Star Power

Tamil cinema fans are often seen as rowdy and raucous bursting crackers, pouring milk, erecting effigies and in general doing nothing worthwhile. But when a star uses his clout to direct this huge mob towards social service the results could be monumental.

http://www.behindwoods.com/tamil-movies-cinema-column/superstar-ilayathalapathy-suriya-big-b-and-king-khan.html

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Tiny Times – A Chinese Revolution

What happens when China decides to make a movie that marries The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and The City? Tiny Times a story about four girls, with the pulsating city of Shanghai as the backdrop, does not quench the cine goer’s thirst. But what it drives home is the progress that China is making. The golden age for China is here and now.

Read more about my Tiny Times review in behindwoods.com.

Ban or Box Office: The ugly face of Tamil cinema

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If you are an ardent follower of Tamil movies, like me, you will not only be mildly peeved about the frequency of movies that are banned from releasing in the home state of Tamil Nadu but will be outraged by the reasons given to validate them. So what drives this lunatic trend of using movies to win elections? Is it really political hooliganism or merely censor chauvinism? To find out read my article in the reputed CRI(Center Right India). You may agree or disagree but don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Pic Courtesy:www.bankrollmob.com

Class Apart – Dhanush, Shruti Hassan & Priya Anand

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If Dhanush can straddle a Raanjhanna and Maryaan squarely on his shoulders without having to choose between Bollywood and Kollywood what makes actresses like Asin and Sridevi stick to Bollywood despite pivotal roles being offered in regional movies? Or in this age of global everything does associating with just one language provide any gains? Should all stars look beyond their regional boundaries and look at Indian cinema as an all encompassing world? Would that end the privileged treatment that Bollywood movies and stars get at the world arena?

But does landing in Bollywood culminate an actress career? Despite the popular belief that Bollywood regards its heroines as mere eye candy that are subject to the whims and fancies of the stars and key players, there are women like Vidya Balan who have managed to break free of the mould and emerged as what I would call the Female Hero. She has defied every belief when Kahaani, a movie without a strong male lead, gyrating moves and titillating songs captivated audiences throughout the nation. If Vidya Balan can experiment and emerge triumphant what stops the southern stars from delving into power packed performances? Why are there very few takers to portray the southern siren in The Dirty Picture? Surely glamour is not the deal breaker since copious clothes are already being shed.

There are women who have broken free of the tentacles of region, language and complexion. Priya Anand who won accolades for her casual yet apt act in Ethi Neechal is probably one of the few who balances Bollywood, Tollywood and Kollywood expertly. She accompanied Sridevi in her return to filmdom in English Vinglish as the adorable niece Radha, breezed through her Telugu movie Ko Ante Koti, returned to her roots in Ethir Neechal and goes back to Bollywood with Fukrey. She has embraced all the languages and has slipped under the skin of all the characters without looking jarring in any of them. Is this the triumph of the 21st century artist?

Our very own Ulaga Nayagan’s daughter Shruthi Hassan is dipping her ink in Bollywood, Tollywood and Kollywood. With a pivotal role in 7am arivu, she did a commercial fest in the Dabangg remake Gabbar singh, went on to star in the romantic family entertainer Ramaiya Vastavaiya, raced back for Balupu and now awaits the release of D-Day. If there is a fitting prodigy for Kamal she has proved able by daring to smash boundaries.

If Dhanush, Shruthi Hassan and Priya Anand make crossing over the Vindhya’s seem effortless, others may just follow suit. With Deepika Padukone in Kochadaiyan and more directors releasing Bollywood blockbusters, the need to stifle movies within the confines of regional languages might just be over. Instead of aping one another and confining to stereotypes our movie makers may finally feel pride in showcasing their roots and get to cast from the national pool. That day Indian cinema would have embraced every region and language and soared on the strengths of its diversity.

Edited version was published here.

War over your love story: NEP vs KSY

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The Menon’s classic love story Nee Thane en Ponvasantham trudges along while Mohan’s rulebook romance Kadhalil Sothapuvathy Eppadi races when pitted against each other.
Both talk tirelessly about the failings and triumphs of being in love. The petty fights, ego battles, endless search and finally moments dunked in romance. While the former spans various ages, the latter stick to one time frame. What Gautham Menon could not achieve even after directing a blockbuster like VTV, Balaji Mohan accomplishes in his debut effortlessly. And that sums up how 2012 went – Established directors faltering while newcomers delivered in style.
But let’s focus our lens on the NEP Vs KSY warfare. When you graduate out of college, your life is a little aimless. Very few are focused and if you are in love, you simply want to follow the significant other, career be damned. So when Parvathy decides to pursue her Masters abroad, Karthik gives it a thought as well. The same happens in NEP except we see a lot of talking, debating, lecturing and finger pointing that we just wish they would break up. Of course this is commonplace in a relationship but in KSY we want the leads to stay together and earnestly wish they would sort out the differences because we can sense their love for each other. In NEP, we only see them squabble. There is some amount of cuteness infused to propel the story forward but even that doesn’t keep our interests hooked.
KSY did not make any tall claims about being a musical. We saw the short film, found it hilarious, caught the trailer, found it engaging, saw the movie, laughed a lot and came out satisfied. NEP was an Illayaraja musical. So we eagerly awaited the audio release of this “Raja genre”, shuddered hearing Yuvan’s out of tune singing, dropped our jaws at the almost absent or out of place BGM and scratched our heads at the shoddy placements of songs. In the former we would have dismissed it as his first attempt but with the latter the bar is set, so he miserably fell short.
Both movies revolve around the leads exclusively. So their families and friends are given very little screen time and most of it is left to our comprehension. But KSY uses these external factors to provide the much needed comic relief and a boost to the narration. In NEP, they are mere caricatures. Even Santhanam who make us sigh in relief at his appearance does not quite cut it. Why does Varun’s father wait until the last minute to give him the “Be A Man” speech? Why doesn’t Nithya’s father worry when his daughter stays out all night? The VTV spoof does not fit well and why does Varun wait that long to go in search of Nithya?
KSY does not balk away awkwardly in the romantic scenes. NEP made us think of yesteryear movies where a flower or a lamp is propped up to signify the romance. This from a guy who shot the poetic Anal Mele Pani Thuli sequence in Vaaranam Aayiram.
Varun is from a lower income society, yet the brothers address each other casually as “bro”, the kitchen is modular and the bedroom is furnished with sleek wooden furniture. The same applies to Parvathy in KSY but there the furniture is cane and she uses a desktop which is more plausible. Why does Menon try desperately to inject the urban feel into a middle class milieu and ends up alienating both?
Of course, there are ample differences between the movies that we can peck at. But while KSY achieves its goal effortlessly as a light hearted movie, NEP fails miserably as a romantic musical. Maybe Varun and Nithya should have watched KSY before striving to walk the path of love. But it is my earnest hope that 2013 would be a year where directors do not take their audience for granted.