Yagavarayinum Naa Kaaka: Good…But The Thrills Come So Late

Yagavarayinum Naa Kaaka; Sathya Prabhas Pinisetty, Aadhi Pinisetty, Nikki Galrani, Mithun Chakraborty, Shree Karthick, Siddharth, Nasser, Pasupathy, Harish UthamanDSC_0182

Debutant Sathya Prabhas’s Yagavarayinum Naa Kaaka could’ve been a riveting thriller, provided the thrills didn’t come so late in the story. Early on, we get a glimpse of a murder. We’re not sure who the victim is. Then, we’re introduced to two characters in captivity, and going by the dialogues, they’re presumably held for doing something wrong. Next, we meet Saga (played by Aadhi) in Mumbai, and he’s there to meet Mudaliar (played by Mithun), the most dreaded don. As you start to wonder why Saga wants to meet Mudaliar, there’s a flashback and a good half hour of it is spent on things that could’ve been easily avoided.

In the backstory, we learn about Saga and his friends, Siva, Rajesh and Kishore. They’re such close friends that when we meet Saga for the first time, the camera zooms in on a tattoo (not on his face) with the initials SRK of his friends, indicating that everything else in his life is only after his friends. Saga is from a middle-class family with problems that are commonly associated with the class. Essentially, the first half is about Saga and his friends, their camaraderie and a totally needless love track featuring Nikki Galrani as Nikitha (who is terrific in her role). But there’s a lovely stretch featuring Nikki (in her introduction scene) buying alcohol from a TASMAC shop and some condoms, but using them for a different purpose. How often do we see that in a Tamil film? Maybe never. It’s these small things that keep you invested in the mostly bland first half.

Yagavarayinum… truly begins in the second half and it keeps you on the edge of your seats through most part of it. Right from the scene in which the group of friends mess with the wrong sort till the climax (which required some subtlety), what you witness is not some ordinary work of a filmmaker. Sathya Prabhas shows a lot of promise, which you wish he showed right from the beginning. Because it almost felt like watching two different films for the price of one. Ideally, the story should’ve focused on the friends and the repercussions of the problem they create for themselves. The problem, in my opinion, is to unnecessarily make Yagavarayinum… look like an out-and-out commercial, masala entertainer when it deserves and should be and presented as a thriller.

On the contrary, there’s so much to like about the film. Take that scene when Saga begs for a chance to be heard. I mean, he’s a Tamil cinema hero and it wouldn’t have surprised me had he decided to give the goons a drubbing. Though he does once, it’s only when they scurry with his girlfriend’s half-sari. Otherwise, he always seeks resolution through dialogue. The most likeable part about the film, undoubtedly, has to be the performances from its ensemble cast. While it’s no surprise Aadhi and other popular faces performed well, I’m sure nobody (including myself) would’ve expected the newcomers to floor you. Karthick, Siddharth and Shaam, who played Aadhi’s friends, were extremely good, and so was Richa, who was impressive in her cameo.

The length definitely needs some trimming. If not the scenes, at least a couple of songs need to go. Yagavarayinum… is not a bad film but it could’ve been a much, much better film.

Three stars

Leave a Comment

Filed under Action, Tamil, Thriller

Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini: Drama Takes Over Craft

Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini; R. Chandru, Sudheer Babu, Nanditha Raj, Saptagiri, M.S Narayana, Pragathi

Krishnamma-Kalipindi-Iddarini

Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini intermittently has moments that are innocent throwbacks to those born in the 90’s and are an assemblage of a material, hinted at making them sulk with the slightest reminder of their past.

The screen puts across those times where a boy draws a portrait of her girl on a chart on a Friendship Day to throw a hint of his love and writes his intention on a riverside rock, obviously on which the film’s named. Alongside these, there are time-bound reminders that are sincere in their intent, the kind that could have pushed the cause of a period teenage romance like Andhra Pori ahead too.

There are a set of bindi stickers that the mother sacrifices and her child uses the money to buy a pen for his childhood crush. The kid lies that it was for him to write and the mother has a guileless spark on her face. The boy, years later is a man earning his first salary who gifts a sari and the bindi, as a symbolic statement that we’ve moved ahead of the helpless stages.

An Autograph-like touch surfaces, when he sits across an idli-stall run by an elderly woman where he reminisces his childhood memories at once. It’s a Shree 420 moment when a teacher puts his gold medal at stake to clear his debts. Also, you’re told there’s a meta film unfolding, whose story is supposedly the epic romance between the two, as seen by a classmate of theirs.

