Sunday, November 26, 2000

Priyamanavale, Nov 26th, 2000

Director: K.Sevlabharathi
Cast: Vijay, Simran, Radhika Chowdry

Piriyamanavale Yesterday it was 'Kushi' . Tommorrow it is going to be 'Priyamanavale'. Vijay would scale one more height with the release of 'Priyamanavale'. Already Vijay had worked with Selva Bharathi in 'Ninaithen Vandhai'. They have joined hands again. It is the remake of a super-hit Telugu film, 'Pavithrabandham'. The story of that film has scored victories in Hindi and Kannada film words also. Vijay, in as much as he is fond of the stories from other languages, has brought the fine story to be depicted in Tamil also.

Vijay appears as a completely westernized person as he was raised in alien circumstances. He hates our own civilization, culture and traditions. But Simran whom he marries has entirely different characteristics and traits. The story deals as to how Simran manages to change the thinking and activities of Vijay. The news about the birth of his male child reached Vijay when he was taking part in the shooting for this film. As a strange coincidence, the story demanded him to act a similar situation on that day.

Vijay became too happy and he acted very naturally in the scene concerned. In the event of the success of this film, Vijay may once again capture the top spot among the Tamil heroes.

Friday, May 19, 2000

Kushi, May 19, 2000

A light, airy romance

Well, well, what do you know! It is possible to tell an interesting love story, keeping the audiences engrossed throughout -- all this, without warring fathers, lecherous men and assorted other villains.

That is the first thing that strikes you about Kushee, the Vijay-Jyotika starrer now doing a more than decent run at the box office.

Right from the outset, the director works on the destiny theme. His basic premise, spelt out via elaborate scenes of two children being born at the same time, in places as far apart as Calcutta and Kutralam, is that there is a destiny guiding the (love) affairs of men. That your mate is pre-fixed by the Powers Above and, willy-nilly, the two shall meet. And, in due season, mate.

The story itself is simply told. A lad in Calcutta, a lass in Kutralam, find their way, via various twists and turns of fate, towards each other. The two end up in the same college, they make friends, they gradually become aware of a growing fondness for each other.

At which point, enter the villain. I know, I know, I did say this film has no villains -- but a film needs conflict. The director uses personal egos to create that conflict and the resulting misunderstandings that separate the pair. How they resolve their differences and fulfill their destiny forms the rest of the story.

It is simple, straight storytelling -- and that is the film's biggest plus point. A nice, easy script. Very well-etched characters. And an ability, on the part of the director, to enter into the minds of two young people discovering each other, and present their growing romance with just the right situational brushstrokes -- delicate, evocative, touching.

The minimalistic storyline is an added asset. What the director does is create two characters, then lets them work their way through the story without extraneous frills and an overdose of drama. Thus, while the girl's father is a proud Tamil Christian and the boy's parents are devout, temple-going Hindus, the director steers clear of the trap of using religious differences as a catalyst for further drama. As far as he is concerned, he has a straight tale to tell, and he tells it with a minimum of fuss -- paradoxically, it is the minimalism that maximises the impact.

The demands of the box office ensure that the director works in a couple of 'items.' One is the Macarena dance number with Shilpa Shetty doing a one-song appearance; another, the rather 'hot' Kettipudi kettipudi da dance featuring Mumtaz, whose debut as lead actress in T Rajendar's hoky Monisha En Monalisa came a cropper and who appears set for an alternate career as a Silk Smitha-esque screen siren. Fortunately, neither of them really jars, nor detracts from the pace of story-telling, though you could quite easily excise the Shilpa Shetty ditty at the editing table and not even feel the cut.

Interestingly, the dance sequence that really highlights the film is neither of the above, but a rain song (Megham karukkudhu), picturised on Jyotika and highlighted by some spectacular cinematography.

Which brings us to the credits. The film is helmed by Surya (Justin, to use his given name -- it was director Vasant who recommended that he adopt the pseudonym Surya, after the latter confessed to an admiration for a character by that name, played by Rajinikanth in the Mani Rathnam hit Dalapathi). Kushee is Surya's second outing, after his debut, the Ajit-Simran starrer Vaali, became a bonafide superhit.

The director makes a cameo appearance onscreen, as the instrument of fate that ensures Vijay does not go off to Canada but ends up in a Madras college to pursue higher studies and, thus, meets the love of his life. He also pitches in to sing a few lines of the Macarena ditty (in Vaali, too, he had sung a few bars in the Veenal kaayudhu number). Judging by the evidence of his first two films, tight control over story-telling, an innate simplicity and a nice touch in pacing are his directorial plus points.

The male lead is Vijay. Ilaya Dalapathi, to give him his fan-bestowed sobriquet. Once seen as Rajinikanth's natural heir, Vijay has been having a poor run of late, with films like Nenjinile, Minsaara Kanna and even the Fazil-directed Kannukkul Nilavu bombing at the box office. Kushee, thus, comes as a much-needed hit.

The hallmark of his acting is an ease before the camera, a very casual, at-home mein that translates into effortless performance. Vijay also comes across as one of the few top heroes to avoid the trap of narcissism -- he is equally casual, thus, about his clothes and makeup, both of which are noticeably understated.

Fronting the female cast is Jyotika Sadanah -- dubbed the Ilaya Nila, by her growing legion of fans. Nagma's sister, who first appeared on screen in a small role in Vaali, before striking it rich with the more recent Ajith-hit Mugavari, knows what her USP is -- a very mobile face and eyes brimming with mischief, the whole totalling an elfin charm -- and milks it for all it's worth.

Jyotika, in fact, seems on a roll with Kushee proving to be her second notable success, and with a starring role opposite Kamal Haasan in Thenali in the pipleline.

