Monday, April 17, 2017

Review #505: Kadamban (Tamil, 2017)

Kadamban Movie Review

The honey-extracting tribal folks of Kadambavanam, a village in the deep interiors of dense forests, enjoy their peaceful & humble lives with the philosophical company of their forefathers. Presence of limestone underneath earns the village some interest from unethical vultures. With multiple soft evacuation plans failing against the tribal resistance, they resort to uglier ways putting the villagers' lives into complete disarray. Can they withstand when payback time presents itself?

What's Hot?

  • The grandeur of the idea, the seemingly determined execution of it with the filming make the fact that this is only director Raghava's second outing (his first being Manjapai is another surprise!) sound unbelievable. Still a long way away but the film defintely gives us the confidence that he could make it big in Kollywood, especially in the Action genre of films
  • Arya, as the rugged and chiseled Kadamban, lives the role in a way that even inspires you to root for him and the film (at moments when things don't go so well). A lot of what he does revolves around performing stunts or chases and he is completely convincing
  • The film's cinematography (by S.R. Sathish Kumar who had also done a fine job in Peranmai) is splendid to say the least. I don't mean it only for the way it captures the beauty of the forests with aerial shots. In the action sequences, it helps you travel as fast as the ones involved in it. Special mention to the climax (with traps & elephants) that uplifts the spirit of the film unbelievably
  • For a film with very minimal dialogues, the choreography of the action sequences needs to take care of establishing the emotional moments as well & Dilip Subbarayan's work here comes out quite convincingly (A couple of ideas repeat themselves twice but that I'd put against the director)
  • The supporting cast helps create the right atmosphere & even though Cathrine Teresa's role doesn't offer anything new in the romance angle & Murugadoss' comedy doesn't click as an idea, the presence of them and others helps us see the village as one well-knit group
  • CGI work is commendable. Except for one involving Hyenas, all the sequences are believable which is the essence of any good work with graphics

What's Not?

  • The execution in terms of the way sequences & action have been shot may have been good but there is very little in terms of plot points. The villains, the little twists etc. are pedestrian & some ideas the villagers adopt to chase away their intruders are 'facepalm-worthy'
  • Yuvan Shankar Raja's songs are sub-par and play as much a role in impeding the flow of the film as the uninventive placing of the songs picturised (The dream song sequence should have gone on to the trash without a second thought, Editor Deva)
  • The focus on the livelihood of the villagers, their belief-system and instances explaining why they feel obliged to protect the forests could have taken precedence over shots exploring the romance, shots building the villains up etc. That would have made the sermon Kadamban gives at the end look less preachy

The sincerity and extravagant making of a film set completely in the forests makes up for the film's shortcomings as a story-telling device. The enjoyable action sequences with the fit-as-a-fiddle Arya at the forefront make this a bearable watch

Bumpy Forest Ride

Review #504: Kaatru Veliyidai (Tamil, 2017)

Kaatru Veliyidai Movie Review

Romance is in the air as the lives of Fighter Pilot Varun & Medical Doctor Leela collide amidst the scenic beauty of Kashmir. While Leela yearns for Varun’s affection in the delicate of ways, Varun’s idea of love is all give-give, not give-take. Just as the avalanche of built-up emotions sets rolling, Varun becomes a PoW post the Kargil episode. Do their paths cross later?

What’s Hot

  • Coming from a director known for being an auteur, Kaatru Veliyidai has glimpses of magical moments that we associate with Mani Ratnam films. There are exchanges and scenes that bring a nostalgic smile on you (A rather unimportant Thiruda Thiruda type chase sequence with Mani paying tribute to Spielberg & Rahman to John Williams, for example)
  • The female lead Aditi Rao Hydari is exceptional as Dr.Leela. She is the example one should use for people finding linguistic challenge as the reason for heroines not being expressive enough or upto the mark with lip-sync. To be fair to her, she just does much more than that in the film – A great debut in Tamil
  • Karthi is earnest as the narcissistic Varun and shines inconsistently (thanks to a pretty empty sketching of what could have been a fascinating character sketch) through the film. To appreciate his work, one probably has to undo his earlier roles as we get reminded of it and we see that he is ‘trying forever’ to break away from that!
  • The technical work in the film is world-class. AR Rahman’s mesmerizing tunes are put forth to good use, bolstered by an inspiring work behind the lens from Ravi Varman. They also contribute immensely to the story telling with their background score and perspective shots

What’s Not

  • The magical moments I mentioned are few and far between and don’t succeed in holding the film together. Usually, in Mani Ratnam films, the most crucial scenes also end up being the most wonderfully made. Strangely enough, that isn’t the case here. The pair’s first conflict scene amidst a brewing snow-storm comes abruptly and ends up looking like a farce; So does the glass-room dining table sequence of Varun with Leela’s parents
  • The film doesn’t seem to bat an eyelid to giving us a realistic feeling in terms of nativity of the characters. Varun’s family depicted looks anything but Tamil. The ‘pregnancy before marriage’ idea is unnecessarily thrown one time too many
  • The character sketches of Varun & Leela are interesting but we get a feeling that only the tip of the iceberg is shown. If we had been taken further into the reasons behind why they are the way they are, it could have made way for a fascinating character-driven romance drama. But the lack of detailing makes us lose interest in their pursuit and we don’t root for either of them

Amidst a little mayhem & a little magic, Kaatru Veliyidai has its share of moments which aren't stitched as well as we would have liked. Impeccable technical brilliance notwithstanding, the incomplete character sketches make the film as flawed as its lead VC.

Minor Misfire

Review #503: Kavan (Tamil, 2017)

Kavan Movie Review

A budding journalist passionate about ethical, noble, hard-hitting journalism understands the more flourishing ghetto of sensationalism & news fabrication that the Entertainment TV Channel he belongs to, thrives on. When caught in a dilemma of whether to hold for a while or rise in protest, a situation forces him to make a decision that puts him out of work but… there begins his work.

What’s Hot

  • A number of social topics have been covered in films before & what happens behind the closet in news/media industry is a subject that has been sensitively handled thus far. KV Anand, in Kavan goes all aggressive in his attack of the lack of ethics in the industry(so much that he has to victimize himself at one point to come out unscathed)
  • Vijay Sethupathi does all it takes to hold things together with the role he essays. While doing so, he meanders and gets a feel of the ‘mass’ hero territory – unchartered waters for him – and doesn’t get drowned
  • In the cast that supports him, while others have nothing much to do, T Rajendar makes his presence felt. Even though his role of a mentor could have been made better, he presents a lively show during certain heated exchanges in the film
  • The film’s set up of a glossy Entertainment channel office & its sets are captured vividly in Abinandhan’s camera-work. Anthony’s editing is another saviour if the film has a less damaging effect on the viewer

What’s Not

  • The film is one that pretends to send across a number of strong social messages – on media, politics, casteism, corporate guile etc. but nothing comes across as it just ‘pretends’. The screenplay lacks any conviction. It lets things fall in place conveniently – a strong sign of lazy writing
  • One wishes that Hip Hop Thamizha (Music director) gets better with his work or doesn’t get films to work on at all. His music in the film (songs & background score) is unbearable and that is a sad thing as the industry (sample even KV Anand’s earlier works) is known for its quality music output in big mainstream films
  • Vikranth is wasted in a role that could have been offered a generous extension if some crude irrelevant and shoddy scenes were avoided but hey, who’s listening!

The problem with Kavan is not in the horde of social issues it tries to bring to the limelight.  The manner in which the film is presented makes the try look pretentious just like the media it portrays. Even Vijay Sethupathi’s presence doesn’t save this one from sinking

'Phoney' Entertainer