Bhaagamathie


Anushka carries Ashok’s hodgepodge of horror and suspense, reinforcing her credentials as a leading actress. While the concept is good, the visuals are (mostly) impressive, and the cast is strong, the pacing is a little off and Ashok is heavy handed with the “twists”.

In an attempt to stymie man of the people Minister Eswar Prasad (Jayaram) in his path to the CM job, hard nosed Vaishnavi (Asha Sarath) and an ACP with convenient ethics (Murali Sharma) are told to get the dirt. Eswar’s former secretary, IAS officer Chanchala (Anushka), is serving time for killing her fiance who just happens to be the ACPs younger brother. She is taken from her cell for an unofficial interrogation and relocated to a decrepit old mansion in a spooky forest setting. What could possibly go wrong?

Chanchala and Vaishnavi play cat and mouse as Chanchala insists she is answering truthfully while not saying what Vaishnavi wants to hear. But after the interrogation sessions, Chanchala is confined to quarters with only the work of the VFX team to keep her company in the mouldering splendour of Bhaagamathie’s palatial home. And who is Bhaagamathie? Local legend says she is a demon, history may indicate she is a queen who trusted the wrong person, or is she just a figment of Chanchala’s imagination? Is Chanchala haunted, mad, or possessed? Murali Sharma (whose character name I forget) wants Chanchala dead and is quite happy to see her suffer at the hands of unknown possibly demonic tormentors. Comedy officers played by Prabhas Sreenu, Dhanraj and Vidyullekha Raman bumble around and add credence to Chanchala’s claims of supernatural goings on. What is really happening in that house? And if Chanchala is playing at being mad, what is her end game?

Anushka takes everything in stride and delivers a superb performance. Ashok throws in some Arundhati references, but Chanchala is a different woman. She is rational and curious, and goes looking for what caused that bump in the night. She knows the game the CBI is playing and will not perjure herself just for her own freedom. She is strong and ethical, and people maybe should have paid more attention to that facet of her character. Her fear and determination to survive are palpable. There are times where Chanchala seemed to be playing a game with her captors and I genuinely didn’t know what to believe, was she duplicitous, or you know, possessed and innocent. I was impatient to get back to Chanchala when she was not on screen. Whether you believe her condition is spiritual, psychological, or fraudulent, Anushka’s performance packs a wallop.

The supporting cast is strong but most of the roles are cookie-cutter and have no subtlety or sense of inner life. Jayaram is too good to be true as the people’s pick. Murali Sharma does well as the conflicted cop, but his character is written with little ambiguity so there is not much tension when it comes to crunch time. He does what the script needs, not so much what his character’s past actions might have indicated up to that point. Asha Sarath is strong and Vaishnavi is a good foil for Anushka but again, Vaishnavi is following the demands of the plot and sometimes they forget to write her brain into key scenes. It was nice when it made a come back. Unni Mukundan appears in several flashbacks as Shakthi, Chanchala’s murdered fiance. He was fine, but again his character was written to do things to fill a gap in the plot so he was limited with what he could bring to the table. Thalaivasal Vijay plays a character that surely had to be a reference to the doctor in Chandramukhi or Manichitrathazhu. And then he disappears, never to be mentioned again.

While the visual design is excellent and the atmosphere really works to add a sense of mystery and creepiness, Ashok messes up the pacing of some of the revelations and the logic doesn’t always bear scrutiny. He seems to prefer to show and tell and show again rather than assuming his audience has seen the same movies he has or that they can follow the breadcrumbs and reach their own conclusion. There are nods to Manichitrathazhu, Arundhati, the Usual Suspects, but not all are seamless or successful. The first half is all about building the supernatural element and reinforcing Chanchala’s status as a murderer. Then when she is finally removed from the scene after a night rich in incidents and mayhem, there is a sudden shift. The supposed revelations come one after the other and there is no time to absorb and reflect back on the prior events and reset your expectations before Ashok throws in another twist and shows all the details. But for all the surveillance technology and supposed experts observing via CCTV, nobody asked the same questions I was asking myself. A flaw in the writing, or was I really destined to be a highly successful filmi villain?

Thaman’s soundtrack is mostly confined to adding loud dramatic underscoring, just in case you didn’t realise you were supposed to be scared. Or maybe to let the audience know they should terminate their very loud phone conversation and pay attention to this bit coming up. In deference to this genre, there was only one duet and no big musical production numbers.

I enjoyed this for the way Ashok built his film world, and for Anushka tearing it up. I don’t think anyone could be genuinely completely surprised by the twists and turns but the journey is largely entertaining. With a couple of good minor “Boo!” scares into the bargain.

