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cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Ponniyin Selvan I (2022)

So you all know what an FRS is right? Right? 

-101: Narration, even if it is by Kamal Haasan. 

Gather around people, as Tamil Nadu’s most visionary director takes the narration route to set things up. For an entire length of film. 

So exciting. Yay!

The comet’s tail tells a deadly tale

At the beginning we are introduced to the Cholas before the glory days. The elder son is fighting in the north, the younger son is fighting in the south and the king is bedridden in Thanjavur and a comet appears bringing with it bad news and assassins. 

By the end of PS 1 the set -up still remains, the elder son is still fighting in the north, the younger son is still in the south and the king is still bedridden. 

Hi to all screenplay writers and arc trackers. Technically nothing happens in this movie, I mean technically. Should have just released part two after Kamal’s voice over.

-34: Repetition 

The two sons and one father situation gets repeated by every other character in the movie to make us care for them, which makes us feel that the Kamal Haasan voiced intro would have been an afterthought and something that they could have very well avoided. 

Vandiyathevan also keeps saying who he is to every character he meets.

+45: As the smoke clears, Vikram walks into the frame- one of the few dreamlike moments in PS, but nobody really told us that he was reprising his role from Ravanan. 

Should we reduce points for this? 

Honestly having Vikram enact middle age angst and longing is one of the better creative decisions in PS- hope he wins a National Award. 

-50: Unnecessary battle which is neither cinematic nor makes us care about our heroes is unnecessary. Battle also acts as an intro spot for two other characters. 

-21: Rashtrakootas are not going to like this film. 

-2PiR: When two people are engaged in conversation, the camera starts to move in a circular manner – as though Mani sir is done with shooting two people talking, giving new meaning to the phrase going in circles. 

This again repeats with other characters as well, by now some critic would have written a 3000 word article about the inner meanings of said circling. 

<overheard but unverified excerpts from PS1 sets> 

“No no, my fans will expect something cinematic, just go around them and don’t keep still Ravi. Go Ravi go!”

<overheard but unverified excerpts from PS1 sets>

-20: Poor judgment on the part of Aditha Karikalan as he hands an important task to Vandiyathevan, who himself says, he does not know the way around Chola country, in a time when Google maps did not exist. 

-51: JeMo, the dialogue writer tries to make a pun joke with the word Madhusudhanan, nobody in the audience caught it, but we did hence the negative. 

+201: Experience Happy Chola country in this song where every village along the way not only knows the songs composed by ARR but also the dance steps. 

Of course, there is a distinct lack of Tamil Nadu-ness in the proceedings, which Mani-philes would praise as not only intentional but also international. Needless to say that there is very little about the people of time and the customs.

Guess only the best among us become Mani-philes. We are just FRS writers, so no such pressure for us. 

204: Every dialogue a question-itis 

Who is that on that boat?

Where are you going? 

Won’t you carry my message? 

How great Tanjore looks? 

Umm that’s actually Jaipur, or Jodhpur or some such pur (loop back to the biggest movie about the biggest Tail empire has very little Tamilness in it)

Adapting a thousand page epic did not give the screen writers even one inspiration to write inspiring dialogue. Someone told us that this was a passion project. Considering this is Madras Talkies, maybe even the passion was subtle.

-61: Vandiyathevan abandons his horse Semba, apdiye after trying to sell us that it was his most prized relationship

That should tell us a lot about character development in Maniyin Selvan. 

< FRS will continue immediately after this short non commercial rant on character development>

FRS writers are no fools, they usually spend their weekends watching Glitz, Woods, and Galatta videos of the movie that they are asked to rate- this however comes at great cost to their normal lives- but it is only in these videos they discovered from a Jeyamohan interview that Ponniyin Selvan could be reduced to Vandiyathevan moving from one place to another. 

While yes technically yes, everything is technically correct but we must be able to feel something about the characters before we go along with them from one place to another. Shouldn’t we?

PS is like most epics filled with journeys , but then you have to love the hobbit and his fellowship for you to even reach Bree. 

But here, a result of superstar casting, none of the characters do come alive. And any impression we made were based on pre-existing notions about the ability of the artists themselves- Karthi is case in point. 

