Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Vettaiyadu vilayadu (aka Hunt and Play)

Language: Tamil (Action/Drama)
Director, Story and Screenplay: Gautham Menon
Producer: Manickam Narayanan

Music: Harris Jayaraj
Cinematography: Ravi Varman
Kamal Haasan .... DCP Raghavan
Jyothika .... Aradhana
Kamalinee .... Kamal's wife
Prakashraj .... Arokiaraj
Runtime: 150 min

After the stupendous success of his previous movie, Kaaka Kaaka, Director Gautham has tried his hand at yet another cop flick; this time starring his biggest idol - Kamal Haasan.

Kamal, as his fans would agree, is a versatile but aged actor. He has always looked upon his movies to be different from the mass productions of Tamil cinema; always striving to take acting to a different level with respect to the story lines and his character potrayals. Having said that, Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu (VV) comes across as an ordinary movie for this great actor. If you are a big Kamal Haasan fan, I would implore you to turn away at this point of time; otherwise read on for a matter-of-fact review of VV.

Initially, VV starts with a grand entrance by DCP Raghavan (Kamal) who seems to just beat the goons to a pulp, but not before challenging them to gorge out his eyes and then thrashing them in their own territory. The scene then shifts to the life of senior police official Arokiaraj (Prakashraj), whose daughter Rani goes missing but whose finger turns up on their doorsteps. Raghavan is them summoned to help Arokiaraj (Arok) get to the bottom of this matter when it is determined that Rani was alive when this gory incident happened. With his (seemingly obvious) deductions, Raghavan seems to trace it to the scene of the murder and discovers the surgically mutilated and ravaged body.

When not much progress is made after that, Arok and his wife decide to move to New York to settle and get away from the memories of everything that reminds them of their daughter. Life goes on...until one day Raghavan gets a phone call announcing the gruesome murders of Arok and his wife. The scene then shifts to NY where Raghavan remembers his promise to Arok to find the killer and is now hell-bent on getting the killer to justice. If fate has to intervene, she does and Aradhana (Jyothika/Jo) ends up in the next room to Raghavan in the hotel that he stays. Their meeting happens in the worst possible scenario, but after that they seems to share a special bond -- Raghavan trying to weave his life together after the death of his wife (played by Kamalinee) and Aradhana trying to overcome her unruly husband who is trying to get a divorce from her.

Here is where the movie becomes a cliche. The scenes in NY where Raghavan is going after the killer(s) is shot so nonchalantly that it ends up evidently boring. Some of his detective musings show the NY police in such a poor light and others make it look unbelievable, e.g. the scene where Raghavan walks endlessly through a forest and dilapilated houses to finally come to the burial ground of some murdered bodies, probably something that even a blood hound would have found difficult.

The killers are revealed in the movie soon after that and then there is the usual chasing and hunting that follows it. The scene, as expected, shifts to India where the killers have avoided the police (Question: Why did the killers go back to India, of all the places? Don't even try to answer on). Aradhana now accompanies Raghavan to India to get her kid back to NY. Add to this a romantic interlude and a few completely inconsequential songs, while the killers are on a killing spree (what else do you expect killers to do?!) and you feel that it's just not justifiable. Gautham seems to have been forced to do this for the sake of giving Jo more screen time.

Gautham has also tried to link Raghavan's character with the main character in 'Kaaka, Kaaka'; unfortunately that's where the similarity ends. How Raghavan chases the killers, how Aradhana get embroiled in the chase, and what happens in the end is not surprising given Gautham's penchant for his (now) classic and predictable endings.

The good parts: Kamal looks young, Jyothika looks thin. The bad parts: Prakashraj is wasted, everyone else is just in awe of Kamal, except the fanatic killers who seem to have a penchant for air-travel (and killing, of course).

Skippable, if you wish, and better to end up watching one of the other Tamil masala movies or better still, you can look forward in anticipation for Kamal's upcoming movie, 'Dasavatharam', where he supposedly plays 10 different roles.

Official site


Directed by Christopher Nolan

Writing credits Jonathan Nolan (short story Memento Mori)
Christopher Nolan (screenplay)

MPAA: Rated R for violence, language and some drug content.