A section of the film tries to undo these purist efforts, where everything about an urban backdrop are snapshots of pace and recklessness. There’s a fight sequence for the girl’s dignity you can’t avoid.  A nearly politically correct Posani and Saptagiri give the quintessential bar-scene of a conventional film. Otherwise, everything about the romance that unfolds on screen is an opportunity utilized to liberally dose the importance of responsibility over adrenaline rushes of love.

R Chandru, the director, you would’ve realised by now isn’t at any point selling you a series of fabricated old-school ideas. He’s rather honest in his attempt to make an 80’s styled drama, keeping aside the fact that he doesn’t totally succeed.

It isn’t an honorary coincidence to think of Veer Zaara, too. The musical score by Hari is a better reflection of his ideas, where it’s primarily, the melody that’s sprinkled along. The mood is thus ensured, but everything about the film is so flowery and goody that the pacing becomes a major worry.

Sudheer Babu and Nanditha are no Sobhan Babu and Jayaprada, but their genuine efforts to perform nearly make up for the lack of accomplished technique. There’s surely a chaste quality hidden in Krishnamma Kalipindi Iddarini, but you miss the craft that could’ve taken over the drama. May be, this is a hint towards Mohit Suri.

Two and a half stars

By Srivathsan Nadadhur 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Drama, Romance, Telugu

Jurassic World: Colossal but not Emotional Enough

Jurassic World; Colin Trevorrow, Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, B.D. Wong, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy

Jurassic World

Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” hit the marquee in 1993. That was a classic. Ever since, cinema and the universe have come a long way. The sequels that followed were genetically modified versions of the same DNA that includes the “Jurassic World”.

The premise, the theme and the plot of the tale is nearly the same, nothing much has changed except for the visual presentation and a few sub-plots. The ‘Park’ has turned into a ‘World’, and even though the novelty factor of the dinosaurs has lost its charm, this film which has been obviously scaled to epic proportions to appeal to today’s audience, is sporadically entertaining.

Owned by business tycoon Simon Masrani and run by Claire Dearing, The Jurassic World – packed with a variety of real and holographic dinosaurs – is a resort cum amusement park on an island off the coast of Costa Rica. It has been successfully operating for over a decade.

The dip in profits makes Masrani crib. According to Claire, “The Park needs a new attraction to keep the place rolling.”

It is about demand and supply, “consumers want them” hence the research and development team, headed by Henry Wu, are constantly modifying the genes of the dinosaurs to churn out new species. The latest attraction to be introduced soon at the park is the “$26 million asset” – the Indominus Rex, a variant of the big Tyrannosaurus Rex, who is bred in isolation.

The management’s greed and the vested interests of various parties, which include a military involvement, is what leads to an undercurrent of tension in the plot. But the real problem occurs when the Indominus Rex escapes from its enclosure and goes on a rampage turning the theme park with its 22,000 visitors into a disaster zone.

The film is formulaic and predictable in structure. The first one-third of the film drags while establishing the setting. The narration gathers momentum when Claire’s nephews are thrown in direct danger in the Indominus Rex’s path. The tension builds up intermittently during the escape and rescue operation. The dramatic set pieces are outlandishly peculiar and amusing, but never frightening and the climax drags pointlessly.

Chris Pratt as action hero Owen Grady, the sarcastic wrangler, is charming. His spontaneous witty one-liners lend a comic relief. He along with Omer Sy as Barry his colleague and Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson as Gray and Zach Mitchell, Claire’s nephew, give a humane touch to the otherwise cut and dry narration.

Irrfan Khan plays the prominent role of Simon Masrani, the owner of the park. Though he acts well he is a misfit in the role. His weak voice and his not-so-strong personality does not befit the character he is portraying. Nor, with his features, does he bring any intrigue value to the character.

Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire, the CEO of the theme park, is perfunctory. So is Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins, who is constantly eyeing the dinosaurs for military benefits. They, along with the rest of the cast, are the typical two-dimensional characters.

Director Colin Trevorrow has done a commendable job by delivering this colossal project which is close to the original. The visuals which include CGI images, VFX and 3D effects are astonishing and the background score accentuates the viewing experience.

Three stars

By Troy Ribeiro 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Action, English

The Funnyman Goes Solo: The Santhanam Interview

Ace Tamil comedian Santhanam on the transition from a comedian to the hero, the overwhelming support he gets from industry and how spirituality keeps him going

Innimey Ippadithaan Movie Stills (20)

You’re finally donning the hat of a hero. Does it feel good to be called a hero?

It feels good to be accepted as a hero. It doesn’t matter what you’re called, but what’s important is whether people accept you as a hero and come watch your films. As long as they do, I don’t have anything to worry about. In my opinion, bringing audiences to cinemas matters the most for the success of any film. My last attempt as a hero in Vallavanuku Pullum Aayudham paid off because people came to cinemas and enjoyed it. The film didn’t succeed because I played the hero; it did because of the good content. The story is the hero.

