Viswasam Movie Review: An emotional masala action that works wonders

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Viswasam is a sentimental journey where you submit yourself to the emotionally-driven storytelling and let go of all the imperfections in the film.

There was a feeling of uncontrollable emotions building up inside me that burst out in the form of tears. The father-daughter relationship delineated in Director Siva’s Viswasam (Loyalty) was so beautiful and heartrending at the same time which makes you forget all the flaws in the film. You get absorbed by its relatable and emotional narrative. It’s a film where you leave the cinema halls wiping off your tears from the face.

Starring Ajith Kumar (or ‘Thala’ as his fans fondly call him), Viswasam opens with two different sides of feelings – mirthfulness and melancholy. The happy side is the sight of green fields, people cultivating crops and the enjoyment during a festival. And the other side shows the debate over conducting a festival and the sadness in Thooku Durai (Ajith Kumar) while everyone else is having fun during the festival (An old lady points out that he is deliberately keeping a smile on his face to hide the agony inside him). The latter feeling wins over the former and makes up for the erratic comedy (except for Yogi Babu as Velu) that the film produces. Viswasam takes us through the life of Thooku Durai, his love-life, and his reunion with his daughter amidst troubles.

The maturity in the romance between Thooku Durai and Niranjana (Nayanthara) was a delight to watch (it was exemplified by Nayanthara and Ajith’s beautiful exhibition). There isn’t any instant love that is prominently seen in such masala films. The bond between Thooku Durai and Niranjana grows steadily. It was lovely to see that they get to know that one is staring at the other through some children and not a lot of fuss is made over that. Even the proposal comes from Niranjana’s father for the marriage. Also, not much of dialogue was infused in this phase and little things like gestures of approval made it even more attractive (like the “hmm” from Niranjana when he confirms her affection towards him or his ‘Indian nod’ as a mark of acceptance for the marriage proposal or when she holds his hands to show that she wants to hug him). This is also the phase which features the “Danga Danga” song composed by D. Imman which was nice to hear in an otherwise underwhelming background score and the disappointing cluster of songs.

It was the relationship between a father and the daughter that was superbly sketched in this film and will be remembered for years to come. It was shown through Thooku Durai, the protagonist, and Gautham Veer (Jagapathi Babu), the antagonist. We could feel the affliction in Thooku Durai when his daughter Swetha (Anikha) tells him that she thinks of her father (not knowing that Thooku Durai is her father) while taking part in a race competition as she hates him the most. It was a moving scene when Gautham’s daughter conveys to him that she can’t stop talking to him. No matter how melodramatic the movie turns out towards the end, both the relationships were excellently registered in our minds as it gets hard to not cry during the climax.

The duel between Thooku Durai and Gautham Veer was intriguing. It was a consuming interaction where Gautham says that he is the “hero” and Thooku Durai retorts saying, “en kathai la naa villain da”. It reminds us of Ajith’s success with characters that have negative shade. We also see that Thooku Durai is a person who gets into a fight easily and is also known for coming out on top whenever he gets into a fight. So, it was pleasant to see that there isn’t a truckload of fight sequences. There are some interestingly crafted stunt sequences where a sort of mind game is played (when Thooku Durai uses the method of ‘waiting for the lion to come near the sheep’). The heroic moments during Thooku Durai’s duel with Gautham and the fight sequences looked resplendent.

Vivek and Kovai Sarala have a small part to play and are not too funny but managed to bring a smile on our face. The brief presence of Yogi Babu as Velu was hilarious as he calls a doctor as “aambala Doctor” who is standing amidst female doctors or irritatingly call him a “bommai moonji”. But his transient spell was so good that it makes you yearn for more as Robo Shankar and Thambi Ramaiah, who have much longer screen space, are not comedic at all and when they do try something funny, it feels annoying. Even Ajith’s comical act did not work for me.

The sentiment is the hallmark of this film and it sounds really good when Ajith gives us a life lesson. It feels insightful when he talks about unity and how a festival brings different people together. In another instance, he even stresses upon “muyarchi” that points towards the need to keep trying in our life.

There have been some great movies which really makes us cry and I have been witness to such great motion pictures. When it comes to watching a really good emotional movie in a cinema hall, trying not to cry so that people sitting near you does not find out, and still winding up crying with no control whatsoever, I can remember that I actually wept when I watched Aamir Khan starring “Taare Zameen Par” in a movie theatre. Viswasam is another addition in that list. This film is a sentimental journey where you submit yourself to the emotionally-driven storytelling and let go of all the imperfections in the film.

