The Walk: Gripping And Awe-Inspiring

The Walk; Robert Zemeckis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Ben Kinsley, James Badge Dale, Clement Sibony and Cesar Domboy

Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in TriStar Pictures' THE WALK.

Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in TriStar Pictures’ THE WALK.


That’s what you are after watching the climax of “The Walk”, a biographical drama of Frenchman Philippe Petit. The film is about his “surprise, illegal, high-wire walk”, between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in August 1974.

Captured in Eastman colour tones, the film begins on a fantasy note – light and frivolous – till reality dawns, where the insanity of the artist, his art and the risk merge together, leaving you mesmerised and awestruck. And with the 3D effect, the film has its moments of cinematic joy.

Written by Robert Zemeckis and Christopher Browne, based on Philippe Petit’s book, “To Reach the Clouds”, the film is narrated in a non-linear manner which reveals Petit’s ambition and finer nuances of his character, effortlessly.

It begins with Phillipe, a wire-walker, magician, unicyclist and street performer, speaking to the audience from atop the Statue of Liberty with the iconic buildings as its backdrop.

He throws at you the same questions, you are certain to ask him at the end of the film. Questions like, “Why do you tempt fate? Why would you risk your life?”

Packed with lessons of fulfilling his dreams and ambition, he tells us how his fascination for walking the wire began; his baby-steps in wire walking, his inciting moment at the dentist’s clinic when he saw the picture of the proposed towers that attracted him like a magnet.

He also speaks about his inspiration and accomplices; his mentor Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), his girl-friend Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon) and his unlikely cadre of helpers who aided him to carry out the coup.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with his slightly impish and arrogant demeanour, is a perfect fit for Zemecki’s vision of Philippe. His blatant, “It’s impossible, but I’ll do it” reeks of an impulsive platitude and dubious ambition which makes his act gripping and performance appealing.

This is evident especially when he moves back and forth between the towers, pausing to sit, look down and taunt the police officers who have gathered on either roof of the towers.

Charlotte Le Bon as the street singer Annie is more humane and realistic. It is her encouraging words, “If you dream it, you should do it” is what propels Philippe to take the plunge. And your heart bleeds for her, when she decides to return to Paris from New York.

Ben Kingley as his mentor Papa Rudy, with a tough exterior and a soft heart, is stereotypical. And the rest of the motley group with limited screen time are reduced to hammy side-kicks.

With excellent production values, director Zemeckis along with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski’s camera-work has managed to; replicate the era, blend his characters and the computer-generated images in such a way that breath taking visuals spring naturally from the material itself.

What elevates the viewing experience is Alan Silvestri’s music, Randy Thom’s sound designs and Jeremiah O’Driscoll’s fine edits.

Finer details of Philippe’s journey especially his trials and tribulations are lost in the 124-minute runtime, making it seem like a piece of fiction.

Nevertheless, “The Walk” keeps you on the edge during its show-stopping sequence, which is worth a watch.

Four stars

Review of Troy Ribeiro 

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Puli: New Cut-Off for Mediocre Filmmaking

Puli; Chimbu Deven; Vijay, Shruti Haasan, Hansika Motwani, Sridevi, Kichcha Sudeep, Thambi Ramaiah, Robo Shankar, Ali and Prabhu


The bigger the film doesn’t always mean the greater it is, and there can’t be a better example than Vijay’s big-budget fantasy drama Puli, which isn’t a bad film but much worse; it’s awful. The film, unlike most Vijay’s outings, comes from someone who loves to experiment and even though not all his attempts have succeeded so far, he’s always given us the feeling that he’s isn’t a lousy filmmaker. With “Puli”, however, all that seemed to have changed and that’s not a good sign.

It’s tough to understand whether “Puli” is a fantasy film or one that’s intended for children, because with so much of violence, it sure doesn’t qualify to be called a children’s film. But with fantasy elements like talking birds, talking Troll, talking tortoise, magic potion and Lilliputs, you’re almost convinced that it’s a fun fantasy entertainer. Sadly, it quite isn’t the entertainer you anticipate it to be as most of the time is spent on glorifying its star hero and his image, so automatically everything you expect him to do in commercial films is checked – from breaking into duets in exotic locations to romancing two heroines and having all the time in the world to deliver pages of dialogues.

“Puli” uses the fantasy angle to merely tell us a regular revenge tale that gets so predictable at a point that it becomes the new cut-off for mediocre filmmaking. If you can’t give audiences the best, give them something mediocre, and that seems to be the mindset of most southern filmmakers. Strangely, most of us are satisfied with mediocre content because we assume that it’s due to the lack of budget, time and technology a film’s made the way it is.

