Friday, December 31, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #148

Movie: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Plot: Two unemployed beggar-like blokes get enthused by an old man's story on the quest for gold & the three of them set themselves on an expedition to mine gold. When they end up getting enough gold greed,doubts,betrayal & fights creep in because of one in the three & this causes trouble.

  • Humphrey Bogart proves his versatility with a role that is as different from his posh image as possible & he excels with his cunning ways when the evil gets into him.
  • The persons who have played Howard & Curtin are brilliant too. Especially, the old man. He shines.
  • The making - Credits for the team for making this big an outdoor film such a long time back; & the sentiments associated with gold are explained through some superb scenes.
My Rating: 9.4/10

Two Line Reviews - #147

Movie: The Big Lebowski (1998)

Plot: When some tyrants mistake a lazy 'dude' Lebowski for his much wealthier namesake, the Dude Lebowski loses his rug. The claim of his rug from the wealthier Mr.Lebowski leads him & his Snow-bowling team mates into a hell of a lot of trouble!

  • The stylishly comical setup created by the Coen Brothers makes this film a joyous ride.
  • Jeff Bridges and his snow-bowling teammate are brilliantly spontaneous when they mouth their wits.
  • Dialogs with the heavy dose of nonsensical one-liners is a big plus.
The plot could have been even more intense.

My Rating: 9.0/10

Two Line Reviews - #146

Movie: The Third Man (1949)

Plot: On a visit to his friend's place seeking a job, a US based crime novel writer finds that his friend has been killed in an accident. He investigates and suspects it to be a murder and tries to solve it with the help of his friend's love lady & bumps up on some vicious revelations.

  • The cinematography of this yesteryear film is exemplary.
  • Joseph Cotten's humourous cum sensitive role.
  • The climax drainage scene looked special.
When a lot of puzzles are expected to be solved, the film takes a plain straight path as it builds up towards the climax.

My Rating: 9.2/10

Two Line Reviews - #145

Movie: The Illusionist (2006)

Plot: A magician gets famous with the Vienna crowd & is as illusive with his tricks as a man can be. When the princess-to-be who happens to be his childhood love is being speculated to have been killed by the prince, he poses questions with his tricks to ascertain the prince was indeed the culprit.

The art work was of High quality giving the period look the film warrants.
Edward Norton,as usual, is illusive with his acting as the illusionist. Th person who plays the chief of police is good too.
The music & the final twist (predictable to an extent,yet good).

There is no clear explanation on many of the tricks performed.

My Rating: 8.9/10

Two Line Reviews - #144

Movie: V for Vendetta (2006)

Plot: Set in future Britain, this film is about the revolution of a masked-man who single handedly plots vendetta against the vicious venom that governs the nation who were earlier responsible for a viral-weapon seeking experiment that destroyed many.When he gets the company of a girl he rescues during one of his operations, he sets the 'V' rolling.

  • The screenplay of the Wachowski brothers revealing suspense after suspense is very good and some of the sequences come close to being Indian.
  • The man who plays 'V',despite his mask, 'acts' wonderfully & Natalie Portman's ally role fits.
  • The graphics in the subway fight scene & the amazing dialogs the film has.
  • The Mask, the photography (the entire film is colourful even though it is shot in the dark) & background music.
Some things are unbelievable & some things don't reappear in the film when they should have.

My Rating: 9.4/10

Monday, December 27, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #143

Movie: The Front Page (1974)

Plot: A brilliant newspaper reporter is willing to forgo his shining career for his marriage & the chief of the journal wants him badly. When he is just about to leave town, the biggest news item falls on his lap & it's fun and frolic all the way!

  • Billy Wilder weaves his magic yet again, this time with the duo of  The Odd Couple
  • Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau - Well, their humour sync is unbelievably good in this film too & the men who play the sheriff & the prisoner rock too.
  • The dialogs make the laugh riot this film is.
My Rating: 9.3/10

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #142

Movie: Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Plot: One day, one crucial day, in the life of the Salesmen of a real estate promoters' office. When the task gets to their neck, some try,some withdraw & some become con.

  • The film has a very smooth and lively screenplay thanks to the hot tempered characters in it.
  • Al Pacino & Jack Lemmon are the best among the best on screen. They take the cake.
  • The conversations the salesmen have & the realities in it;The anti-climax in the end.
My Rating: 9.1/10

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #141

Movie: Casino (1995)

Plot: A tacky and smart casino supervisor's private and professional lives are jeopardised by the betrayal of his wife and a long time friend. Along with that, it brings down the thriving Vegas casino empire to a close.In short, replace the boxer of Raging Bull and his masochistic tendencies with a Casino boss with smart brains, you get another gripping film that is Casino.

  • Scorsese's unique narrative style with a background narration by Sam/Nicky & the background tracks running throughout the film.
  • The amazing screen presence that Robert De Niro,Joe Pesci & Sharon Stone garner.
  • The climax carnage.
Lousy act of police in nabbing De Niro even after having set everything against him.

My Rating: 9.0/10

Two Line Reviews - #140

Movie: Obsession (1976)

Plot: Police's rescue operation to save the kidnapped daughter and wife of a businessman backfires leading them to death. The businessman, after 15 years,meets a woman who looks exactly like his wife; he marries her to relive the past - His partner feels he has been obsessed with his old life and that's exactly when the new wife too gets kidnapped.What comes after it makes this a suspense thriller.