You’ve brought more people to theatres as a comedian, earned the loudest cheers and applause. You think you can repeat that as hero?

As a hero, you’re expected to do certain things, like look fit, woo a girl, sing duets, fight and wear trendy clothes. In Innimey Ippadithan, my next release, I’ve taken care of all that. Although a hero, I’m still an entertainer at heart and I think even audiences like to see me that way. Even as a hero, all my films are going to be highly entertaining. I’ll avoid taking up any serious subject as I don’t like sending audiences home with a heavy heart. They come to get entertained, at least the masses, and my job is to not disappoint them. The good response to Vallavanuku Pullum Aayudham has given me the confidence to try my luck as hero again. I think people will come to see comedian Santhanam in a new avatar.

Was the transformation from a comedian to a hero tough?

As a hero, the biggest challenge was to dance. Dancing and dancing like a hero are two different things and this I learnt on the sets of Innimey Appadithan. A hero should get the moves right, the body language right. When he dances, audiences should get up from their seats and dance, too. Take the song Dangamaari (from Anegan), audiences loved it and danced along with Dhanush in theatres. As a hero, it’s very important what you wear on screen. I had to hire a stylist to design my look in the movie. I didn’t have to worry about what I wore when I was a comedian, and most of the times ended up wearing anything available on the sets. Now, I need to pick clothes, decide which colour goes well with the scene. Another challenge was fighting the baddies. It was taxing, doing the action scenes with precautionary gear. But this is the price one has to pay to become a hero, especially a commercial one.

If Vallavanuku Pullum Aayudham was your debut as a hero, why’s there so much hype around Innimey Ippadithan?

Show me one film starring an established actor that doesn’t release without hype. Creating buzz around a release is good to draw audiences, but people shouldn’t overdo it. Vallavanuku… was a remake and a much smaller film in terms of budget. Innimey…, on the other hand, is a bigger film with a bigger cast. This is something we created as a team without any reference. Vallavanuku…, though was received well, had the remake stamp on it. People felt it worked because it was tried and tested in Telugu and Hindi. I’ve taken a leap as a hero in Innimey… and I’d like to know if I’ve succeeded in the attempt.

You’re also producing this film. Isn’t it a risky gamble?

It was not because I didn’t find a producer that I decided to produce it on my own. I didn’t want to risk someone else’s money on my film. Also, it was time to take a calculated risk, which paid off the last time. I hope it will again. I’m also introducing my friends, Murugan and Anand as directors. They’ve been my associates, my writing partners for many years. I had promised that I would launch them in one of my films.

What’s more fun – comedian or a hero?

As long as you’re doing something different, it’s fun to be both hero and comedian. It’s been over a decade since I started my career as a comedian and when I realised the need to experiment, I decided to become a hero. When I feel I need to experiment again, I may become a director. But what most people don’t know is that it’s easier to be a hero than a comedian, whose job includes writing better jokes. Comedy can’t be repetitive, it gets boring otherwise. Audiences will lose interest and the jokes won’t be funny anymore. As a hero, if you’re doing action in one film, then you could do comedy in the next. You have the freedom to choose different films. As a comedian, irrespective of the film one’s in, all he’s got to do is make people laugh.

Are you saying a comedian’s job is boring?

No, I would never say such a thing. It’s a gift to make people laugh. Anybody can be an actor but not everybody can become a successful comedian. There are acting schools that can train you to be an actor. Do comedians have such options? Also, most comedians write their own jokes, so you need to know the pulse of the public to write something that’ll make them laugh. As a comedian, my life was getting extremely hectic, barely any time for sleep. I was doing too many films and I needed a breather, slow down and achieve work-life balance. I wanted to spend more time with my family whom I usually meet once or twice a year. By reducing the number of films, it helped me to come with better ideas and jokes. I also wanted to experiment and experience what it’s like to be a hero. When I signed my first film as a hero, I had a few films to bank on. I was prepared to go back to being a comedian if I failed as a hero. Luckily, it worked and everything fell in place. I’ll continue signing up films as a comedian, but mostly opposite actors and directors who are very close, say like Arya, Simbu, Sundar C and Gautham Menon.

Didn’t it upset directors/actors when you turned down offers as a comedian after you decided to become a hero?

Luckily, most people respected my decision and wished me luck. People like Arya suggested things I should keep in mind while working as a hero. It was Arya who recommended that I take up cycling to stay fit, and I’m glad his advice did wonders to me. I don’t think anybody was upset with my decision and even if they were, I couldn’t do much because I had made up my mind about what I want to do for the next few years. And I’m not the only comedian in the industry. I think Karunakaran is excellent, and so are a few others like Soori and Premgi.