Vijay as the man-on-the-mission-to-save-the-world character does what’s usually expected of him. He fights, dances, romances, mouths dialogues like he was a preacher in his previous birth, but otherwise doesn’t quite impress as an actor. As a star, he shines, and there are deliberate moments in slow motion just to send his fans into frenzy. The leading ladies – Shruti, Hansika and Sridevi – look like they’ve come to participate in some fairness content. This leaves one wondering why does the work of most makeup artists on southern actresses’ feels like, guess who’s the fairest of them all. Why this obsession for fairness?

Sridevi gets the meatier part and she’s good, but it’s the roles of Hansika and Shruti Haasan that end up giving you a migraine. Shruti plays a girl from a tribe, but she’s dressed impeccably, and god knows how she has such beautiful, well-groomed eye lashes. Hansika, well, she plays a princess, so it’s understandable if she looks pretty.

“Puli” has its moments but they’re short-lived, like the wonderful stretch where Vijay embarks on an Indiana Jones kind of adventure. It’s a great idea that goes haywire in the execution. Chimbu Deven is a creative filmmaker, one with good ideas, but doesn’t quite succeed in translating them on to the screen in a way it will appeal to everybody.

One and a half star

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Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga

Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga; Rajesh M, Arya, Santhanam, Tamannaah Bhatia, Vidyullekha Raman, Bhanu and Vishal Krishna Reddy

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Friendship and booze are the two elements on which all Rajesh’s films rest, including his latest rib-tickling entertainer Vasuvum Saravananum Onna Padichavanga (VSOP), which happens to be Arya’s 25th film. But for some reason the spotlight shines on Santhanam throughout the movie.

Although Rajesh clarified in several interviews that the film’s title VSOP has got nothing to do with the popular brandy label, yet the makers cashed in on it and how!

The title is neatly engraved on the cap of a liquor bottle and the title track has a line about the lead characters Vasu (Santhanam) and Saravana (Arya) being popular for drinking in several liquor joints in the city. There’s a scene where Vishal, in a cameo, explains the major difference between men and women over brandy and beer.

Rajesh can’t be blamed for the kind of films he’s been making, for that’s what is expected of him. When he tried to step out of his comfort zone, his attempt in “All in All Azhagu Raja” failed miserably and he was quick to realise it and bounce back strongly.

He plays to his strengths in VSOP; makes it funnier than all his previous outings. The jokes work, the lines are fresh and the camaraderie between the lead actors has been taken a notch higher.

Santhanam is Rajesh’s trump card, and he can’t imagine a film without him. They make a great pair and each time they collaborate, we get something funny, even if it is mostly the booze jokes and sexist one-liners.

Take the scene where Arya, after being rejected by Tamannaah, meets Santhanam at a bar. Arya isn’t upset as he believes he has rejected her. Santhanam serves him beer, and three rounds down, Arya sobs like a child, coming to terms with his rejection. Santhanam says, “The truth that’s not coughed out when police rough up young men, only comes out when booze goes in”. And you can’t stop yourself from laughing out loud.

Like most of Rajesh’s films, VSOP too doesn’t have much of a story. It follows the lives of two best friends — Vasu and Saravana, who grew up studying and drinking together. Their lives turn topsy-turvy when they welcome women and what ensues is outright predictable and partly cringe-worthy.

The booze jokes are fine because the youngsters dig it. But the sexist jokes are annoying and shows how cheap filmmakers’ taste of comedy has become. At the same time, Rajesh gives the women a chance to get back at men, and that’s something worthy of mention.

Vidyullekha, for instance, has scenes where she’s made fun of due to her weight, but there are moments where she gets to crack jokes at Santhanam and Arya. Vidyullekha chips in with a terrific performance while Tamannaah needs to be specially applauded for lip-syncing dialogues perfectly.

What really makes VSOP work, besides the jokes, is the lovely camaraderie between Arya and Santhanam, who make every scene thoroughly entertaining. Santhanam has teamed up with many heroes over the years but his on screen charisma with Arya is unmatchable.

Three stars

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Bajrangi Bhaijaan: An Endearing Bhaijaan This One Is

Bajrangi Bhaijaan; Kabir Khan, Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Harshaali Malhotra, Sharad Saxena

Bajrangi Bhaijaan

The beauty of the film lies in the subtlety with which director Kabir Khan weaves in the inherent biases people often have about other religions – more specifically in the case of this film, the Hindus about Muslims and vice versa – into a story that deals with a theme as sensitive as the Indo-Pak relationship.  He brings those emotions to the fore but does not scratch it deep.  He just lets that moment linger enough to leave us with a thought.  There’s a scene early in the film where Dayanand (Sharad Saxena playing Kareena’s father and a devout Brahmin) questions Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi aka Bajrangi (Salman Khan) on what makes him think that the little lost girl is also a Brahmin, and he responds by saying, “She is fair, so she has to be Brahmin”.  But a few scenes later, he discovers the girl’s love for non-vegetarian food and hence thinks she cannot be a Brahmin, and is even quicker to assume that she must be a Kshatriya instead. You cannot help but chuckle at instances like these that induce a sense of familiarity.

