Review: Chekka Chivantha Vaanam

Arvind Swami, Arun Vijay, STR, Vijay Sethupathi, Jyothika, Aditi Rao Hydari, Aishwarya Rajesh
Arvind Swami and Jyothika in Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam

This Gangster Whodunit Lacks Fizz
Rating: *

Arvind Swami, Vijay Sethupathi and STR in a Mani Ratnam film? I’m in. I am definitely in. And so with high expectations I watched Chekka Chivantha Vaanam (Crimson Red Sky). Halfway through, I was disappointed. The story wasn’t gripping. The film’s trailer promised a good family feud but the film was a damp squib. One couldn’t help but be reminded of Kalki’s epic novel, Ponniyin Selvan, while watching Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. We are introduced to Aishwarya Rajesh who arrives to meet her husband on a boat, and she speaks with a strong Eelam accent. I shuddered. Aishwarya Rajesh’s Renu reminded me of Poonkuzhali, and much like the character in the novel, the character in the movie shows up on a boat. I waited for more such connections to show up. It didn’t happen. I waited for Ponniyin Selvan-esque female characters. That didn’t happen either. The story offers its female characters a cold wind to suck on. It’s just another attempt to create a film fuelled by testosterone, which I assume was extracted from Arvind Sami’s chest hair.

The last best Mani Ratnam film was Kannathil Muthamittal (2002). Aayutha Ezhuthu – despite its flaws and Mouna Ragam-esque Surya subplot – was a good film, but the impact did not leave any residue. Mani Ratnam has been doing films more frequently now than he was back in the 90s. Take a close look at the four films he has made in the last five years. He has focused on evergreen themes such as good vs. evil (Kadal), modern relationships (OK Kanmani), combating the inner devil (Kaatru Veliyidai) and dysfunctional families (Chekka Chivantha Vaanam). Now, compare this with his love-drenched sociopolitical dramas of the 90s or the hard-boiled crime films of the late 80s. Is this the evolution of Mani Ratnam?

STR gives us his best performance since Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, and in some ways is the saving grace of the film. Vijay Sethupathi continues with his “talk fast or talk loud” exercise. The trailer promised us Prakash Raj in a meaty role as the patriarch of this crime family. He’s reduced to just a handful of scenes. Heaven knows what Aditi Rao Hydari is doing in this film! Are we to consider her as just another casualty like Aishwarya Rajesh, Jyothika and Jayasudha? They play characters that sound interesting on paper but remain one-dimensional on film.

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Review: Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa

For once, Trisha appears in a sari rather than plunging necklines and miniskirts.

Gautham’s Annie Hall

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (U/A)

Director: Gautham Vasudev Menon

Starring: ‘Young Super Star’ Silambarasan and Trisha

Genre: Romantic Drama

Rating: ***

Woody Allen has been known for his different and outrageous take on the romance genre. For him, Annie Hall was a landmark. His narration and Diane Keaton’s ecstatic performance led to an Oscar victory which overthrew George Lucas’ Star Wars.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa is a fairy tale from a director who loves to keep his audience glued. However, he fails every time to create character space and thus, a few characters appear and disappear with no object or relativity. For once, we thought that the film is narrated by the boy and he would make his memories sound spicy. Halfway through, we have the girl’s voice-overs which put an end to the so-called ‘Boy’s Memories’ genre.

This is a problem faced in the film industry. We want to know what everyone’s thinking. In (500) Days of Summer, there was a narrator who told us everything about Tom (Gordon-Levitt) and not much about Summer (Zooey Deschanel). In that manner, we found Summer mysterious and Tom outspoken. Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa kinda reminded me of (500) Days of Summer which is a classy rom-com. However, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa sticks to the Tamil antics and does play well for a while until the all-so-dull moment strikes.

An actor is a person who plays different roles in different films. Silambarasan finally gets to play a down-to-earth character after playing the stereotypic one-liner speaking, finger wagging mass hero for the last seven years. We find his performance to be exhilarating because we haven’t seen him in such a role before. He puts up a fair play but, it’s Trisha who with her tepid character becomes the eye of criticism. Much like Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall or Zooey Deschanel’s Summer Finn, Trisha Krishnan’s Jessie remains untold. But, if it hadn’t been for her voice-overs in the second half, Jessie could have been in league with the big names.