It means you’re going to continue playing a hero in your films henceforth…

A lot depends on the kind of reception Innimey Ippadithan will get. I’ve already finalized my next script as a hero. We start shooting soon. Now, I can do one film at a time and wait till its release to decide the next course of action. As I said before, I’m also open to working as a comedian for a few friends. If an interesting project comes along, I won’t mind taking it up.

We hear that you will soon direct a film…

It’s been on my mind for a while. I’ve been discussing it with friends and well-wishers. I’ve already started working on a script, but it’s too early to even talk about it. I don’t want to hurry the process because then it may not come out well. For now, all my focus is on acting. When the time is right, I’ll take up direction. The hands-on experience I’ve had about writing, cinematography and direction over the years is helping me now.

You’re said to be the exact opposite of your screen avatar in real life, calm, composed and spiritual…

I’m an actor, producer and a comedian. I don many hats and each role comes with a lot of pressure. What’s the fun in being the same person in real life as well? Life gets chaotic and that doesn’t do any good. In spirituality, I find inner peace, which is very important in my profession. I find peace in my trips to temples and some special places. I read Osho, it keeps me refreshed.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Interviews

Asura: Comes with Dharma

Asura; Krishna Vijay, Nara Rohit, Priya Banerjee, Brahmanandam, Saptagiri 

Asura

It’s not quite often for a conventional offering that you come across a title like Asura, especially when it’s of a cop, a lead protagonist. A few minutes into the film, you know enough that it is misleading flattery. He’s called Dharma Tej. Well, the name speaks here. He’s self righteous. Cut out all the introductory and the intermittent self-adoring flab that’s accessed to him, he’s a material made for Goutham Menon’s film. An orphan, the cop swears by his profession; his only emotional longing happens to be his girl.

Asura’s title credits initially roll on with a bulk of mythological references. Dharma confesses his long-time ambition to be a poet. There’s no blunt arrogance about his ways. The antagonist’s intelligence doesn’t disappoint either. The tempo is not indulgent and assuredly well-controlled. The plot progresses with a composure. The female lead is pretty and the romance doesn’t have the two moving around bushes . It’s slick and straightforward. The film gets much of its credibility with the dialogue.

Except for a sluggish start, the first hour takes you by surprise. Mostly fluff-free sans the fillers of the Brahmanandam’s and the Saptagiri’s to compensate for the intensity, the logics are respected. There are philosophical preachings coming in every now and then, but the maker gives a good situational colour to them. The scale of the execution isn’t the best. For the above-average result it tries to attain, the staging of the action sequences are very basic. They serve the purpose, but only just.

The film occasionally drops hints of opening up more on the effectiveness of capital punishment, but Krishna puts such intentions under check. The focus of the screenplay, except for the pre-culmination stretch is pretty consistent. There are stereotypes bound to arise in the process with the court proceedings, the atmosphere within the jail premises, the functioning of a media house, but the film’s takeaways are so strong that you don’t quite mind them.

The end, even if it pulls in a major twist to just reverse the proceedings, feels a tad plain. But, you walk away with the real high of watching a solid film and a smart actor, who has the willingness to put his money as a producer to good use. Nara Rohith’s efforts, with something like Pratinidhi, Rowdy Fellow and this, to push his limits beyond the done-to-death commercial templates are a huge payoff for the result that’s full of conviction. Such a promising debut this, for Krishna Vijay, bridging Asura as an intriguing blend of commerce and content.

Three and a half stars

Review by Srivathsan Nadadhur 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Action, Telugu, Thriller

Kaaka Muttai: A Film That’ll Make You Crow With Joy

Kaaka Muttai; M. Manikandan, Ramesh, Vignesh, Aishwarya Rajesh, Ramesh Tilak

19

M. Manikandan’s debut feature “Kaaka Muttai” (Crow’s Egg) is not a children’s film. It’s a film for adults and centres around children oblivious to the growing social divide, capitalism and elitism. It’s also a film you can take your children to without a doubt and be assured that they will enjoy.

The film is about the adventures of two street urchins for their first bite of pizza. Just like you can find layers of ingredients in a pizza, “Kaaka Muttai” too is filled with layers aimed at different sections of the audience.

One of the layers is about urban poverty. The story is set in a slum in Chennai, a metropolitan city, and we follow a pair of mischievous young brothers who support their family by collecting coal by the railway tracks and selling it in the black market. With their father in prison, their mother becomes the sole earning member and with the pittance she earns she desperately tries to bail her husband out with the help of crooked lawyers. The boys, who are mostly looked after by their grandmother, steal crows eggs and eat them for nutrition as they can’t afford eggs from poultry.