Runtime: 113 min
Main cast:
Guy Pearce .... Leonard/Lenny

Carrie-Anne Moss .... Natalie
Joe Pantoliano .... Teddy Gammell
Jorja Fox .... Leonard's Wife

Stephen Tobolowsky .... Sammy Jankis

Harriet Sansom Harris .... Mrs. Jankis

Life is short. Before you realize that, it's over. For most people, there is a set of unfinished tasks that remains to be done. One fine day, you plan to create the to-do list for your life, but that still does not leave you with enough time to get to all of them. Also, once you read the end of this line, you will not remember anything you read since the beginning of this paragraph.

Life is short. Before you realize that, it's over.

No, I'm not simply trying to fill this post up with repetitive sentences but that's how imaginative your life can be if it were split in small episodes, each completely disjoint from the other. Memento captures one such episode of Lenny (Guy Pearce) who suffers from this "condition" - which does not allow him to form new and permanent memories. This problem starts right after an accident he suffers which allows him to remember all happenings before then, but all his new memories are temporary until time snaps and everything restarts for him.
To keep the past tied together, he carried a Polaroid camera with him, taking pictures of people and places and labeling them with names and descriptions to remind him of all the past happenings.

Throw into this mix the caveat that all scenes have to be played (and hence) remembered in the reverse order and you have another layer of complexity added to the events. The scenes are interspersed with other back and white scenes that represents the present, each serving as a precursor to the main scenes. Natalie (Carrie-Anne, Trinity of the Matrix fame) is this mysterious woman who suddenly appears and seems to know Lenny (or does she?). Teddy (
Joe Pantoliano) comes across as Lenny's samaritan (or is he?) who seems to be ready to help him, except that Lenny is not ready to trust him against the description as part of the photographs he has of Teddy that grimly says "Do not believe his lies".

Who takes advantage of who and what happens then is explained with each scene as it expands more and more on Lenny's past -- the whole crux of the movie is based on the three primary characters: Lenny, Natalie and Teddy. I will be playing spoil-sport if I reveal any more details.
There comes a point in your life where you start questioning reality and wonder if there are events in your life which you wish had never happened. Memento takes us into the life of one such person in this very dilemma. What is real? Who to believe? What to do? Who to KILL? Lenny has to make this decision...alone.

I would rate this as a very unique movie (FYI, this was also the main theme for the Tamil hit movie starring Surya called 'Ghajini'), something that will stimulate your brain cells. There's speculation even now about what the real ending is and many interpretations of the ending (or starting, depending how you look at it) exist. You may either end up tearing your hair apart or remain seated in awe at the very end; either way it will be a thriller.

Official site

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Lage Raho Munnabhai

The friendly neighborhood goon is back. And this time, he has got the Father of the Nation with him. And what a combination it has turned out to be !

Three years back, when writer-director Rajkumar Hirani first came up with Munnabhai MBBS, it captured the imagination of a country and went on to spurn several clones. Last heard was that 20th Century Fox had acquired rights to make a Hollywood remake called Gangsta M.D..

Well, if you thought that the original Munnabhai was fun, the sequel is funnier, heart-warming and more lovable than ever. Hirani is back with a story that packs in more punches and has more laughs than the first one.

Technically speaking, this is not a 'sequel', since only the lead characters are repeated and the story is brand new as such. Well, so we have the good-at-heart goon Munnabhai alias Murali Prasad Sharma (Sanjay Dutt) and his lovable sidekick, Circuit alias Sarkeshwar (Arshad Warsi) managing 'business' as usual. This time round, Circuit is busy doing all the dirty work for the unscrupulous builder Lucky Singh (Boman Irani, in yet another flawless performance), as Munnabhai has fallen head-over-heels in love with radio jockey Jhanvi (Vidya Balan).

As he tunes into her daily show, Munnabhai gets to know about a special Gandhi Jayanti contest, the winner of which gets to be on the show with her. Enter Circuit with his pack of goons and bag of hilarious tricks to make sure that 'Bhai' gets to meet his 'Bhabhi'. And meet he does, but complications arise as she mistakes him for a history Professor and asks him to give a lecture on Gandhiji. At this point, even the ever-reliable Circuit runs out of ideas and directs Bhai to the Mahatma Gandhi library.