Also, the film is quick to get to the point. The director does not spend much time dwelling into the various sub-plots. Ten minutes into the film, we find the adorable six-year-old mute Shahida/Munni (Harshaali Malhotra) separated from her mom and reaches Kurukshetra where she meets her saviour in the simpleton Bajrangi who due to circumstances is forced to take care of the little girl. We are quickly brought to speed with Pawan’s Hindu Brahmin upbringing, his love story with Rasika (Kareena Kapoor Khan) and the current state of affair with his would-be father-in-law.  Soon the family realise that the girl is a Muslim and belongs to Pakistan.  When all efforts to send the girl back home through legal means fail, the man with a golden heart decides to escort her personally to Pakistan through the illegal route. And thus begins the most enchanting and endearing journey of the film.  The adventure gains direction when the two meet Chand Nawab (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a Pakistani reporter, who helps them reach their destination.  How they do it is what makes for the second half of the film.

Crossing the territorial boundary between India and Pakistan was far simpler for Pawan than crossing his own personal boundaries.  Salman’s character starts the journey with a rigid frame of mind and shows strong religious vulnerability, but sheds his traditional beliefs for a progressive outlook by the end of it. From refusing to enter a mosque because he is a Hindu to sitting in a dargah for hours, Salman’s character takes a giant leap of faith. After all, there is no religion greater than the love for mankind.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is not intended to be a film that dwells into the depth and complexities of the relationship with the two neighbouring nations. To watch the movie with such expectations would be bordering on foolishness. Honestly, there is nothing extraordinary about the story but art lies in the way the commercial and emotional elements of the subject have been mixed to give us a delightful film.  In fact, if you go expecting a usual Salman Khan fare, you will be pleasantly surprised. “Budbak” Bajrangi is no super hero; he is a man replete with follies.  The actor lets theatrics take a back seat, so there are no punch dialogues, no trademark movements. This is Salman’s best in a long time.

Nawazuddin shows you why he is one of the best actors we have.  He effortlessly plays the role of a small time reporter chasing a big story.  Kareena barely has anything to do in the film. Despite not saying a word right till the end, the little Harshaali lets her expressions and gestures do all the talking. As the lost Shahida, she garners all the sympathies and wins many hearts.

Aseem Mishra’s cinematography captures your attention right from the time credits start rolling till the time the reunion happens.  His camera captures Kashmir as beautifully as it does the essence of old Delhi. Pritam’s music just goes by.

Interestingly, the film starts with Pakistan winning a match against India but only ends with the film winning everyone’s heart.  Watch the movie with the heart on your sleeve and to see Salman’s transformation from bhai to Bhaijaan.

Review by Mangala Ramamoorthy


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Maari: Dhanush Saves A Very Ordinary Film

Film: Maari; Balaji Mohan, Dhanush, Kajal Aggarwal, Robo Shankar, Vijay Yesudas and Kali Venkat

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Dhanush plays a local hooligan in “Maari”, mostly seen in a dhoti, smoking a cigarette and twirling his moustache. You almost lose count of the number of times he lights a cigarette, twirls his moustache and mouths the line “I’ll finish you off”. These bits mostly happen in slow motion. So, every time he lights a cigarette, the wave of smoke covers his face like a cloud. It’s quite possible the film sets a new record for featuring most scenes in slow-mo. And not to forget, he also sports John Lennon-like glasses.

It’s no surprise that Dhanush performs the role of a rowdy with such ease. He, along with his sidekicks, Robo Shankar and Vinoth, feature in the film’s best moments. Sadly, these moments are repeated too often, only to prove that the director isn’t capable of delivering a wholesome commercial entertainer with some story, some heroism and some cliches a la Dhanush’s recent blockbuster “Vella Illa Pattathari”. Except the story, we get everything else from “Maari”, and that’s the biggest concern of the movie.

“Maari” is not a bad film. It isn’t a bad film because Balaji Mohan shows he isn’t, after all, a bad director. Though there are plenty of cliches, the director shows how even the most routine moments in Tamil cinema can be made enjoyable. For instance, the first time Dhanush meets Kajal, you expect him to fall for her instantly like it’s always expected to happen between the lead pair in our films. But the scene doesn’t pan out the way majority of the audience would have anticipated. All this saves us the pain of sitting through a duet, usually shot in some exotic location, but thanks to Balaji’s quirks, the romance is underplayed.

“Maari” is a badly written film with sub-plots that don’t keep us engaged even briefly. In the beginning, we’re explained about pigeon racing in which Dhanush is invincible. He also finds solace in raising pigeons, and trusts them even more than humans. When he’s with the pigeons, he’s a different man, much calm and happy. You expect the film to predominantly revolve around pigeon racing, but there’s another sub-plot about red sandalwood smuggling, and there’s one more about Dhanush turning an auto rickshaw driver.