The boys, on their way to work, befriend a rich child whom they meet every day. An iron fencing separates them and standing on either side of it, they talk about elusive pizza, watches, clothes and a pug worth Rs.25,000. A scene where the brothers try to sell their stray dog is a scream. Manikandan uses these scenes to beautifully highlight the pathos of the have-nots and subtly shifts focus on the social divide.

At different levels, “Kaaka Muttai” is a different film. When the children are denied entry into a pizza outlet, it becomes an allegory on the large class differences. It also enters the satirical territory and mocks at politicians, police, media and capitalists, and Manikandan does that gloriously without getting pretentiously didactic.

He uses humour as a topping on these layers to keep the film mostly light hearted, though it deals with a very serious subject. The scene where the brothers mimic a movie scene and one where they strike a deal with two rich children for their new clothes, is proof to Manikandan’s ability as a commercial filmmaker.

The two children — Ramesh and Vignesh — don’t have names in the film. They’re called big crow’s egg and little crow’s egg. It’s probably Manikandan’s way of telling us that it doesn’t matter if two children from a slum don’t have names because nobody cares. In the movie, nobody cares when the boys wander the streets of Chennai doing odd jobs — scrubbing posters off the walls, selling large blocks of coal and transporting sozzled men from roadside bars to their homes — just so that they can have Rs.300 for a slice of pizza.

You can’t find actors as natural as these boys. Had Manikandan cast child actors instead of these boys, who were handpicked from real slums, I doubt if he could’ve achieved even fifty percent of what he manages to deliver with their contribution, which is phenomenal. Aishwarya plays the mother of the boys and she will leave you awe-struck. The ease with which she gets into the skin of the character is exceptional and agreeing to play something so contrary to what she has done so far in her career needs guts.

Manikandan also doubled up as the film’s cinematographer and his work in this role is even more rewarding. G.V. Prakash Kumar’s soundtrack is soothing and is easily his best work after last year’s “Saivam”.

“Kaaka Muttai” is a little gem that’s highly recommended and deserves to be celebrated. Tamil cinema should be proud of it and Dhanush and filmmaker Vetrimaaran should proudly raise their collars for co-producing it.

Five stars

Leave a Comment

Filed under Comedy, Drama, Tamil

A Slice of Pizza from Real Life: The Manikandan Interview

IMG_0875

Filmmaker M. Manikandan is excited about his Tamil directorial debut, Kaaka Muttai, the critically acclaimed, National-award-winning children’s film, which is slated for release on June 5. The film, about two slum kids’ desire to taste a pizza, is coming to Indian cinemas after doing the rounds in international festival circuit – it had its world premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and subsequently got screened at Rome and Dubai film festivals. He believes the film’s release will change the perspective audiences have about festival films. “The general perception about movies that go to various film festivals is not very encouraging. People believe such films are not eligible for theatrical viewing. I’m very confident that my film will change that perception,” Manikandan said in a long conversation.

The idea behind Kaaka Muttai was conceived from Manikandan’s own family; his son longed for pizza whenever he was taken out and asked what he’d like to eat. “This was a few years ago. Back then, I couldn’t afford Rs 1,000 for a slice of pizza. But I’d anyway buy it because my son wanted it. What got me thinking was why children craved for pizza, but not for fruits or even sweets,” he said, and asked himself how children from low-income background could afford something as expensive. “I could only think of kids in the slum who work for daily wages. What if they wanted to taste a pizza? What would they do to satisfy their urge? This inspired me to write this story,” he added.

19

While writing this story, Manikandan was called by National award-winning filmmaker Vetrimaaran, who was impressed with his short film Wind. He wanted to collaborate with Mani, and asked him if he was working on something. A few lines of Kaaka Muttai were narrated and floored by what he heard, Vetrimaaran immediately decided to produce the film. “We worked out the contract and a month later, we approached Dhanush for financial support. He took a day to listen to the story, read the script and finally agreed to be part of the project,” he said. As soon as the shoot was completed, Fox Star Studios came on board and agreed to market and present the film. “When Dhanush and Fox came on board, the film had become bigger and it got us lot of attention. It helped us to market the film quite well,” he added.