PS needed unknown casting where Vandiyathevan’s resourcefulness, Arulmozhi’s resoluteness and Nandini’s tempting nature comes to foreground. 

Here it’s just Karthi, Jayam Ravi and Aishwarya Rai who fill the screen leaving enough space for characters. 

<FRS continues>

-232: Pandians are not going to like this movie. 

They shouldn’t, their discreet assassins are shown here as tactless who attack in broad daylight. 

Success rate of Pandian assassins should be called into question, if this is how they plan to kill the princes then Pandians must recalibrate their strategy for the next movie- they should probably work with Accenture. 

Until then Pandian Abathudhavis sleeps with the fishes. (pun intended)

-100: To us for making a Pandian meen kodi fish bilingual pun. 

+85: Maniratnam decided to repurpose his own content from Nayakan – Nila Adhu Vanathy chi Vanathu mele feat. Poonkuzhali and just like that we are in Pattaya, chi, we mean Sri Lanka. 

-1917: Again needless war based introduction to another hero , we don’t know who Arunmozhi Varman is and immediately we are asked to partake in his sudden victory.

There was a brilliant intro to Arun (in the books) which is again there in the movie but by the team we know who Arun is and the scene loses its importance. 

Seems as though Mani had to forgo all his creative freedom to push two battle scenes, just for scale and for the intro of his leads. 

Again we spend our weekends watching glitz and woods videos where the director explicitly states that the idea was to keep things grounded and not blow up the scale. 

Realistic was the word, oh we love that word. 

We do appreciate closed chamber drama like the average next PVR popcorn popping person person, but the movie never makes up its mind whether it wants to be an epic or just a pic. 

The supposed big moments don’t hit the high notes and the small quieter moments are hardly your “savor-this-moment-so-that-it-ultimately-lives-on -as-whatsapp-love-status – at arms length from every teen in search of expression“.

Take a break as we reduce more points for the song and dance in this movie. 

72: All songs are unnecessary and are expertly placed at times when you can just close your eyes, take deep breaths and think about existence and stuff. 

Maybe you can also use the break time to think about the average Chola fighter who has not to not only fight for his blood thirsty emo teen now turning 40 Aditha, but also has to learn steps from Brinda master so that he can dance in some Rastrakuta fort to Chola Chola?

Man being a Cholan soldier, tough. 

300: When we imagined about the average Chola soldier, our imagination also leapt from the screen and went into the books and wondered what team Mani did with the 300 songs that Kalki had in the text?

Ah but never mind, you get a glimpse of acclaimed dancer Shobana’s dance drama here pushed as Ratchasa Mamane which no one expected. 

Since we all got things we never expected, the only way to acclaim this movie is to say that Team Mani has successfully subverted audience expectations. 

+101: Something something happens and everybody talks the plot so that we end up in a somewhat thrilling climatic sequence on a burning ship. 

Again, Pandian assassins are not going to like this film. They might not like the sequel too.

And now for our new segment called, readers write-in

Gentlereader2002 asks: Hey FRS writers, why are you so full of vanmam (hate), your vanmam spills from the screen onto my laptop keyboard and every time I need to get myself Colin’s cleaners to clean the system of vanmam.

Don’t you have anything good to say about the movie? Come on now, it grossed over 500 crores le? 

Thank you gentlereader2002, yes it is true that in the FRS writers room hate is not a bad word, it is what connects us. 

Funnily we try and convert this vanmam into posts – it is the only way we can cleanse vanmam from our systems. Maybe FRS is our internal Colin’s cleaners. 

To answer your second question, of course if you look hard enough, you can find goodness even in the most dullest things, like if Kollywood spends time in reading the FRS for a long time they might also have some point worth taking home. And like that we found that within the short time given, it was actually Sarath Kumar who brought a sense of majesty to the proceedings, we also liked Vikram’s portrayal – so like the rest is there for us to make fun.

Vanman can be a force for the good.

DonChera from Puliyoor writes: You write so disparagingly about the Cholas and you are so sentimental about Pandian abathudhavis, so you must be a secret Pandian, am I right? 

