Review: Vishwaroopam 2

 

Kamal Haasan, Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Shekhar Kapur, Rahul Bose
Kamal Haasan returns as Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri in Vishwaroopam 2

A sequel we don’t really need.

Rating: *

 

After watching the overlong Vishwaroopam back in 2014, I yearned to see Part II not because I was invested in Wisam’s righteous battle or Omar’s tale of vengeance, but to check whether Andrea Jeremiah and Shekhar Kapur get meatier roles. In Vishwaroopam 2, Andrea gets a bigger role but it somewhat feels stereotyped. Andrea’s bratty RAW agent kicks ass and takes names but is letdown by the film’s homage-like presentation. What does the film pay homage to? Well, mostly Kamal Haasan and the first part. Time and again we are reminded of what happened in the first film. If not for this recap, the film would have clocked only two hours or even lesser.

Kamal’s Wisam Ahmed Kashmiri is often accused of being the bad guy due to his religious belief. This sets up a memorable scene at an old age home where he visits his mother who has Alzheimer’s and cannot remember who he really is. She remembers her son as the dancer who joined the army instead of living a life of peace. The scene serves as a reference to Wisam’s hostile reception in the Indian community and the actor’s wayward entry into politics. The first film’s breakout performer, Pooja Kumar continues to impress but not as much as the first film. It is nevertheless a relief when she’s onscreen.

The film’s biggest problem is Kamal Haasan’s ambition, which blinds him from making a memorable film. The steak is burnt and the broth is overcooked, Mr. Haasan. And, the remaining guests are thinking about leaving. We didn’t really need Vishwaroopam 2. But, now that we have it, we wish we didn’t have it.

 

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Review: Junga

Junga, Vijay Sethupathi, Yogi Babu, Sayyeesha, Madonna Sebastian
Sayyeshaa Saigal and Vijay Sethupathi in Junga

Vijay Sethupathi needs a vacation, pronto.

Rating: *

 

Junga has such a silly premise that makes you not want to care about the movie. But, the dreaded “second half turn” makes the first half’s goofiness seem implausible. Junga, a bus conductor learns that he is from a don family and sets out to Chennai to win back his family property, a rundown theatre called Cinema Paradise. In his attempt to claim this rotting cinema hall, Junga flies to Paris in the hopes of kidnapping the fair-skinned, Tamil-speaking, lip synch-fudging daughter of the primary antagonist (or is he), Chettiar, an aging man living in palatial building, who drinks fine scotch, smokes light cigarettes, dons sunglasses inside the house and always wears pastel coloured suits like he’s an extra on Miami Vice. This preposterous movie, directed by Gokul who earlier made the surprisingly good Idharkkuthaane Aasaippattaai Balakumara is a travesty on an international scale. To him I say “Leave Paris alone!’

Vijay Sethupathi is either talking fast or talking loud, and both are somewhat unpleasant. As the film’s second half moves without grip or conviction, you begin to wonder if such a large scale production and budget was really necessary? I could tell right from the film’s trailer that Junga wasn’t going to be a blockbuster due to its lacklustre execution. The 150-minute film proves my point. Screenplay, performances, plot holes, background score and songs, and execution are the film’s minuses. At some point, you begin to yearn for more scenes with Saranya Ponvannan and the grandma – I would love a spin-off focusing on these two characters alone. I initially thought that Madonna Sebastian’s cameo-like appearance as a Telugu girl with high hopes was a waste of time, but Sayyeshaa Saigal proved me wrong. From Vanamagan to Kadaikkutty Singam, the actress shows all signs of being the next “it girl” of Tamil cinema. In reality, Sayyeshaa is more or less, a watered down version of Tamanna. In retrospect, Tamanna shouldn’t have to worry about losing the spotlight to Sayyeshaa. The actress doesn’t do much of acting and it’s only her milky white skin that’s keeping male audiences glued. Then, there’s Neha Sharma who is perhaps the important female character in the film who isn’t the character’s mom or grandma. I wasn’t much of a fan of Neha Sharma, but her performance is much better than Madonna and Sayyeesha.

In one scene, Junga and his comic relief, Yo-Yo (played by Yogi Babu) tell Kalki that they are in Paris to scout locations and that their movie has a pretty big budget to cover their expenses, including their hotel room which looks like Marie Antoinette’s boudoir. The line wasn’t just delivered to the woman but also to us. Vijay Sethupathi is making good money because he does almost every movie that comes his way. The actor needs to take a break, rethink his strategy and return to cinema with a refreshed focus. Give us Soodhu Kavvum and Vikram Vedha. Give us KaKaPo and Dharma Durai. Take back Rekka, Orange Mittai, Iraivi and Junga.

