. Even in college, the only two Kannada films I remember watching were ‘Dweepa’ and ‘Hasina’. All along, trying to brush aside the beautiful nostalgia attached to Kasaravalli’s films in my life, I sat down to watch Kanasemba Kudureyaneri.

The film is about dreams – Rudri’s, her husband Irya’s and one that is theirs. The dreams are intertwined in the superstitions of the villagers, the materialism of a son, the death of a father and the stench of his dead body. Going back and forth in time, Girish takes us through the culture and belief systems of a village full of people.

Irya is a gravedigger. He dreams of the death of a man in the village and believes that to be true – so he takes off to dig his grave. When he is told that there is no death in the village, he is left devastated.

Rudri – his wife – dreams of Siddha’s arrival and she prepares a lavish meal for him. When he doesn’t arrive, she is also heart broken.

Back and forth, in two days, we see capitalism, poverty, ignorance, self-sufficiency, agriculture vs. industry, and many meaningful arguments weaved subtly into a realistic story. The beauty of the film of course is in the hope with which he ends the film. The cynic in me wants to diss it as romanticising real problems, but Girish leaves me with Rudri and Irya’s dream of cultivating barren land in the hope of a better life.

Afterall, aren’t dreams all we’ve got!

3

Director: Aishwarya R. Dhanush

Featuring: Dhanush, Shruti Haasan, Siva Karthikeyan, Sunder Ramu (Prabhu, Bhanupriya and Rohini wasted!)

This is a film by the next generation Tamil filmmakers (artists, music directors inclusive). Shruti Haasan, Dhanush, Aishwarya R Dhanush are all people who’ve seen cinema more closely than any of us would have in our lives. Yet, 3 is what they can produce. Sub-standard, unimaginative, insensitive and ridiculous load of trash that they’ve dumped in to three hours.

In the name of love

Ram (played impeccably by Dhanush) helps this girl who can’t help herself with her own bicycle (which happens in the real world, of course) and then falls in love with her when he is all of 16/17 years of age. The girl Janani (irritatating portrayal by Shruti Haasan) returns the favour and they are both in love. The first half of the film meanders across tuition classes, roadside conversations, slaps from the girl’s father and useless trip to Tirupathi.

Nothing in the film makes the audience feel the love between the two lead characters or any hope that the film is heading somewhere this way. The girl burns her passport (which has the Visa that her mother obtained after 15 years on burning herself outside the US embassy! Lolwut?), runs away from home asking Ram to marry her, apparently does nothing that could be called a job but cooks well, of course. The boy fails in his maths and chemistry exams in school, runs after this girl he likes (and scores well in Physics – the subject he takes tuitions with her), drives to Tirupathi without a license and uses an Aircel phone (one too many plugs this Aircel has paid for).

There is absolutely no love that I could see or feel between the two – no conversations, no happy moments together, no display of sanity or self-sufficiency.

In the name of marriage

No surprise that this love goes into marriage. Ram marries Janani and moves into this apartment that his father buys for him. They wait for both their parents to visit them before they have their “first night”. He promises never to hurt her and take care of her. She in turn reaffirms her trust that he would do so. He goes away for long hours, has a friend sleeping over every single day but Janani waits for him to die before she finds out why it is this way. Ram kicks their pet and kills the dog (unimaginatively named Tom). Unable to tell her what he’s done, he cries and she consoles him still not wanting to find out what really happened.

The Director has gone out of her way to beat stereotypes in having Ram and Janani’s wedding at a pub/ discotheque. Ignoring the fact that, though the venue is new, the thaali and the man tying it around the woman’s neck hasn’t changed, it is impossible to ignore that Janani wears Vibudhi (symbol of widowhood) on her forehead for a large part of the film post-interval. Strange are the ways we beat the norms these days.

In the name of mystery

The film begins with someone having been murdered. And then there are these scenes where Janani runs after what looks like Ram’s silhouette. Like most other scenes, this one goes nowhere too. But I refuse to understand the irrelevant plugging of such things to make the movie catchy. Dream sequence or otherwise, if the film is about a man with bipolar disorder, why make him seem like a ghost?

In the name of a ‘disease’

This is the scariest part of it all. Ram, in the film is dealing with bipolar disorder – which is pretty much mentioned as a disease. He acts like Chandramukhi Ganga (while the Doctor character clearly mentions that this is not split personality but bipolar disorder). He beats up friends, walks up to kill his wife, hallucinates and even forgets everything that he has done while he is in one of his fits. He refuses to ‘admit’ himself in a hospital and is worried about his wife “seeing him” with “fear” rather than “love”.

