Movie Review: 24

24 is in many ways a brilliant title for the movie. The run time for the movie is a  little less than 3 hours but feels like 24. Time travel seems to have been in-built in the movie script with each scene feeling like its going on for 24 minutes.

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The movie is not without it’s merits. 24 is probably THE best sci-fi movie made in Kollywood and in Indian cinema so far. The way the story ties in all the loose ends and pays attention to possible loopholes is incredible and at a level not expected from tamil cinema. The visuals are also stunning and the scene where Manikandan stops time for the first time is a visual stunner. The romantic and comedy tracks in the movie have been kept to a bare minimum; bringing them in only when they can move the story along. Albeit in long, drawn-out scenes.

The story:

Sethuraman, A rich scientist running a successful watch company lives in the middle of nowhere, in a large palace with his wife and baby, and works on creating a watch that can manipulate time. Athreya is his twin brother, who walks in shortly after Sethuraman figures out how to manipulate time, and kills everyone except the scientist’s son. How does he know that Sethuraman will figure out how to manipulate time on that specific day at the specific time? And why doesn’t Sethuraman turn back time when he suspects something? How did that key end up in Athreya’s hands? And why does Athreya, a cold calculating person jump down a ravine instead of onto the tracks?

 Anyway, shit happens. 26 years laters the son, Manikandan, is a watchmaker and Athreya is a cripple who just wakes up from a coma. Athreya immediately realises he needs the watch to travel back in time to regain his youth. More shit happens and Manikandan dies and Athreya gets the watch. But wait. Surprise surprise. The watch can only manipulate time within 24 hours. Anyway more shit happens and Manikandan is alive and is fooled into thinking Athreya is Sethuraman and understands the story of how he ended up with his mother, who is not actually his mother.

Anyway, emotional shit happens. Manikandan is reunited with Athreya, thinking him to be his father Sethuraman. His mother is reunited with her family. And all of them live together because nobody questions why a super-rich dad wouldn’t meet his son for 26 years. Some brilliants twists and easy fooling of people later, Manikandan figures out how to travel more than 24 hours in time.

He figures out Athreya actually killed his father and travels 26 years back in time to stop him. Although, if he was intelligent enough to figure out time travel, he should have figured out he would be a baby 26 years back. What exactly was his plan to stop Athreya? Cry loudly and annoy him?

Anyway, Shit happens. And the day is saved.

Surya does a good job as Athreya and Sethuraman. Nithya Menon flies by and Samantha stands pretty.

There are some note-worthy twists and brilliant introduction and climax tie-ups which lift up the movie. However, the two biggest failures are in character development and attempting to merge sci-fi and tamil masala. Throughout the movie, the director tells us how the characters are rather than showing us. Athreya tells us how brilliant Manikandan is. Sathyan and Manikandan’s mother tells us how endearing Manikandan is. Random character tell us how Samantha’s character is. And Sethuraman dies so fast we don’t even care about him. In fact, the most strongly developed character is Athreya and I have already started seeing FB posts speculating how he is not dead.

The other problem is trying to merge Sci-fi with tamil masala. The songs are glaring breaks in the flow of the story and are hardly entertaining. The need to have an eagle with higher intelligence instead of just leaving it to chance was, in my opinion, a great drawback. Also, having Manikandan figure out how to travel more than 24 hours when he has displayed no scientific intent whatsoever before that scene brought down the movie a good bit.

However, this is one movie (big names and big budget) which could very well set off a slew of sci-fi movies in tamil cinema and because of that is worth watching.

Story – 8 / 10

Screenplay, Direction – 6 / 10

Music – 7 / 10

Acting – 8 / 10

Overall – 7.25 / 10

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Movie Review: Miruthan – Zombies ate this one’s brains

Miruthan – The first zombie movie in the history of tamil cinema.

Although, maybe not, since nearly every other movie has an undead hero who can get up after getting shot, run over, knifed and smashed on the head with an iron rod. He can even fight with the villain after than and defeat him, proving that he is in fact a zombie with superior strength and no sense of pain anymore.

Anywho, I was naturally excited since it was a first of a kind movie. And also expectations from Jayam Ravi post Thani Oruvan has been high. Maybe because I did not see Bhoologam.