Junga has its good bits. But, then again, they are just bits and fragments of a film that’s just painful to watch after a while.

Review: Meaghamann

Aarya in Magizh Thirumeni's Meaghamann.
Aarya in Meaghamann.

All Hope Is Lost

If you were watching Meaghamann on the night of December 26, at Screen-1 of Inox Cinemas, Chennai Citi Centre, you would have heard a man yell “What the fuck is going on!” Dear reader, that was me.

At this point, you may ask, “But, you have walked out of movies before; why didn’t you do it this time?” The answer simply is this: Meaghamann is the destruction of Tamil Cinema as we know it. I have preached apocalypse after watching movies such as Aadhavan, Kandhasamy and Sura. But, Meaghamann is the chosen one.

For starters, you can never get the pronunciation right. Even the titular song calls it “Mee-gha-man” and later as “Me-gaaa-man”. In reality, the titular character is “Megaman”, a larger-than-life Superman. But, unlike Superman, Megaman has no Bizarro ego – for there simply couldn’t be another like him.

The film opens with a disclaimer that although the story takes place in Goa and Mumbai, all characters speak in Tamil so that the common Tamilian can understand the dialogues. But, when the dialogues come with such heavy accents and are often eaten up by the jarring background score, you doubt the fate of the common Tamilian?

Meaghamann is a death-blow to your eyes, ears and sanity. There are scenes that have queasy, handheld cinematography. These are not only out of focus, but are also guttural. And, why are there so many sudden cuts to sunlight. In a dark room like a cinema theatre, the last thing we need is blinding light. If you’ve ever wondered how vampires react to sunrise, Meaghamann offers you plenty instances to experience firsthand.

The story is pretty simple. But, it has been hacked to small, uneven pieces to a point that you may find Hansika amusing. An undercover cop has to arrest the leader of a drug cartel and must work his way to the top. Filmmakers always find some way to weave in romance, and that’s how you get Hansika Motwani, who plays an idiotic, chirpy neighbour with no self-respect.

But, if you were to know how Aarya single-handedly kills a room full of armed gangsters, you would rather choose to see more of Hansika. It is always amazing how gangsters run around with guns all the time, but USE knives while fighting the protagonist.

In any screenwriting class, you will be taught that the first ten minutes are the most vital ones. This is where you catch hold of the audience. Meaghamann revealed in its first ten minutes that there was nothing great to expect. But, instead it gave rise to a new level of greatness. Yes, I’m referring to the audience – those poor, clueless wimps who paid the price and spent more than 2 hours watching a train wreck of a movie.

And this time, give the audience a National Award. They fucking deserve it!

Hansika hasn’t been on my good side since her Tamil début in Maapillai. I haven’t found her of any good use. Or maybe, it’s because she hasn’t been convincing in any of the roles given to her. A heroine is not needed in Meaghamann. Unless she too is an undercover cop, I can’t see why her scenes weren’t cut from the editing table.

And here’s the pathetic part. The writer / director Magizh Thirumeni finds a desperate way to connect Hansika’s character with the main plot. He does succeed but it only leads to a Bourne Supremacy-styled theft of a mobile phone.

Is it just me or have movies started portraying sex as a woman’s fantasy? Hansika’s character is quite infatuated with Aarya that she fantasizes being “taken”. The fantasies please the heroine and spike the blood levels of the younger generation, but the scenario is quite long.

The film would have been less than two hours, if not for Hansika, who play a college student trying to perfect her Latin dancing skills. “In Latin, it’s all about the legwork” mutters Aarya as he helps her master the spinning technique.

At this point, you may ask “Is the protagonist an undercover cop or a Latin dancer?”

Here’s my reply: “He’s Megaman.”

Review in 140 words or less: Settai

Arya and Hansika in Settai

Shit doesn’t happen!
Rating: Zero

I don’t get why Settai is set in Mumbai when almost all the characters including a foreigner speak Tamil. This being a remake of Delhi Belly, I was hoping for the raw language the original had. Unfortunately, director Kannan swerves away and offers a U-rated film. Apart from Santhanam’s riveting comedy, the film has nothing new to offer.

The actors are dry, especially Arya and Hansika. Veteran star Nasser is easily the best actor among the cast. Even Subbu Panchu’s five-minute appearance was a relief when compared to the wooden performances the rest of the cast offers.

Foot Note: With 5 mindless songs reducing the pace, Settai is a watered down version of Delhi Belly.

Review in 140 words or less: Vettai

Aarya and Madhavan in Vettai.

Of brothers, sisters, and gangsters

Rating: *

Despite the pomp and show that accompanies it, Vettai is a frivolous entertainer accompanied by flashy fight sequences. Post the success of Paiyya, filmmaker N. Lingusamy treads down the beaten path and displays the survival of a loving brotherhood in a rough town.