What’s more bothering here is how everything in this entire sequence is so unimaginative. All of the reasons for which he meets his extremes are so stereotypical. He breaks his friends head for merely telling him that he has a problem. He beats up people in a car park like a mad man left loose. He kills a poor dog. Even if I’d buy this for all of them are occurrences in the life of a man, his hallucinations are out of nowhere. There is no reason for why he is seeing what he is  seeing (a smoking kuduguduppandi-like person and a girl). To show us that these are hallucinations, these characters stand in the air and are coloured green. Duh! What’s even worse is that there is no apparent meaning to any of his hallucinations. If he is indeed hallucinating, why can’t writers think beyond two random characters. I am now thinking of Beautiful Mind and sighing. (Not to argue that Beautiful Mind is the best film in the world. Just the imagination of someone to fit one’s hallucinations into a film)

In the name of perspective

The entire film is shot from what I believe is a third person perspective. We are seeing the world not as Ram is seeing but as us watching from elsewhere. So, when Ram walks into the sea trying to reach Janani, I am not able to see it as someone suffering from lack of control over his emotions. I see it with fear that he is going to kill himself. All scenes where Ram hallucinates, loses his mind (and temper), hurts himself, I can never empathise with him because I am always wondering when he is going to hurt people around him.

If the intention of the film is to make the audience feel scared of someone with bipolar disorder, the aim is met. But if you want me to see it as a disorder that is bothering someone I know, you’ve lost your way by miles!

In the name of a film

This is just another flimsy attempt at showcasing a mental disorder that no one in the film making team has any idea about (or worse no experience with). Logical loopholes, perspective issues, meaningless conversations and irritating performances can all be dealt with if only Aishwarya R Dhanush had a vision about 3! Sadly, it falls apart!

Las Acacias

Director: Pablo Giorgelli
Writers: Pablo Giorgelli, Salvador Roselli
Featuring: Monica Coca, Germán de Silva and Hebe Duarte

What struck me as strange even before I got to watch the film is that this was one of the few foreign language films that did not have an English title. Las Acacias it was and it is, on IMDB as well. Can someone tell me what it means?

Las Acacias is the long truck journey of three people. Ruben, a truck drivers ends up giving a ride to Jacinta and her 5-month-old daughter from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. What begins as an uncomfortable journey goes on to be a beautiful love story.

To its advantage, the film has the beautiful landscape of South America playing the backdrop with immense character. For a considerable part of the film, we only see the faces of the characters, perhaps the steering wheel, leaving us wondering what the hell is the vehicle he is driving. Along the film, the frames become larger and portraits become landscapes. At this point, South America lends itself sweetly to the film.

There are so few dialogues in the film that I wondered if the dialogue-writer was perhaps underpaid. Lesser conversations happen in the film than in the viewer’s mind. Short sentences, matter-of-fact lines, realistic expressions and moderate emotions keep the film from drifting off in a tangent.

The highlight of the film, however, is the baby girl. She laughs, cries, sleeps, yawns and effortlessly make the audience go awwww. Watching a charming child is never painful and the director knew just how much of it could be made into a film.

In all, Las Acacias is a moving (literally and figuratively) love story: The meaningful relationship between two adults who can connect beyond mere words. The road trip that was an adventure in its own right. A conversation witnessed in awe by an audience. A road trip that every one of us went on.

The Kid With The Bike

The Europeans have an uncanny ability make magical films with children. The Kid With The Bike is one such film: the story of an eleven-year-old boy who is abandoned by his father and his struggle thereon!

The film begins with a boy in foster care (Cyril) looking for his bicycle and his lost father. Cyril is sharp, perseverant and strong. He escapes foster care, finds his father’s house, doesn’t believe anything until he sees it himself and goes a long way to find out the truth.

He is adorable, he makes you empathise with him and travel every inch that he travels on his bike. He makes you worry for him when you see him throwing himself into trouble and cry with him when he apologises in court. When he falls off the tree, you skip a heat beat and when he wakes up and rides off, you sigh in relief.

Samantha is introduced in a scene at a doctor’s where she tells Cyril “you can hold me if you wish but not so hard because you are hurting me.” She brings back his bicycle, he hosts him on weekends and even leaves her boyfriend who turns bitter about Cyril. She plays along with him, yells at him, calms him, cares for him and even once tries to her physical strength’s end to stop him from going the wrong way. When he hurts her and escapes, her helplessness translating to tears is as real as cinema can get.

Talking of gender stereotypes: All male characters are seemingly negative – The man in foster care is rough and only about business, Cyril’s father is nonchalant about his child, Samantha’s boyfriend is selfish and petty, the man who gets robbed (is forgiving in the beginning) but scheming in the end. On the other hand, Samantha (the only woman I noticed in the film) gives love, care and some money to take care of Cyril.

In all, The Kid with the Bike is the story of every little boy and girl, everywhere on earth and their own little struggles with life – highlight being the innocence we all would kill to have!

Muppozhudhum un Karpanaigal – Delusional

Muppozhudhum un Karpanaigal is a horrible mishmash of a psycho thriller, romantic comedy and a sentimental mother-son drama.Having said that, I have to explain!