  • The eeriness and a highly unpredictable screenplay from Brian de Palma clinch the viewer's attention.
  • The acting of the heroine who plays a double role;She's nicely supported by the underplayed act of Cliff Robertson.
  • The grand and suspense inducing music of Hernard Bermann.
  • The police's attempt to fill in papers instead of notes is very weak.
  • The way Mike instantaneously believes a repeat kidnap.
My Rating: 9.2/10

Friday, December 24, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #139

Movie: Ikiru (Japanese,1952)

Plot: A Sections Chief of a Govt dept who has carried on with a highly mundane work lifestyle for 30 years is diagnosed with stomach cancer. In his pursuit of 'living' life for at least the remaining days, he is helped by a part-time writer & then by a cheerful junior of his. Inspired by her lifestyle, he takes up a pending park construction problem & with steely determination,forces the unwilling mayor to construct it & dies,earning the respects of his colleagues,son & the public!

  • The very essence of the film is highly appreciable - The protagonist taking a negative thing and trying to make something good out of it.
  • The screenplay employed by Kurosawa makes this even more interesting to watch.
  • The works of Takashi Shimura and the girl who plays the ever happy subordinate of his.
The film ends on a negative note(even though that is what would happen practically,a positive end would have added weight to the reformer's character).

My Rating: 9.4/10

Thursday, December 23, 2010


This fifth collaborative effort of Kamal & KS Ravikumar is nowhere near the previous four but Manmadan Ambu is a good fun film in its own right with its cheerful moments. But it somewhat lacks the thump that one would associate with a Kamal comedy caper.

The relationship of actress Nisha and a panakkaara Madanagopal is fractured thanks to his doubts over her professional life. After three years of an on-off bond, Madan hires a detective,a former Army major Mannar to check on the actress who takes a leisure trip on a cruise with her long time friend Deepa. When Mannar gives clean chit on the actress, Madan is satisfied but doesn’t wish to pay Mannar. The tricks of the Major then unfold as he takes Madan for a falsified ride and a past link of the three characters is established which turns the table on their relationships. The usual, expected confusion filled climax draws the curtains.

  • Kamal’s dialogs – There are the usual trademark sarcasms, philosophies and enjoyable comic one-liners on offer.
  • Madhavan’s performance – As the drunkard who babbles, Madhavan is terrific. The scenes in which he comes assure fun aplenty. He pips even Kamal and comes out as the best performer in the film.
  • Trisha’s characterisation – The portrayal of an actress’s character is very decent and she is shown as the only character who doesn’t do dhagadudhatham.
  • Kamal’s Screenplay (A Part of it) – The linking of the characters with an incident from the past, the scenes that precede the song ‘Ponaa pogudhunna’, the narration of the flashback with a crisp and tidy song etc.
  • Kamal’s Looks – Well, he is 56 but looks nowhere close to that. With designer outfits and red-rimmed specs/sunglasses, he looks ravishing and convinces his pairing with Trisha with aplomb and is a delight to watch.
  • Efforts in Music & Editing – Devi Sri Prasad has gone a bit out of his usual monotony and has offered some decent songs but the foot-tapping Manmadan Ambu has not been picturised. Editing’s highlight is the style followed in the song Neela Vaanam.
  • The kid who plays Sangeetha’s son. A nice little endeavour from him!
  • Lack of substance – There is definitely a lack of substance in the second half as the movie meanders towards its comedy-of-errors climax and that is why the climax,even with its good comic dialogs, looks abrupt and comes nowhere close to the climaxes of Sathi Leelavathi or MMKR. So, when Kamal gives his ‘honesty luxury’ justification, it looks irrelevant.
  • KS Ravikumar’s poor characterisations of Sangeetha and Madhavan. Their performances are good but their characters are literally made a mockery and it all starts happening towards the end of the film. Also, the needless characters of two Malayalis.
  • Kamal’s Screenplay (The other part of it) – He wastes screentime showing needless shooting scenes which he could have very well used to present the events towards the end in a better & convincing manner.
  • Kamal’s stubborn insistence on a ‘Live’ sound recording. Some of the dialogs are undecipherable as they totally get lost to the sound in the surroundings.
In all, Manmadhan Ambu passes as a decent humourous flick with some hilarious and attractive sequences but the feeling that ‘The Ambu's aim could have definitely been better’ stays which could be attributed to a rather hastily shot climax.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Story of India

I would categorise this as 'A Must Watch'  for every Indian who is proud of being one and also to those who are interested in knowing the centuries of history of the oldest known civilisation on planet Earth!

This documentary feature focuses on the history of India right from the identification of the roots to the time of rule of Britishers in India. The coverage of events can be imagined from the very fact that the British imperial rule takes just about 30-40 minutes in this feature split into 6 parts,each comprising an hour’s footage.

The BBC presenter, historian Michael Wood must have toiled to make this feature. He has traveled a lot over the course of the making of this documentary (Documentary doesn’t necessarily mean a ‘Bore’; This is as interesting as anything interesting one would have seen!) and has been absolutely enthusiastic (a bit exaggerative at times) and extremely respectful towards the history of India. The research team’s work is evident in the facts, excerpt and interviews presented in the series. They shall take a bow for showing the past of India to Indians through the eyes of someone foreign to the country.

The first part starts with startling revelations on the ancestry of the current crop of Indians who have either been from Africa or from Turkmenistan! It also takes us through the thriving civilisations that existed in Southern India, the Ganges plains and in the Indus valley – The famous Harappa Mohenjodaro civilisations – Proofs for these are also presented in form of archaeological & Literary evidences.

The second part encompasses the spread of Buddhism which seems to have quietly dominated the entire nation before even before the myths of the Mahabharatha had existed! The invasion of Alexander the Great & the rule of the Mauryan empire in the BC-AD transition is also presented.

The spotlight of the third part in the series is in the astonishing trade links (spices for gold) that existed between the Arabian Sea coasts of Kerala and the Roman empire and the establishment of the Silk Route by the Kushans who, in parallel, established the Europe-India-China connection through trade.