Portrayed as an action hero in Run, Madhavan’s timid appearance in Vettai is a sheer delight. When the heroines’ intro song rolls on, I felt a connection with the 50s where heroines enjoyed the privilege of having their own intro number. Such privilege is a rarity today.

Footnote: Do filmmakers still believe that chartbusters can largely help in improving box office collections?

Review in 140 words or less: Nanban

Vijay and Ileana in Shankar’s Nanban.

Nanben Da!

Rating: *

Shankar’s highly bankable status is a no-risk factor and Nanban explains on how the director uses that privilege. Despite remaking 3 Idiots the way it was and maintaining its essence, Shankar brings in an extra dance number (if you’ve seen it you’ll know why). Jiiva stands out from the rest of the cast with a neat portrayal.

Vijay and Ileana study their Hindi counterparts and repeat the same. However, Ileana excels Kareena Kapoor in the scene where she arrives drunk. Music is generally a go-to for Harris Jayaraj and he revamps his old tunes and brings out a handful of peppy numbers.

Foot Note: While entertaining and instilling the message, Nanban is desperately in need of good acting.

Review: Rajapattai

Vikram and Deeksha Seth in Rajapattai.

Nothing but excruciating pain

Rating: ZERO is unfit for this film. We must try minus.

A commercial flick followed by an art house film and then again, a commercial flick, and on  and on… This is how Vikram works. He needs to impress both the audience and critics. While some of his big budgeted films like Saami and Dhool have tasted success, his recent lineup has been bad: Bheema, Kandhaswamy and now… Rajapattai.

Suseenthiran maintained realism in his last action flick, Naan Mahaan Alla, where Karthi struggled to fight the baddies. In Rajapattai, it’s Vikram’s way and he sends baddies flying all over the screen. A beautiful actress, Deeksha Seth’s Tamil debut is a sad story.

The film runs for 125 minutes with 25 minutes allotted for songs. So, in the remaining 100 minutes, Suseenthiran brings you action sequences that take up another 20 minutes. How does someone tell a story in 80 minutes? This ain’t Hollywood, where you can weave characters by dialogues. This is Tamil industry where characters need a scene or two to show their traits.

Vikram’s last art house film, Deiva Thirumagal was a disaster of all sorts. Does the man want to tell us that he can act too? We know he can! We’ve seen Sethu and Pithamagan, two films that’ll stand out any day. Ravanan was a link between art house and commercialism, and the actor did a good job in that crossover flick too. What else does he have to prove?

Rajapattai and Kandhaswamy are both Vikram’s downers. These over-hyped commercial cocktails are served without alcohol and hence, we feel cheated. But, the bartender (filmmaker) doesn’t care because he’s taken your money already.

If Tamil cinema needs a change, it needs to stop making films like these. Commercial entertainers are a must. But, these kinds of films that overdose on commercialism can be prevented.

Review: Mayakkam Enna

Dhanush and Richa Gangopadhyay in Selvaraghavan’s Mayakkam Enna.

There’s no mayakkam here!

Rating: *

I wonder if Selvaraghavan was facing the deadline crisis. Mayakkam Enna began well but ended with plenty of loose ends that would make a spaghetti meal for four. Firstly, why would Kumudham magazine have its cover photo as an elephant and not a Tamil actress? And, the way the magazine lands in the hands of a talent-hungry manager is an odd way of saying luck favours the good.

But, is Karthik Swaminathan a good person? He hurls offences at his friend’s new girlfriend, whom he has just met. He breaks the head of the groom with a flower vase at his reception. He pushes away his pregnant wife which leads to miscarriage. However, he manages to make up for everything and tries to tell his wife that he is a good person. But, this is Selvaraghavan’s take on the Byronic hero.

As Karthik, Dhanush puts up a stunning performance, as a follow-up to his National Award-winning role of K.P. Karuppu in Vetrimaaran’s Aadukalam. His character has a dream to fulfil and that alone will sympathize with moviegoers. A passion to be a wildlife photographer, Karthik tries to impress Mathesh Krishnaswami, who according to him is the god of Wildlife photographers. But, Mathesh ridicules Karthik for his beggar-like appearance.

His friends are no good either. Sundar sees Karthik’s photography trip as an opportunity to open up to his girlfriend, Yamini. Shankar tries to woo Karthik’s wife asking her to leave him. There’s the central father figure, who plays Sundar’s dad. But, he is reduced to a handful of scenes and is more of a background prop and not a character.

Having stolen Karthik’s photo, for which he receives international recognition, Mathesh competes with Karthik several years later with the same photo at an international awards fest. Isn’t Photography Award of The Year held for a new photo every year?