Petta Movie Review: A truest, exhilarating and jovial masala action movie

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Petta is a romantic, mind-boggling, and a rollicking ride that is ‘only’ for Rajini fans

It’s a dark corridor of a college hostel and masked men are attacking students with billhooks. Kaali a.k.a Pettavelan (Superstar Rajinikanth) comes from the dark saying “ulle poda” (Go inside) in Baasha-ish style that sort of reverberates through the corridor. This scene comes just before the intermission which sent shivers down my spine. Karthik Subbaraj’s Petta is a masala action film where you get ‘rajnified’ by the truest ‘mass moments’ (as the heroic moments are called in Tamil cinema). Petta is not exactly about a transformation of the protagonist from an innocuous guy to a powerful man like we see in Baasha. It is more of a showing-his-real-identity thing where he is already known for being courageous and influential.

Karthik Subbaraj’s storytelling has been his greatest asset and it was no different in Petta. It takes us back and forth to different times and keeps springing surprises thereby keeping us engrossed. The story begins with a riveting present-day scene and goes back in the past that eventually leads us to that present day. It again digs further down in the past to uncover more secrets and comes back to the present day for a grand finale. Petta is about Pettavelan, the college hostel warden, who is not only responsible for looking after the students but has a history with present-day powerful politician Singaar Singh a.k.a Singaaram (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). We learn about Pettavelan’s real motive of joining the college as warden and revel in the intriguing duel between him and Singaaram.

Petta is replete with references to Rajinikanth’s previous movies and the aura that he has created over the years. Anyone who is a true fan of Rajini (like Director Karthik Subbaraj himself) and has been hankering for reliving those ‘Rajini moments’ would definitely relish every reference that has been made in this film. Rajini’s famous “paambu..paambu” dialogue still makes us laugh and Pettavelan does say that to frighten the college mess supervisor (Munishkanth Ramdoss). When Singaaram’s son Jithu (Vijay Sethupathy) asks for a cigarette, he throws one in his own mouth, lights it and exhales smoke (but also advises not to smoke). In another scene, he even twirls his gun around the trigger finger. Anu (Megha Akash), the daughter of Rajini’s love-interest Mangalam (Simran) in the present day, tells Pettavelan that he looks stylish like a young boy to which he says, “naturally”. When he throws open the gate outside Mangalam’s home, it reminds us of that iconic gate scene from his first film Apoorva Raagangal. One can’t help but rejoice in the reminiscence of his film Mullum Malarum when he dances to the song called ‘Raman Aandaalum’. Maalik (M. Sasikumar), the close friend of Pettavelan and Anwar (Sananth Reddy), the son of Maalik, reminds us of that beautiful friendship from the movie Baashha.

Huge credit goes to Karthik Subbaraj for showing us the playful side of Rajinikanth to an extent that was perhaps last seen in Sivaji The Boss. When being interviewed for warden post by the College Principal (Y.G. Mahendran), Pettavelan bangs hard on the table, gets hold onto a toy and says “bommai” (toy) referring to the Principal. He is also not just walking around in the college. Instead, we see him in a rollicking mode all the time. He does a cricket bowling action while walking along with college mess supervisor. While Michael (Bobby Simha) and his men are ragging the junior guys, Pettavelan comes in the midst of them and shakes a leg. At a funeral, we see Pettavelan jovially dancing to the beats of drums. It is chucklesome to see his reaction when Maalik, who has impregnated Poongodi, says that he has done nothing. In another scene, lost in the beauty of Mangalam, who is a pranic healer in this film, Pettavelan winds up asking if she is a “biryani dealer”.

I never wanted the romantic phase between Pettavelan and Mangalam to end at all. Rajinikanth and Simran’s pair was reinvigorating and pleasant to watch which made this a dreamy phase and one for the ages. Pettavelan knocks on her door and looks at the mirror to see if he is looking alright. Mangalam does the same on the inside before opening the door. Anu and her boyfriend Anwar are mesmerised by the blossoming romance between Pettavelan and Mangalam as she smilingly watches him cooking food (And so are we enthralled by this lovely relationship!). It is a beautiful scene when they go out and buy flowers and ‘Ilamai Thirumbuthe’ song in the background exemplifies the beauty even more (Anirudh Ravichander’s commendable music is one of the quintessential elements of this film).