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Let me start with the positives. The title track “Mirudha Mirudha” is a lilting melody with mesmerising lyrics by Karky.  And the attempt at visualising this song is new and quite refreshing. Kaali Venkat and R.N.R. Manohar play their parts with a natural comic tone and the scenes with the two of them are actually laugh-worthy.

Now to move on to negatives. The music. The loud, glaring music. The BGM, re-recording, SFX is almost distracting in most parts of the movie. Veri Veri Veri is so loud and annoying I could not even make out Karky’s lyrics. Post the movie, I found out that D.Imman  was the music director. I was more surprised with the title track coming out well than with the rest of the music turning out bad.

The Major negative with the movie is the logical flow. The movie starts out well, spending a good ten minutes establishing what zombies are, how they die and how long they take to transform and how you need to shoot them in the head. And then all of this is promptly thrown away as Jayam Ravi goes on a rampage, randomly shooting, mauling, and even punching his ways through zombies. There is also a huge amount of glaring mismatches in how long someone takes to become a zombie through out the movie. But of course, the biggest logical flaw and the most scariest movement in the entire film is the last scene.

The other big flaw in the movie is the physics. Even if those zombies were allergic to water and moved away from it, it is not going to send them flying. Neither is a gun shot. My guess is the director discovered just before the movie shoot that u can remove stunt harness lines in post production. New trick. Had to show it off. Thrice. In each frame.

Lakshmi Menon is painful to watch and hear. The placement of songs is also painful.

What could have been brilliant, has been destroyed by the lack of attention to detail. Maybe the Zombies ate this one’s brains.

Story, Screenplay, Direction – 6 / 10

Music – 5 / 10

Acting – 5 / 10

Overall – 5.3 / 10

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Corporate Series: The Three tricks to a satisfying work week – #3 Right Place Right Time Right Do

This one’s sort of a no-brainer isn’t it? You have to be at the right place at the right time. The universe works that way – be prepared for the opportunity when it jumps out from behind a door.What a load of BS. It’s a little, ok a lot, different at the office.

First of all – there are no opportunities knocking. You go knock and scheme and pull people down until you get that promotion. Cersei Lannister understood it well. or was it little finger? One of them.

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What happens when you die? Well, you don’t get fired. That would be too merciful. But………Aren’t we all doing work which will change the world? Why would anyone spend so much money and time and effort on a project if they don’t care about whether it’s succesful or not? I have no idea either. Apparently Not everything you do has to matter, Not everything you do has to have a purpose. Even in the business world.

Time for a pop quiz. What do you think gets you an interesting project which would also mean something to the organisation and would see the light of day eventually?

A. Talent

B. Achievements

C. Innovative Ideas

Well, if you actually picked an answer, instead of rolling your eyes when you read the options, you are either extremely lucky, or extremely dumb. Or you could still be in college.

Here’s the deal. The office is not a perfect market. What does that mean? Information is not easily accessible to everyone – in other words, the people who make decisions will never realise you actually worked on a good project. Unless you tell them.

So that is where being at the right place at the right time and doing the right thing becomes imperative.

Lets suppose your boss smokes. And his boss smokes as well. And you smoke as well. Is that a positive or a negative. Well, it depends (See what I did there? This is what you learn in a B-school.)

If your boss and his boss are discussing last month’s sales figures and glance out of the window to see you smoking – YOU ARE SLACKING. Even if it was only once a day. Talk about deprival super-reaction.

If your boss and his boss see you smoking, standing next to them while they are smoking, – YOU ARE NETWORKING. Even if that happens 5 times a day.

Same goes for coffee breaks, lunch breaks, leaving work at the end of the day, chatting with that cute new intern, and so on. Bonus points if you are able to sneak in information on what projects you worked without actually boring them about those projects.

Ok, so my boss knows me. His boss knows me. I haven’t really done any good projects yet.

Well, thats not an issue. Remember the office is not a perfect market.