Right from the beginning, says Manikandan, the plan was to send the movie to several film festivals across the globe as they felt the story was universal and would showcase the effects of globalisation from an Indian perspective. “By the time, we finished the movie, Lunchbox had won international acclamation at several festivals. This gave us lot of confidence. We were prepared to send our film to several festivals, despite knowing it’ll delay our theatrical release. Even for the world premiere, we had to wait for four months. We had also planned for release in cinemas a couple of months before the national awards, but we eventually decided to wait and it paid off,” he said. Kaaka Muttai won two National awards for best children’s film and best child actors for Ramesh and Vignesh, who had also bagged awards for the performance at Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

17

By being shown at international festivals, particularly after its premiere in Toronto, the film has already made Rs 60 lakh through sale of its rights in Japan, Australia and New Zealand. “Typically, Tamil films are released in key international markets, but their rights are not sold. This way we leave out several countries where our films could release and make moolah. When you take a film to festivals and if it’s liked, chances are high that you may break even or earn table profits even before its theatrical release,” he said. If that’s the case, why don’t most Tamil cinema producers even think of sending their films to festivals? “Most of our films are made from money borrowed from financiers. The interest on such loans is very high. If a producer has to wait for 10 months for a film’s release, imagine the amount he’ll be paying as interest. Nobody can afford wasting so much money,” he added.

For the film, Manikandan cast real slum kids from Kasimedu in Chennai. He admits working with children can be very challenging and making a children’s film can take a toll; cause both physical and mental stress. “Having spent a lot of time with my own son, I was under the impression that I can easily work with children. It was after we started shooting, I realised I was wrong.

_MG_8271

“More than working, it is the process of making them act that’s tough. I like scenes in my movie to be very realistic but it was a struggle to make them perform. By the end of the first week, I almost gave up on the project. It took me nearly a month to finally get the kind of performance I was looking for,” he said. But the struggle will be worth it when one sees the final footage of working with children. “It can bring a smile to your face; make you forget all the tough times. Even when you randomly capture a kid smiling, you’d cherish that moment.” Manikandan would love to make another children’s film but not so soon. The film, which has music by G.V Prakash Kumar, features actor Simbu in a cameo and actress Aishwarya Rajesh in an important role.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Interviews

Massu Engira Masilamani: Regular Revenge Drama with Spooky Twist

Massu Engira Masilamani; Venkat Prabhu, Suriya, Nayantara, Pranitha Subhash, Samuthirakani, Parthepan and Premgi Amaren

IMG_5130 copy

In 2007, when Venkat Prabhu made his directorial debut with the smash hit “Chennai 600028″, a movie about friendship and gully cricket, Tamil cinema had witnessed what was considered the beginning of an indie wave. This film not only earned moolah at the box office, but managed to impress all types of audiences and critics alike and went on to prove that stars don’t matter at the box office.

Since then, every time Venkat has made a film that could’ve been much better, which have been all the times, you’d like to rewind a few years and relish the good memories of his first film.

Venkat’s latest outing “Massu…” with Suriya is a decent entertainer. It’s not a bad film, but neither is it great. With a highly talented star like Suriya, it’s a shame to make a film that merely pleases audiences because then it could’ve been made without him in the first place.

The film opens with a heist, and Suriya aka Massu is introduced as a conman. Soon, there’s another heist scene followed by an introductory song. In the middle of the song, we’re introduced to Malini, played by Nayantara, and Massu falls for her instantly. This is followed by a few scenes of stalking and like we don’t know it, the director had the heroine’s best friend tell her that she’s been followed. He follows her in the bus, on the road and at bus stops. It gets predictable from here and there’s not a single worthy scene in the first twenty minutes.

Then, there’s an accident and the story kicks in. The premise is borrowed from Peter Jackson’s “The Frighteners”, but Venkat does that with most of his films. He borrows an idea from the west and adapts it well to suit local sensibilities and appeal to our audiences. He did that with his films “Saroja” and “Biriyani”. But his ideas never get made into great films. They only go on to become great attempts. For instance, the idea behind “Biriyani” was borrowed from “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”, and the former could’ve been an unadulterated Indian version of the latter, but what we get is a full course commercial meal that’s too starchy to digest.

The paranormal twist in “Massu…” is what keeps you interested but there are too many twists; some predictable and some good. There’s a wonderful twist featuring Premgi Amaren and this could’ve been stretched and revealed much later. Another twist featuring the second Suriya comes in the second half and though it works to an extent, it’s too late to cheer.

Nayantara and Pranitha have no contribution to make. The former plays a nurse, and if nurses in hospitals were as charmingly beautiful as her, nobody would mind falling sick regularly. If only these heroines understood the meaning of getting into the skin of their characters, we wouldn’t be cracking such jokes!

Suriya recently made a women-centric film with his wife, and here he refers to one of his female co-stars as Kung Fu Panda. Looks like all the talk about respecting women and accepting them as they are is only applicable to his wife.

