Movie Reviews, Commentary & More

Katradhu Thamizh - Movie Review

Warning: Heavy spoilers

Some of the aspects that stayed in my thought cloud after I saw the move - confused screenplay, erratic lead performances, unnecessary comedy track, fluent photography and a sense of forced anti-convention. The movie begins by chronicling a series of events which get the audience believe that this is 'the making of a psychopath'. Half-way through the second half the story steers off-course as if the producer wanted an important message urgently stuffed, the screenplay clears the hero of his psychopath image and goes on a drive against the evils of capitalism and the lifestyle of the upper class without clearly substantiating the need for such a change. This is the first effort as writer/director for Ram Subbu and he leaves an impression - but what kind of an impression is that?

Prabhakar is a Tamil (should I write Thamizh?) graduate who works as a teacher for the elementary grade in Chennai. Because of the decline in morality and partly due to our corrupt social system he is humiliated, frustrated, teased and tantalized. He meets disappointment in almost every corner of his life - even his attempt at suicide fails. All the time the thought of Anandi, his childhood friend and later-day lover keeps him going. At one point when he is driven to his limits, he accidentally kills a railway employee and sees that everybody around him in the railway station stares at him with a fear that he finds as veneration. He leaves the city, comes back after two years and turns into a serial killer. When he finds Anandi through chance, he calls it quits and plans to go back to his hometown. The movie's climax follows a method adapted by self-claimed serious movies in the recent past that's very predictable and juvenile. There are very obvious logical flaws about his possession of gun, his public killings and the police being portrayed as dunces in their pursuit of him, but I won't dwell on them.

I suspect Jeeva will receive a state award for his performance in this movie as Prabhakar. There are times when he's good and there are times when his action follows a pattern that Indian cinema has categorically allotted for the mentally disturbed: shivering hands, shaking head, unstable body, suddenly speaking in high pitches, streaks of thought clarity, etc. Jeeva fits the bill. The new face Anjali does a very clean job of what is expected of her. Special mention goes to the photographer Kadhir. Most of the frames have a pervasive dull yellow light that signifies the dryness of his life and sorrowful events. The only shots filled with greenery are his childhood days, which helps us understand that he desperately wants to go back to those days. With so many close-up shots, he conveys the realism of the character: Prabhakar just doesn't mouth those words, but also feels them whole-heartedly. There are so many shots that exhibit Ram's sparks and I'm happy that he has chosen a story and narrative that's breaking Tamil movie conventions. That's it for the review; the following is a kind of thematic analysis and a rebuttal of the writer's points.

I'll list some of the events in the life of Prabhakar that slowly turn him into psychopath:
  • After graduation, to earn a Rs.2000/month job as a teacher he has to do the household chores of that school correspondent from buying monthly pads for the house lady to vegetables.
  • A local police inspector has a crush on a woman. When the inspector spots Prabhakar next to her, as a sign of showing off his power, he drags him in front of his students into the jeep and remands him into custody for a day.
  • When his suicide attempt fails, the police slap a drug trafficking case on him.
  • Prabhakar's neighbour asks him to write a love letter for a certain woman called Thenmozhi because he's incapable of beautiful language; later Prabhakar is told that the nieghbour succeeded in tasting Thenmozhi and he will need another love letter for another woman.
  • His moderately intelligent college roommate ends up in a lucrative job while he has to scourge for a few hundreds.
  • This factor isn't highlighted, but I'll list it anyway: he loses his mother at the age of 7 in an accident and his beloved Tamil teacher (who inspires him to take up Tamil in college) in an accident when he's 17.

Except for the fifth point which involves financial differences and the sixth point which makes the protagonist lonely, all others (and many more unlisted) concern the society's moral depravity. Now, if this moral turpitude is the reason for making him hate humanity, there's a certain logic in buying the theory that as a psychopath he's against unethical people. In a beach, he kills a couple for public caressing. That's in line with the theory. But when he delivers his supposedly final punch lines, he forgets why he became what he is in the first place. He goes on a rampage against the haves and have-nots. He issues a warning that if you wear a branded glass or a branded jean, that's enough reason for you to get killed. He specifically rants against the software industry which has made the non-software salaried class' life difficult. He says there are two kinds of people: 'the ones inside an ATM and the ones outside it; the ones inside Spencer Plaza and the ones outside it'. What is he driving at? The money factor doesn't play a big role at all in transforming the simple Prabhakar into a sociopath. This is nothing but the director's foolish misdirected anger at the suddenly rising wealth of a certain class.

We live in an open economy where you make or break your life. Instead of deriving inspiration from someone like Ambani, what this movie tries to say is that the poor guy who throws stones at Ambani's car is actually a good guy and it's the society that's responsible for all inequalities. When a movie promotes such arrogantly foolish ideas, everybody ends up paying. If such ideas click, it will lead to a downward spiral. It is in light of such misguided but talented directors like Ram Subbu, filmmakers like Maniratnam appear like visionaries, like gods. In a society which has had a stream of movies that have always portrayed the working class as good and oppressed and the ruling class as villains, Maniratnams's 'Guru' is really a towering achievement. It clearly says: 'The world is waiting for you. Go ahead and make your life'. 'Kathradhu Thamizh' is the kind of movie I would NOT want most of our teenagers or anyone without original thinking to see.