As the first half of the movie covers the romance and college scenes, one may start thinking if this is what the movie is all about. In one of the scenes in the second half, Pettavelan gets a phone call from Mangalam and does not answer reaffirming that there is no time for love and more important issues are at stake. So, as we approach towards the intermission, Pettavelan and his fight with the goons gets triggered. It is almost like Pettavelan is giving a signal to the audience to sit-back-and-enjoy when he is sitting on an easy-chair near the college gate with his hands behind the head literally waiting for the goons to attack him. All the drama surrounding ragging in the college, the enmity between Michael and Anwar, and the romance comes to a halt as the movie unveils the core issues of the movie. It was thrilling to see Rajinikanth using nunchaku (chain sticks), a martial arts weapon popularised by Bruce Lee, to fight against goons with such agility. The scene where he shoots at the chairs which are piled up behind Jithu is a visual treat.

In a film like this, where everyone has performed so well, it is hard to pinpoint one or two. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Singaaram looks threatening when a bomb goes off at a place and he crawls over dead bodies frantically in search of Pettavellan. Vijay Sethupathy as Jithu looks villainous when he removes the shawl from one hand and starts shooting at the goons. Simran as Mangalam is not just beautiful but performs with aplomb when she had to persuade another patient (Chinni Jayanth) to wait outside while she is treating Pettavelan. The evil look of Bobby Simha as Michael works wonder as he does all the talking in absence of Pettavelan but could not say a word while he is present. M. Sasikumar as Maalik looks perfect for this innocent character. Although, I felt that Saro’s character could have been given some importance as her death did not evoke any emotion. Also, Maalik’s friendship with Pettavelan seemed to have been cut short and did not fully develop into a strong bond that it aspired to. But the lack of focus on these characters did not really affect much as the story had a lot of complications and was gradually revealing everything in an immersing way.

Whether it was intentionally done or the movie really required it, I have no idea. Petta has some political touch to it (Rajini’s political entry in the real-life has definitely worked in the film’s favour). There is a politician who calls himself “Kingmaker” while in the background someone is speaking on the phone asking how much thermocol is needed (a clear reference to a Tamil Nadu minister who floated thermocol sheets to curb water loss due to evaporation).  Pettavelan even asks the students to ‘speak up’ for their problems related to hostel food. During the ragging scene, he also reiterates that ‘newcomers are never welcomed properly’. We also see Pettavelan reading a book about politics during the interview with the College Principal. While convincing Rajapandi for the marriage of Maalik and Poongodi, Pettavelan says that he does not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. There is also a reference to some of the recent incidents related to killings in the name of cow protection when some people start attacking Jithu for the same reason.

I am afraid that Petta is not for the ones who are not true fans of Rajinikanth. Fans of Karthik Subbaraj (like myself) may not be enjoying as much for there are compromises made to accommodate Rajini moments. But Petta will be remembered for the Rajini mania that it has created. As the acknowledgements in the beginning clearly mention that it is dedicated to Superstar Rajinikanth, one would expect a lot of fan moments. The inception itself had an answer to that as Karthik Subbaraj drops us to a fight scene right away and a blurred vision of Rajinikanth can be seen which is followed by his angry eyes and then the full picture. Petta will also be remembered for new dialogues of Rajinikanth (like dancing to a song for 30 seconds to forget our problems or cooking the food with love or my favourite, “Nallavana iru, romba nallavana irukathey”). This is the sort of movie where I won’t mind Prime Minister of the country calling a college principal to recommend Pettavelan for a warden post. Petta is a romantic, mind-boggling, entertaining and a rollicking ride that makes us say “yes, we want more” when Rajinikanth turns towards the camera and asks, “intha aattam pothuma?”.

2.0 Movie Review: A sci-fi film to be lived, loved and experienced

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2.0 is a sci-fi action film which is fascinating, educative and a visual masterpiece where Rajinikanth shines all the way

I knew that this is Director Shankar’s film and I was prepared for the visual extravaganza that his films are known for. 2.0 was no different. Things like how big the budget of the film is and the top-notch VFX shots that the film has to offer were given the wings to fly to spread before the release in the promotional campaigns. So, perhaps I needed to warm myself up before the film portrays the visually impressive scenes. And 2.0 does warm you up. In the very beginning, it gives you a lot to ponder over with a mixture of emotions. While a whole family is engrossed on smartphones, a man is speaking to someone on his phone saying that he is having a “quality time” with his family. Another guy takes a selfie sitting beside a dead man pretending to be sad. And a lady says that the phone has kept her lead the marital life in spite of her husband working in a foreign country. A guy says that he is bored to death without a phone. This is a humorous yet an intelligent sequence of shots that put forth the picture of where the world is heading in this age of mobile phones.