Munna then delves deep into the life and ideals of the Mahatma for three sleepless days and nights. Unfortunately or fortunately, alongwith all the knowledge on Gandhi, he also ends up having hallucinations about discussions with Gandhi. The result - Munna starts adopting the principles of satyagraha and non-violence in all of his activities with some hilarious and heartrending moments.

Meanwhile, Jhanvi runs an old-age home which lies on prime real estate being sought by Lucky Singh. How Munnabhai, Circuit and Jhanvi use the Gandhian principles of truth and nonviolence to fight the builder forms the crux of the story.

Writer-editor-director Rajkumar Hirani deserves more than a pat on the back for his fantastic efforts. He has succeeded in making a movie that ain't preachy at all, yet makes us think about Gandhian principles in modern society. And also, retains the same brand of humor that made Munnabhai fun to watch. Like its predecessor, Lage Raho Munnabhai also features simple tales from the day-to-day life of the common man and integrates it with the main plot effortlessly.

Arshad Warsi continues his scene-stealing act as the dedicated Man Friday, and is responsible for some of the funniest moments in the movie. Sanjay Dutt is plain effortless as the title character and Boman Irani steps up one notch from his doctor act in MBBS. Vidya Balan provides the spunk and the pearly whites that her role demands. Jimmy Sheirgill (one more guy to add an extra 'i' to his name), Dia Mirza and Saurabh Shukla excel in their little cameos.

The music by Shantanu Moitra deserves a special mention. The songs are just perfect fits with the storyline, and are quite pleasing and melodious too.

On the whole, if the first movie was plain funny, this one also ends up leaving you with a strong feel-good feeling. An appreciable effort by Rajkumar Hirani and Vidhu Vinod Chopra. Hats off to you two !
Lage Raho Munnabhai (Unrated) [2006]
Running Time: 130 minutes
Written, edited and directed by: Rajkumar Hirani
Music by: Shantanu Moitra
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Vidya Balan.
Official site

Friday, September 01, 2006

Don - The Chase Begins Again (Preview)

Okie, I admit. I am a big fan of Farhan Akhtar and his movies. And that makes me all the more impatient for the release of his next movie, a remake of the 1978 classic starring the big B.

With just about a month to go for the release of the remake, I once again watched the original this Sunday and oh boy, this is one movie that I can just watch again and again and again. Yet another Amitabh-starrer written by that awesome pair, Salim-Javed, Don never leaves you feeling bored for a single moment and is pretty much a complete entertainer.

So, will the remake be as good as the original? For starters, I just cannot imagine Shah Rukh Khan filling in Amitabh's boots. Don had the kind of personality that could make us believe that 'Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai.' And SRK, of late, is more into contorting his face, pouting and hamming than acting. The Karan Johars and the Yash Chopras have almost strangled the latent talent that SRK displayed in some of his earlier movies, like Baazigar and Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. Post DDLJ, he's just got stuck in a rut and just refuses to act. Of course, Swades was a welcome change and I just hope that with Farhan Akhtar at the helm, maybe SRK would be back to his better ways.

In a recent interview, Farhan stated that his new movie would be the same story as the earlier Don, but it has got a lot of other things ...well, that doesn't tell us much, does it? Anyway, the buzz doing the rounds is that Farhan has shot two endings for the movie. In both the versions supposedly, the good and the bad Don meet, hence making two climaxes possible — one where the good one is killed, and the other where the bad one is killed.

As with previous Farhan Akhtar movies, the music for Don is once again by the trio of Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy. And once again, they seem to have a winner on their hands. The music is an eclectic mix of the new and the old, and has a typical 70s feel to it. Khaike Pan Banaraswala and Yeh Mera Dil have been snazzily remixed. But the real funky ones are the new title track Main Hoon Don, sung wonderfully by Shaan; and the Alisha-Mahalakshmi-Sonu number, Aaj ki Raat. The latter is undoubtedly the best track of the album and one of the best songs of the year.

On the whole, the music just rocks !! Hope the movie too is as good, if not better.
Don (2006)
Directed By: Farhan Akhtar
Music By: Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy.
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Arjun Rampal.
Releasing on October 20, 2006.
Official site