Opening scene

 Atharva jumps off a wall wearing a hooded jacket and terrible makeup. He almost reminds us of Kandasamy and then we suddenly realise that Kandasamy was in fact better than this (if that is even possible). With a sharp device with a handle (perhaps, meant to be a stylish knife), he tries to kill two men who are very evidently utilising some skimpily clad women for their pleasure. They drive off in their car and then the opening credits roll. If you haven’t already left the theatre, I’m sorry for you (as much as I am about myself now).

 Story and something to that effect

Ram, played rather uncomfortably by Atharva) is this handsome hunk working in a software company in Chennai where he has this other skimpily clad woman chasing him around to “love” her. She changes the “network password” and therefore no one can do his or her work in this “software company”. Atharva asks her to login with the changed password on his Mac and she refuses to do it unless he kisses her OR says ‘I love you’. He, however, refuses to do so because he is committed to this girl in Bangalore. He talks of her and says, “Oru moonu nimisham ava kitta pesi paaru. Nee ponnungardha marandhu neeyum avala love panna aaramichiduva”! Thereon, it only gets worse.

The feminist outrage

 There are two women playing important roles in the film and then some sidekicks. I’ll get to the sidekicks later.

Ram is in love with this ‘dream girl’ in Bangalore called Charu. She joins him for a project, lives in the same apartment as his, makes his coffee, takes him out shopping, insists he bathes very often and motivates him to pursue his idea for a competition (which is a software that saves people from radiation from outer space that is killing sparrows and flowers). When his mother passes away, she goes to his hometown and feeds him, she takes care of him in his depressed days, encourages him to make his own presentation and lets him sleep on her lap when he is upset. She is motherly, displays no intelligence (her idea for the competition was to write software for banking solutions) and is exactly how a woman should be (as decided by you know who).

 Ram is brought up by this widowed mother who is symbolic of how women should be (perhaps in an alternate universe). She gets widowed and brings up her son with the money that her husband had loaned out to a kovil Iyer. One night, a man tries to sexually assault her and in the process tells her that he is doing so because she is beautiful. Oh my god, isn’t it a crime for a widow to be beautiful (on yes, women still have to live in the 16th century)! The next morning she shaves off her hair and becomes ugly and unattractive instantly. Thereafter, men do not sexually assault her and the one who tried that stunt on her earlier also bends his head down while he walks past. She is rude and nasty to everyone else but loves her son dearly. When the son goes to Chennai to make his life, she stops eating and sleeping and dies because she cannot survive without him.

There is this visually challenged woman who uses the phone number Charu used earlier. She takes calls from Ram and talks to him like she is Charu (and has been doing this for years). He is such a darling lover that, this woman now waits for him to call every week. Yikes.

 That woman at work who chases after him to love her, Ouch!

 Motivational Delusion

Half way through the film, we learn that Ram has motivational delusion and he is hallucinating that he has a girlfriend and she lives in Bangalore, when in fact, she lives in the States and she is engaged to someone else. Motivational Delusion, what I believe is a psychological illness, is treated like some kind of a fancy designation to have. The only cure to the disease apparently is Charu’s death (rip off from Chandramukhi, clearly). However, when Ram learns that she is dead (or rather kidnapped), he comes back home, waits for three days and then hallucinates her returning again and lives happily ever after with her. What makes it worse is how he cannot differentiate his delusion from a real person. When real Charu comes to his house, there is no disconnect and people live happily ever after still! Duh, director!

 Not only does Ram hallucinate about this woman living with him, but also about a few men who are out to kill her. He believes that these two men (son of a minister and an industrialist) kidnap her. He chases them around (wearing strange makeup) and finally kills them one day. This, however, is perceived by Charu and her doctor uncle as his ability to keep her safe. Fantastic!

(Moral) Police

There is this Police (uncle of Charu’s) who shows up at many places in the film. The most prominent of all appearances is when he tells Charu, “we both know who committed these murders. But the murdered men are womanisers and criminals. Justice is done.” In essense,the Karnataka Police commissioner does not investigate the murder of his Home Minister’s son out of choice! Fantastic part 2!

The climax

Charu and her doctor friend try to stage her kidnap and murder to cure Ram of his delusion. She gets kidnapped, no doubt, but by her fiancée’s friends who tell her how they’ve killed three women before because her fiancée is more to them than a friend or a business partner. Wah wah! Some gay s3x clan killing women dating one of them? Fantastic part 3!

Finally, the doctor uncle saves Charu and takes her to the hospital. For a good measure he also convinces Charu’s father to get her married to Ram and so she goes back to the apartment to fit into Ram’s delusion. Final Fantastic!

In summary, the best thing about the film is G V Prakash Kumar’s Music. Now, that says it all, doesn’t it?!

If you have a funny bone left in you, here’s a look at the director of the film.