 

Advertisements

Irandam Ulagam

Irandam Ulagam

Selvaraghavan can always be counted on to take a different approach, and this time he heads into fantasy for a tale of love so great that it could transcend worlds.  It all sounds fine, inspirational maybe; except that the love between the characters never feels passionate enough to even inspire a short trip across town, let alone across worlds.  The execution of the story is also clumsy with the action jumping between two love stories without any apparent commonality, except that Arya and Anushka are the two actors in both cases. Irandam Ulagam is disappointing on many levels; even more so because there are flashes of a good story, some engaging ideas and even a few entertaining moments hidden among all the dreary dialogues.  And as if that wasn’t enough, seriously, how is it even possible to make Arya look this bad?

Irandam Ulagam

In this world there is the romance between Madhu Balakrishna (Arya) and Ramya (Anushka). Initially it’s a one-sided affair as Ramya feels that in Madhu she has found her Mr Right, but doesn’t know how to approach him. And then when Ramya does finally ask Madhu to marry her and is gently refused, she immediately decides instead to marry the man her parents have selected. Presumably because giving Madhu a chance to recover from the surprise proposal and perhaps give him time to find out something about her would be too much to expect! Madhu does however eventually fall in love with Ramya, and follows her to a medical camp to try and win her back before her wedding takes place.  After building Madhu up as a wonderfully caring man who looks after his disabled father (one of the best scenes in the film), Selva doesn’t seem to find anything odd in the concept that Madhu would recklessly dump his family responsibilities and job as a lecturer to follow a woman who blows hot and cold and generally doesn’t seem to have any idea what she wants from him.  Ramya is tedious in her indecisiveness and by the time the lifeless romance does manage to reach some form of conclusion it’s hard to care in any way about either Ramya or Madhu.

Irandam Ulagam

In the other world Varna (Anushka again) is a Xena kind of gal, who can swing a sword and take care of herself in a society where woman are definitely second class citizens.  Here Arya is Maruvan, a drunken buffoon who wants to fight in his father’s army, but is woefully inept even when sober.  Inexplicably he decides that Varna is the woman for him and after some heroic action does finally manage to win her as his wife.  Except that it’s not the idyll he was perhaps expecting but is more a constant combat as Varna can’t stand him. So not much love there either.  Not really looking good for a story all about grand passion that can span the stars.

Irandam Ulagam

Both characters played by Arya are wishy-washy with few redeeming features.  Although Madhu is a kind-hearted man, he’s rather dull and has no chemistry whatsoever with his co-star.  Maruvan seems to have been based on Shrek, which at least suits the fairy-tale landscape, but his transition from drunken village idiot to invincible warrior is just a little too instantaneous to be believable.

Irandam Ulagam

Anushka gets a better deal with Varna who at least has some personality, but Ramya is another weak character.  There is nothing endearing about Ramya to explain why Madhu would sacrifice everything to be with her, and nothing about their love story which suggests passion or grand desire. And that’s the problem. To believe in a love so great that it transcends everything there needs to be evidence of that love – and it just isn’t here.

Irandam Ulagam

The soundtrack by Harris Jayaraj is excellent, but the songs are completely out of place and don’t seem to fit the narrative, although that may be due to the rather woeful picturisation.  There are however a few moments where the choreography is different enough to almost work, if there were just a few more steps and a little less awkward shuffling.  Even the background score by Anirudh Ravichander is a disappointment as it’s frequently loud and intrusive, and doesn’t seem to suit the storyline particularly well either.

The special effects are fine, although nothing too spectacular.  They do create a different world, and the creatures such as the amazing ‘lion’ produce a fairy-tale atmosphere, enhanced by the fantastical fighting skills of our hero.  However I did keep thinking that if those planetary bodies were really that close in the sky then the gravitational field would have been completely different – which was a little distracting at times.

Irandam Ulagam

Irandam Ulagam needs a passionate and believable romance to make Selvaraghavan’s concept of true love convincing, but the lack of chemistry and any emotion between the main characters results in a failure to bring the idea to life.  Considering that Selva’s last film Mayakkam Enna was laden with emotional drama and desire, it’s strange that he seems to have missed out on this crucial ingredient here.  The story has the potential to offer more and the concept of a world without love is intriguing, but there is nothing to draw you in and generate interest in the characters. Even the performances by two normally engaging actors are laboured and unappealing.  The only thing I can recommend is the soundtrack, otherwise sadly I have to put Irandam Ulagam down as a miss.

Singham II (2013)

Singham IIDespite the promise of subtitles, Singham II turned out to be another ‘adventure without subtitles’ in Melbourne.  Possibly not such a bad thing as there was so much happening on-screen, I’m not sure that I would have had time to read them anyway.  However, director Hari keeps the basic plot the same with a dedicated cop determined to clean up Tamil Nadu and a number of characters from the original Singham reprise their roles.  The addition of Santhanam, Hansika and Mukesh Rishi among many others to the cast mainly adds more mayhem into an already packed storyline but although there is an apparently limitless cast of characters, it’s still Suriya’s movie all the way.  Singham II is relentless, overlong and frequently over dramatic but there are some excellent fight scenes and Durai Singham’s determination and energy help keep the film from dragging.