The film does not waste any time and keeps us arrested right from the word go. It depicts the dominance of phones in our lives. But interestingly phones also dominate most of the narrative. A guy is talking on the phone while riding his motorcycle and falls from his vehicle as the phone flies away into nowhere (hidden advice that you shouldn’t be talking on the phone while riding a motorcycle?). I loved Shankar’s vision when a swarm of phones glides along the road and into a bungalow. In another riveting scene, phones slide down from the trees and crawl among the fallen leaves to attack phone company chief (Kaizaad Kotwal). Also, it was terrifying when a truckload of phones go inside a phone seller’s mouth as he explodes into pieces. Even the military tank finds itself helpless before a horde of phones. I could not have imagined a better way of showing destruction and death just using mobile phones. There is no random killing of people. What works in a big way is that it makes us think of real motive behind every single event. We get a feeling that all these events are happening to prove a point as the people who get attacked are phone seller, phone company chief and Telecom Minister (Kalabhavan Shajohn) – Watch out for the transient but brilliant and hilarious performance of Telecom minister and his assistant (Mayilsamy).

2.0 resumes from where it left off in Endhiran (yes you must watch it to understand the references in 2.0). So obviously, there are elements of Endhiran in this film. There is a phone call from Sana (Aishwarya Rai) – Dr. Vaseegaran’s (Scientist Rajinikanth) love interest – we do not actually see her but just hear the voice. Chitti, humanoid version of Rajinikanth, has human-like feelings which force him not to shoot Dr. Vaseegaran. 2.0, which is both the title of the movie and the name of the evil version of Chitti, uses a cluster of guns to shoot, becomes a magnet to attract objects made of iron, forms a spherical figure shooting all around and even says that iconic dialogue (meh..) in his villainous tone. There are references to Shankar’s other films as well. When evil Chitti says that it is always a great feeling to die and then come back alive, it reminds us of Sivaji: The Boss. There is also an Anniyan-esque scene involving Dr. Vaseegaran and Pakshirajan (Akshay Kumar) where Chitti gets ripped off.

Everything about Akshay Kumar as Pakshirajan and the story revolving around him was so wonderful to watch. We feel the calm and composed nature of his character as he explains his love for birds. It is a pleasant sight when we see the birds perched on his stretched arms or when a bird is building a nest over the ceiling fan. As the pullinangal song enthrals us in the background (Music director A.R. Rahman is at his best), a bird nods its head to the rhythm of the song. It is so moving to hear him talk about the harsh realities of cell phone signals that are killing birds. I was driven by the emotional and poignant display in the movie when a dead baby bird falls in the hands of Pakshirajan. And then there is this Pakshirajan, with his face tilted and wearing a sly grin, looking fierce in the avatar of ‘birdman’ (as evil Chitti calls him) as a rap song plays in the background that enhances the style and ferociousness.

Amy Jackson as Nila is a nice addition to this film. She is a humanoid, has pre-programmed feelings and assists Dr. Vaseegaran. Although she does not have much to do with the narrative, she never looks out of place. Her romance portions look funny and it works. Like when Dr. Vaseegaran proposes to get Chitti back on road, it brings a wide smile on Nila. She even says dialogues like vada poche! (a leaf taken out of Comedian Vadivelu’s sidesplitting one-liners) and naalu peruku nalladhuna edhuvum thappilla (famous scene from the movie Nayagan). It is comedic when the Irumbile oru idhaiyam song (from Endhiran) plays in the background as she romantically looks at Chitti.

It was hugely satisfying to watch Rajinikanth pull off a stunner as he performed with aplomb. We see him taking different avatars from small to giant. He literally lived in those characters. As Dr. Vaseegaran, there is every bit of scientist in him as he uses a visualisation technology to explain things. He does not try to run fast, jump high or fight with someone. As a matter of fact, Nila saves him from a falling tower and is even helped to climb and jump off a wall. For all the action, there is Chitti. Chitti continues his superhuman stuff from where he left off in Endhiran. But the evil Chitti stole the show with his villainous yet comical display. I laughed out loud when evil Chitti kept on imitating a bird. Deservingly, he had a Superstar Rajni title card that appeared magnificently before the start of the movie in 3D.

There were a few areas that did not work for me. Dhinendra Bohra (Sudhanshu Pandey) did not really grow into a threatening character. He did not seem to have much relevance other than being the son of Bohra (Danny Denzongpa) who played the antagonistic role in Endhiran. Pakshirajan turning into a giant bird did not scatter my wits. There was a feeling of familiarity as Dr. Vaseegaran pitches for Chitti’s return. That truck scene where the giant bird is being controlled did not look menacing and seemed draggy. And it seems like movies with superheroic stories can’t be made without demolishing the building with people in it or without hurting the people in general. The spherical figure, formed by evil Chitti, runs in and around the stadium shooting everywhere all the while with people running helter-skelter. Also, the fight sequence between giant versions of evil Chitti and Pakshirajan did not quite work for me. It was annoying to see few lip-sync fails as some actors including Akshay Kumar were actually speaking in Hindi.