It is the pride of the Cholan empire that bears focus in the fourth part. Their 11th Century domination in the southern India with a spotless bureaucracy and their amazing invasion of lands in Java,Sumatra and Indonesia are highlights of this episode. Also presented are the mathematical, scientific, philosophical  and artistic explorations of Indians during what is termed as the ‘Golden Age’ of Indian civilisation.

The fifth part focuses on the entry of Islam into India. It starts off with the ruthless plunder that the Sultans did but the surprise comes with the periods of Mughal Invasion and Rule under Babur and Akbar when the miraculous synthesis of  Hindu – Islam isms happened. It was the rule of Aurangzeb that seems to have spoiled the party and brought back the divisions of the past.

Finally, The era that has been beaten to death in the school History books – The colonial rule of the British Raj – is presented and perspectives from descendants of families who were loyal to the brits and those who turned rebels are offered in tandem & the story of India’s past ends with the horrific massacres caused due to the migration between the now divided  India & Pakistan.

Watching this series makes one realise the importance & foresight India has had over so many centuries. The post-independence struggle for survival and recognition is just a tiny chunk in the history and looking at the tracks set in history, it is inevitable to believe that India would dominate the world again – It seems like its position in History makes it to be destined to! The only thing that is unknown - that is left to the morbid politics of the nation-, is how many decades or centuries is India going to wait to do that and Like in the past, who is going to come and loot the exploits when India reaches its pinnacle yet again.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Look - #8

AVENGER by Frederick Forsyth

Plot: An American youth is brutally killed in Bosnia during the Bosnian war. The grandfather of the killed seeks revenge on the absconding big shot killer who seems to have escaped into thin air after the war. It takes the efforts of an ex-vietnam army member dubbed 'The Avenger' to find the whereabouts of the absconding killer (who happens to be part of a huge plan to trap UBL) , nab him & hand him over to the bereaved grandfather.

  • An apt one-word description 'riveting' would befit this work. An excellent express speed narration aided by solid happenings makes this work. The final page twist is astonishing too!
  • The travails of a Vietnam bound army 'Tunnel Rat' is brought out picturesquely in the side flashback story. So are the jungles of South America.
  • There is no love,no relationship portrayed in this one - there has been none in any of his books I ve read thus far - Quite daring not to have page-fillers!! and that makes Forsyth even special.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Look - #7

THE AFGHAN by Frederick Forsyth

Plot: The American & British intelligence agencies get a clue on a suspected-to-be serious Al-Qaeda operation 'Al-Isra' against the west & they collaborate to prepare and devise counter-operation 'Crowbar' and send a former British SAS colonel as a doppleganger of a captured extremist to identify the exact Al-qaeda operation. How he prepares and tackles the challenge fills the rest of the pages.

  • Even though the plot is not exactly new, the way it has been narrated makes for an interesting read.Forsyth takes the reader into the world of the Middle east terrorist hub & the formative years of Taliban.
  • One wonderful aspect of his writings is that he relates his work of fiction with true life characters & to suddenly get introduced to characters such as Osama bin laden catches the reader surprised.
  • This one is also a travelogue taking us through the middle east,UK, the wilderness of the US-Canada border and the vast spread of Indian & Atlantic Oceans.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #138

Movie: The Man who knew Too Much (1934)

Plot: A couple get to know of an assassination plot and the miscreants,to keep them mum, kidnap their only child. The parents,intelligently,thwart off the assassination attempt & rescue their child.

  • Hitchcock never disappoints!The humour filled screenplay makes this kidnap story a pleasant watch too!
  • The villain Peter Lorre,like in M, is a riot in this film too.
  • The concert & shoot out scenes were great and were definitely ahead of times.
Some amateurishly made scenes;maybe in the 30s that was the norm.But,such scenes are funny to watch now.

My Rating: 8.9/10

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Ken Follett Moment

Thanks to a friend’s notice, I got to know that Ken Follett was visiting Madras on Dec 14th as a part of his world tour to promote the first book of his latest trilogy. The rendezvous was at Landmark 4 PM. I got reminded of that at 3:30 and had to rush doubting if I would be able to catch a glimpse of the writer. And it all happened.At around 4:10, he was inside the store and to my surprise, the store was loaded with books of his, and there were about 50-60 fellow Follett fans!

As soon as he got the microphone, the power went off for just 2-3 seconds and he was quick to say ‘I haven’t got that reception before!’. He went on to talk about his latest work Fall of the giants– The first part in the trilogy that has dedicated parts for the World war I, WW II & the Cold War. He mentioned that the specialty or rather the difference that this work of his would have in comparison to the others was that it would show the three defining periods of the century from the view of five families – each of these families belonging to different nations & therefore the reader would be treated to five different experiences that people around the globe had undergone during the century. He also warned that it was an ambitious act of his, to plan three novels even before the release & reception of the first but he backed his decision with practicality. He said ‘I am 61 already & if I can’t be ambitious now, I can’t be later on!’. After that came the questions from the audience.

To one question on his inclination towards writing a book on the history of India (given his wonderful accounts on European & Soviet history), he replied that the option was still open – Well, it looked to be a polished way of saying a ‘No’. He was quick to add that there were a lot of extremely talented Indian writers in India & in the USA & UK and it was their responsibility to come up with such a work. To the audience’s surprise, he also added that one of his sons had married an Indian (a girl from Madras!) and probably the grand child of that decadency would write a book on Indian history!

He was at his transparent and humourous best when he talked about his formative years as a writer. Before his breakthrough novel Eye of the Needle, his books seemed to have found the most invisible of racks in bookstores and those of Forsyth were selling like hot-cakes and they used to block the vision of his tiny books from the visitor's eyes. He used to wonder what or where he lacked from churning out a best-seller and with Eye of the Needle, that question had been answered and then there was no looking back for Ken Follett.

