I’m a big fan and I expect a lot from K.V. Anand and his writing team of Subha but sadly Maattrraan fails to deliver despite the presence of two Suriya’s, the hint of a good story and the best efforts of all the cast.  I was expecting the worst when I read about that the plot involved conjoined twins since anything even vaguely medical in Indian cinema is always replete with the totally impossible and that’s exactly the case here.  As if the ridiculous medical themes weren’t enough to deal with, the second half also has plot holes and inconsistencies big enough to swallow a small asteroid while it treads a well-worn path without any real excitement or tension. Just to cap it all off, Maattrraan also has one of the most ridiculous and unsatisfactory endings I’ve ever seen in a Tamil film!

It’s not all bad though.  The first half is generally entertaining and the interaction between the twins is engaging, but when the best chemistry in the whole film is between Suriya and himself then you know things aren’t looking good.

Suriya plays conjoined twins Akilan and Vimalan, who are almost separate, but can’t actually be separated because they only have one heart between them – which is only the start of the questionable medical statements.  Vimalan is intelligent, quiet and studious and completely different from his drinking, smoking and music-loving brother. They tend to overlook the fact that only having one heart means they share the same blood supply so if one twin was blind drunk, the other one would be intoxicated too, but logic never really intrudes on their relationship.  The differences between the two would have worked well for two fifteen years olds but seemed a little out of place in two grown men, especially since Akilan seems to be channeling late seventies Rod Stewart most of the time.

But the relationship between the brothers is the best part of the film and Suriya convincingly plays the part of the conjoined twins making them seem real rather than the product of a special effects team.  The twins are the offspring of Ramachandran (Sachin Khedekar), a genetic scientist who was forced out of Russia by the end of the cold war.  After some financial difficulties he set up the increasingly successful business of Energion, an energy drink for kids which consistently outsells and out performs all its competitors.  Add in a suspected Russian spy who is actually a journalist reporting on the connection between Energion and a health supplement which had serious side effects in a group of young Russian athletes and the scene is set for some dodgy chemistry and dubious genetic manipulation.

The film tries to ramp up into an action thriller, but since we know the villain is the rather mild-mannered Ramachandran along with his faithful side-kick Dinesh (Ravi Prakash) there aren’t many thrills to be had.  The fight scenes, especially one at the end of the first half between the twins and an assortment of thugs in an amusement park, seem to drag on forever. Perhaps it’s the challenge of the conjoined twins but even in the later fights, Peter Hein’s choreography isn’t as effective as usual.

There doesn’t seem to be any real reason for Akilan and Vimalan to be conjoined twins other than a gimmick to grab our attention.  It’s difficult to tell without understanding the dialogue, but there wasn’t enough in their relationship to fully explain why most of the budget had to be spent on creating the duplicate Suriya effect.  Especially since the rest of the film seems to have suffered as a result.  K. V. Anand films usually have great explosions, thrilling chase scenes and innovative fight sequences, but here the best of them are muted and the helicopter crash in particular is a rather damp squib.  Two brothers would have worked just as well, and although I get the nod to the fact that their father was a genetic scientist and the sequences with Akilan missing Vimalan in the second half were good, it wasn’t enough for me to justify the conjoined aspect.

Kajol Agarwal plays the role of Anjali, who starts off interested in Vimalan but then seems to change her allegiance to Akilan without too much distress in the second half.  Rather more believably, Anjali is a Russian interpreter which at least allows her to feature occasionally in the action and Kajol is fine in her role. Since the other female protagonist is the rather stilted and uncomfortable-looking Russian journalist, Kajol is also the better dancer which gives you a clue that the dance sequences aren’t anything too great either.  Even Suriya appears awkward for most of the choreography and the best thing about the songs are Kajol’s beautiful saris and skirts.  One song appears to have been shot in the Fjords in Norway and the scenery is absolutely stunning but also totally overshadows any hint of romance between Suriya and Kajol.

The basic story could have worked well, but it’s buried underneath all the CGI and far too many irrelevant trimmings that work against building excitement or tension as the plot unfolds.  Suriya is excellent and worth watching but that’s not enough to hold Maattrraan together. If you can watch with a willingness to completely suspend disbelief and don’t mind the constant clichés then this is probably a film that you will enjoy.  Otherwise wait for the DVD where judicious use of the FF button will likely make Maattrraan more watchable.


