Not a cop, but a brand – Yentha Vaadu Gaani/Yennai Arindhaal Review


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In the midst of an argument Ajith has with one of the antagonists in Yentha Vaadu Gaani, the latter says, you’re a gentleman. It’s tough to disagree what most leading men in a Gautham Menon film are. They are brand ambassadors of dignity, purpose, passion, commitment and here, also of an ideal cop. Sathyadev is a much proclaimed extension to what we saw Venkatesh playing in a Gharshana, Kamal Hassan in a Raghavan. At heart, the film’s more an elaboration of the longing that he has with his beloved than his musings as an honest IPS officer.

It’s refreshing to see how the maker pushes the bar each time he’s dealing with a genre often plotted with stereotypes. Yentha Vaadu Gaani’s mainstream storyline isn’t its greatest strength. The character sketches lend the weight, the plot compromises on. But, the familiar template is its choice to reach out to the crowds. The larger good lies in its doses of realism it goes on to poster with A-listed actors, who in another film could’ve lost themselves in the star trappings.

Likewise, a father doesn’t tell his son, what career he needs to choose. He wants him to understand life on a deeper level, indulge in travel, meet newer people and work hard on his present. Later, his son nearly sets an example by readying himself to marry a  divorcee, a dancer, who has a child. He takes it a little further with his promise that he doesn’t want  kids with her anymore. He completes the arc as he passes these lessons to a daughter, with whom he grows old.

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For a change, the men in the film accept their age with grace. The women in the film are a wonderful blend of composure, class, the ones like Anushka Shetty inviting her male counterpart for a cup of coffee to bond over. Trisha is a Bharatanatyam dancer, who does so more to please herself, spread the art than earn a living. She’s a teacher who practices what she preaches. Her romance is aesthetic yes, but more importantly pure. When the man of her dreams in fact touches her for the first time, he confesses his intention to marry. This is idealistic more than real, but Gautham Menon firmly believes in this setting. His conviction in the little things like these, gives an autobiographical touch to the proceedings.

With this unintentional preaching, there’s still space for style, thanks to the lifelike yet the higher-class costume styling, the cinematography opening up on the under-explored territories of northern India and the modern Harris Jayraj score. Arun Vijay’s off-the-track casting as a baddie, more stylised than the lead actor lends a gentle reminder of the maker’s earlier negative characters known to deliver abuses with an aura surrounding themselves .

The fun in getting past this is a tad shortlived, with the formality-like, okayish dubbing. There’s a universality to the theme we appreciate, but with the sync-in-place lyrics and one-liners, the flow isn’t the best. The film stretches the very basic sub-plots more than necessity. The track with organ donation, female trafficking is a just a caricature, as the focus here is on the underplayed revenge and the good-versus-evil clash.

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On the whole, the film is a hits-package of Gautham Menon’s trademarks but the performances of Ajith and the child actress are the icing. They share the most organic moments that unfold on screen. The temptation to see what Sathyadev does next sustains in the end. This opens the door for a sequel. An aged lead character, a grown up daughter and a family, not bound by blood but love. Sounds good, isn’t it?

The daughter being the mom – Piku Review


As days pass by, we’re witnessing makers not expressing any apprehensions about casting popular actors, the star-bracketed ones, in films that bear an interesting mix of commercial and art-house cinema, specifically targeting the higher middle-classes. Take for instance Gautham Menon’s delicious experiments with cliches and style, an Ayan Mukherjee dealing with quarter-life crisis, a Shakun Batra going for an open-ended narrative even in a cushy romantic film, a Zoya Akhtar making those dreamy-aired yet grounded films with A-grade stars. Shoojit Sarkar’s Piku, on those lines is nearly the best attempt in freeing itself from a conventional plot, letting the moments flow and yet not doing away with that unadulterated yet commercial humour hanging in the mid-air.

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Juhi Chaturvedi’s writing continues to be fresh, sans postered mentalities, rigid impositions. The ‘real’ here is her pickings from elements mostly considered unideal for cinematic space. Imagine constipation or sperm-donation being robbed in a central plot, say a decade ago? Just as she found ways to place her Vicky Donor female protagonist as a Bengali (which primarily is a Shoojit Sircar indulgence is my guess), she literally extends her part to bring in the place, the richly flavoured language to a story like a Habib Faisal. It’s not because of the ‘Maane’s, ‘Bolchish’s amidst their Hindi but the way, they live like Bengali’s in the heart of Delhi. The aroma feels metres away. We see the characters here, some consciously and some blissfully unaware of how rooted they are to their origins.

The uncomfortable discussions about Indian and Western toilets, the talks comparing motion and emotion, jet-sprays and buckets, between Irrfan and Amitabh evoke wonderful spontaenity, even though we’re cornered with thoughts that it’s a smart replacement of Annu Kapoor and Ayushman Khurana in a Vicky Donor, taking a different context.

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Amitabh Bacchan, playing Bhaskor Bannerjee, nearing 70, is how fathers in many households exist post retirement. They have an opinion on almost anything and everything that surrounds them, are unabashedly critical, don’t come to terms with contemporary lifestyles, over-concerned about health, sporadic about medicinal care and in real need of soul-hearing company.

A self-confessed intellectual Bhaskor here, has an interesting preference for something that’s basic and effective, homeopathy. He warns his daughter to not use a ventilator, if ever he has to be hospitalised. In a spur of the moment on his wife’s birthday, which he celebrates posthumously, he talks about the problems he had with her. “Do you need to be critical about her, even on this day ?” objects the daughter. He simply doesn’t want things to look sweet and here, he neither denies the love, he had and still has for her. He is that sort of a person, whom you realise, we’ll fight all along when he’s around and yet miss him in his absence.