Dhanush saves a very ordinary film, which with another actor or even a star wouldn’t have worked as slightly as it does now. Robo Shankar is a revelation. The effortlessness with which he mixes sarcasm in his lines, makes him one of the best contenders for a comic villain.

Balaji Mohan’s big leap of faith into the commercial stream with “Maari” didn’t seem to have worked in his favour.

Two and a half stars

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Baahubali – The Beginning: Extravagant Visuals, Poor Writing

Baahubali: The Beginning; S.S Rajamouli, Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty, Tamannah Bhatia, Nasser, Ramya Krishnan, Prabhakar, Rohini


“Baahubali: The Beginning” has everything Indian cinema hasn’t witnessed so far. It almost places Telugu cinema on par with Hollywood standards with its vision, extravagant visuals and the lavish scale on which it’s made. In his attempt to make a world class product, Rajamouli may not have passed in distinction but this attempt, despite its inconsistencies, can’t be forgotten easily. But all that glitters is not gold, and although Baahubali is neatly enveloped in a golden wrapper, what you find inside is not utterly satisfying.

Like most Rajamouli’s films, “Baahubali” too is a regular revenge drama. The only difference is that it’s set in an imaginary world made on a lavish scale and against the backdrop of a royal family. It’s the story of a son vying to avenge his father’s death for a kingdom. But Rajamouli is no ordinary filmmaker. Only he can make a simple tale as entertaining, engrossing and awe-inspiring as “Baahubali…”, albeit with some minor flaws.

Early on, we’re introduced to queen Sivagami (played by Ramya Krishnan), running for her life clutching a baby. She sacrifices her life for the infant, who is saved and raised by a tribe residing at the foot of a gigantic waterfall. He’s named Shivudu (Prabhas), after Shiva, and is as strong and powerful as the lord himself. Raised unaware of his lineage, Shivudu develops great rock-climbing skills. He gets inquisitive about the world beyond the giant mountain that separates his tribe from the other side. Soon, he starts climbing, in search of a world he envisions.

On the other side of the mountain is Mahishmati, the mythical kingdom ruled by Bhallala Deva (Rana), a ruler consumed by his own ego; a narcissist who turns his own people into slaves. He’s equally strong and takes a giant bison by the horns, literally. Bhalla keeps Devasena (Anushka), a former princess in his captivity, and she strongly believes her son will come and free her.

Rajamouli’s idea of two worlds separated by a mountain is impressive. He uses it to separate good from evil. If Mahishmati comprises people who kill their own for the throne, people from the tribe go out of their way to save a life.

The first half hardly has anything riveting happening to keep you hooked. As we follow Prabhas on his quest to learn about his own identity, we meet Avantika (Tamannah), a warrior, who is part of a small rebel group that has chosen her to free Devasena. Instead of speeding up the proceedings, there’s a needless romantic track between Shivudu and Avantika, who is initially portrayed as a brave, mission-focused warrior.

And just for a few minutes it was a treat to watch a leading actress perform without the trappings of an archetypal Telugu cinema heroine. Alas, it doesn’t last long and we soon see Avantika and Shivudu in a sensuous song and at the end of it, she’s resting on his chest. Suddenly, she’s reminded of her mission as though somebody had the button to the mission bell and had pressed it. She gets back into her warrior costume, leaves with a heavy heart, only to be rescued by Shivudu later. The whole point of having Tamannah play a warrior just doesn’t make sense. Going by the approach, it appears like she was merely cast to play Prabhas’s pair because his fans would like to see him romance somebody.

It’s in the second half Baahubali is truly majestic to watch. It provides the kind of visuals; entertainment and action that’ll make one fall in love with the film, at least during that brief period . The 20-30 minutes war sequence is breathtaking, as an army of thousands lock horns on a battle field. Senthil Kumar’s spectacular camerawork is another reason why every frame is beautiful and it elevates the whole experience when coupled with great sound. Sabu Cyril deserves thunderous applause for creating incredibly realistic sets.

Prabhas and Rana match each other with their solid performances. Rana as the ruthless Bhallala Deva is excellent. But the pick of the actors has to be Ramya Krishnan as Sivagami, who is effortlessly at ease in her character. Sathyaraj too shined as Kattapa.

If only Rajamouli had shown half the creativity that he used to choreograph the battle scenes in his writing, “Baahubali” would’ve been a much better film. The kind of creativity that turned a fly into a revenge-seeking character in “Eega”. It needs the kind of writing that’ll make you believe that “Baahubali” is more than just gloss.

Three stars

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Rajamouli Unplugged

In his most comprehensive interview yet, S S Rajamouli talks about the making of the Rs 250-crore flick Baahubali, the inspirations behind the film, and the sacrifices his cast and crew had to make


The release is just around the corner and yet you appear unusually calm and composed. Aren’t you nervous?