When he was ready to sign his autographs into ‘new books, old books, scraps of paper’ (in his own words), I took my camera out to click some pictures and the camera slapped me showing these words ‘Change the batteries’. I am grateful to a person who heeded to my request for clicking a snap of me with Ken & transferring it via Bluetooth. Technology has improved so much over the past few decades & coming to think of that, so have Ken Follett’s stature and the quality of his works.

Many of them complimented him for his wartime espionage stuff & when it was my turn, I pointed out that he was as good with science fiction as he was with wartime novels and that my favourite work of his was the science thriller ‘The Third Twin’. He was happily surprised with this when he said the’Aah..Thanks for that’. My ‘Thank you’ was acknowledged with a ‘You’re welcome’ – So typical of a Brit! I was happy to leave the showroom with an autographed copy of his ‘Jackdaws’ - One I'l treasure for the solenoid like autograph kirukkal of his!

Book Look - #6

THE FOURTH PROTOCOL by Frederick Forsyth

Plot: Top members of the Soviet Republic establish internally Plan Aurora - a plan to topple Margaret Thatcher's conservatist government at UK & bring the Leftists to power so as to enable the spread of Communism from USSR into UK. The plan that involves breaching of the fourth protocol of a Nuke deal by setting up a small atomic bomb at Ipswich town by sending an 'illegal' into UK is upset by a smart british service agent,John Preston & some who's who of both UK & USSR.

  • The handling of the narration is exemplary. The interlaced style, with happenings in different places presented back and forth, makes this even more gripping.
  • The attention to detail is Forsyth's forte. Besides reading the novel, one gets to understand the hierarchies in USSR politics, UK Intelligence & SAS, components of a Nuclear Fission reaction, landscapes of South Africa & what not!!
  • The way the couriers' breach the british boundaries to bring in their stuff are interesting to read.
  • Finally, the masterstroke in the climax!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #137

Movie: The Graduate (1967)

Plot: A 20-turning-21 prodigy-to-be's attention towards his pursuit of graduation is terribly distracted by a seductive alcoholic who happens to be his father's partner's wife. He becomes obsessed with his misdemeanours & when the daughter of the same partner is introduced , he finds true love, accepts his highly disgusting act & does he win her love and vote?

  • A delicate,infact, scandulous subject is dealt with in a very decent & interesting way. Appreciations for that.
  • Dustin Hoffman carries this one on his shoulder & does exceedingly well - As the naive wrongdoer & as the relentless lover-seeker!
  • Other huge huge pluses are Simon & Garfunkel's soundtracks Sound of Silence and Scarborough Fair. Brilliant songs these.
The seriousness with which the film moves makes the fun-filled climax moment a dampener.

My Rating: 9.2/10

Two Line Reviews - #136

Movie: Madadayo (or) Not Yet! (Japanese,1993)

Plot: A highly respected professor retires. He,unfortunately, loses his house due to an air-raid during WW II. How his students support him is shown with potions of humour,humanity & honesty. When they ask him if he's ready to die, the professor who enjoys his life to the fullest keeps saying Mada dayo(not yet!) for 17 long years before he finally dies at 77, dreaming of solid-gold - that personifies his character.

  • This is the last film of Akira Kurosawa & incidentally, the character reminds us of the man himself - shining bright till the last work!
  • The cat sequence,61st birthday celebration scene & burglar notification scenes are touchy & humourous.
  • The person who plays the professor,the closest of his students & his wife play their roles lovably.
  • The film is a tad too slow.
  • What makes the pupils respect their master so much could have been shown.
My Rating: 9.1/10

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #135

Movie: Dersu Uzala (Russian,1975)

Plot: An army brigade posed with a daunting task of a topographical survey in the thick mountain forests of Russia,find an able guide and companion in a hunter Dersu Uzala. The army captain & Uzala form a special bonding and they part ways only to unite after 5 years & when Uzala is forced to live in the city, he finds he and the forest are inseparable.

  • Kurosawa deviates with this Russian film & the nobility & good ways of the film's prime characters win the hearts of the viewers.
  • The locations & sequences, the typical wrath of forests portrayed in this forest travelogue are thoroughly enjoyable.
  • The guys who play Captain Arseniev & Dersu Uzala show the unshakable bond in the best possible way.
One can be enthused by this film if one loves watching the travails & adventures in forests and hills. There isn't much for those who donot fall under that category.

My Rating: 9.3/10

Friday, December 10, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #134

Movie: Tengoku to jigoku (or) High and Low (1963)

Plot: A businessman goes to the extent of mortgaging his properties to get majority stakes of a company to prevent it from going into the hands of his unworthy peers. That is exactly when a kidnapper seeks ransom for kidnapping his son. When the kidnapper get to know he has kidnapped not his son but his chauffeur's son, the game gets interesting & the way the police solve makes this one of the very best investigation films.

  • To me, this one is the best work of Kurosawa! What a gripping narrative, what a clean & neat screenplay!
  • Toshiro Mifune,as the businessman has a limited role but performs wonderfully, but the stellar performances over the latter half of the film are from the graceful cop & the stylish villain.
  • There are a lot of touching scenes - the scenes where the entire family is in a catch-22 when the caller says he knows he has kidnapped the wrong kid & yet he demands ransom; and the final scene in the jail.
Forget it. This one's clean as a hound's tooth!

My Rating: 9.7/10

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #133

Movie: Donzoko (or) The Lower Depths (1957)

Plot: The life of a few people dwelling in slums is captured and an old man who gets acquainted with them makes them realise what love is, what money is, what is it about living truthfully & living a life of lies.