We learn that Jessie is smart, sexy and well-educated. Was she really in love with Karthik? When she was ready to elope at one point of time, why should she marry the boy of her father’s choice? Was it because she wanted to prove her feminism?

A.R. Rahman has become an auteur. After listening to his compositions, the expectation level grew and after the ending credits, it radically sank. Gautham’s climax is not a surprise as we have had Annie Hall where Alvie (Woody Allen) creates a Broadway play based on his experiences with Annie.

I doubt it if you’d cross the skies of expectations and hopes to watch the film. Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa is another melodramatic love story, raring to melt your hearts.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya vs. Ye Maaya Chesave

Nag. Silambarasan and Samantha

Come February 26 and we’ll have two releases in two languages. But, they both are of the same story. Gautham Vasudev Menon’s romance drama which initiated as Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya (Tamil) and then as Ye Maaya Chesave (Telugu) will face the litmus test as it has been in production for a while and the hype it has raised is inevitable as it has for every other Gautham Vasudev Menon film. But, what is the noticeable difference in both films?

One word – Cast.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya has the so-called Kollywood Bad Boy, Silambarasan (who gets his much wanted breakthrough) and Trisha Krishnan (who’s trying to revive her career). These two stars have been in the industry since 2001. Silambarasan’s career can be explained easily as the 27-year-old hasn’t proved himself so far other than romance a lot of women (as in Manmadhan) or impress with his dance moves (Silambattam). Trisha Krishnan on the other side has proved a lot in means of glamour and a little in terms of acting.

On the other side of the road, we have the young Nag Chaitanya who after a disappointing debut in Josh is desperate for a hit as he hails from a family of actors (son of Nagarjuna and stepson to Amala). Playing the Telugu version of Trisha is Samantha Ruth Prabhu who has acted in films like Baana Kaathadi and Moscowvin Kaaveri (they haven’t yet released). Logically, this becomes her debut.

Famous critics have argued that a trailer is a deceiving medium to lure us into the cinema halls only to suffer the fate of a bad film. The trailers of both films seem impressive (as it is the same content in both languages).  However, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya excels in terms of performances. Silambarasan’s voice in the last dialogue in the trailer “Poi kalyanam pannikko Jessie, Nee onnum permission kekka varalala” is spoken with much emotion that he really felt it. But, Nag Chaitanya fails to even evoke a little interest through his stony vocals and rigid expressions. Man! Nag doesn’t even know the boxing stance. He holds his hands crossed while Silambarasan has them equally distanced.

Trisha and Samantha Ruth Prabhu fare well on both grounds. But, remember Trisha knows a little about acting while Samantha is beautiful indeed, but debuting. If she proves it well, she would be the next big thing. For once, I’d agree that we are relating two films by means of story. But, when it comes to performances, where do we stand? Where do they stand?

Many preferred Aamir Khan and not Surya. They found the eccentric richness in Aamir quite natural while Surya had to utter a lot of English phrases and undergo a total facelift (which he hasn’t yet come out of) to match the role of Sanjay Ramasamy. The battle at the box office will turn hardcore on February 26. But is this any good? Will Gautham deliver after a hapless remake (Pachaikili Muthucharam) and a customized biopic (Varanam Aayiram)? Love stories usually make their way into the cash registers, but this “inspired by a few events in the director’s life” story will certainly be tricky. Gautham has even stated that he has two endings – one tragic and the other happy. So, if the tragic one doesn’t work out, he’ll use the happy one. Is this what we are? We burn down screens if the hero dies and tear posters if the heroine doesn’t marry the hero. We are still subdued by the creators who take the opportunity gamble with our minds. Come on, lads! We aren’t rich to watch a film twice.

Trailer of Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCjl7eUouZ0&feature=related

Trailer of Ye Maaya Chesave: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AJfWrpZJx4