Looks can be deceiving (laughs). There’s a storm brewing inside me and with every passing minute, it’s getting stronger and wilder. Like everybody else associated with this project, I’m nervous too but unlike them I don’t let it be shown on my face. I’ve been nervous before the release of all my films and it’s quite normal. On the contrary, I’m eager to see how audiences across the country will receive our film.

Did you plan to make the film in other languages from the beginning or did the thought strike you midway?

Given the budget of the film, it’s impossible to recover the cost involved if we release in just one language. Right from the start, the plan was to make it as a Tamil-Telugu bilingual. Hence, we cast actors who are popular in both the industries. Following the success of Eega (Makkhi in Hindi), we had planned to release Baahubali in Hindi as well. And as we were looking for a partner to distribute the film in the Northern belt, filmmaker Karan Johar came on-board. We’ve been lucky enough to be associated with the best producers from other industries, making it possible to release our film in as many screens as possible. We’re releasing the film in a record number of 4,000 screens worldwide in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam.

Does the budget really make Baahubali the most expensive Indian film?

We’ve only shot about 30-40 percent of the second part. Roughly about another 120 days of shoot are still pending. Taking all that into consideration, the budget will be nearly Rs. 250 crore or even more. Remember, this is exclusive of the stars’ remuneration.

A second part to a film is usually made based on the success of the first. You’ve already started working on the second…

I don’t think that’s how it always works. In some cases, film-makers decide much in advance in how many parts they plan to tell their story. Though it’s common in Hollywood, I agree it’s quite new to us. But we tried compressing the entire story under three hours into one film, but realised a lot of emotional core was missing. Despite being very commercial, all my films have been high on emotions. And as much as Baahubali is a war drama, it has lot of emotional content and I think Indian audiences will enjoy it more as a two-part film. Within a gap of a year, we’ll return with part two of the film.

Baahubali is being compared with Hollywood films such as 300 and Troy. Were you inspired by these films?

My biggest inspirations were Amar Chitra Katha comics and Mahabharat. For many years, Baahubali has resided as an idea in my head. It was through the pages of these comics, I envisioned the world of Baahubali. My father had introduced me to these comics at a young age. Ever since then, I’ve been living in this world of larger-than-life characters. I love fantasy, history, folklore and mythology. I dabbled a little with these genres in my previous films. The success of those films gave us confidence to make Baahubali, which is more or less my tribute to Mahabharata. The epic war drama between the Pandavas and Kauravas has always fascinated me. There was absolutely no need to be inspired from Hollywood, but I really don’t mind the comparisons.

But it must have been draining emotionally for all these years…

I developed an emotional attachment with the characters my father had narrated. To showcase these characters in the best possible way remained my motivational factor over the last two-and-a-half years. Having said that, staying motivated throughout was not easy. We struggled towards the end, especially to complete the last 20 percent of the film as most actors by then had almost given up having shot for over a year. But I always believe the team draws its motivation from the director, so I had to push myself and others without losing my cool.

Despite the long wait, the buzz around Baahubali was always alive. It’s probably the best-marketed south Indian film ever.

A lot of planning went into all this. Over the last one year, we’ve been very active on social media platforms. We needed to create the buzz, make audiences, irrespective of the region, curious about our film. And the only way to do it was through marketing.

With so many deadlines to chase, exorbitant budget and growing expectations, it must’ve also been physically taxing…

You know, the film wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my team. For instance, my producer Shobu Yarlagadda would never let the pressure of the budget and deadlines come near me. And my line producer Srivalli single-handedly managed the mammoth scale of production. Had it not been for them, Baahubali would’ve remained as an idea in my head or on a piece of paper. Unlike a regular producer, Shobu was not someone who gave the money and asked us to make the film. He was involved with us in every discussion. He convinced us to release the film in Hindi as he believed my films have nationwide reach. The shooting part did take a toll on us but thanks to a great team, it wasn’t worse.

Your actors deserve to be commended. It’s not a joke to shoot for 400 days…

You should also include a few months of training before the shoot. The actors underwent special training in sword-fighting and horse-riding. All of them gave more than what was expected from them. This is the second time Prabhas and I have teamed up after Chatrapathi, which was a blockbuster. With three consecutive hits, he’s in great demand. Nevertheless, when I asked him to set aside one year for the shoot, he felt we’d required more and kept himself free for two years. Rana (Daggubati) on the other hand, had to gain a lot of weight and grow his hair. He was our energy-booster on the sets. Rana was instrumental in getting Karan Johar on-board. Everybody contributed to the successful completion of the film. It’d be unfair to shower all the laurels on my actors because the contribution from every single team member mattered on this project. For instance, we shot the war sequences for four months. At one point of time, we were shooting with 2,000 extras with about 600 technicians assisting them with costumes, makeup and weapons. There were hundreds of metres of chroma screens, while about 30-35 assistants’ job was to ensure the chroma mats weren’t blown away. There were always two ambulances on set, a medical camp for people and a vet on standby for the animals. Then, there’s visual effects supervisor Srinivas Mohan who dedicated the last three years of his life. Along with his team, he collaborated with over 15 VFX studios and 600 artists and spent so many sleepless nights to complete the project on time. And before I forget, I also need to include my art director Sabu Cyril, who brought the imaginary ancient kingdom to life.