I liked how the dialogues (B. Jeyamohan’s Tamil dialogues are phenomenal) were intelligently capturing the mood of the film. Pakshirajan rips off the legs of Chitti and says, “Your call (kaal) is disconnected”. He attacks Dhinendra Bohra saying that he is also a “subscriber”. The movie educates us about the relevance of using technology in an optimal way without causing any damage to the other lives on earth (birds in this case). But it never feels preachy. It is a movie which is to be lived, loved and experienced. There is a scene in the movie where a man tells that he started enjoying life more without the phones but still comes out to buy a new one. That perfectly puts the current scenario as neither can we stay without it forever nor can we keep using it all the time. It did trigger me to look at the world with a different viewpoint and I hope it encourages more people to understand that this world is not only for humans. 2.0 is a sci-fi action film which is fascinating, educative and a visual masterpiece where Rajinikanth shines all the way. As Dr. Vaseegaran suggests, I will at least keep a pot of water for the birds in the extreme summer. Dot.

Pariyerum Perumal Movie Review: Subtle and yet so concrete in nature

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The engrossing narrative sort of sucks you in, disturbs you and makes you understand and realise the divide that exists in our society.

There are three instances in this movie which is and will always be reverberating in my mind all my life. First is when Pariyerum Perumal (Kathir) – or let’s just call him Perumal for this review – gets into a fight with his classmate Sankaralingam (Lijeesh) for sitting in the front seat of the classroom. While other guys step in and stop the fight, he keeps reiterating that he won’t stay behind and will stay ahead. Second is when he has drunk alcohol and has come to the classroom. The professor lashes out at him and asks him to get out of the classroom. He replies in anger asking if he shouldn’t come to the college at all. The third is when his father has accompanied Perumal to college to speak with College Principal (‘Poo’ Ram). His father asks him if he can speak freely to which Perumal tells him to be bold and courageous while talking. That’s the power of this film. It is not a spoon-feed material. You realise, you think deep, and you understand the emotions behind those dialogues and know where’s that coming from.

Let me put those three instances this way – “I WILL stay ahead”, “SHOULDN’T I come here?”, and “MUST speak with courage”. These were said in a different context in the movie. But you realise that it is coming out of him in such wrath because of the divide that is existing in the form of caste and religion. And the movie never really tells you that plainly but makes you feel the pain of Perumal. The opening line – Caste and religion are against humanity – that follows the acknowledgements, in the beginning, give you some idea of what to expect in the film. But the narrative of this film is so subtle and yet so concrete in nature. I could only see two instances where the movie referred to these terms directly – one of the professors accuses Perumal by pointing out that he used the reservation quota to get admitted into this college and the other where Anand (Yogi Babu), best friend of Perumal in college, clarifies that he does not befriend people by looking at their caste or religion.

Written and directed by Mari Selvaraj, Pariyerum Perumal is both the title of this film and the name of the titular character which means God on a horse as is explained by Perumal himself in the film. The story involves two different tracks – one that is of Perumal and another is of Thatha (Karate Venkatesan). The former is like the ocean of the whole narration and the latter is like the river which meets this ocean in the end. Perumal is studying in a law college and he has a love interest in Jothi Mahalakshmi aka Jo (Anandhi). On the other hand, we get to see glimpses of Thatha who we get to know as an expert in killing people without ever getting caught. So, when Thatha becomes an important part of the narration in the second half, we are not oblivious of this character and know what he is capable of.

Perumal is fighting against all the forces that are trying to put a barrier in his path as he is striving hard to earn a name for himself in the field of law. There is a lot going on in his life and with that, the movie brings out the emotions in us to the fullest. It touched me to witness the funeral of a pet dog being carried out by Perumal and all his neighbours in the village. Having Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, one of the greatest figure in Indian history, as your role model is something to be proud of. But when the admission officer notes down in the admission form that ‘Perumal wants to become Ambedkar’ so that he can point that out to him in future for any wrongdoings, we sense the sheer stupidity in his thought. And when Perumal is beaten, warned and even literally pissed on by the family members of Jo, we see him shivering with pain on the floor and I almost shuddered in shock myself. I jumped out of my skins when in a riveting scene Perumal is forcefully carried by 3-4 people into the fields, beaten and he somehow escapes from them. I was in a state of disbelief and utter shock when Perumal’s father is harassed by Sankaralingam. I could feel the embarrassment in the eyes of Perumal’s father when his lungi has been removed and he runs off out of shame.

