Thursday, April 21, 2005

Review: Chandramukhi

The Rajini Magic will never die!
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Chandramukhi is not a quintessential Rajini Movie. And, probably this is the only post 90's Rajini movie that any other actor could have starred in, minus the spectacular larger than life intro scene that is usually reserved for thalai. Maybe Baba, Ramadoss and all the critics who had written Rajini off might have been the reason why thalai opted for a safe movie that could reach the theatres sans any controversies. Nonetheless, the movie still had its share, the remake rights and distribution in Bangalore were a couple of contentious issues. However this movie is a fitting riposte to all the cynics out there: "The Rajini Magic will never die"

The reason why I say the magic will never die is because the most impulsive thing that I have done over the last 23 years of my life other than scratching my head, is to drive down for 7 hours to just watch the movie. Not surprising for a Rajini fan but I managed to convince non Rajini fans which goes to say a lot(when I mean non Rajini, there is this one guy who didn't seen Baasha....a cardinal sin). All my friends would swear that I am not the kind of person who does things out of the ordinary apart from wearing blue and yellow striped shorts to college (yeah, the senthil and goundamani types). Surprisingly my roomie an otherwise softspoken Phd. candidate joined in the shouting matches that ensued in the theatre. I seriously didn't know his vocal chords were capable of doing that till last week. I rest my case ladies and gentlemen, such is the power of The Rajini Magic.

Rajini plays Saravanan, a pyschiatrist living in America who is on a vacation to India. He is an orphan and was supported by Senthilnathan's (Prabhu) father (Late Sivaji Ganesan) . Saravanan is eternally indebted to Senthilnathan's family. Senthil has got a multi crore road contract in Vettayapuram, his ancestral village. This worries Senthil's mother (K.R Vijaya) a lot. Senthil's father had a love marriage which irked his relatives and Akhilandeshwari the lady whom he was originally supposed to marry. Therefore, Senthil's family has fallen out with their vettayapuram relatives for the last 30 years. Senthil's mother tries to bring the feuding families together by promising to marry Prabhu to Akhilandeshwari's niece Priya (Malavika). But, Senthil also follows his dad's footsteps by having a love marriage. His wife Ganga(Jyothika) plays the central character in the movie. Senthil buys the Vettayapuram palace so that he and his wife could live in it till his construction project gets completed. The Vettayapuram palace is considered to be haunted and Senthil's mother doesn't like the idea of them living there. Saravanan assures her that it is his responsibility to keep Senthil and Ganga safe for the duration of their stay in Vettayapuram. So Rajini, Prabhu and Ganga head to the Vettayapuram Palace. Akhilandeshwari is peeved to know that Senthil is married, nonetheless, she decides its her family's duty to ensure the safety of Senthil and Ganga. So she, her brothers (Nasser and Vadivelu) and their family's decide to stay with Senthil and Ganga in the palace for the duration of the project. As expected a lot of strange things happen once Senthil and family set their foot in the house. The latter part of the movie is how Rajini resolves the mystery behind the legend of the Vettayapuram Palace.

Some of the things that I liked about the movie:
The original story had been rehashed to give Rajini's character enough importance that requires him to have as much screen presence as possible. Eventhough the rehashed storyline as expected lost the originality which its predecessor had to offer but Thalaivar didn't let down the director and has given a sterling performance.Thalai's introduction scene followed by an amazing fight certainly set the theatre alight. A bunch of software engineers and graduate students is not saying much.I just cannot imagine the decibel levels that would have been generated in Abhirami, Albert and Udhayam in Chennai. I would doubt the film's chances of success at the box office if it was a faithful frame to frame remake of the original with anyone other than Rajini as the hero. A pei padam (ghost story) wouldn't be really on top of a movie goer's choices for the summer. Only Rajini's presence can bring people into the theatre. If one recalls there was a similar malayalam movie remade into tamil with Mamooty as the hero. The movie was titled Kili pecha ketkava. It was directed by the illustrious Fazil. But the movie grossed averagely and was definitely not anywhere near the malayalam original.