  • This Kurosawa film is distinctly different from the rest of his works I have seen & the difference is in the positive sense.The entire film has been shot within a single compound!
  • The supporting characters' performances are commendable. Especially, their mouth-music dancing scenes are great fun to watch.
  • The character of the old man and his philosophical dialogs are engaging.
Surprisingly, Toshiro Mifune has little to do here & the incomplete characterisation of his & a confusing climax are minuses.

My Rating: 9.1/10

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #132

Movie: Ran (Japanese,1985)

Plot: An aging Lord of an empire decides to let his first son take the throne. The second son accepts it but the third refuses and gets paid by being banished from the empire. The emperor slowly understands the deceitful ways of his first two sons & the candid yet caring third son rescues his guilty father from his brothers.

  • The locations & the picturisation of outdoor war sequences - Has inspired Maniratnam in Thalabadhi's Sundhari song.
  • The dialog-less massacre scene at one of the castles where hundreds of the emperor's guards are slain cruelly.
  • Touching scenes are abundant. The dialogs spoken by the emperor's caretaker are gems; the villainous lady of the masters shows sheer devilry.
The ending portions could have been conceived in a better manner given the way it went till that point.

My Rating: 9.3/10

Two Line Reviews - #131

Movie: Yojimbo (1961,Japanese)

Plot: A samurai deprived of a job finds himself in a town split by two factions. He self-employs himself, plays a smart double game to eradicate both the parties& saves some peace for the town & some money for himself.

  • Another astonishing Kurosawa ride! It doesn't surprise me that it was remade in English by another brilliant filmmaker as A fistful of Dollars.
  • With just his wit & sword,Toshiro Mifune enchants the viewer. Clint Eastwood's Blondie character in the man with no name trilogy has definitely been inspired by this fellow's portrayals.
  • Some of the sidekicks - the loyal old man & the reckless villain - are added pluses.
A period of lull when Toshiro is being kept hostile.

My Rating: 9.5/10

Nandhalala - Tastefully etched!

Mysskin’s third film was lying in the cans for about two long years. Thankfully, it didn’t stay there. His promising debut with Chithiram Pesudhadee was followed by a riveting Anjadhey and this Nandhalala is daringly different from tamil films we have seen thus far. The film was gripping enough for me. But I was amidst only 30-40 people in a theatre which could seat 950! And the reactions & comments I heard made me doubt if I was lacking in sense or if they were lacking in taste. One guy was snoring during a mellifluous song – Height of tastelessness.

The film is about a kid & an asylum patient who happens to be a kid at heart and their search for their respective mothers for entirely different reasons. One wants to hug and kiss her, the other wants to slap his mother for sending him to an asylum and absconding. Their pursuit is presented as a wonderful road-trip where they meet usual & unusual characters, understand things & subtly develop a bonding that gets unshakable towards the end. When they end up knowing about the circumstances their mothers are in, their intentions take a volte-face and the kid finally ends up getting a kind-hearted but socially exploited woman for a mother. When he kisses her & the lunatic-turned-normal man turns to acknowledge that, the impact hits you on the head & the maker succeeds with that, atleast in my case!

The film is inspired by Kikujiro, a Japanese movie. Mysskin has taken the plot from that film and has taken pains to tweak it and present it differently. Very few scenes from the original have been retained. Some of the characters are retained but are presented unlike. For example, the fatso characters had much to do in Kikujiro but here their roles are restricted. The sex-worker character is non-existent in the original but is brought in here – with relevance or not is a different question.

The main characters are Ashwath Ram (who plays the kid Aghilan) & Mysskin (who plays the lunatic Bhaskar Mani). They both have essayed their roles convincingly. Mysskin’s might be regarded by some as overacting but he’s mentally challenged & his portrayal is acceptable. In some scenes, he startles with amazing expressions. Snigdha (of Kathaazha kannala fame) plays her small role passably & there are some characters brought in for humour and they end up doing that successfully (a lorry driver, a sports-car youth gang & fatsos).

Mysskin,as a director, scores in the tweaking of characters – especially the character of his mother – played by Rohini (shocker!) and some of the symbolic unique touches he employs. Dialogs are few and far between but they impress on many occasions. On the flip side of his execution are the unconvincing characterization of Snigdha’s role & her flashback narration. It is a non-event in the film.

The curious things about Nandhalala are the unusual camera angles employed & the music-less dialog-less sequences. These are proof enough to the fact that Mysskin is a big fan of yesteryear stalwart director Kurosawa. One very appreciable thing about the film is that the camera and its zoom-in zoom-out have been used in scenes to single-handedly provide slapstick humour. That is a daring attempt & the thinktank shall take a bow for that.

Editing is also peculiar for a tamil film but in this section, the style employed in Kikujiro seems to have been honestly adopted.

If the two main characters form the cerebrum & cerebellum of the film, the heart and soul of it is represented by the background music offered by Maestro Ilaiyaraja. That is probably the reason why his name is shown first in the credits. With his lilting, soul-stirring, supreme, blissful etc etc.. music, he pulls the strings, not only of the instruments, but also those of our hearts. One’s heart cannot escape from skipping a beat when he listens to Raja sing 'Thaalatu ketka naanum', aided by an apt scene. Onnukonnu & Mella oorndhu songs have been picturised well but it is a pity that the other wondrous songs (Kai veesi & Oru vaandu kootame) have not been immortalized on screen.

To sum things up, Mysskin adds another feather to his cap with a tastefully woven lullaby that is Nandhalala& it is only fitting that he wanted to direct Kamal next. But that didn’t materialize. Hope it happens someday. If & when that happens, we are in for a treat ‘o’ treat.