There is also Yamini, played by Richa Gangopadhyay in her Tamil debut. Her portrayal of an iron lady is very much present in the first 90 minutes. But, somehow after marriage, she loses it and becomes a defeated wife who tries least to bring her husband in her control. The scene where she breaks down angrily at Dhanush was supposed to be her main scene. While Richa does a satisfactory job at it, we do feel that it’s Selvaraghavan acting it out for her. There’s that serious frown on her face which fails to leave her.

Review: 7aum Arivu

Suriya and Shruti Haasan in 7aum Arivu

I’m fine with my six senses

7aum Arivu

Rating: ZERO

It began like a documentary and changed into a docudrama, before becoming a commercial mockumentary. A.R. Murugadoss has it all wrong again. I was appalled after watching Ghajini. He could have at least done justice to the original. But, Murugadoss tried to “Indianize” the concept and killed the film.

His half-baked performance continues in 7aum Arivu, where he doesn’t actually know what he’s trying to do in a film which connects Bodhidharma and his descendant, Aravind. Hence, he uses the plot of Assassin’s Creed and tries to blend Bodhidharma as a backstory. Horror of horrors, a genetic scientist is tracking the historical legend instead of a historian! Despite all this, I was still convinced to see what surprises Murugadoss had in store for me. I was bitter to find out 7aum Arivu had nothing in the second half other than a dry run for help and a lost cause initiated by the Chinese.

I really couldn’t understand that the Chinese decided to spread a virus in India, a virus that could be treated only by medicine made in China, and what was the reason for this? China wanted India to give them anything in return for the antidote. Jeezaloo! You guys are the worst.

Suriya seems to be the guy for performances like these. But, I just have one question: Is a jaw-dropping appearance enough? Don’t these actors see the need to act in accordance to a role? Monk or circus artist, Suriya is the same in terms of acting. When Murugadoss saw that Shruti Haasan couldn’t save the film, he should have planned Johnny Tri Nguyen’s antagonistic character better. But, he limits everyone else with hopes that Suriya’s performance will stand out. Sadly, he has even limited the story. And when did hypnotism shrink to a matter of seconds?

The last scene where Suriya commands everyone on science and religion is quite possibly the director’s message. But, why did he have to put us through all this hassle when he could have done it in a 30-second PSA!

After remaking movies for decades, Tamil Cinema is moving to video games. The day when Mani Ratnam or Gautham Vasudev Menon remake GTA Vice City is not far away I guess.

Review: Muran

Prasanna and Cheran in Muran.

Murder, he tried

Rating: *

Despite my joy for blasting movies that could have nailed it, but failed to, I decided to lose skepticism in Muran. The film, inspired by Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, tries hard to let its characters fall in the right place. However, too much curiosity kills the cat. The same happens in the Tamil film starring Prasanna and Cheran in the lead roles. Despite those flaws, the film seemed to take off well. But,  that cringing sense of losing commercialism sends the lead characters into an extensive fight scene with drunkards.

Characters in spoof films (Scary Movie, Meet The Spartans or Goa) broke the fourth wall often. The characters knew it was a movie, and nothing’s gonna go wrong. But, when in a thriller like Muran, breaking the fourth wall by announcing a fight sequence, or the intermission, or even the item number, seemed lame. How are we gonna stay thrilled when your lead character blatantly announces “keep thinking while I take a break and come back.”

Muran joins the long list of Tamil films which had a concept that failed to materialize despite an excellent technical team. The writing was novel and didn’t sound alien to the setting. Most of the dialogues felt improvised and those wisecracks between set the tone for an entertaining thriller.

For instance, Prasanna plays Cheran, a video of his wife cheating with another man, on his cell phone and then says “Semma clarity-la.”

Wit as a background for the first half and guilt as the central theme of the second half, Rajan Madhav fails to evoke the thrill factor. And right when the movie reclaims the thrill, he brings on an item number, which however cut short, ruins the day.

Prasanna as the spoilt rich kid makes it while Cheran staggers with his guitar and a neatly trimmed French beard. The heroines must line up their dubbing artistes and execute them with a firing squad. Especially, Suma Bhattacharya, who should have stuck to English, but tries some tough Tamil words that Christian women generally don’t use.

How come the filmmaker didn’t emphasize on Prasanna’s psychopathic behavior when he’s seen killing fearlessly. Loopholes are aplenty in the second half. And, what is it with drinking off the highway? Was it meant to be cool or divulging?

The one star for Muran is for the attempt made to recapture the Hitchcockian thrill. But, even when it failed, it shouldn’t have lost hope and turned into a messy affair.