Imagine what will happen the next time the top brass are discussing a new project and want to staff it. You boss will be there. His boss. And his boss. Now all three would want to impress each other with their knowledge of the team and how well they have bonded with them. Why? Because the big boss expects it of you boss’ boss. And your boss wants to be his boss. So it would begin with  your boss suggesting names, brandishing HR jargon. Now his boss would not want to be left out. And guess whose name he remembers because he had a smoke with them yesterday.

“Sometimes it’s all about how you get there”

So what do you think got you that project?

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Corporate Series: The Three Tricks to a satisfying Work-Week – #2 F.R.E.T.

F.R.E.T. – fanciful representation of exaggerated tale

The Merriam-webster dictionary app on my phone (which thankfully works without an internet connection) defines a tale as a story about imaginary events. I think that definition would work for pretty much everything some people say about their work.

Let’s face it guys – most people do not have work that stresses them out. And most of the people who actually do, will effectively pass it on to others (btw, that is a different skill you will have to learn over your corporate life). At best there are very short periods where you willl be dumped with a lot of work which wouldn’t be that stressful if you are able to get it into your head that you have enough time to do it. So, there really is no reason to fret.

Let’s look at investment banking, the classical industry with not enough hours to complete your work in a day.  Now there are two types of investment bankers – the ones who meet clients and the ones who don’t. Regardless of which one you are you will spend a large part of your time networking; not with clients but within your organisation and world of ibankers to get a better job or a better position with a better pay. Now this is not your job; so while you may fret about not having enough time because of this, it is not because you have too much work to do. I mean you basically make ppts or present them. You have An entirely different team which does the research. Why are you so stressed out while copy pasting information, we did that everyday at B-school!

Even ibankers can be forgiven. What is worse is for someone from marketing to be stressed out. Really? I mean really? I really thought the work must be stressful until I met my boss. He travels 3 to 4 days a week. And has a working lunch in a meeting the few days he is in office. And he is never stressed. Never frets. He just gets things done. Conversations with him are epic:

Boss: so we need this to be live by January. So we will do a pilot through December.

Me: yeah. I will need to do extensive field visits first. And then we will have to get together and figure out the model by November mid at least.

Boss: yeah. I guess it will take you around 60 days to understand the market and get the needs. That itself will hit December.

Me: yeah. But I think I won’t have enough time for the pilot then.

Boss (smiles) : we ll figure it out. Draw up a plan. We ll see how we can work it out. We’ll do the pilot in December.

No stress. No fretting. No worrying. Just plain work. I think this is a trait most people don’t have. To be able to look at the goal and figure out the plan. Instead they just start freaking out.

But the truth is. Most bosses and senior management expect you to be stressed out. If you are able to relax at office we are obviously not utilizing you enough they say. Fair enough. But being relaxed can be due to two reasons. One is of course that you have piled me with work and are “utilizing” my time efficiently. Two is – I AM FUCKING GOOD AT MY JOB. Why do I have to take the arduously long inefficient hours the average guy takes!!!

Like this guy:

Me: hey what’s up?

Him: dude. Don’t disturb am so stressed out today.

Me: lots of work, eh?

Him: bday in my dept dude. I have to buy cake. Where do I order? How? Will it come?

Me: you are stressed for this. ( trying very hard not to roll my eyes and get a conical cap with a D on it for this guy )

Him: dude its a logistics issue

Me: you have an MBA…..

Let’s buy cake. No. Wait. Let’s have a meeting about that first.

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Corporate Series: The Three Tricks To a satisfying Work-Week – #1 T.A.L.K

Now that I actually managed to get a job and am part of the corporate machinery, its only natural that i poke fun at what I am part of and also show-off with a bit of unsolicited advice for all the aspiring guys slogging it out at B-schools right now.

Getting into a new job will probably be the hardest part of your life – even worse than your b-school days. Not only will you have to work your backend off on days you are overburdened with work , you will also have to pretend to be working on days you have absolutely nothing to do. and TRUST ME, the latter is much more difficult.

And so, If you want a good and satisfying week at work, while still having time for life outside of work, there are three skills you will need to master. Unless you would rather be like……

Clearly, it takes a little bit of tact. And a bit of thick skin. Your week at office is not going to be anywhere near satisfying if you walk into cold stares everyday from everyone on your team; however, it is not going to be any better if you were the brave scapegoat who rubbed your boss the wrong way. There is a fine line to walk here.

