Kaashmora

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Written and directed by Gokul and starring Karthi in a double role, Kaashmora is a full on masala supernatural thriller with an amusing antihero, an evil villain, a beautiful princess, a mystic child, loads of characters with little to do and tonnes of cheesy one-liners. Much more fun than I expected, not as smart as I’d hoped, I still felt I got my money’s worth.

Kaashmora (Karthi) is a successful exorcist whose popularity is on the rise. He acquires a research assistant, Yamini (Sri Divya) who is secretly doing a thesis on fraudulent spiritualists. Eventually, and after many shenanigans, he arrives at a mysterious ruined palace which is haunted by a seriously evil spirit, Rajnayak (Karthi again). His family (including dad Vivek) who share the exorcism biz are also brought there, and they are given a hard deadline to achieve a task. Both Rajnayak and a mysterious child need Kaashmora to lift a curse and allow either a) Rajnayak to leave his confinement or b) long dead Princess Ratnamahadevi (Nayanthara) to finish him off once and for all. There’s not much Why but there is a whole lot of What! I think it’s best to just go see it and let it all roll. Or if you must spoil your own fun, read the usual painfully detailed summary a Wiki killjoy has already published.

Being a supernatural historical thingie, there is a lot of over the top design required from the palace and city through to the armour and other costumes. Overall I would say the design is great but the execution is a little lacking, and if you’re not as fond of dodgy CGI as I am, you may be in pain during some sequences. The old time city and palace are pleasingly epic in scale, and there is a nice commitment to eagles throughout. Ratnamahadevi has an excellent peacock bed, Rajnayak’s armour is hilarious and would probably get him killed or at least badly tangled up, and Kaashmora’s modern day exorcisms have the right blend of stock horror elements. The songs are colourful and their design and costuming ranges from totally unhinged to opulent and over the top. I was particularly taken by the Mad Max inspired Dhikku Dhikku Sir, although it was more “Furry Road” than Fury.

Often the device used to explain a far-fetched thing was not explained at all. Kaashmora is caught in part because of publicity about his Guinness Book of Records exorcism attempt (no, I did not know that was a category either) and naturally, we are to believe that the ghosts read the paper and watch the TV news. This was explained by a man who needn’t have been there except that there was no other way to explain that. So while I kind of liked the ideas, I wish Gokul had a better notion of how to link them together and how to keep moving without so many stops for “as you know Bob” exposition.

It’s not a terribly scary film, although there are a couple of moments that startled me a little. There’s a lot of violence but not so much gore. And despite Rajnayak being at best a sex pest and at worst a serial rapist, there was no depiction of violence or rape and all the ladies (and there were lots) he acquired gyrated around his enormous round bed and kept their spangly draperies firmly in place. Well, except his intended and unwilling bride, Ratnamahadevi, who had other ideas about their future.  Small mercies.

Sri Divya got a raw deal with her character. Yamini must be the worst at research ever. Just the worst. (I feel a bit Trumpesque making that statement.) She was supposed to be doing a thesis but had no idea how to actually do research, not even check Youtube for pertinent clips. And her character was completely pointless, adding nothing to the drama and doing little until a point when other solutions could easily have been written. I would have ditched Yamini completely and used the time to explain why Rajnayak stood around covered in bats.

Karthi is much more effective, and fun, as the slippery and smug Kaashmora than the one note Rajnayak. Kaashmora is serious about his business but his reactions and one liners ranged from droll to dad joke, making the most of Karthi’s comic timing. I was distracted by a continuity issue with a bit of disappearing crud on Rajnayak’s teeth which kept me a bit more interested in him than I might have been. But I was annoyed by the ending a little as it implied that Kaashmora would not learn anything from his near death experience and possibly worse, there might be plans for a sequel.

Nayanthara is both impressive and stunning as Ratnamahadevi. I wish more time had been given to her, not just because her multi-coloured hair looked great, but because I was more interested in her back story and her connection to the mystical child. Her outfits are very fairytale princess, but Ratna is both a warrior and a diplomat, using whatever tactics will be to her advantage. When Rajnayak was pawing at this woman he had coveted for so long, Nayanthara showed both disgust and the determination to seduce him and catch him off guard. And she imbued the final confrontation with a sense of the high stakes and her absolute fury at him. Does anyone know who played the child? She was quite impressive too.

Kaashmora is less grim than Arundhati, and less engaging than Magadheera, but it is good fun in a ripping yarn kind of way. It’s worth seeing on the big screen so you can at least be absorbed in the spectacle. And thanks go to Ajith who was credited with the subtitles – much appreciated!