“Massu…” is essentially a regular revenge drama and it’s quite possible that Prabhu may have started writing it as one and along the way got inspired by “The Frighteners” and decided to include the paranormal angle to give it a twist. Again, it’s a great idea that doesn’t actually get made into a great film.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Action, Comedy, Horror, Tamil

Rakshasudu: Suriya Shines, Movie Pales

Rakshasudu; Venkat Prabhu, Suriya, Nayantara, Pranitha Subhash, Brahmanandam, Samuthirakani, Premgi Amaren, Pratheban

IMG_5130 copy

Suriya, as an actor in terms of his film choices is more of a fascinated kid. With each of his works, you see that the seed of the film is exciting enough. But, when that apparently impressive idea stretches out into a full-fledged narrative, say something like a Maatran or a 7th Sense, you get to notice what he misses out, the totality. The desire to push himself into newer horizons has been persistent in all of these examples, but bad habits never go by without an evil glance.

Unfortunately,  Rakshasudu is easily satisfied to be a tiresome addition to the same. Venkat Prabhu merely brings the horror element into play, only to add a Kanchana-like cushioning to an outdated revenge drama.

The film’s plot isn’t much of an issue, but it’s surprising to see how much the director fools around with the fillers. There’s Brahmanandam, a romantic track where the female counterpart is a nurse, more or less in place to just deal with the physical and the mental hassles of her man. You see a lot of self referencing in place,  especially with Mankatha, easily one of his better films to date. The actor does his bit with Surya S/O Krishnan and Thuppakki.

With Venkat Prabhu, you can get what’s happening with him when he is gifted the scale, the budget, the actors and the lavish sets. Given the fact that the lead character is an orphan and comes across a child who is blind, there’s a mention from a sequence in Journey about eye donation. That’s an excuse for Jai to step in for a special appearance.  One of them fights for the homeless, the other talks about old-age homes. Remember, Suriya runs a social foundation?

Yet again, there’s Brahmanandam trying hard to provide an occasional comic relief. There’s a girl being called Kung Fu Panda for her size. Then, at last, there’s revenge. The film is pointlessly all over the place.

It’s only for a brief phase that the horror-comedy acts provide the humour, they are intended to. An otherwise consistent Yuvan Shankar Raja is given toothless situations to bring his act. The score works, but the narrative hardly does. Suriya invests a wonderful amount of composure, even in the most clichéd of instances, and tries to inject some sense in the commercial mix of horror, humour, revenge, romance and emotion. But, how much can he really do to polish the jaded interiors? You really feel for such a firehouse performer, when he’s stuck in this situation.

Pranitha gets the more sensible role of the two ladies.  She doesn’t do much to bring in her presence, but she’s better off than a Nayanthara and her convenient one-scene, one-song appearances. The drama in the film is packaged, all for the last 45 minutes that it ends up being an overdose. Samuthirakani’s baddie act doesn’t quite have a personality to it. Rakshasudu is an apt title, but not so much of an apt film for Suriya.

Two stars

By Srivathsan Nadadhur 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Action, Comedy, Telugu, Thriller

Man of the ‘Masss’es: The Venkat Prabhu Interview

In this exclusive chat, filmmaker Venkat Prabhu talks about his upcoming Tamil release Masss; teaming up with Suriya for the first time and the successful jump from making low-budget films to star-studded, commercially successful projects.

Venkat Prabhu

You’ve created quite a buzz with the title Masss. Do you still feel titles play a role in creating maximum pre-release buzz?

Absolutely! Title is very important for a film to even make audiences to take notice of it. A striking poster doesn’t alone make heads turn; it also needs to be accompanied by an interesting title. When it comes to star vehicle like Masss or even any film starring Ajith or Vijay, title is the first reason for fans to celebrate a movie’s arrival.

The title is sure catchy but feels intentional (aimed at the masses) at the same time…

Everything you do in cinema is intentional. To keep the buzz around a film alive from its inception till theatrical release, you’ve got to do something creative. With a star like Suriya and title like Masss, you can be sure of bringing the crowd into cinemas. But it may not work all the time. For instance, the title of my last film, Biriyani, too, created quite a buzz but the movie didn’t click. However, I’m lucky that it has worked most of the times

All your films have had very catchy and easy-to-remember titles. What’s the process of selecting the title for your movies?

I don’t have any process per se to select titles. I believe in keeping everything simple. As I start working on a script, I usually stumble upon an interesting title. But I look for recall factor in any title that I choose for my films. Ten years later, if we look back at a film, one should remember it by its title because not everybody can remember the story. All my films’ titles have had great recall factor and luckily, people still remember them by their titles.

You started you career with low-budget, independent films. How’s been the experience of jumping from making small films to star-centric projects?

There’s lot of responsibility while working with a star. There’s also some degree of fear because expectations are very high. Star-centric project means high budget and the star’s image will ride on my shoulders. So I have to ensure their image doesn’t get tampered because of a bad film. Initially, when I made films with my boys, only my reputation was at stake. If a smaller film doesn’t do well, it’ll only affect me and I usually take it in my stride. In the case of my movie Goa, its failure mostly affected me and I took full responsibility of it.