There has been a countless number of films in which the story involves a romantic angle blossoming between the lead pair and the problem occurs due to their financial differences, religion issue or the caste difference as is apparent in this case. We see closeness developing between Perumal and Jo in the college. It is refreshing to see this pair on screen. Both Perumal and Jo have no problem of whatsoever being together. But when the parents of Jo warn Perumal to not see or talk to Jo any more, we do not see any caste difference being specifically pointed out. Jo’s father (G. Marimuthu) tells Perumal that he knows who he is, where he is from and what he belongs to. So, that gives us an indication of the divide and oppression that is being talked about here. Also, Jo is actually like a devathai (angel) as Perumal denotes her and she also behaves like one as we find her very innocuous in the film. She has absolutely no idea about all the warnings that Perumal got from her father and her family members. Although we do care about Perumal and Jo and we want them to be together, it is the misery of Perumal which we are more concerned about. Not only was I dumbstruck by the magnitude of troubles that he goes through. But it hit me hard enough to think how tough it can be to keep all his problems to himself.

As I was feeling the excruciating pain of Perumal, the movie did have its share of laughs as well. Yogi Babu as Anand was hilarious. I laughed out loud whenever he came on screen. He never stops mocking the professors and his timely responses were sidesplitting. Even the drama created by the fake dad of Perumal (Shanmugha Rajan) in front of College Principal was amusing. It was like going through a range of emotions from being very dejected to laughing my heads off. Also, the scenes in the movie do not stop abruptly thereby allowing the feel of every other scene to be absorbed by us. Like the scene where Jo extends an invitation to Perumal to come to her family wedding function, smiles at him and walks away. It shows their reactions for a while and we know that she has expressed her love towards him. Also, I really can’t pinpoint any particular character as the leading pair and the supporting casts performed very well and looked like they belonged there.

The analogy created in this film is spectacular. Perumal points out to Jo’s father that people like ‘him’ are being treated like dogs. This reminds us of his pet dog that got run over by train. Another analogy is when the camera focuses on two glasses of tea on the table with a flower in between and a mesmerising song called Vaa Rayil Vida Polaama composed by Santhosh Narayanan (his work is excellent in this film) explains it beautifully: Osaththi korachchal ennavo enakku athu puriyala, azhukka karuppa ennavo enakku athu theriyala. As a matter of fact, all the songs created the mood of particular situations in the movie very well. As the movie neared its end, two dialogues kept ringing in my ears – one by the College Principal when he says that let him fight and then die instead of hanging himself in the room; and another when Perumal tells that it’s him who has kept the pride and respect of Jo’s father intact.

Vada Chennai Movie Review: A Riveting Narrative of Entangled Lives

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Vada Chennai, which revolves around Anbu, is a consuming, gripping, ghastly and an exhilarating gangster movie… Spoilers ahead

Above everything else, it’s your ‘land’ that matters the most. It’s where you carve a life for yourself and your own people stand shoulder to shoulder. It is also where some of your own people can go against you and that’s where life can get as challenging as it can be. Director Vetrimaaran’s Vada Chennai (North Chennai) is a gangster film that takes us through an epic journey. And we see it all unfolding through the eyes of Anbu (Dhanush).

Vada Chennai narrates the story of the lives of few people in the northern part of Chennai over a period of time. It does not follow a pattern in its way of storytelling. It keeps juggling between two parallel stories that connect at some point and again goes back to a story in the past that finally culminates connecting all the dots. This is such a riveting style of narrative which keeps us on our toes, never has any humdrum moment of whatsoever and keeps us engrossed in the film.

It is a film which has given astronomical importance to each and every character so much so that every character has a scope of having a separate film based on their own life. No matter how much screen space a character has in this film, every other character leaves an indelible imprint on our mind. Thanks to the incredible performances by all the actors who made every little scene of this movie look brilliant. Rajan (Ameer Sultan) is a puissant character and does not have much of screen space but is the most potent in the context of the film. As a matter of fact, Rajan’s fall eventually leads to the rise of Anbu.

At 2 hours 44 minutes, Vada Chennai never feels like a banal and leaden film. Everything happens at a fast-clip with such an engaging manner leaving no room for you even to blink an eye. You keep thinking about brilliance in a scene and the very next moment another important scene pops up and it continues the scene after. After a while, you stop thinking about one particular scene and revel in the way nimble Vetrimaaran stitches different pieces together.