Piku and Bhaskor share those moments on-screen that we otherwise, at least on paper would easily label mundane. They are not the two who embrace each other and say,’Love you papa’ or ‘Beti’ on a daily basis. They pass random statements about themselves, can’t stand each other sometimes, strong about their views and somewhere amidst all this, we see they care. She lets him booze an occasional evening, for it makes him happy despite his health troubles. She gives an after-thought about selling his mansion in Kolkata named after her grandma. He, on the other front, never pressurises her to marry and even takes a step ahead to say to people that his daughter’s no more a virgin. He overdoes everything. It’s only when Irrfan Khan, who plays the owner of a taxi service asks about how does she bear his misdoings, Deepika rather puts her love openly and says, “ After all, they’re parents. We can’t judge them.”

It’s an excellent, very Indian and even a rooted background score with use of the veena that takes us through their momentous journey. This resonates with the motif that Amitabh idolises in the film, as he tries to play the instrument in his old mansion in Kolkata. It’s not the kind of a city, we saw in a Kahaani or Byomkesh, but a better example like Parineeta. The frames are bound by a strong connect to their past. Piku ambles along with an ease like this. The ends still are well-connected. Deepika gets a better road-film than Finding Fanny and re-discovers herself. She’s beginning to master silence on-screen. We see her with purpose and an equal sense of freedom, the kind that we lastly saw in a Kangana in Queen. The men are no less, but let’s give it to the actress this time.

Nearly catching up with the times- OK Kanmani Review


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There’s a sincere reason behind us labelling Mani Ratnam, a specific relationship expert, in spite of the maker touching upon eclectic genres over the years.

Consider films of his beyond those singular relationship threads or the specifically dramatic ones, say, Nayagan, Roja, Thiruda Thiruda or even Raavan, it’s the underplayed equations that do the trick. More than the gangsters, the darkness or the detailing surrounding it all, we shared a certain empathy for each of the flawed parts. That’s a reason we call them stories. The genre hardly matters. They were commercially enveloped works bound by crisp, universal emotions.

This very command over his preserved-trademark best is what sets O Kadhal Kanmani apart from similar comparisons like Love Aaj Kal and Salaam Namaste.

We go expecting something that’s emotionally drenching and there we peep into the world of a maker that’s reserved in its observances about the current crop. It’s a feather-light answer not pestering towards a conflict point, maybe as a statement to its major target audience, for whom excessive drama may not be the best of ways to portray slice-of-life moments.

For a while,we reminisce of a resurgent Gautham Menon in the frames, the latest and the best on the list to subscribe to Ratnam’s sensibilities, making up for the absence of the maker in the late 2000’s with the re-introduction of the metro-sexual male, the lady dressed in starched saris, ambitious about their careers but wanting an arm to embrace on the personal front. Here too, the couple is never in a hurry to give a name to their relationship. It might be ‘love’ for the public. They don’t want to define it. They want to live together. Why the heck should they be bothered if it’s a ‘live-in’ or any other cozy label ?

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It’s the higher-middle class sect that we’re dealing with. They don’t struggle for a living. Nearly clear about their academic/professional ambitions, we see the couple travelling in the local trains, double-decker buses,bikes and sharing intimate conversations in a coffee shop. The setting in Mumbai explains it with the British-styled architecture, the gaming arena and the pace of the lives. There’s a contrast to this proceedings in another of its subplots too. A little house away from the rush, a couple nearing their end but being full of commitment to keep their equation ticking despite the conflict.

Even if there’s an implicit connection to Alaipayuthey in terms of the mindsets of a confused couple, the film’s moments point more towards the Siddharth-Trisha thread in Aayutha Ezuthu besides the uncanny resemblances to Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal with the commitment ados. O Kadhal Kanmani’s speciality lies in the silences amidst the vibrance. We get enough space to digest what’s happening around us without being spoon-fed, neither with annoying voice-overs nor with the visuals.

After the two know each other enough in the Parandhu Sellava number, we’re symbollicaly shown they’re birds ready to fly. In accordance with the classical setting on display, we get to hear conversations about Bombay Sisters with a stirring background score by A R Rahman that packages enough of Endaro Mahanubhavulu, Bhavamulona and the Malargal Ketten track on the lines of M S Subbalaxmi’s Maitreem Bhajata.

Wait, there was something about Alzheimers that reminds us about Ajay Devgn’s U Me Aur Hum too. There’s so minimal detailing here unlike the former. It feels the disease is normal enough, something that can be done away with a stroke of love. We only get to hear ‘Stage 1’ and ‘Stage 2’ sans any bombardment of medical terminologies.

In spite of a proficiently dealt track of a career in the gaming arena, Mani Ratnam’s desperations to be a man of 2015 is all over-stuffed in a single film. He packages the narrative with the selfie-moments, the surprise parties with enough eyes on the gadget-addicted generation.

The re-assuring fact of the prominent filmmakers knowing that we needn’t elevate a gender nor even downplay either of them helps O Kadhal Kanmani. But still, we walk away with our eyes on Nithya Menen and even Leela Samson who literally master the little instances. The performances, even of Dulquer Salman, the stereotyped confused boy and Prakash Raj, the ever-ready character artiste are fresh, devoid of any baggage. Don’t burden yourself with the names here and expect a classic. We’re sure for a wonderful evening stroll in the park with maturity, energy and most importantly love.