The director Vasu has done an exceptional job by trying to remain true to the story without compromising Rajini's fans. It was a tight balancing that eventually tilted towards having a sound story.As a fan I might have felt a little let down because of the lack of the characterstic Rajini dialogues but from a business perspective fans can ensure only a good opening, the rest is up to the family audiences. I guess someone as experienced as Vasu understood this perfectly and decided to provide a wholesome and clean fare by attracting no controversies whatsoever.

Its been a while since I have seen Vadivelu consciously taking an effort to make you laugh. Off late all his sequences usually resort to a rehash of all his previously tried and tested tracks with a generous sprinkling of his trademark words "Vandhutanya Vandhutaan, Chinna pula thanama irukka and give respect take respect". But, in this movie the Rajini-Vadivelu combo has really brought the best out of both of them. Vadivelu plays the character of a doubtful husband married to a very beautiful wife. Watch out for the 'Sothulayum adi vangiyachu Setthulayum adi vangiyachu' bit. Its rib tickling.

***spoiler alert***
Jyothika has given a superlative performance. Some of my friends thought it was plain overacting. But I cannot agree with them. She certainly sent shivers done my spine by just rolling her eyes and letting out that blood churling Lakka Lakka. Very simple lighting effects have been used in the movie to make the viewer scared and the results are of garangutan proportions. Five full grown men (of which I was the youngest and probably the most scared) were a little shaken after the movie.

The makeup man must be commended for making Rajini as close to how he was in Baasha. Though there were a few frames where you could make out some patches.

I loved the music in the movie. I initially thought the music album to be a big let down. But the audio-visula experience lent a whole new dimension to the songs. Well done Vidyasagar.

The things that I didn't like:
A lot of unnecessary scenes where random characters glorify thalai on screen. I personally didnt see the necessity of those scenes at that juncture where the need of the hour was a crisp lead up to the climax. The Editor could have generously used the scissors.

Nasser's performance I thought went a little overboard. It wasn't like he was unbearable to watch. But one generally associates him with fluid and measured enactments, like the hilarious Bhai cook in Avvai Shanmugi and the astute police cop in Nayagan. Probably the role didn't have enough scope for him to perform.

Choreography was sometimes a little too nursery like. Every dance had some variation of the ring a ring of rose's routine. Maybe thalai isn't young enough to dance the way he used to.

Nayantara didn't have anything to do in the film. Probably the whole romance track could have been just scrapped from the movie. You just can't help but notice the glaring age difference between the lead pair.

Overall it was an amazing trip plus a good movie. I enjoyed every bit of it. I think this could well be the last movie for Thalai, as it is most certainly going to be the biggest blockbuster for the year 2005. I would be surprised if Rajini decides to do another film.

Verdict: The pheonix rises

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Insecurities of a middle aged Indian expatriate- Part 2

Appan was slowly walking towards Dr. Hassan's office. He was drawing up images of Dr. Hassan mentally. Short, pot bellied and cheerful or maybe tall lean and mean. He could be even be one of those young recently graduated brash and arrogant yuppie types who don't understand a thing about 'the curse of the middle agedness'. As Appan waded through the corridor trying to locate a name board which spelt Dr. Hassan, he saw a familiar face. But the hair do of this person didn't seem to match his familiar face. Appan's grey cells worked overtime to come up with this guys name, it most certainly looked like Ghelot from operations but the last time he saw Ghelot he had a shock of snow white hair. But this guy had coal black hair, it could probably be Ghelot's son. Appan now noticed that the Ghelot look alike was walking towards him with his hands outstretched. Appan turned back to make sure that it wasn't someone behind him that he was approaching. All appan could see was a man lying on a stretcher with his hands bandaged in paris. Just as Appan shifted his attention from the man in paris he heard

"Hey Appan! How have you been my man."

And thats when it dawned upon Appan that it was indeed Ghelot but with hair that now contained two whole packets of Godrej Hair dye. It was amazing that dye could make people think that you are younger by one generation.Probably he should have dyed his hair too.

" I am fine Ghelot, You look very different"

Ghelot lowered his voice and exclaimed,

"Yeah, I had my health check up today and you know the date of birth in my passport reads 1953 but its actually 47 so I decided to cover up the years"

Ghelot put his index finger to his mouth indicating that he had let Appan in on something top secret, little did poor Ghelot realize that it was common knowledge. Even the guy from the canteen who served tea during the break hours knew it.