Verdict: The film is already a flop, won’t be in theatres for long. Watch it atleast in a CD/DVD,for, what it shows and how it shows the what are entirely new for a tamil film!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #130

Movie: Tsubaki Sanjûrô (Japanese,1962)

Plot: With his weak set of 8 soldiers,the nephew of a chamberlain captured by a corrupt superintendent accidentally gets the help of an eccentric yet intelligent samurai. The ten of them,to save the chamberlain, take on a huge clan using not brawn but brain.

  • This film brings out the lighter side of Kurosawa with characters fitted with a good scope for wit and humour.
  • Toshiro Mifune's essay of a lazy,laid-back yet cautious samurai is memorable. His body language is ultimate!
  • Needless to say,like in other films of the director,music & camera steal attention.
Nothing much.

My Rating: 9.4/10

Two Line Reviews - #129

Movie: Kumonosu-jô (or) Throne of Blood(1957,Japanese)

Plot: A valiant samurai covets on becoming the master of a castle after his sly wife injects the idea into him. He kills his master,his friend & finally the next of kin of his victims pay him back.

  • The grandeur & the splendor with which Kurosawa has managed to make this epic movie.
  • The acting of Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa's mainstay actor. He lives the role of a guilt ridden samurai & his reactions when he knows he is doomed are terrific.
  • The breathtaking cinematography & the foggy,misty atmosphere add fervor to the viewing.
The samurai blindly accepts his wife's ideas after a point. A strong case is presented for his first time acceptance of her ideas but not for the next few.

My Rating: 9.2/10

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #128

Movie: Sugata Sanshirô (1943,Japanese)

Plot: A talented pupil of a practitioner of Jujitsu Judo art is getting wasted because of his rough ways of using the art. A self-inflicted punishment helps him build his resolve so much so that even his love cannot stop him from a determined win against a heavyweight who happens to be her father.

  • This is Akira Kurosawa's first film says the credits & the making style with symbolic touches seem to have started from his debut.
  • The camerawork & a background score of superior quality give a compelling attraction to watch.
  • The build-up to it & the climax itself.
There is nothing unpredictable or twisty in the tale.

My Rating: 9.1/10

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Ashes 2010 is here!

It is always a pleasure to watch a cricket match played in the plush grounds of countries in the southern hemisphere. The wee hour viewing adds to the thrill too! And with The Ashes starting in two days and an intriguing India vs South Africa test series set for December, the schedule offers a mouth-watering recipe for cricket lovers.

The Ashes this time is more interesting with the stage being set for a reversal of fortunes as Australia, probably for the first time in years, start as underdogs in an Ashes encounter.

Why Australia Can?
  • The last time they’d lost an Ashes series at home dates back to 1987. That’s a terrific psychological factor that might work wonders for them if they can back themselves up with a nice collective effort.
  • They humiliated England with a 5-0 whitewash the last time the two teams met in Australia.
Key Players:
Ricky Ponting – His career, more or less, hangs in the balance and it is at these times that one can expect a resilient comeback from punter.

Mitchell Johnson – His fierce bowling should fire if Australia is to start-off well. He is one person capable of causing considerable damage to the not so weak/not so formidable English batting line-up.

Surprise Package:
Xavier Doherty – A relatively new player,he could be a surprise package given England’s proficieny,or the lack of it, against spinners.He is filling the shoes of a legend whose middle name is Keith. It is mighty difficult to fit in them but in wickets such as Gabba and SCG, a spinner’s contribution can come handy & only time will tell if Australia’s decision to drop Hauritz for Doherty would help their cause.

Michael Clarke – He has been going through a trough and has been dismal. He somehow needs to regroup . The only solace for the vice captain is the fact that his captain too seems to be sailing in the same boat.

Why Australia Can’t?

  • For the first time in about 20 years, they have had a string of three consecutive losses. They are under the phase of such an ebb!
  • In Bowling they are certainly second best to England on paper . Their batting too, based on current form of key batsmen, doesn’t seem to pip that of the English. 
Why England Can?

  • They have the Ashes with them and are considered favourites by many. This would be a new situation for them as they have always been considered the challengers for a majority of Ashes series over the past 25 years.
  • They are currently on a very good streak and there are no reasons why that should end any soon.
  • They have the trophy and a drawn series would help them retain the urn making their equation simpler.
Key Players:
The deadly duo of Graeme Swann & Stuart Broad – They more than compensate for the loss of their successful Ashes mainstay Andrew Flintoff. When they start taking the wickets, they do so in a hurry and change the complexion of games. They also come in handy with their bats and that could help when the top order collapses.

Surprise Package:
Jonathan Trott – This solid find for English cricket would want to go big this time & add to his excellent effort in the Ashes 09 & he looks capable of doing that.

Kevin Pietersen – All eyes will be on this dashing debonair batter. He is out of sorts and would find this big stage a good opportunity to make a sound statement on his prowess.

Why England Can’t?

  • The history of Ashes would haunt them and the fact that they are playing away from Home might also be a deterrent.
  • Their batters haven’t exactly been exemplary on the Australian wickets. Posting a solid first innings score is a must & they have a tough task in doing that.
  • The Aussies are at an all-time low and as clichéd as it may sound – Nothing is more dangerous than a wounded big cat on the prowl.
My Prediction: England retaining the Ashes with a 2-1 or a 2-2 scoreline. Come on Pommies!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #127

Movie: The Truman Show (1998)
Plot: He's the hero of a television show that captures him and shows it live since his time in his mother's womb. He doesn't know that all characters around him are actors and the place he lives is a set. His pursuit of his accidental lover makes the makers of the show go berserk & does Truman realise the truth in the end?!