Us: We also rued the fact that Ponniyin Selvan’s big moments were not big like RRR or Baahubali, does that make us English speaking spies of the Vijayanagara empire? 

Guess we will know when Maniyin Selvan is back next year.

Team FRS

Subam.

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cinema cinema:tamil

Sulthan (2021)

As the swivel chair spins #16

So someone in Kodambakkam finally took director Myskkin’s advice to heart and sought inspiration from Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. 

Just think of Sulthan as Seven Samurai written by Baahubali writer Vijayendra Prasad, which would mean that it would increase in scale (seven samurais become eighty loveable thugs) and that the focal point of the film will always rest on the hero (in spite of the eighty loveable thugs) . 

The set-up is also a fertile ground for Kollywood  to preach to the world about agriculture (pardon our pun). 

It’s the kind of movie you know will begin with the mythical birth of the hero (here in between a fight between two rival gangs) and how his arrival is supposed to change everything. 

It’s the kind of movie that makes you see the frame over which it operates, in a way it feels like the movie itself is smirking at you, this is what you asked right? 

Kollywood continues to, in my opinion, errantly glorify thugs, rowdies and gangsters and presents them as an alternate justice system, while I am not making a social comment on the presence or absence of such a system, I merely want to point out that this is a residual Godfather effect. Like since Hero belongs to a certain gang, it is seen as an affable gang of alternative justice seekers but not as violent killers, this by itself is not wrong; but the enemy (who shares the same characteristics) is the enemy just because the hero is not born into them. 

To give credit where it is due, Sulthan does go into the effects of living a violent lawless life and actually presents a way of life (agriculture) for the waywards. 

 The initial humor and general likeability of the Hero’s gang is established by the fact that they bring him up (teach him fighting and take him to school type of thing) but yet he grows up to become a Robotics engineer but his foster dads (?) continue to be knife wielding thugs for his real father. The montage of him growing up with the gang is interspersed with the gang doing unspeakable things including murder, but all this played with a joyful BGM, so that we recognize that these are the good guys. 

Or relatively, good guys. 

Loyalty too, as is often the case, an underlying pressure point, the fact that the 80+ rowdies listen and play-act in the presence of Sulthan because they pledged their allegiance to his father is even more backward than the dismal affairs of the village that this group wants to set right. The person who wants to break away from this loyalty prison is portrayed as a secondary villain. 

There are things that Sulthan does well, it too takes the video game format (done so well in KGF) and makes into the movie, each villain is a level, unfortunately there are only two levels in Sulthan. There is also an insistence that efforts take time to achieve (like agriculture) rather than resorting to the often followed immediate success template. 

But after a point it does not matter, if you do not really connect with ‘the gang’ or see through the frame, as I did. Movie creates and defeats the purpose of pitting one person against the other when I don’t know who to really root for. 

The director expects me to root for ‘this gang’ because Hero is part of it, but then I have seen a lot of movies and like how Velan says in Singaravelan, I have seen a lot of the same type of movies. 

Sulthan is now streaming on Disney+Hotstar

Categories
cinema:tamil

Kaithi (2019)

Lokesh Kanakaraj is in a hurry.

In 15 mins, I get to know there is a child waiting for an unknown guest somewhere, a group of students are detained at the police commissioner’s office for drunken behavior, a bloody operation results in 900kg of cocaine being seized, a high ranking official sets up what seems like his farewell party and a gang leader puts out a hit job task to his henchmen. 

All this before the credits.

But with characters and dialogue, not with narration and flash forwards. So when a police constable says that the current colonial building is being vacated for a new headquarters, it means a lot and at different points in time. 

You would notice that all of these events correspond to groups. Kaithi to my memory has the most number of memorable characters in recent times, which is not easy to do, most movies use a good one third of their time in set-up and hardly achieve memorable status apart from the leads. 

Lokesh does this is in a “look, I don’t have time, but this is what you have to know, come along and you will figure it out” kind of way. 