There is so much vehemence when Rajan, who is a smuggler and controls North Chennai, stands up for his people. He goes against the will of Muthu (Radha Ravi) and the industrialists by not giving the ‘go ahead’ signal in the land acquisition issue. It is reminiscent of the time Anbu raises concern for a similar issue and goes against the will of Guna (Samuthirakani) and Velu (Pavan). When Rajan gives a binocular to an eager kid at the seashore, it reminds us of the one Anbu uses on the top of the water tank to see his girlfriend Padma (Aishwarya Rajesh). And such things keep the interest factor intact among the audiences as we get absorbed more and more by it.

Another stupendous achievement of this movie is the different emotions that it successfully brings out. When Rajan is killed by his own men, including Senthil (Kishore Kumar G.) who planned everything, we sense the feeling of dolefulness through Rajan’s brother Thambi (Daniel Balaji) and his wife Chandra (Andrea Jeremiah). Just the sounds of billhooks being used to kill Rajan gruesomely gives a hair-raising feel. The movie actually opens with this very billhook covered with blood creating a spine-chilling feel in the very beginning.

We see the greed for power and authority when the conflict between Senthil and Guna builds up. There is a feeling of strangeness in the air when we see Anbu in the jail caught between the men of Senthil and Guna. There is a weird feeling when we see smuggling of drugs and alcohol happening inside the jail with drug-containing packets stuffed inside the anus, alcohol injected into coconut through syringes and cocaine powder inside the bathing soaps. We sense a feeling of trust developing between Senthil and Anbu inside the prison through the games of carrom board. And the next moment, we are caught off-guard and are completely taken by surprise when Anbu attacks Senthil. We sense the feeling of vengeance when Chandra, the ex-wife of Rajan, later goes on to marry Guna to take revenge against the men who killed Rajan.

With so much happening, the film is not just about gory violence. There is an immersing romance that blossoms through Anbu and Padma. When someone jocularly suggests Anbu to stand like a singam (lion) before Padma, he casually denies that he can’t. One may recall a popular dialogue of Rajinikanth from his movie ‘Sivaji – The Boss’ where he says – singam single ah thaan varum – that he is like a lion who handles things single-handedly. But again, this romantic angle gets caught in a violent turn of events and we feel the chills while Anbu and Padma’s brother wind up killing a man who is teasing her.

While Vetrimaaran has done a magnificent job of keeping us intrigued with this gripping story, the superabundance of cuss words used in the movie actually renders more originality to the film and makes it all look more real. Santhosh Narayanan’s background score and the songs fabulously capture the mood of the film and exemplify the impact of those brilliant performances by the actors.

The only slump which I felt slightly was the changeover towards the end when we see the heroic transformation. Anbu fights out goons single-handedly and even threatens Guna in a dauntless way that we have seen in Tamil cinema from time to time. I am not sure if Vetrimaaran did that on purpose keeping in mind Dhanush’s fans who may expect to see the elements of masala or commercial movie. It was disappointing to see something like that in a movie so original in all its essence. We do not see any dramatic metamorphosis in Vetrimaaran’s masterpiece Visaranai probably because it did not have any big star.

Well, Anbu reiterates in the film that he is like an anchor of the ship which keeps it from drifting away. Vada Chennai, which revolves around Anbu, is a consuming, gripping, ghastly and an exhilarating movie which makes an intricate and entangled story look so simpler. Written and directed by Vetrimaaran, this is the first instalment of the planned trilogy and only time will tell if we are going to see more of Anbu’s heroism or will the movie keep its realism intact. Nevertheless, this will go down as one of the most influential films of Indian cinema.

96 Movie Review : Nostalgic Rom-com Made To Be Cherished For A Long Time

It is an alluring, rejuvenating, rejoicing and romantic film which at the same time gives you the feeling of longing and separation…(Spoilers ahead)

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There is a scene in the movie where K. Ramachandran a.k.a Ram (Vijay Sethupathi) opens a suitcase in which he has kept everything that is dear to him especially that makes him reminisce about Janaki Devi a.k.a Jaanu (Trisha). Director C. Prem Kumar’s directorial debut with his romantic drama 96 is like a prized possession which can be safely kept in a suitcase and cherished for a long time to come.

A couple of things impressed me in the very beginning even before the movie got the wheels turning. Before the title of the movie came on the screen, one of the acknowledgements read ‘Thanks Iyarkai’ (Thanks Nature) which is so relaxing and suggestive of what was about to come. And when the names of Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha Krishnan came on the screen at the same time followed by the title, it became apparent how important they both are for each other in the film.