  • The director of the film Peter Weir,true to his name, has made one of the most weirdest concepts possible into a movie & has been successful at that.
  • Jim Carrey surprises with such wondrous films different from his comical ventures time and again & as Truman he is lovable.
  • The screenplay is engaging & doesn't add to the confusion the story offers in the first hour or so.
Some camera angles shown are highly inconceivable & working out such a set is too complex to be believable.

My Rating: 9.6/10

Two Line Reviews - #126

Movie: The Odd Couple (1968)
Plot: A man breaks up with his wife and his dearest friend responds by offering him shelter at his place. The cooking & cleaning conscious man gets on the nerves of his friend & the wit and humor surrounding the events are a blast.

  • Kamal Haasan & Crazy Mohan - Beat this one guys! This film is right up there as a rip-roaring dose of slapstick & dialog based comedy.
  • Jack Lemmon & Matthau as the odd couple of friends are spontaneous and that makes this tick big time.
  • The other friends,especially, the guy from 12 angry men & the 'pigeon sisters' add to the fun.
Not any.

My Rating: 9.7/10

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #125

Movie: π (1998)

Plot: A mathematics obsessed scientist, who believes every form of nature has a pattern finds proof to his theory with his successful stock market predictions. Trouble arises when his computer Euclid crashes to reveal a 216 digit number that is sought after by business ppl for controlling stocks & by Jew Rabbis,for, they feel it is the 216 key to god. He can't take the toll & flashes out!

  • I am lost for words. Whatever was shown in the film has made me dumbstruck. This is the best psychological,scientific thriller I ve seen.Darren Aronofsky shall take a bow.
  • The acting of the guy who plays Cohem is psycho brilliant - Terrific & his tutor earns respect with his work.
  • The background music is apt & fits the film's proceedings to a 'T'.
Too complex. Some anecdotes were incomprehensible for a mere mortal like me. For example, the Pythagoras golden rectange's relation to Da vinci's art work etc..!

My Rating: 9.6/10

Two Line Reviews - #124

Movie: M (German,1931)

Plot: A child kidnapper affected by compulsive murder syndrome is on the prowl in a german town. As kids disappear one after the other, the police tighten their search which causes problems to other underworld thugs. They decide to take on the child killer themselves to trace and kill him.

  • The camera-work was of supreme quality. Too good for a film made in 1931. Especially, the beggars union introduction scene.
  • The acting of the policeman Kohlmann & that of the killer. He scores with a terrific monologue justifying his case in the climax.
  • The police-criminal planning scene shown in parallel was good.
Why are children left to roam around streets even after everyone is aware of a brutal killer on the loose remains an unfathomable question.

My Rating: 9.4/10

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Look - #5

THE SUCKER PUNCH by James Hadley Chase

Plot: Chad Winters,a bank clerk, gets a 70 Million $ worth lone lady as a client to manage. With his intelligent plans,he convinces her to marry him, wants to get his hands on her money and that is when her secretary joins forces with him to plan a murder to get the money in quick time. As the story unravels, a lot of twists unfold to give an account of who was responsible for the murder and how!


  • A sheer page-turner this.The narrative style employed by Chase,without mincing matters, makes this 200 pg novel readable at a single-go. Hard to imagine it to be a 1950s novel!
  • The air of sarcasm that is evident in the style adds to the effect.
  • The story in itself with limited characters,each etched out to perfection, is spine-chilling.
  • In spite of opportunities that the story provides to get indecent, the author doesn't do so & that makes this a very decent piece of thriller material.

Two Line Reviews - #123

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010)

Plot: The trio of Harry,Ron & Hermione are challenged in their search for horcruxes by the constant vigil of Voldemort and his clan of death-eaters. The search leads Harry towards some startling discoveries on Dumbledore & deathly hallows but after destroying the locket,he is left clueless on the whereabouts of 3 more and elsewhere Voldemort gets his hands on the most important deathly hallow or so he thinks.

  • The trio keep us engaged as usual.Ron particularly,with his awkward expressions at apt times.
  • The artwork (Ministry sequence) and Camerawork (snatchers' chase sequence) are exemplary,well aided by the eye-pleasing dreamy locations.
  • The 'tale of Three Brothers' on the deathly hallows was nicely etched.
There are a lot of non-events. This is partly due to the lack of much substance in the first half of the book. I still wonder why it needed to come in two parts!

My Rating: 8.8/10

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Look - #4


Plot: The daunting task set by Dumbledore makes Harry,Ron & Hermione seek untraceable  horcruxes to destroy them & ward off the Voldemort threat to mudbloods & Hogwarts. A startling revelation on the past life of Dumbledore makes Harry's task all the more difficult to carry off & Voldemort's resurrection doesn't help the cause either. The saga ends with a spectacular sequence at Hogwarts & it is,as always, the triumph of good over evil!

  • The picturesque and highly descriptive narration of Rowling took me to the good old Enid Blyton days.
  • The revelation of Dumbledore's childhood,Godric's Hollow & the logically conceived Elder Wand Hallow explanation sequences were particularly engaging.
  • The book meanders at a steady pace till a point. And when Harry gets on the trail of the horcrux at Hogwarts, the momentum picks up and the journey retains its top speed till the astonishing twist in the climax.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #122

Movie: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Plot: Set in 1880s Kansas City, this film revolves around a big-time thug Jesse James & a wannabe jesse james and how an act of the latter leads to the unstoppable betrayal of the former and the subsequent guilt-ridden fall of the latter.

  • The way the film has been conceived makes it distincty different from other films as much as its name is!
  • The tremendous lifelike performance of Brad Pitt & the apt meek work by the person who plays Ford.
  • The poignant music is also different from the kinds of music in other films.
  • The film could be regarded as being 'SLOW' because of lack of action packed sequences even when it could have had some.
  • The title gives it all and spoils a possible intriguing suspense scenario.
My Rating: 9.0/10

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #121

Movie: A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Plot: An emotionally and mentally drained lady comes to her sister's house seeking shelter.Her antics irritate the ill-tempered brother-in-law which in turn spoils the couple's happy life routine. How he successfully evicts the sis-in-law from his place ends the story.