Managing the growing expectations of the audience must be a challenge..

I don’t plan to manage expectations. I don’t sit and chalk out a road map before I start working on a project. For the audio launch of Masss, we decided a day before its release that we won’t have a regular event and would release each track across different radio stations during the course of the day. For Biriyani, we had planned a grand audio launch as it was Yuvan Shankar Raja’s 100th film. But everything went kaput when the music got leaked a few days prior to the official release. We couldn’t do anything about it. So I believe in momentary decisions than long-term planning. I really don’t think you can take control of a situation well in advance.

Masss is being promoted as a horror-comedy. Are you cashing in on the current trend of successful films in this genre?

When I started writing the script, which was in last January, hardly any horror-comedies had released. It was only a few months later, a slew of films in this genre started coming out. Masss isn’t actually a horror-comedy because typically in such films the laughs are generated out of slapstick humour involving the comedians. We haven’t followed such a pattern. I believe we’ve worked on something fresh and hope audiences will like it. We included a shot of Suriya as a vampire in the film’s teaser to create some curiosity because now people have started to wonder what genre the film really belongs to.

Suriya recently said at an event that Masss was originally written as a simple love story…

I usually work on a story idea with my boys – Shiva, Vaibhav, Premgi and co in mind. Later, it gets developed into something else when a star joins the project. Mankatha, for instance, is a good example. In fact, Biriyani is one such project where I had to change a lot when Karthi came on board. It was originally written as a political film. But since Karthi’s previous film Saguni also had political undertone, I had to completely change the story. Maybe that’s why it didn’t work the way I had originally anticipated. When I first narrated this story to Suriya, I didn’t have him in my mind. I just narrated a sequence and that got it him excited as he hasn’t done such kind of film before. As we started discussing further, the expectation factor audiences have about Suriya kicked in. When this project was announced, people started comparing it with Mankatha and that automatically made me nervous. Since Suriya and I were teaming up for the first time, I wanted to do justice to our combination and create an impact. Hence, we had to change a lot of things in the script. If we team up again, I don’t have to worry about certain things as much as I had to this time.

You’ve worked with Ajith, Karthi and now Suriya. Do producers still come to you with the request to make films with stars?

All the time. Post Mankatha, all the projects that were offered to me were requested to be only made with a certain star. Of course, all the producers give me creative freedom, but I don’t think if they’d want me to do something along the lines of Chennai 600028. Most producers come to me with an offer to make a film with Ajith or Vijay. It’s not that I don’t want to work with stars. I’d love to work with Vijay soon.

Do you see this as a blessing or curse?

I’m not quite sure how to view this. It’s definitely a big burden to shoulder because as I said before, there’s lot of responsibility and expectations when you work with a star. On the flip side, you’re paid more on such projects. I wouldn’t get as much as I’m paid now when I work with a smaller team because when no star is involved, the market value of a project comes down. If I make a small film, I can only make it on a tighter budget and can bring audiences solely based on the credibility I’ve built with my work. When I work with a star, the budget becomes bigger and this allows me to achieve what I had planned initially. Had I made Masss with my regular team, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been as big as it is now in terms of production value, budget and even cast. I think I’d look at it as a blessing in disguise. Having said that, I’d love to produce smaller films but I don’t know when that will happen.

Did the failure of Suriya’s Anjaan and your last outing Biriyani cross your mind while working on Mass?

You shouldn’t let the past affect your future. The result of our last films didn’t bother us because we never even thought about it. Had we thought about it, we wouldn’t have completed Masss smoothly. It would’ve definitely affected the output.

Suriya is a very committed actor. Does that make working with him easy or challenging?

The reason the film has come out well is because of the extra push from Suriya. He doesn’t settle for mediocrity and pushes himself and people around him to do much better. He certainly pushed me towards excellence. To answer the question, it does feel quite challenging but it’s worth it.

You had recently said there’s lot of VFX in the movie. But Indian audiences don’t have a healthy opinion about VFX in our films…

We haven’t used it extensively. There are quite a few scenes with VFX, but we’ve used it in a way nobody would realise it. We aren’t promising awe-inspiring VFX experience. The whole purpose of using computer graphics in a movie is that audiences shouldn’t know where exactly it has been used. We have a small fantasy element and we’ve done full justice to it with the help of VFX.

Several southern directors have successfully proved themselves in Bollywood. You plan to follow suit?

I’ve had meetings with Saif Ali Khan and John Abraham but nothing has materialized. Mankatha was supposed to be remade and its remake rights are with Studio Green, and they’re planning to make it with a big studio. But I don’t think I’ll be able to direct because I’ve already signed my next project with Escape Artist Pictures.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Interviews