Singham IISingham II

 

 

 

 

 

There is a quick run through the significant moments of the first film, reminding us that Durai Singham (Suriya) had resigned his position and under the aegis of the Home Minister (Vijayakumar) was heading off undercover to Tutricorn charged with investigating arms smugglers in the area.  So after a run-of-the-mill item song with Anjali, the film starts with Durai Singham working as some sort of an instructor in a local school.  I’m not exactly sure what his role was but it seemed to involve students and a lot of marching but not much else, which at least gives Singham time to pursue his undercover mission.  He also indulges in a little investigation when one of the students breaks in to look at exam papers early.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a contact lens used as forensic evidence in a film and I really hope I see it again as I never realised you could learn so much from a discarded lens!

Meanwhile at night, Singham is scouring the shore looking for smugglers.  But since the local police seem to be in cahoots with the gangs he doesn’t have much success.  I was happy to see one of my favourite bad guys Rajendran pop up, especially since he spends most of his time manically unloading illegal goods from a ship and then hurriedly reloading it all again when he’s tipped off about the possible police presence.  He’s funny and yet still menacing, and employs a fighting style which seems to be all elbows and knees but is still surprisingly effective.

Singham IISingham IISingham II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kavya (Anushka) is still chasing after Singham and trying to organise their wedding which seems to have stalled since he gave up his role as a police officer.  However apart from appearing in the songs she doesn’t have much to do and trying to fit her into the storyline makes the film even longer.  Another unnecessary addition is Hansika as Sathya, a school student who is in love with Duria Singham.  Sathya stalks Singham, which could have been an interesting role reversal, but there never seems to be any point to her unrequited love.  Even her connection with one of the villains of the story isn’t played on to any great extent until near the end, although that could just be because I didn’t understand the dialogue.  Although Hansika looks much too old to be a school student, she is much better than usual and plays her role with restraint, but her character just doesn’t add anything to the story.

As if two romances and all the action wasn’t enough, Hari also adds in a number of comedy tracks featuring Santhanam and Vivek.  I found Vivek annoying in the first Singham, but he is more restrained here and doesn’t have as much screen time which makes him slightly more bearable. He’s also more of a genuine character with most of the one-liners seemingly given over to Santhanam who at least is very funny (even without understanding the dialogue) as the school caretaker Sussa.

Singham II

One of the main problems with Singham II is the sheer number of villains that Hari throws at his hero.  Bhai (Mukesh Rishi) is a smuggler and drug dealer who has a gang of accomplices that Singham has to wade his way through before he can get to the top man.  Similarly Thangaraj (Rahman) is a more sophisticated smuggler who uses his shipping company as a front but also has his own gang of thugs who need to be dealt with.   And finally there is their supplier Danny (Danny Sapani), an international drug dealer who spends most of his time sailing around the Indian Ocean indulging in various forms of vice.  This included killing a police man who was supposedly Australian but the dubbed accent was so bad that I didn’t even realise the actor was supposed to be speaking English!

Singham IISingham II

 

 

 

 

 

The inclusion of so many antagonists means that there are seemingly endless fights against different groups of thugs and never-ending schemes and counter schemes to deal with the gang leaders.  While Bhia, Thangaraj or Danny by themselves would have been effective enough, with all three the threads become entangled and the plot starts to get both confusing and repetitive. The comedy and romance even comes as a bit of relief from all the action!  The fight scenes though are well choreographed by Anal Arasu, with the best being also the most nonsensical when Singham throws away his gun in order to fight unarmed in the rain outside his parents’ house. It’s pretty stupid, but great fun!

Singham II

There isn’t too much ‘angry Singham’ in the first half, but after he puts his uniform back on, Singham gets progressively more and more enraged as he systematically sets up and destroys each of the gang leaders and their various minions.  It’s not as effective as in the first film because there isn’t the mutually antagonistic relationship between Singham and Prakash Raj’s Mayil Vaaganam which made their vitriolic exchanges so fiery.  However Suriya is still convincing and carries the film despite the long and overburdened storyline.  He does have good chemistry with Anushka and both look great together in the songs.  Although the music (Devi Sri Prasad) isn’t memorable, the choreography seems better than in the last few Suriya films and his dancing is excellent.

'Angry Singham'

There is just so much of everything in this movie and it does get rather wearing   Fewer villains and a harsher hand with the editing would make it much better but it’s still worth watching for Suriya, better than usual choreography and plenty of excellent fight scenes.