Like so:

Boss: Should we order cakes or cream buns?

You: Hmmm. cakes are costlier than cream buns. considering the number of people we will be inviting and our budget it is suitable to order cream buns.

Boss: I have an idea – lets think of flavours!

You: but that doesn’t so…

Teammate 1(TM1): Thats brilliant! i think we should go with chocolate. everybody likes chocolate!

TM2: hmmmm. chocolate is too common. we don’t want anyone to think we are not creative.

You: but chocolate what? cakes or ….

TM1: good question. But aren’t flavours more important? We really want to think on a larger scale beyond items!

Boss: That’s right. We can really make a statement with flavours. I am personally biased towards raspberry.

TM1: raspberry is excellent. But maybe we should add a hint of chocolate in it. to be safe.

TM4: raspberry will provide a fresh take on meeting snacks as well. people will be motivated to provide creative ideas.

You: what..? how…?

Boss: Okay lets look at the costing for raspberry.

Silence….. Boss looks at you: well…. any ideas?

You: raspberry cakes? or raspberry flavoured cream buns?

TM3: I think we should go for cakes – buns don’t bring out the ingenuity.

TM2: i agree. let me bring up a costing….

Boss: Hmm…. that looks a little beyond budget….. What about cream buns.

TM1: Hmmm…. looking at these numbers i think we will have to go for vanilla cream buns only.

Boss: yes. Ideas are useless if not feasible. Maybe we can add in a raspberry lollipop.

Team: Of course. Feasibility is of paramount importance. In the end, implementation decides outcomes.

TM3: looking at the numbers we won’t be able to afford lollipops either.

TM1: maybe we can put up a poster of a raspberry cake above the place where we will serve the cream buns.

You: huh…?

We all know who got the best appraisal this year. Raspberry posters!

Who gets the best ratings at your office?

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Movie Review: Uththama Villain – lost in translation

“Saaga varampol sogam undo, theera kathayai ketpor undo”

As compared to most kamal films which are visual and technical delights, uththama villain leaves the audience wondering whether Kamal really does have a terminal illness and needed to rush through production on this one.

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Uththama Villain has a strong story and entertaining dialogues, let down mostly by shoddy screenplay and what seems to be a half finished end-product. In parts the movie seems to be a satire on Tamil cinema, in parts a satire on kamal’s life, and in parts a plea to the audience.

Manoranjan is a superstar and he acts everywhere. He acts in front of his fans, he acts in front of the film fraternity and he acts in front of his family. There is one scene where Manoranjan is furiously cursing a Jacob Zachariah who is walking away and turning to find cameras immediately smiles and waves and then turns around furious and smiles again at a producer. Where most actors wud have made this seem staged and plastic, kamal lives the role.

Manoranjan, the vain star with an affair and a drinking problem, finds out he is terminally Ill with brain tumour and sets about righting all the wrongs he has done. Beginning with the mentor he left behind, to his family and to his true love lost in the twisting path to stardom.

And out of these attempts is born uththama villain – a movie within the movie. An enjoyable thenaliraman-esque movie where the seemingly immortal uththaman (MritunJayan) is played by a dying manoranjan.

It must be noted here that from the very beginning Aravind Ramesh and Kamal Hassan have attempted to cinematically differentiate the movie within the movie. Even with the introduction song, every move and emotion within the movies in the movie seems to be exaggerated and done in bad taste. Until the final scene which manoranjan acts out, where, as if to say that a dying candle burns the brightest, he shines. Here again the writing of kamal shines, juxtaposing bad cinema on good – not just in one scene, but throughout the movie, contrasting manoranjan’s subtle portrayal to uththaman’s forced comic.

Two actors other than kamal have had stellar performances in this movie. One is the kid who plays Manohar who brings to life kamals intelligence and arrogance in a way that makes us wonder whether he really is related to kamal. And the other is Pooja Kumar – contrasting a dumb glamour doll in the movie to being the graceful yet fiery princess karpagavalli in the movie within the movie.