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Velaiyilla Pattathari

Velaiyilla Pattathari

I laughed, I cried, I clapped and cheered along with everyone else in the cinema, and finally I left with a big grin on my face.  Dhanush hits all the right notes in his 25th film with a full mass entertainer that has something for everyone.  This wasn’t the film I expected after seeing the trailer and despite a rather predictable storyline I was completely captivated by the infectious energy Dhanush brings to the screen.  Writer/director Velraj seems to have started with a blend of a number of previous Dhanush roles (he does seem to play the part of an unemployed layabout quite frequently!), but as the story develops the differences become clear and in any case, with the quality of the actors, any similarity ceases to matter.  What starts out as a family drama evolves into a full action adventure featuring snappy dialogue and perfect performances from pretty much the entire cast.   I loved every moment, from Raghuvaran riding his dorky cycle taking his brother to work, to the final shirtless fight scene and even the clichéd pre-interval ‘shock’ which segues into a perfect emotional response from Dhanush.  Paper-thin plot aside, this is a film to savour.

Velaiyilla Pattathari

As the title suggests, Dhanush is the out of work loser in his family, with a father who fails to understand his ‘difficult’ son.  His younger brother Karthik (Hrishikesh) is taller, has a job and is held up to be the ideal son in stark contrast to Raghuvaran (Dhanush).  Samuthirakani plays their father and his disapproval is wonderfully understated, so that it’s hard to tell if his condemnation is genuine or simply masking concern for his jobless son.  Samuthirakani has a perfectly gruff and irritable exterior and escapes stereotype by the realistic alternation between criticism and approbation of his eldest son.  Meanwhile, Saranya Ponvannan is a stereotypical Southern Indian ma, but she is perfect in her role and makes much more of her character than seems possible at first glance.  In particular, her reaction to Raghuvaran’s fight with some hired thugs in her front yard is hysterical!  Again it’s little touches and Saranya’s ease of expression that lifts her role out of the stale and mundane, while such attention to detail in the characterisation ensures the appeal of the characters and bolsters the time-worn storyline.

Velaiyilla Pattathari

The first half of the film focuses on the family dynamics and Raghuvaran’s dreary days as he spends his time filling in job applications and doing the household chores.  There are plenty of lighter moments though as Raghuvaran looks after his dog Harry Potter, and tries to catch a glimpse of his new, reportedly attractive next door neighbour.  Velraj mixes small every-day occurrences with more significant events to gradually build a picture of Raghuvaran’s ambitions, morals and general mind-set which in turn sets up the rationale for the action in the second half.  Raghuvaran is determined to get the job he wants and not just take any work for the sake of becoming employed.  The only thing which seems to have any power to change his mind is his attraction to Shalini (Amala Paul) and their budding romance.

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Amala Paul doesn’t have a large role in the film, but she turns in a good performance and has plenty of onscreen chemistry with Dhanush.  Their romance is sweet with Shalini taking the more aggressive role, and it’s a pleasant change to have a film where the hero isn’t a creepy stalker. Or at least not as soon as he gives up his telescope to his mother!

The second half follows Raghuvaran’s fortunes once he does find a job, and the whole dynamic of the film changes to more hero-centric action with slickly choreographed fight scenes and the requisite villain.  Vivek pops up in a fairly subdued role to add some mildly amusing comedy, and there is a second heroine (Surabhi) although her storyline peters out when the action ramps up.

Velaiyilla Pattathari

Amitesh is Arun, the villain of the piece.  He’s a rich boy given control of his father’s company despite a lack of talent and what I would call nounce, and for various petty reasons and sheer spitefulness decides to eliminate his competitor in the world of building development.  It’s a tad far-fetched but I did like the rather brattish and petulant character of Arun which was a respite from the typical brutal world-domination style villains usually encountered.  Amitesh doesn’t really match up to Dhanush in terms of acting skills and it’s fairly obvious who is going to win any encounter, but the various plots and counter-plots are fun.  I also appreciated the fairly accurate representation of a visit to the optometrist and an eye examination in the second half since attention to eye health is rarely featured in movies!

Velaiyilla Pattathari

I’ve been listening to the soundtrack since it was released, and the songs are even better in the context of the film.  Dhanush dances up a storm and the choreography is well suited to the characterisation.  Udhungada sangu is probably my favourite but Anirudh Ravichander’s music and Dhanush’s lyrics (yay for subtitles!) are well matched to the screenplay and the songs are sensibly placed in the narrative.

The entire cast are all excellent but with a strong screen presence, Velaiyilla Pattathari is very definitely Dhanush’s film through and through.  He nails the role of Raghuvaran and as always I am completely amazed by his ability to make me believe 100% in his character, no matter how improbable or unlikely.  The interactions with his co-stars are flawless and when it gets to a long and simply brilliant monologue his facial expressions, body language and delivery all combine to make it one of my favourite scenes this year.  The mixture of comedy, action and drama, plus superb performances makes this one of Dhanush’s most entertaining ‘commercial’ films in recent times and I’ll definitely be heading back to the cinema to catch it again.  Highly recommended – I loved it!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.