The seized cocaine is what gets things rolling(literally the truck), but this is not a story about how different groups are in the race to get back what they lost; in fact every set here wants something else- the IG wants a respectable retirement, certain henchmen just want money, a brother is in need of another, Kamatchi just wants his truck in one piece and Dilli (Karthi is brilliant) just wants to see his daughter (or does he?) and so on. 

Which is why Kaithi is such a constrained title, it brings back focus to one of the characters, but that is when the movie begins to adopt a one-man-against-the-world-hollywood-actioner aesthetic, and most of it works when set within context, although I fear that some of it, like the bullet ridden climax, is set well outside. 

But not all out of context things are bad, especially when Jumbalaka Jumbalaka and Metro Channel  starts playing to drown out voices in a lock-up. Fantastic!

Kaithi is blockbuster material when it stays on the road and wants to go from point A to B, I would have never imagined our rural roads, forests, quarries and  hills to lend themselves to this type of actioner, but I realize things are what they are, only because of the ways we see it in. Lokesh saw it differently

Kaithi is now streaming on Hotstar.

Categories
cinema cinema:tamil cinema:tamil FRS

FRS: Thozha

A note on the Fawlty Rating System (FRS)

*Initially thought about in 1934, it came to fruition only in the late 2000s.

*It is the only movie rating system in the universe to be based on a Buddhist scroll that was actually written by an Irish traveller who had been an assistant director in the movie “Birth of a nation”, the scroll was curiously titled “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari to make a Baahubali”

*The rating system is now named after the Irish Traveller, a small portion of the proceeds from this review will go to a bhel puri vendor in an undisclosed street corner for secret reasons.

*All numbers and words are arbitrary, mostly imaginary. They do not mean anything

A note on the Fawlty Rating System Ends

thozha

-10: Yet another friendship film.

<But this being a remake of a French Film which we have NOT seen, we will be even more cruel>

-10: Yet another remake film. (Oops!)

-7.5: Hero is a wastrel, like most Tamil films; the story will trace how from being unabashedly wasted the hero gains responsibility. The point is, if you begin with this premise then where else can you go? I meant with the story.

-6: yeah, where else can you go? Paris?

-3: Hero gets job because he is honest in interview

-367: Actually this is a long standing grouse, I have been HONEST in interviews and NO, you dont get jobs like that, unless of course…never mind

+13: Business magnate does not use HR professionals in the hiring of his assistant, seems to be  a good decision.

+56: Tammanaah plays a secretary in this film. Although her job profile is not clearly explained, sometimes she comes off as a matron more than a secretary, in later parts she is happy ignoring her work etc.

-196.32: What Business does Nagarjuna do? i mean we see all those boards and all, so many companies, but not once, NOT ONCE, there isnt something that he needs to attend to, no pressing matter, no consultation with the board NO? i mean you have only one staff (able Tammy) and one friend (Prakash Raj), life can’t be so easy for one of India’s Top 10 businessmen.

<We get it, the movie is not ABOUT BUSINESS, but still>

-2: Unwanted Manobala cameo supposed to evoke laughter, creates despair instead.

-10: Staying on the subject of cameos…never mind, not spoiling, but still irritating.

+150: Movies, as they tend to be; mostly like friendship movies and all, very prone to being self-aware, there is very little bonding for the sake bonding kindoff moments in the film, which is extremely interesting, because there isnt any big conflict for the characters to prove their friendship and mouth emo shizz, “yenna nee en nanban” types. Those are the kindoff movies which elevate friendship to this unattainable godliness which becomes frustrating in real life. Well done guys, no Thalapathy shizz.

-12: Thalapathy

+34: painting humor and Prakash Raj, seems like he could sleepwalk into these roles and he sleep walks like how Brando would. Also Karthi is the Go-To guy if your hero is LIG flat living-family fighting-smiling-joking-chennai youth, very well done.

-32.2: Women as dressing, right OK; this film is about two guys and their bonding, so why not make it that way, the women here are just there, neither adding any emotional depth or having anything to do on their own.

-2345.66: Money is not important, but people are. <Morals, OK>

Also as a Bonus, here is Tammy during the Batman v Superman premiere, whose side are you on?

-736 to self for using such cheap tricks.

tamz