There are cinematic gems in the movie – for example the scene where a dying, stumbling manoranjan dressed as the invincible Hiraniyan turns to find a shadow behind a screen wall much like the simha avataram and the scene where manoranjan is sitting between his wife and his lover comforting his wife with declarations of love while his lover looks on, immediately followed by a scene where the lover says she couldn’t bear the pain of his wife but yet doesn’t break up with manoranjan.

In many ways, the movie is like kamal himself – seeming to take on much much more than a single film can accomplish; exploring the concept of immortality through dialogues between uththaman and Nasser, tackling love through the life of Manoranjan, examining cinema, examining how a good actor is killed for masala films and many more; and yet having a strong story to back it all up.

Uththama Villain is great effort lost in translation between the script and the screen. Definitely worth a watch, and definitely worth remaking in the future.

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Movie Review: OKK / Ganapathy and Bhavani Aunty

Now, if most of you went to this movie expecting a new age Romance film with two young people unabashedly pda-ing their way through 120 minutes of trying to figure out true love, you would have been slightly disappointed.Mani Ratnam, as with most of his films, only uses the storyline to focus on a strong central female character. Like Roja, Kannathil muthamittal, Raavanan and Alaipayuthey – the story and the incidents are used to reveal and examine the female protagonist’s character.

However, Maniratnam promises romances and he delivers. The love story between Ganapathy and Bhavani, I felt, formed the central romance of the movie. A sort of role model for Thara to look upto and learn from while finding out what love means to her.

The film looks at how love and marriage would work in todays world, where the world is everyone’s playground and dreams are bigger than ever. How does one find time and a place for the right person, amongst all of one’s ambitions and plans, if at all one finds the right person?

Adi, is a young, care-free Game designer who wings it through life. The opening scenes establish his role and character and then throw him to the backseat as Thara moves into the picture. Dulquer salmon, does justice to the character, bringing in energy and wit to the character. However, he is largely overshadowed by Nithya Menon, who is simply astounding as Thara, the rebellious new age girl.

Thara is an architect aspiring to reach heights. She is ambitious, fearless and proactive, chasing after and getting what she wants. Surprisingly fresh and infused with Maniratnam’s subtly, Thara makes the first move, she says hi to adi, she calls him up and she tells him that she is gonna move in with him. And in Maniratnam’s carefully understated style, there is no hue and cry about it. There is no astonishment from the hero, there are no nosy onlookers remarking how brave the girl is. Maniratnam makes it seem an everyday occurance. Having had a rough childhood, Thara does not believe in marriage, looking only for a good time when she meets Adi. However, she slowly falls in love with him and is confused between love and ambition and how to balance the two. The movie progresses wonderfully from passionate love to the point of conflict in a way that will make you wonder at the end whether two hours have actually gone by.

And of course, there is Bhavani aunty and Ganapthy. The chemistry between Prakash Raj and Leela Samson has to be seen to be believed. Here too, MR wins with his understated subtlety. There is one scene towards the end, where a Forgetful Bhavani, suffering from Alzheimer’s, gets lost and is brought back home. A fretting ganapathy runs towards her and takes her into his arms. Bhavani, in all innocence, chides ganapathy for getting lost and tells him how worried she was. And Ganapthy replies, Sorry ma, Inimae apdi pannamaattaen. Right before he says this, Prakash Raj takes an almost imperceptible pause and looks at Leela Samson. That pause gave more meaning to those words than they would have had. Again, the brilliance of MR portrayed by the brilliance of Prakash Raj.

ARR’s music is almost unnoticeable in the background as it blends in with the movie and pushes it forward. Many of the songs, which I found hardly  enjoyable on their own, add so much weight to the movie.

P.C. Sreeram, Sharmista Roy, and Anand Krishnamoorthi have all weaved their brilliance into a single piece which does not lend itself to identification to any one of them yet underscores their brilliance. The final 20 minutes of the movie is filled with the rains of mumbai and was so brilliantly captured that i walked out of the theatre wondering when did it get so sunny!!

There are not many who could leave this movie, without grinning at the happy ending, or without being moved to tears by Bhavani and Ganapathy. I, for one, am waiting for the Blu-ray disc to come out.

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