  • Marlon Brando (his perfectly fit physique was a surprise) doesn't look like he is acting. He lives the character he plays and it shows! To do a thing of that sort when one is fresh out of 'stage drama' profession is incredible.
  • Vivien Leigh, as the bewitched clueless soul performs very well.
There surely was an element of dramatic acting by all the lady stars involved. Maybe, that was the order of the day in the 50s.

My Rating: 9.1/10

Friday, November 12, 2010

Two Line Reviews- #120

Movie: Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Plot: A heist gang with members of no prior acquaintance is formed to rob diamonds off a bank. They find the cops readily waiting for them during the heist operation. They open fire, get back to their hide-out & have a discussion on who the rat in the gang was!

  • Quentin Tarantino's first film & it should have indeed been such a promising start then. A very different attempt. (Couldn't help noticing the striking resemblance Tarantino in this film has with Roger Federer)
  • The 'colourful' characters & their conversations. Especially,Madsen impressed me with his lethargic attitude.
  • The twists were damn good.

The non-linear narration,for once, hasn't seemed to have gone well. That too, after the suspense gets revealed.

My Rating: 9.3/10

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #119

Movie: Sholay (Hindi,1974)
It's time for me to say 'Kadaisiya naa paatha english padam Sholay nga!'

Plot: A notorious bandit wrecks havoc on the entire family of a policeman who had arrested him earlier. The policeman tries to avenge the loss of his family by seeking the help of two happy go lucky local crooks whom he sees as potential slayers of the bandit.

The story of Once upon a time in the West is presented with the two lead characters adopted from The good,the bad & the ugly and Sholay is surely worth being the legend that I have heard it to be.

  • Amitabh Bachchan & Dharmendra have given stellar performances. Amitabh , with his subdued body language presents the desi Clint Eastwood blondie characte & Dharmendra brings out the Tuco in him & saves his fiery best for the climax.
  • Dream debutant Amjad Khan with his brilliant expressions!! He hasn't immortalised Gabbar Singh without reason.
  • Credits for the writer director duo of Salim Javed & Ramesh Sippy for tying the two classic Sergio Leone western masterpieces and proving it with the Indian touch.
  • Camera work is pretty good & RD Burman scores with the evergreen hit number Yeh Dosti & mouth-organ background.
  • Hema Malini,as the chatter box,reminded me of Dasavatharam's Asin!
  • Just after about the half-way mark, the film loses intensity & seriousness for a while.
  • Needless songs in the middle.
My Rating: 9.4/10

Monday, November 8, 2010

Will Rahman 'Bell the Cat'?

Should Rahman be Hollywood bound? This is the question I was left with after listening to his instrumental soundtracks of Danny Boyle’s latest 127 hours. If one pretty-good (and not the best by any stretch of imagination) work of Rahman could fetch him two Academy awards, should he not be aiming at further International glory by working with Hollywood directors who have an eye or rather ear for the importance of soundtracks in films? He has won the national awards, the prestigious padma award, awards from almost all Indian film industries wherever he has worked in. He has achieved all that is available in the Indian film industry & there is not much left for him to accomplish here. That makes his case to be Hollywood bound all the more momentous.

The other option (which is what he seems to be doing right now) is to be based in India, work with a restricted, selective set of Indian films, look for options from the West,sign for & work on apt films. This might look attractive for the legion of Rahmaniacs but unfortunately is not the best option for the single reason that the people from Hollywood aren’t going to seek someone based in India for sheer logistical reasons if not any other, even if the person is a two academy award winner!

That leaves him in the dilemma of whether to shift base or to work with the best in India. If he chooses the latter, it would add to the dearth of an Indian in the international scene and he would only be following the names of Ilaiyaraja & Kamal Haasan – People with tremendous class & yet not as internationally-famous as they deserve to be , thanks to either their disinterest (Ilaiyaraja’s case) or their restricted-scope (Kamal’s case). Thanks to Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman has crossed both these hurdles with a solid exposure in the international scene & the only way for him is forward. It better be! And ironically, this statement comes from someone who is going to be utterly disappointed if & when Rahman decides to quit Indian cinema for good. Disappointed because of the angst that there wouldn’t be a lot more Indian Rahman music to look forward to. The good reasons that would balance out the disappointments are:

• His move would encourage other brilliant talents in Indian film industry to take the extra mile in seeking international exposure & Rahman’s success would only bring them confidence to try that out.

• The true worth of Rahman would be seen by those who still consider him to be no better than some relatively new, rising music directors in the background score department. If one Liberation track of 127 hours cannot convince them that they are wrong, a bombardment of such tracks in the future should and would!

• There would be no more Yuvvraajs,Delhi 6s,Jhootha Hi Sahis whose blissful tracks would get lost in the commercial failures of the films, for,in the international scene, acclaim gained by music is not correlated to the commercial success that the film gains.

So,Go on Rahman. Lead the way, like you have always done!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Two Line Reviews - #118

Movie: The Hole (2001)

Plot: Four teenage friends seek a three day adventure in a war-time escape route hole and when they know that they are trapped, they get mentally traumatised and there's death,killing as 3 of them die. Were the deaths accidental? Or was it intentional? These questions are answered in an intelligently woven screenplay.

  • The psychic acting of the girl who plays Liz.
  • The neat & smart Rashomon like screenplay.
  • The final scene, guessable but good.
The first 20 minutes was boring.

My Rating: 8.8/10