Grahanam is about superstition, mistrust and sex. The story is based on a novel by Telugu writer Gudipati Venkatachalam, also known as Chalam, adapted and directed by Mohan Krishna Indraganti. The story follows the aftermath of superstition made fact by belief.

Set in a village in the recent past, the story has a timeless feel. Saradamba (Jayalalitha) is the wife of Swamy (Tanikella Bharani). They are the premier family in the village, and she is renowned for her charity and community support. Kanakayya (Monish Thallavajhula) is a poor boy with academic promise. Saradamba provides a meal for him each day, and is clearly fond of him. She is a strong advocate for education, and encourages the villagers to send all their children to school.

Swamy lets his wife deal with the daily routine, trusting her to do the right thing for the family prestrige.  Sarada is adept at biting her tongue when her mother-in-law is demanding, and has a strong sense of duty. Their relationship seems happy enough, and there is certainly a strong physical chemistry. They joke about his tyrant of a mother, tease each other about their marriage and seem to be compatible. Sarada is not above flirting to get her own way, but Swamy doesn’t appear to mind one bit.

All seems tranquil. But Kanakayya falls ill with a fever and conventional medicine doesn’t seem to be helping. His uncle suggests consulting Gopayya (Sundaram Thallavajhula), a Kali devotee from the next village, who is purported to be able to cure mystery illnesses. Gopayya’s diagnosis is the catalyst for major drama. He says Kanakayya is sick with ‘doshagunam’, explained as an illness caused by having sex with an older woman.











No one seemed to have heard the word before, but before long it is bandied about as though it is an established fact. Kanakayya’s parents reject the idea that their son would have done anything immoral, but he continues to sicken. In desperation, they seize on the cure Gopayya prescribes – a cure that requires blood from the thigh of the woman who ‘infected’ him.

Suspicion falls on Saradamba and all the small kindnesses that used to be evidence of her charity and good nature are now seen as proof she seduced the boy. Lapses in protocol are twisted to show she was betraying her husband. Swamy is plagued by doubts. He accuses her of lying, of whoring behind his back and ruining his prestige. Sarada denies the accusations, but is she really as innocent as she claims?

The crux of the story is that a rumour, a suspicion, a superstition can take on a life of its own. Women are spoken of as impure, carriers of sin and ruin. Their sexuality is toxic and men cannot save themselves from a predatory woman. People are all too ready to believe the worst and seemingly only because she is female. Once Saradamba is accused, she is attacked verbally and physically. The damage done is real, regardless of the reason. But why are people so ready to believe in ‘doshagunam’ and to accuse a previously blameless woman?

The story develops through a flashback structure, narrated by Surya as Doctor Raghu. This allowed me to work out the internal chronology of the story. The black and white film does give a sense of things happening a long time ago, but the events are quite recent. I thought this device worked well as it made the point that while Saradamba and Kanakayya’s story may be set twenty or thirty years ago, it’s not that remote from the present day.  A short segment in colour adds a dreamlike note and made me question my assumptions about some relationships.

Tanikella Bharani is excellent as Swamy. He shows the doubts and frustration gnawing away and the bitterness that creeps into his marriage. His confrontations with Sarada are threatening and venomous. Even though I thought Swamy was a fool at times, I could see the way the rumours poisoned his mind, and his resistance disappeared. It’s an unsympathetic role in many respects but he gives Swamy a dimension of sweetness that made me see what Saradamba saw in her husband, and made their estrangement even more painful. And after seeing him play uncle, sidekick or victim in so many films I really liked seeing him in a leading role for a change.

Jayalalitha is well cast as Saradamba. She has an earthy sensuality and a physical confidence that suits her character, and she dominates the film. When she is on the verge of losing her home and family she seems almost feral – all teeth and claws.  The confusion and indignation are evident but Jayalalitha also creates some ambiguity with her reactions and expressions. Those slight hesitations and the glimpses of behaviours that could be open to different interpretations or doubt were really well done. It meant that the story was a bit more complex than a ‘pure woman is besmirched by rumour’, even though my sympathies lay with Saradamba. I questioned whether I completely believed her, if she had done anything ‘wrong’, and if she had seduced the boy did that warrant what was happening.