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Mini Reviews

Final Destination 3
This is the point: A young woman has a vision that the roller coaster that she has just boarded is about to crash; makes a scene and gets out with a handful of others. Those who escape the ride (yes, it crashes!) die one after another in a pattern captured through a series of photographs. See this movie only if you're drunk.

Die Hard 4
This is classic action stuff. A frustrated cyber-security guy cripples the national security and routine functioning by hacking into every governmental system. McClane (Bruce Willis) with the help of a whiz kid bring him to knees amidst bombastic crashes. Doesn't generate enough adrenalin and some lines make you chuckle.

This movie was banned in a few European countries (think about that for a second). The dehumanizing nature of human beings takes the form of extravagant sexual torture. With a flimsy story, ludicrous screenplay, bad acting and heavy nudity, some people call it art but I find it nothing more than instantly disposable trash.

Cinema Paradiso
A typical European feel-good movie. An uncommon friendship between a young boy and an old man, a cinema theatre that plays a touching role, a tender love story that ends in a tragedy - all for the price of one ticket. The Italian version contains an extra 40 minutes which develops the protagonist as an adult making his character arc complete.

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Jodi No.1 Gimmicks

In a well scripted show of the latest episode of Jodi No.1 which wraps itslef as a controversy, Simbu as usual spoils the climax by overacting. I've watched three shows so far and even the blind and deaf can attest that Prithviraj - Uma Riyaz are the pick of the lot. The energy, attitude and style this couple bring to the show is top of the line leaving the second best far behind.

In what definitely appears to be a staged drama, Simbu comments that Prithviraj didn't do much on the stage other than walking back and forth. More than the nature of the comment, its the way in which Simbu gets across his point that frustrates, entertains and at the same time reveals the spuriousness of the drama. He just goes on and on about his character, how straight forward he is, how his father taught him not to act if there isn't a camera nearby, how people wrongly perceive him to be an arrogant sob, blah, yada, this, that.

Simbu, in a less than admirable performance, walks out of the show while the participants run behind him and drag him back. Then, in a moment of truth, he blurts out what appears to be the truth: 'enakku nadikka theriyadhunga'. We appreciate your honesty dear. Not many, like Vijay or Ajith have the courage to admit that in front of an audience. We love you for that.

PS - This show will be availble on youtube very soon. Checkout the final 15 minutes. This is instant history.

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Mr. and Mrs. Iyer

Movies on religious extremism are abound. It's usually an act of tightrope walking for the writer and director in creating such films because there's immense room for one to tilt towards his/her preferences or construct scenes which may project something not meant. 'Mr. & Mrs. Iyer' like 'United 93' offers a balanced treatment by keeping its protagonists as spectators who rarely get into the thick of action, which is very unlike 'Munich', where the protagonists are responsible for all the action. I guess the primary motive behind such characterizations is that a common man (or a woman) can easily identify with the leads in the movie, where a he/she is usually a witness or a victim. I'm not belittling such a perspective, but I want to state upfront that I have a leaning towards movies that dissects the mind of a terrorist, like in the brilliant 'Syriana'. I'm not suggesting that Aparna Sen, the writer/director of this movie took an easy way out in a script dealing with religious extremists, but only hint that it's a high-responsible task to make movies that has a religious fanatic in the lead.

Meenakshi Iyer (Konkana Sen Sharma) is a conservative among conservatives. Deeply religious and sentimental. she is the kind who regrets for having drunk water from a Muslim co-passenger. Raja alias Jehangir Chaudhry (Rahul Bose) is a wild life photographer who has almost abandoned his religion and is a pure rational humanist. Chance brings them together on a bus journey through a communal riot prone zone. When Hindu activists go on a rampage pulling Muslims out of the bus, Meenakshi claims Raja as her husband which puts him in the safe group. (Earlier, a passenger is stripped to check if he's circumcised, which should have built up tension for Raja). Later, curfew because of the riots and a lack of accommodation brings them to a lonely house in a forest area. What happens here is the crux of the screenplay - where Bose's words, actions and courage spills over and melts her conservative boundaries to enable her to see him as a man, not as a Muslim. The movie's success upto this point is diluted when it drags on to an unnecessary romantic angle in the final twenty minutes.

The movie starts out like a college video project. Many new faces with amateurish performances delivering made-up lines. When the bus had a sample of all communities from India I thought this was another moral story without any force. But the theme picks up after the first half an hour. Aparna Sen sizzles when it comes to writing tender moments but her direction has uniformly lacked a grip. From the basic missteps like showing a well groomed face after sleep to important ones like extracting credible performances from the supporting cast, Aparna Sen doesn't impress. Rahul Bose plays his part to perfection - a cultured man who has acquired wisdom through meeting a lot of people by traveling a lot, he never loses his cool and paints a perfect gentleman's role. Konkana Sen Sharma has a kind of beauty that keeps growing with the running length. Her body language is apt: adjusting her bra strap when required, faking a husband/wife relationship in front of co-passengers, a gradual shortening of the distance between Raja and her with time.... I would like to see more of her.

Having seen, read and heard quite a lot about clashes based on religions, regions and ethnic differences, this movie is another in the long line where the filmmaker tries to have his audience introspect. As in most cases, this movie entertains and might stir up a few conservatives to reassess their relationship with a neighboring community but its not powerful enough to make the cat-on-the-wall guy (who under duress could become an extremist) into a humanist. Art must be capable of that. And this movie doesn't aim that high. But as a 100-minute entertainer, this definitely passes. Expect nothing more.

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