The likes of Vijaykumar, Nizhalgal Ravi and Beena (a Bombay import, who plays Vijay's mother) play supporting roles. Also in the cast is Prasad, Prabhu Deva's brother, first seen boogeying with Sonali Bendre in the Humma humma number in Bombay.

Cinematography is a standout feature of this particular A M Rathnam production and Jeeva (whose credits include the Shankar-directed Kamal Hassan-starrer Indian) comes up with some stunning visuals. The camera, unobtrusively brilliant throughout, really comes into its own in the rain song sequence.

The music is by Deva (which incidentally rounds off the Vaali team of Surya-Jeeva-Deva), with the Kattipudi... and Megham karukkudhu songs as the highlights of a highly competent score. Interestingly, the song credits include a certain Vasundhara Das -- last heard warbling the hit Shakalaka baby number picturised on Sushmita Sen in Mudhalvan, and last seen engaged in some passionate kissing sequences with Kamal Haasan, when she played his second wife in Hey! Ram.

Overall, the light, airy romance of Kushee works just right for the holiday season, with an appeal calculated for the teen and family audiences.

Friday, January 14, 2000

Kanukkul Nilavu, Jan 14th, 2000

A film worth seeing!

Director Fazil has repeated the psychoanalytical theme of Manichithrathazhu, his earlier Malayalam mega-hit, in Chintamani Cine Arts's Pongal offering, Kannukkul Nilavu (Tamil). This time too, both the story and narration have his stamp of sensitivity. But the highlight of the film is actor Vijay's power-packed performance.

Gautham (Vijay), a music student, is obsessed with the disappearance of Gayathri, the girl he loves. He comes to Pondichery in search of her and meets Hema (Shalini) and her pals in a restaurant. As is their usual wont, they play a practical prank on him which boomerangs when Gautham turns the table on them with his singing and dancing prowess. He then tells them about his mission to find Gayathri.

His partial amnesia and queer gestures and mannerisms make Hema and her friends wonder if he is sane. Hema feels remorseful, especially since her mother was a mental patient, and empathises with Gautham. She takes him to her father, Dr Rajashekhar (Raghuvaran), who is a psychiatrist, for treatment. Gautham, under a hypnotic trance, narrates how he was a helpless witness to Gayathri's murder and affirms his resolve to take revenge on the three perpetrators of the crime. Which puts Dr Rajashekhar in a dilemma as he realises that Gautham, once cured of his obsession for Gayathri, will be a prey to another form of obsessive neurosis, this time to kill Gayathri's murderers.

Hema's empathy for Gautham turns into love. All her father's attempts to convince her about the hopelessness of the situation are in vain. Then, Dr Rajashekhar manages to trace the culprits, who tell him a different story.

Gautham regains his memory when his mother arrives on the scene. But the change that comes over him is drastic and disastrous. Thwarting everyone's attempts to stop him, he goes after the 'killers'. Where a shocking surprise awaits him….

Fazil, as always, is good though the narration could have been more breezy in the first half. The trauma caused by the beloved's death, leading to an imbalance in the hero's mental equilibrium, is not unheard of in Indian films. But a modern urban girl like Hema falling in love with a psychiatric patient is a bit difficult to digest as her interaction with the hero is always tinged with uneasiness and fear. Fazil could have taken pains to build up the relationship in a more convincing manner.

Fazil scores, though, in the twists he introduces that turn the simple story of Gautham's search for Gayathri into a haunting mystery and a journey into the hero's troubled psyche. His sensitive directorial touches are not to be missed in scenes where Hema's father tries to make her realise her folly; the way Gautham's mother reacts when she finally meets her son after a long and agonising search; when Gautham breaks down on his mother's lap unable to bear his inner torment; when Gautham, with a childlike vulnerability, goes on making mud cakes while waiting for Hema's return touches our heart.

Fazil has successfully explored on the nuances of the human mind. But he has failed in sustaining the suspense when he makes Hema tell Gautham about the truth regarding Gayathri, though the latter refuses to believe her. It reduces the intensity of the climax considerably and makes the final denouement rather tame.

Vijay as the hero is just brilliant! The actor has shown laudable skill both in the way he has handled this complicated role and in expressing various shades of Gautham's tormented mind. Especially from the moment he becomes aggressive, with the violent streak predominating and eyes blazing with manic fury. After Vijay's success draught of 1999, Kannukkul Nilavu should definitely bring him a much-needed hit and become landmark in his career.

Raghuvaran, whose biggest asset as an artiste is his baritone voice, has given a sterling performance as Dr Rajashekhar. He has successfully portrayed the conflict between the doting father and the committed doctor and its inherent pathos in a very touching manner. He tugs at our heartstrings, especially in sequences where he expresses his helplessness to a silently pleading Gautham's mother and when he tries to dissuade his daughter from meeting Gautham.

Both Shalini, as Hema, and Sreevidya, as the heartbroken mother, have done a good job especially in the scenes where Gautham terrorises them with his violent behaviour. Charlie and his friends bring the necessary comic relief.

Fazil deserves special kudos for avoiding cheap comedy and double entendres, which have become the bane of many a Tamil film. There is clean, subtle humour, the tone of which is set in the opening shot. And there are hilarious situations, like when Vijay frightens the wits out of Hema and her gang with his antics in the 'haunted' house.

Ilayaraja's music is melodious and soothing. The songs Iravu pakale thedi, soulfully rendered by Yesudas, and Nilavu pattu nilavu paattu, by Hariharan, are outstanding. The pleasant visuals are another plus point. All in all, this is a film worth seeing.