The black and white film is very atmospheric but the garish yellow subtitles on my DVD were a bit distracting. The interiors and doorways provide a frame or concealment, alluding to the secret lives of characters. Even the ornately carved bed changes from bed to barrier over time. The physical environment is used to illustrate the mood and emotion of the inhabitants. The camera sometimes sneaks up behind characters, sometimes settles in amongst a group of people talking or takes on the role of an observer judging what it spies. It adds a dynamic note to what is a very dialogue based movie.

I can’t opine as to whether it is a good adaptation of the original story, but there is a literary flavour to the dialogue and the concepts are clearly articulated. The dialogues are strong and meaningful, and reveal a lot about the people speaking. Mohan Krishna Indraganti seems to have an interest in what makes people tick and there are also scenes with no dialogue where small interactions, or reactions, speak volumes. I have seen Ashta Chamma and Golconda High School and I think his translation of story to screen is becoming more assured. I like his interest in everyday type people, and seeing what they do when confronted with a challenge or problem. The supporting cast are all very good but the focus is on Jayalalitha and Tanikella Bharani.

This isn’t the kind of film I want to watch every day as it is a bit self-consciously artsy and I alternated between being depressed and angry as I watched it. But I was interested to see a non-commercial Telugu film, and to see character actors take on leading roles. The story kept my attention, and made me think as well as made me want to throw things at the screen. It won a swag of awards and I can see why so many people have recommended it to me. 3 1/2 stars.

Katherine at Totally Filmi is coordinating a month long celebration of women in Indian cinema. Links will be collated at Delicious so keep an eye on that page for lots of other articles and blog posts to be added throughout March.


It took me a couple of films before I started to appreciate Suriya but after Pithamagan and Vaaranam Aayirami, I began to understand why so many people raved about him. The lovely Dolce recommended this film in a comment and after watching I am indeed a complete Suriya convert! Although the film is standard masala action fare with a paper-thin storyline, what makes it stand out are excellent performances from the lead actors and good well-rounded characterisations. In particular the scene-stealing Jagan Ayan is a surprise bonus in his role as a friend to Suriya’s character Deva.

The story follows a bad guys vs. good guys format although the good guys are smugglers and not exactly on the side of law and order. Suriya is Deva, an MSc graduate in computer engineering who works as a smuggler for his deceased father’s friend Dass (Prabhu). Despite his criminal activities, Dass has principles and refuses to smuggle drugs, preferring to deal in pirate DVD’s and diamonds. Now these seem to be at opposite ends of the smuggling scale to me, and I can’t imagine anyone being involved in both, but it’s not the most glaringly hard to swallow plot point, so it’s probably best not to dwell on it.

Dass is at the top of his game and apparently ranks as the number one smuggler in Chennai, a fact which does not go down well with his rival Kamalesh (Akashdeep Saigal). Kamalesh is a fairly pathetic villain, who has plenty of ambition but not much else going for him. Rather incongruously for a wannabe tough guy, he has very long hair, which he tosses back at every available opportunity and looks more like an aspiring supermodel than gangster. As far as criminal activities go he’s inept and bungling and, since Kamalesh looks like someone who wouldn’t manage to get an extra bottle of wine through customs let alone diamonds, his attempts to be top smuggler appear to be doomed to failure.

Chitti (Jagan Ayan) turns up as a hopeful member of the gang and after he does Dass a favour, is accepted into the group. He rapidly becomes an indispensable part of the team and Deva’s best friend, and the two have some excellent chemistry together. Jagan Ayan is brilliant as Chitti and I love the way his character is well developed and detailed for a non-hero role. Chitti has many shades of grey and this, along with the fact that his motivation is simply to make more money and enjoy life, makes him a more realistic character than expected from his first appearance.

Although Chitti’s character provides most of the comedy in the film, he does have a more serious part to play in the proceedings later and is just as good in the more dramatic moments. There isn’t a separate comedy track thankfully, and all of the comedy is integrated well into the main story. Deva also gets his fair share and this song features a number of ‘disguises’ worn by Deva – many of which are actually characters from his previous films. While I think he disproves the stereotype of heroes in drag and actually makes a passable woman, the long shaggy hair here is a definite no!