Given the budget and the scale on which Baahubali is made, do you think it will match Hollywood standards?

Hollywood is much ahead of us in writing and execution. There’s no need to compare our work with theirs. I think getting 80 percent of their quality in our content with 20 percent of their budgets will be an achievement. Going by the feedback the promos have received, I think audiences are happy with the visuals. The VFX team has done a splendid job. Pete Draper of Makuta is responsible for the magnificent waterfalls and the palaces from the trailer. Firefly and EFX Hyderabad have contributed a lot of VFX shots through the course of the film, especially in the war sequences. Tau films worked on the scenes featuring the bison.

Amitabh Bachchan recently heaped praise on the film. He also wished to be part of it. Any plans of roping him in the second part?

When I was in Mumbai, I was asked would I be working with the Khans. In Chennai, I was asked if I’ll work with Rajinikanth. I’m a successful director because of the hits the stars gave me. I’d love to work with all the stars, provided I have a suitable script for them. I can’t approach them just because I want to work with them. When I write a script, and if it requires Rajini sir, I’ll definitely try and convince him. For Baahubali, I had decided long back Prabhas was my hero. I let my script choose my actor and not vice versa. It was so nice of Bachchan sir to say lovely things about our film.

Mahesh Babu had apparently postponed the release of his film Srimanthudu for Baahubali…

I was touched when I heard Mahesh and the producers of Srimanthudu postponed their film for us. He had said in an interview that a big film like ours deserves a solo release. I can’t thank him enough for that. Even in Kerala, I was amazed by the craze and anticipation for our film. This has given us lot of confidence.

Do you think Baahubali will break records, become the first South Indian film to enter the Rs 200-crore club?

I’m not motivated by money. If it does, everybody associated with it will be happy because lot of money is riding on it. Film economics is important but that’s not what drives me. It’s the creative success of a film that satisfies me as a film-maker. And if I easily get satisfied, I’d have to stop making films.

At any point while working on this project, did you feel like giving up because you couldn’t handle it?

Just before the start of the shoot, the sheer enormity of the logistics hit me. For about three to four days, I contemplated quitting. But the feeling washed over and I never looked back.

What’s next? Do you wish to work on something even bigger?

I really haven’t thought about it. But it definitely won’t be bigger than this.

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Papanasam: A Superlative Act

Papanasam; Jeethu Joseph, Kamal Haasan, Gautami, Nivetha Thomas, Esther Anil, Kalabhavan Mani, M.S Bhaskar, Ananth Mahadevan, Asha Sharath 

Papanasam New (12)

Well, I haven’t watched the Malayalam original and it is perhaps a good thing. It allows me to see this movie as an independent act, without any preconceived baggage or comparison.  To start with, one thing you know about Kamal Hassan movies – nothing is unintentional. Every place, name and element has a significance, the essence of which we realize only as the film rolls. Papanasam gets its name from the very location where the entire movie has been shot and asides the picturesque rustic scenery, the name of the town also provides the perfect allegory to this riveting tale.

Kamal’s name in the film is another example. True to his name, the cinema-loving Suyambulingam is a self-made man (he himself mentions it a couple of times throughout the film) and is respected in the town for this very reason. There is one similarity between this film and Kamal Hassan’s last release, Uttama Villain – both give us insights into the real actor. In this film, we have his real-life partner Gautami playing his wife (making a comeback after 16 years) and much like in his life he plays a father to two daughters onscreen. There are also references to his 1975-film Cinema Paithiyam, brother Charu Hassan and Kadhal Manan.

Papanasam, by the look of it, is a simple story of a father who will go to any extent to protect his family. Kamal plays the thrifty cable-TV operator whose life revolves around cinema and his family. He breathes, lives and dreams cinema, and it is this love for movies that actually comes handy later in the film. The only other constant in his life are the daily visits to the local tea shop and random conversations with its owner, played by M.S. Bhaskaran. The early part of the film focuses on the bond between the family members and gives us enough glimpses into the sweet-salty relationship between the father and the daughters (played by Nivetha Thomas and Esther Anil) through scenes that have been taken out of our homes. The romance between him and Gautami brings alive their offline chemistry. In all, it is a picture perfect family.

But then the film is also about another set of parents (Ananth Mahadevan and Asha Sharath) who leave no stone unturned for their son’s sake. And what turns this family script into a seat-clincher is how the drama unfolds between these two families. Throw in the police element and we have a potboiler in hand.

The strength of the film lies in its layering. Each time a layer is revealed, it seems like all cards have been played out. But then with time there are more layers and more surprises, taking it right up to the climax. There is also a certain openness about this film. No judgments made. No higher moral ground taken. No one is all black or white. Every character is painted grey, including Kamal himself. To think of it, Suyambu does everything that we associate with a villain in any film, and yet he comes out as a hero. All kudos to Jeethu Joseph for etching such characters.