96 is like a prized possession which can be safely kept in a suitcase and cherished for a long time to come.

So we get to experience and relish different aspects of nature as the movie opens with Ram as the travel photographer. Unaccompanied, he is travelling to different places clicking pictures. But the amazing experience that he is having along the way gladdens our heart and makes us want to be in that moment. He is seen inside the sea among the fishes, he is literally feeding bread from his mouth to a deer, he is clicking photos of a rare plant in the desert, and he is even revelling in the rain opening his mouth to feel the drops of water from the sky. Nature is as much a significant character in the film as are the actors. There is no limit to how much nature can enthral us as Ram teaches his students the nuances of photography inside a picturesque temple.

This was all the photography that is shown in the film and as one of the students drives Ram home, the movie shifts its focus on this beauteous yet heartrending journey of Ram. En route to home, Ram sees a bridge and we get to sense the nostalgia inside him. He, then, meets an old watchman (Janagaraj) outside the school where he studied as a child and the past life of Ram starts taking shape.

This is just the beginning of a lot more nostalgic memories that the movie explores through the life of Ram thereby letting us relate with our own lives. We traverse through the 1990s and the present world of Ram and Jaanu parallelly.

We laugh, we feel the pain, we feel the longing and we yearn for them to be together.

A reunion of ‘96 school batch is planned (watch out for the hilarious online group chat between the nineties batch). Best part of this magical journey comes through the memories that flash in the eyes of Ram. We get transported into the 1990s and the young Ram (Adithya Bhaskar) and young Jaanu (Gouri Kishan) come to the fore. It is a magical phase where we get to feel his memories as we start remembering instances from our own life. As Ram, Jaanu and their friends meet up in school, jocosely converse and eat lunch together, we see Ram and Jaanu developing feelings for each other.

In the midst of the blossoming romance between the lead pair, the sequences that cover the whole school life involving Ram, Jaanu and their friends are so wondrous to watch. We laugh, we feel the pain, we feel the longing and we yearn for them to be together. Ram, who is strong and dominating when he is in the circle of his friends, becomes speechless in the presence of Jaanu.

After completing the school exams, meeting of Ram and Jaanu over the bridge happens to be last time they see each other. Such was the performances of Adithya and Gouri that we hanker for them to be together always. Anyone who has had the experience of the so-called first love (or even if they don’t) will definitely be touched by this heartening love story.

We swap back to the present world where Ram and Jaanu wind up meeting each other after 22 long years. It successfully establishes the sort of feeling it wants the audience to have. We realise nothing has altered since they last saw each other. There is a palpable feeling of strangeness, of course, meeting after all these years. As an audience, we can sense that peculiarity due to the marvellous performances of Vijay Sethupathi, Trisha Krishnan, and the supporting casts who did a perfect job as their grown-up friends.

It is shocking to us that they never got together and that is the success of this movie as well.

Gradually the strangeness in the air vanishes as Ram and Jaanu start from where they left off. Jaanu talks about the envisions that she had about him coming to see her while pursuing the graduation. She even had a childish hope of him appearing all of a sudden in her wedding ceremony and finally reunite with her which usually happens only in the movies. Well, thankfully that did not happen in this movie. Wait till you witness the element of surprise in this romantic tale as we get to know that Ram did come to see her in college and wedding. It is shocking to us that they never got together and that is the success of this movie as well.

So they walk, they talk, they cry and they laugh and so do we along with them on this magical journey. While Jaanu is peaceful with her current married life, Ram is happy to be living the bachelor’s life cherishing the memories he has with her. Amidst all these, the background score by Govind Menon (also credited as Govind Vasantha) is the backbone of giving more fuel to this charming and lovely narration. The album as a whole is not my personal favourite. But Kaadhale Kaadhale and Anthaathi songs were mesmerising and captivating as they gloriously blended with the whole drama.

While Vijay Sethupathi has given a different perspective to romanticism and has acted with flamboyance without trying to overdo anything, Trisha has stolen our hearts yet again which may remind one of Jessie character she did in Gautham Menon’s Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa. C. Prem Kumar’s 96 portrays an emotional and deep sense of love which shows what love is, what can it do to you and the feeling that accompanies with it. It is an alluring, rejuvenating, rejoicing and romantic film which at the same time gives you the feeling of longing and separation. 96 is like the best photo that you have captured which has to be framed and kept in that suitcase safely to cherish it for years.