The other full time member of the group is Dilli (Karunas) who has a minor, but still vital, role to play and acts mainly as a driver for the others. There are a few other gang members who come and go, but the secret of Dass’s success seems to be in keeping his operation small and well hidden behind the front of a garbage disposal company. However in spite of all his precautions, the gang is continually raided by the police and Dass begins to suspect that one of the group is selling them out to Kamalesh.

The diamonds storyline means that the action shifts to ‘The Congo’ in Africa although the filming apparently took place in Tanzania and Namibia. It does make a change from various European locations at any rate and director K. V. Anand seems to have involved quite a few locals to good effect. Although all of the film is very well shot, this section in particular features some excellent cinematography from M. S Prabhu. It also includes possibly the best chase sequence I’ve seen in a Tamil film so far. After Deva collects the diamonds via an inexplicably convoluted system of torn banknotes and secret codes, they are stolen from his hotel room. He chases after the thief who has a very large circle of friends available who keep passing the diamonds to each other and keep Deva always just one step behind. The chase has a number of parkour-inspired sequences and is cleverly directed by South African stunt co-ordinator Franz Spilhaus to look fast, slick and very convincing.

After all the action, time for some romance. Chitti has a sister, Yamuna (Tamanna) and everyone seems just as baffled as I was that they are actually siblings.

They look nothing alike, and the difference is mentioned quite a few times in Yamuna’s introduction. However Yamuna does appear to have rather good taste in men, considering that her room has a number of Shah Rukh Khan pictures on the wall (I approve!) and of course she falls in love with Deva. She’s not a shrinking violet either and is quite happy to pounce on Deva at every available opportunity. And really, who can blame her!

The love story is fairly straight forward without any major obstacles although Chitti has some of the best lines as he teases his sister and friend about their relationship. Suriya and Tamanna make a sweet and reasonably credible couple even if they fall in love rather quickly and the romance only makes fleeting appearances in the second half of the film. Tamanna looks beautiful and her character has plenty of personality which she conveys by some excellent facial expressions. I really like Tamanna as an actress and she manages to be more than just the love interest, which is always an achievement in such a very hero-centric film.

Just before the interval the traitor in the gang is revealed and once the plot twist is exposed the rest of the film loses most of the suspense and tension and becomes just another action flick. At least until near the end, where everything picks up again until the rather OTT climax fight.  The second half does tend to drag in parts and it’s not helped by the rather odd placement of the songs which mostly just disrupt the story. There is one terrible item song with Koena Mitra featuring a noticeable lack of dancing and dreadful lyrics which is used during a scene in a club and could very easily have been replaced with random dancing bodies for a more watchable effect. However a rather graphic depiction of the realities and consequences of becoming a drug mule is excellently done, and there are some great car chase sequences and explosions in the second half which almost make up for the meandering plot.

The film seems designed mainly to allow Suriya to show off his action hero persona and on that level it works well. He looks fit and capable and perfectly plays the action, romantic and comedy scenes, easily switching between the different moods and illustrating his versatility. The other characters are also well developed with both Chitti and Dass having plenty of input into the storyline and their presence also helps to define Deva’s character. Prabhas is excellent as Dass and injects a surprising amount of dignity into his role as a smuggler. The relationship between Dass and Deva is also nicely portrayed and there is genuine warmth between the characters. Renuka is good as Surya’s mother Kaveri and the other support actors all seem to fit well into their parts. Ponvannan also makes an appearance as Partiban, the harrassed Police officer in charge of customs at Chennai Airport who searches Deva on a fairly regular schedule. It’s really only Akashdeep Saigal who disappoints in both characterisation and dialogue.

Despite the unconvincing criminal Kamalesh, I really enjoy watching this film. There is plenty of action, good chemistry between Suriya and Tamanna, (although better between Suriya and Jagan) and the movie looks slick and polished. It just needs a snappier script and tighter story to make better use of the clever twists in the plot.  Still well worth a watch if you are a Suriya fan or enjoy a mass action film which keeps the action coming. 3 ½ stars for the action, story and overall film but 5 stars for Suriya!