Talking about Kamal Hassan and acting is like talking about cinema itself. Even his naysayers cannot deny him of the actor that he is – a powerhouse. Even decades later, his ability to turn himself into the character completely is remarkable. Here as the middle-aged Suyambulingam, who willingly spends on his family but fixes his own broken specs with a wire or refuses to purchase a mobile phone for himself, Kamal is right where he belongs. The character gives him all the space that the actor within him needs, along with the necessary theatrics. While Kamal gives the film the edge, what lends it the class is the performance of the entire ensemble of cast. When each performer gives you a superlative performance, the entire act goes one up. Not a single character is wasted and each do what they best can.

There are no loose ends, and no irrational scenes. By the end of it, all your questions are pretty much answered. Except one. As the famous line from Nayagan goes, “Neenga nalavara, illai ketavara?” This is something that the movie chose to steer clear of. And that is the best part about it.

By Mangala Ramamoorthy

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Papanasam: Where Actor Kamal Supersedes the Star

Papanasam; Jeethu Joseph, Kamal Haasan, Gautami, Nivetha Thomas, Kalabhavan Mani, Asha Sharrath, Ananth Mahadevan, Esther Anil

Papanasam New (12)

The Kamal Haasan we get to see in “Papanasam”, the Tamil remake of Malayalam blockbuster “Drishyam”, is the actor that made him a legend; an acting idol for many contemporary and upcoming actors.

Not the star he has grown into in recent years trying to don multiple hats – direct, write, sing, and produce – all at once. And it had become a major concern not because Kamal is bad at these things, but mostly because it made the actor we all love overpowered by the star. So when Kamal, in “Papanasam”, showcases what he can do when he concentrates on only acting, plain acting, it’s a treat to watch him on screen, even if it means for three long hours.

For those who’ve watched the original, its faithful remake “Papanasam” doesn’t come as a surprise, yet Kamal’s presence along with the flawless ensemble performance of the supporting cast makes it a riveting thriller.

Kamal plays Suyambulingam, a cable-TV operator and a cinematic fanatic, whose world revolves around his family; his wife and two daughters. If one of the joys of watching “Papanasam” is to see Kamal, for once, just act, the other is to see the ease with which he slips into the shoes of a villager. Because it’s been a long time since he has played anything close to what we see of him in this film. And it’s terrific to see Kamal play a role that doesn’t require you to brush up your basics about bombs, chemistry, world economy, terrorism, chaos theory et al.

“Papanasam” is a thriller as much as it’s a family drama. It’s about two families and how difficult it is to raise children today. For instance, when Gautami eavesdrops on a conversation in which her daughter talks about being photographed by some kid in school, her instant reaction is funny, but totally understandable. There’s also a wonderful stretch where Kamal feels bad for making his children do things they are not supposed to do and feels guilty about it, only to quickly realise anybody in his place would’ve reacted the same way.

In another beautiful scene towards the end, members of both the families meet and talk about their children. While one family admits to have not raised their child well, the other talks about how selfish they were to save theirs.

The film also focuses on so many other things like class divide, abuse of power, police brutality, and finally on the impact of cinema on our lives. In cinema, it’s tough to differentiate between a truth and a lie because everything that’s shown is mostly taken for granted. We get exactly that in “Papanasam, in which Kamal is the creator, who makes everybody around him believe the lies he shows them.

The film also has a few lovely meta references like the onscreen romance between Kamal and Gautami, who are real life partners. Like Suyambulingam, Kamal too has two daughters and is an avid film lover.

Director Jeethu Joseph needs special mention for bringing back the Kamal we love watching onscreen and also for extracting stellar performances from other actors such as Ananth Mahadevan and Asha Sharath. Ananth’s scene with Kamal in the end is one of the reasons why the film shouldn’t be missed. Nivetha, who missed being part of the original, is terrific.

“Papanasam” is the best and the most faithful remake of the original. It shows what Kamal Haasan is capable of doing when he’s at his best.

Four stars

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Southern Cinema in 2015: Content Ruled Over Star Power in First Half


The first six months of 2015 saw approximately 280 releases in the southern cinema, but performance-wise, it was a mixed first half. The success of films such as “Kanchana 2”, “Premam”, “Pataas” and “Kaaka Muttai” came as a surprise, but the failure of some highly-anticipated, big-budgeted and superstar-driven films was worrisome.

Of the record 107 Tamil releases, only 10 turned out to be hits by reaping profits for their producers. Only five more managed to break even.

“Compared to 2014, the first half of 2015 has witnessed an increase in hit percentage. However, most star-studded films performed poorly at box office, resulting in heavy losses for their stakeholders,” trade analyst Trinath said.

