Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saguni: Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Peppered by stellar performances by its cast, Saguni has a beaten-to-death storyline
If only politics were as easy as portrayed in Saguni

Anarchy prevails the ruling political party — which interestingly portrays the late actor Poornam Vishwanathan as its founder — when its scheming deputy chief Boopathy (Prakash Raj) supplants the chief minister-elect unceremoniously, with some help from his concubine (Kiran, back after a hiatus). He rules the party, and the state, with an iron fist. The camera then swings to the protagonist, Kamalakannan (Karthi) a villager on his maiden visit to Chennai, who, after witnessing its squalor, remarks sardonically, "Busy city, pasi (hungry) citizens."

Sounds familiar? Those who grew up in the 70s/ 80s would have sworn that these scenes belong to an MGR's messiah-of-the-masses movie (think Nam Naadu), or Rajinikanth flick. A man-against-the-system themed movie that manages to punch above its weight due to power-packed performances by its star cast, and not due to its story-telling, Saguni could very well be this year’s movie that wasn’t.

Wafer-thin would accurately describe Saguni’s storyline: how the protagonist goes about saving his ancestral property from demolition for a project sanctioned by the CM, when he discovers his hidden Midas touch of playing kingmaker. The rip-roaring 'Rajni-Kamal' banter between Kamalakannan and ‘Rajini’ Appadurai (Santhanam) extends well into the first half, when the actual plot kicks in only towards its end.

Hilarity thy name
With stellar cameos by Radhika as the wannabe mayor; Nasser, who hits gold as a preacher; and Kota Srinivasa Rao as the opposition party leader who challenges Boopathy; the predictability of the storyline isn’t something to worry about. To the director's credit, Saguni manages to create a sense of anticipation by the interval, which morphs into deja-vu, what with the casualty to logic in his bid to project the protagonist as invincible. After all, Shankar Dayal ain’t no Agatha Christie, and Karthi no Hercule Poirot.

Karthi puts in a stellar performance and is a sight to behold, be it in the comedy, action or emotional scenes. Santhanam, in yet another fresh comedy track, seems to be maturing like wine, movie after movie. Prakash Raj returns to his menacing best as the villain. As in any action movie, feminine characters take a hit in Saguni too, with Pranitha’s customary appearance limited to the songs and a romance track.

Saguni’s trailer shows Mumtaj and Salim Ghouse to be part of its cast; were their roles insignificant enough to be edited out?

by Rajagopalan Venkataraman

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bull in a Bear Ride

A remake of the Rajinikanth 80’s cult classic, Murattu Kaalai falls flat due to poor storytelling

A theatrical poster of Murattu Kaalai, a remake of Rajinikanth's yesteryear ht
By harking back to yesteryear Tamil movie hits — in particular those of the fab four, MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Rajinikanth and Kamalhasan — Kollywood reiterates, every now and then, that retro will always be its metro. The Sundar C, Sneha starrer Murattu Kaalai (the raging bull), that shares its title and storyline, but not its finesse and chutzpah, with its namesake of the 80’s Rajinikanth sleeper hit, amply evidences this.

The superstar, in what was possibly his first
hit as a solo hero
Etymology would reveal us that naming a movie after a ferocious animal (think Singam, Paayum Puli) lends the aura of invincibility to the protagonist (Sundar C); therefore, he convincingly wins a bullock cart race (a la Rajinikanth’s Ejamaan), repeatedly bashes baddies to pulp, nixes the antagonist’s (Suman) plans, and has the dames pining for him. However, beneath that tough exterior lies his docile, placid nature: he showers his affection on his four siblings, does not think twice before helping out the sister of the neighbouring village’s zamindar (Sindhu Thulani) during snakebite, by, ahem, canoodling on her navel. But unstated injunctions of Indian cinema prevent the hero’s spouse from being accessible, stipulating her to be the epitome of virtue. Hence, the other feminine character (Sneha).

Sundar C puts his best foot forward and carries himself well in the brawny sequences (characterised by loud dialogues and cutaway shots), but he’s certainly no Superstar. With two leading ladies, the movie’s glamour quotient is never in short supply. The iconic fight atop the train has been replicated in its remake too; the bucolic landscape, such as temples, lush fields and canals, has been captured on camera in detail.
Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but...

Suman appears as the villain after a lull and has little to do apart from grimacing and growling; his character is a pale shadow of that in Sivaji or Kuruvi. Perhaps the movie’s biggest disappointment has to be Vivek, as a transgender with ‘assets’ of enamour, whose innuendo-drenched comedy track fails to inspire the gags. One must thank Srikanth Deva for stopping with remixing Malaysia Vasudevan’s hit number from the original, Podhuvaaga en manasu..., and sparing its other numbers.

A fairly tight narration in the first half falls flat in the latter; the second half is reminiscent of a procession – were the gaping holes in the storyline’s logic a prompt to the original?

Those with fond memories of what was possibly Rajinikanth’s first hit at the BO as solo hero would do well to stay away from its 21st century avatar.

by Rajagopalan Venkataraman