" So, Ghelot was it Dr. Shetty?"

" No, it was an old Egyptian guy called Yehud, thank God it wasn't that arrogant young fellow Hassan who flunked Chapparwal and Sen. Anyway, I am glad its over."

Those lines struck Appan pretty badly. The mention of 'young' somehow deteriorated things for Appan. He started having visions of his son shining shoes and his 30 year old and still single daughter tailoring clothes along with his wife in a small hut near kannamapettai.

"Appan, here"

Before Appan slowly recuperated from the latest blow that he was dealt with, he replayed Ghelot's last sentence once again in his mind and it seemed to end with Sen.

"Wait a minute...SEN....SEN..what happened to SEN?"

"Oh Appan, you don't know! Sen failed the hearing test and they served him his 30 days notice"

" What a shame Ghelot! Thats sad. Sen is an IIT product. They can never get someone like him."

"Yes buddy, thats how life is. IIT gets lost on deaf ears. So what brings you here?"

That line got Appan thinking. Did he mean the power station authorities or was he talking about Sen being deaf?

"I have my HC with Dr. Hassan in another 10 minutes" (in a very resigned tone)

Appan by now had left every thing to Lord Venkatachalapathy. Ofcourse, he has now promised to make Him 5000 rupees closer to settling His outstanding debts with Kuberan, in addition to the previously promised mottai (tonsure) for his son if he passed the check.

"Uh..Hassan..okay Appan, I mean he is not that bad a man. He might be a little young and hotblooded but maybe Sen might have really had hearing problems. You are not a shade over 48 and there isn't a thing for you to worry about. See you in the office tomorrow!"

If that was any consolation it didnt go down very well the 46 year old. Appan bid Ghelot farewell. Probably this would be the last time he saw him. Appan somehow couldn't believe himself to be healthy. He somehow had this instictive feeling of some organ in his body not functioning. This country somehow made him pessismistic. Even if he went on a drive he could only think of some truck ramming into the car or his brakes failing. There was always this sense of insecurity. Probably that's how every expat became after 15 years of living in constant fear of losing his job. Someone once said that, " Pleasure is the carrot dangled to lure the ass to market or the precipice". It was a perfect quote for Appan's current predicament.

Appan finally managed to find Dr. Hassan's room. Despite all the wayside happenings he was a minute earlier than the scheduled appointement time. If he was meant to go to Kannamapettai let it be atleast a minute sooner. There is no point in postponing fate, it is better to embrace it with open arms and who knows maybe a minute sooner would make a lot of difference in getting ahead of competing shoeshine and tailoring businesses in and around Kannamapettai.Bracing himself, Appan knocked on the door and a very firm and clear voice in a very thick Arabic accented English asked him to come in. (to be continued)

Thursday, April 14, 2005


This might sound a little crazy to everyone. I am going to Atlanta, a six and a half hour drive from my house. And, as the caption suggests (if you know Tamil) the reason for the trip is to watch Chandramukhi, Thalai's release for the New Year. I will write about it once I get back from Atlanta.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A memorable dialogue

I saw Garden State a couple of weeks back. It was a pretty decent movie with some amazing dialogues. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, there are only a handful of movies that stay with you for a long time after the show gets over. Things that feel close to your heart are bound to remain with you forever and there was this one dialogue in Garden State that I especially identified with.

Andrew Largeman: You know that there is a point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some place where you can put your stuff that idea of home is gone.
Sam: I still feel at home in my house.
Andrew Largeman: You'll see when you move out it just sort of happens one day. One day and it's just gone. And you can never get it back. It's like you get homesick for a place that doesn't exist. I mean it's like this rite of passage, you know. You won't have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it's like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.