Ragava Lawrence’s horror comedy “Kanchana 2” and National Award winning drama “Kaaka Muttai” reaped three to four times their investment.

While “Kanchana 2” along with its Telugu dubbed version “Ganga” grossed over Rs.100 crore worldwide on an investment of Rs.18 crore, “Kaaka Muttai”, which is still running in select cinemas, has raked in over Rs.15 crore.

“These two films deserve the blockbuster tag. ‘Kaaka Muttai’ has proved that audiences are hungry for good content,” Trinath said.

Other successful ventures include “Anegan”, “Kaaki Sattai”, “I”, “O Kadhal Kanmani”, “Darling”, “36 Vayadhinile” and “Demonte Colony”.

“The success of small films such as ‘Darling’, ‘Demonte Colony’ and ‘Tamiluku En Ondrai Azhuthavum’ has given several young filmmakers the courage to experiment. More producers are willing to bet on quirky subjects,” he said.

A big disappoint was Kamal Haasan- starrer “Uttama Villain” and Suriya’s “Massu”.

In the Telugu filmdom, the first six months have not been favourable.

Om Deepak of AndhraBoxOffice, a popular box office portal, said: “As usual, commercial entertainers have dominated and raked in decent box office numbers. But when compared to the first half of 2014, there’s a dip in overall collections by minimum 20 percent due to a fewer big releases.”

The delay of big-budget movies such as “Baahubali”, “Kick 2”, “Rudhramadevi” and “Srimanthudu”, which were originally slated for summer release, has also impacted the numbers.

“Generally, summer will witness release of at least three big films. This year, the only notable big release was Allu Arjun’s ‘S/O Satyamurthy’. As a result, the box office occupancy has been lowest this summer in this decade,” Deepak said.

Kalyan Ram’s “Pataas”, with a worldwide gross of Rs.29 crore, is the most profitable film and a blockbuster in every sense. Junior NTR’s “Temper” (Rs.74 crore) and Sundeep Kishan-starrer “Beeruva” (Rs.10 crore) were hits with minor profits.

Amongst high grossing films which suffered minor losses, “S/O Satyamurthy” leads with Rs.90 crore , followed by “Gopala Gopala” (Rs. 66 crore) and “Pandaga Chesko” (Rs.29 crore).

Telugu filmdom also saw a bevy of Tamil dubbed releases. Out of them, the only profitable venture was “Ganga” (Rs.31 crore). Though the Telugu version of Shankar’s “I” grossed Rs. 44 crore, the film was a disaster.

“It was a poor first half for Telugu industry, which had approximately 54 releases. Expectations are sky-high on ‘Baahubali’ and ‘Srimanthudu’, and the success of these films is very essential for the industry, especially after the bad start,” Trinath said.

Of the four southern industries, Malayalam filmdom had a decent first half with better success rate.

The unexpected success of “Premam”, which has given its lead actor Nivin Pauly a superstar status, has given the industry the biggest hit.

“The film continues to run to packed houses in its fourth week across the country. It has already raked in over Rs.30 crore at the ticket window. It’s turning out to be the highest grossing film in the history of the Malayalam industry,” distributor Arvind Nambiar said.

Of the 67 Malayalam releases, films such as “Mili”, “Picket 43”, “Fireman”, “100 Days of Love”, “Oru Vadakkan Selfie”, “Ennum Eppozhum”, “Bhaskar the Rascal” and “Chandrettan Evideya” tasted success.

“Some of these hits are already being remade in other languages. ‘Oru Vadakkan Selfie’, for instance, which is being remade in Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Marathi and Bengali, earned nearly Rs.20 crore from theatricals alone. It’s phenomenal,” Nambiar said.

Mammootty-starrer “Bhaskar the Rascal”, whose Telugu rights have already been acquired, collected triple its overall cost.

Some highly anticipated films that bombed, include “Laila O Laila”, “Mariyam Mukku” and “Chirakodinja Kinavukal”.

The Kannada industry, which saw 55 releases in six months, suffered heavily due to the poor show of most big ticket films. Sadly, there hasn’t been a single big hit.

” ‘Mr. and Mrs. Ramachari’, which released in the last week of last year and ran through most of the first quarter of 2015, is the most successful film. It could even be called a super hit as it collected nearly Rs.50 crore during its run,” trade analyst and distributor Ramesh Gowda said.

Big films such as “Ranna”, “Vajrakaya”, “Rana Vikrama” and “Siddhartha” did decent business and recovered money.

“Both ‘Ranna’ and ‘Rana Vikrama’ raked in over Rs.10 crore in its opening weekend, but failed to sustain. This has been the case with most star-centric films across the industries,” Gowda said.

Other outings such as “Shivam”, “Kushi Kushiyali”, “Jackson” and “Raja Rajendra” managed only average business at the box office.

Director Yograj Bhat’s highly anticipated film “Vaastu Prakaara” opened to good numbers but failed to make it big.

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