There are only a few places that evoke the same warmth that you generally associate with a home. The house I grew up in Bahrain was one of those places and my parents are still living there (ever since I was a1 year old). I had to go to India for good when I was in class 8. My Dad felt that the place he worked was close to firing expatriates and he was not very sure that they would retain him. He didn't want me to miss a year of school if they decided to fire him in October. So I left for India in the summer of '95. Eventually my Dad did manage to hold on to his job (he even got a raise a year later) but I for some inexplicable reasons remained in India. I visited my mom and dad every year for my summer vacation. I spent a month and a half experiencing the luxuries that only your parents could provide. And when it was time to leave there would always be a lump in my throat. I always had this notion that boys should never cry and would control myself. Over the years, I perfected the facial expression of 'Mom I will be fine, I am actually looking forward to school and homework'. My mom always cried at the airport and my dad always shook my hands and reminded me to do well in school. I have been visting Bahrain every year for the last 10 years but strangely I just feel like a visitor. Subconsciously, It didn't bring the kind of security that a home should, it was more like a hotel as I always knew that I had to leave. But one thing that has remained constant over the years is the pain of separation.Good bye's suck.

Coming back to the movie, when Andrew Largeman mouthed those words it actually felt like it was something that I had been thinking all along but never bothered to give shape to those thoughts by expressing them in words. Zach Braff who plays the protaganist is also the writer and director. He has done an excellent job.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Insecurities of a middle aged Indian Expatriate

Mr. Appan, 46, Contol Room Superintendent of Al Riffaa power station 'was' a happily married man blessed with a son and a daughter. Well he is still married and he still likes his kids but calling them 'a blessing' is stretching it a little too far especially when you do not know where the phone is and still pay 4 figure phone bills every month. So, you may ask, why the emphasis on the 'was' ? Appan, is now a tired middle aged Indian expatriate who always has to think about saving his job, buying a flat in India, getting his daughter married and sending his son to an Engineering college (especially after he heard that Mr. Chpparwal's son was studying in IIT by paying 5000 dollars every year).So Appan needed a lot of money and thanks to the oil rich gulf states he has been getting enough 'tax free' money to take care of himself and his family for the last 15 years. Any expatriate would vouch the fact that 15 years in a gulf country is a life time and Appan has endured a lot in these years like for example he bravely(greedily) stood his ground during the testy times of the gulf war when half the expatriate population fled the country fearing for their lives.
But what he was faced with now is even more brutal than the wars that he had witnessed. The government wants every skilled expatriate(read engineers) to train an Arab so that he could replace the expatriate once he is fully trained. This was called the Arabization process and was launched to appease the local population as the unemployment rate among the locals grew to 6 percent thanks to all the Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and Bangladeshi's flooding the country.According to the recent census report the population for the whole city was estimated to be 150,000 of which 73,000 people were expatriates. If things carried on in the same vein, the expatriates would probably out number the locals in another 2 years. Appan was initially pretty confident that the new measures wont hurt him as he held a very important/responsible position in the power station which frankly could not be entrusted to a 23 year old local with a diploma. This position called for a lot of experience and Appan was sure that there were no 46 year old unemployed locals who could fit his job profile. Appan was in part right as none of the senior engineers in the station got a local assigned to them. Just when life looked peaceful came the shattering news that Mr. Chapparwal got fired because he failed his health test and was promptly replaced by a 30 year old local who had just completed his Engineering degree from Leeds,England (getting you bachelors degree when you are that is what I call persistence). The incident sent out shock waves to all the expat Engineer's in the power station. This was a first to them as no one got fired for failing fitness tests.
That night Appan put himself in Chapparwal's shoes, what would happen to Mr. C's son who needed another 10000 dollars to see him through IIT, what would happen to the house he was building in Rajasthan and his daughter is already 21 with 'marriageable' written all over her face The term 'marrigeable' was a much better way of putting things in perspective, definitely better than the phrase "she is fast approaching her sell by date" which Appan's wife often uses. Appan was having panic attacks because it looked like he fit chapparwal to a T and his health test was due in another week. Probably he should have listened to his wife and excercised. He should have joined those yoga classes. He should have cut down on all those Heineken's.
Appan had a nightmarish week and was for the first time in his life was gravely concerned about his health. The 'D' day had arrived and Appan was nervously fidgeting in his chair at the lobby of the Al Rabia International Hospital waiting for the nurse to give him the name of the doctor that he was supposed to meet. He knew that there was a Dr. Shetty in the hospital and he was praying God and seeking his divine intervention to get himself into the warm and cozy confines of a fellow Indian Expatriate who understands what it means to lose one's job. The nurse called out Appan's name and asked him to go to Dr. Adnan Hassan's office. Hassan....Hassan ...Hassan.....the name echoed in Appans ears ...(to be continued)
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