Viswaroopam Music Review- Achingly beautiful

Bear in mind the film doesn’t have a single romantic song. But given the circumstances and the limitations provided by the nature of the script, Kamal and SEL have combined to deliver at least two classy numbers which are just as good as anything in Kamal’s CV.

TAMIL cinema has an unnering habit of not celebrating, or maybe even underrating a talent until it loses the talent to it’s “big brother” in Indian cinema- the Hindi cinema- maybe more popularly known by its internationally given moniker- Bollywood.

I wouldn’t say Shankar Mahadevan, Loy Mendosa, and Ehsan Noorani were Tamil cinema rejects- far from it- but you can’t help but to feel as though they should have been give more opportunities in the southern music scene- they only composed two Tamil albums in the past ten years- at the same period of time they have collaborated constantly with some of the biggest names in Bollywood and are largely recognised as one of Bollywood’s most reliable composers.

It is thus only ironic that they should return to Tamil cinema under the flagship of the very man who handed them their Tamil debut ten years ago- Kamal Hassan. Aalavanthan might not have worked as a film for everyone who had watched it, but there is no denying the fact that SEL had delivered a solid, variety-filled album that complimented Aalavanthan’s theme and mood so well. Aalavathan was easily one of the Kamal’s best albums post-2000, but it is a pity that it remained so underrated despite some great compositions. SEL are capable of delivering international standard music,something that Kamal has obviously marked down as a prerequisite for this ambitious 100-crore project which he is directing himself.

Viswaroopam- Suraj Jagan
Talk about a start! We have heard glimpses of this music in Viswaroopam’s trailer, but even after hearing those glimpses, I didn’t expect it to be this good, to be honest. Of course this is no masterpiece- this was meant to be a fast-paced theme number that is supposed encompass the genre of the film- a thriller. This is incredibly high on energy, aided by some stunning crooning by Suraj Jagan, who has sung a fair share of nerve-pumping numbers in Hindi but has hardly gotten the chance to do the same in Tamil. Vairamuthu’s lyrics are a peach, and the full studio sound arrangements by SEL works like a charm. This will linger for a long time, especially if the movie works with the masses. The haunting tone reminds us in some ways of Aalavanthan’s music as well. Ah well.

Thuppaki Engal Tholile- Benny Dayal, Kamal Hassan
This song starts with tune that makes you feel you are watching the credits of a Hollywood spy thriller, with Benny Dayal in charge of the English part of the crooning. In truth, this remains reminiscent of a spy thriller theme song for the first part, until Kamal Hassan comes in and gives impecabble stress on the lyrics, which were written by Vairamuthu. The song chronicles a man’s relationship with his gun- giving more insight to the film’s terrorism-based plot which I’m sure will trigger discussions aplenty when the film releases. This is not your conventional composition, it is more like situational song- but if you have an ear for good lyrics, you will appreciate what this song was trying to say- of course when Vairamuthu writes something and Kamal sings it- there must be a very deep meaning, right?

Unnai Kaanadhu- Kamal Hassan, Shankar Mahadevan

Oh, oh, standing ovation! Saying this is the work of a genius is an understatement. You want to know what a talent Kamal Hassaan is musically? Then listen to this.Forget all that nerve-pumping music, this is a pure Tamil classical song with Kathak influences, and Kamal has written some of the most divine lyrics you can imagine (not bad for an atheist, eh). I don’t have to say how well this song was sung- Kamal handles all the ‘sangeetham’ parts, and again flaunts hiw knowledge of carnatic and classical Indian music with an almost impeccable imporvisation of his voice. He wouldn’t fare so bad if he ever chooses to do a classical music concert. But whilst I’m effusive in my praise for Kamal, Shankar Mahadevan must not be forgotten. His voice is like a sweet nectar, and you can’t find a better candidate to have sung this song. SEL might be known for composing more contemporary music- but here they prove that given a chance, they can deliver classical beauties. This song is pure class!

Annu Vidhaitha Boomiyil- Kamal Hassan, Nikhil D’Souza
For some reason, this reminded me of the timeless “Nee Partha Parvai” from “Hey Ram”. Of course, this is not Kamal Hassan and Illayaraja at work, but this is not bad compared to such a classic. It is haunting, sad, almost tugging at your hearts. It starts with the lyrics- “There’s a place far away, I wanna be there someday”- rendered serenely by Nikhil D’Souza- and this lyric will stay with you at the end of the song, if not- then at the end of Viswaroopam for sure. Because Kamal Hassan’s lyrics bring out the pain of an isolated man whose has no home to claim as his own (probably a man who has resorted to terrorism without a chance.) When Kamal enters the fray crooning, he sings with such apparent sadness in his voice- he even goes to the lowest of stanzas to leave you thinking, or maybe even disturbed. With some great images, this song can have a deep impact on how we perceive terrorists or terrorism. Fabulous aching beauty!

Viswaroopam Remix- Suraj Jagan
Just send this to the clubs already. This is more of a club mix, not that it is a bad thing. It is a foot tapping number, but I personally prefer the original version. Remixes often  serve to heighten the tempo and this song does exactly just that.

When you pick up Viswaroopam’s album, you are aware that the film is a thriller so there is much scope for music. Bear in mind the film doesn’t have a single romantic song. But given the circumstances and the limitations provided by the nature of the script, Kamal and SEL have combined to deliver at least two classy numbers which are just as good as anything in Kamal’s CV. The theme music is captivating while Thuppaki serves its purpose well. There are only four songs in this album- but the quality that is served means you can’t really ask much more from a film with such a serious premise going for it.

Rating: 9/10

Obese with Spices

Over the years, we have known Kamal Haasan to be someone of immense ability to act. Some of us acknowledge, although to a lesser extent, that he is a great all-rounder. I personally have been a fan of his screenwriting and directorial abilities. But if there was one important film of his that I somehow managed to miss over the years, it was his 1995 film Sathi Leelavathi.

Sathi Leelavathi is more popular due to the fact that the film was later remade in Hindi as Biwi No.1 (such a catchy title eh?) starring Salman Khan and Anil Kapoor, which in turn, became one of the biggest hits in Bollywood at that time. Having watched Biwi and later recently having watched the original, the least I could say is that the remake is a travesty to the original.

There used to be days when I would ask randomly to my friends what Sathi Leelavathi is about, and the reply I would get is that it is a ‘nice comedy movie’. That’s probably what the Bollywood producers had in their minds when they remade the film, thinking that the film is just a nice comedy movie. How much farther from the truth can they be?

Admittedly the film, many believe is loosely based on the 1989 American comedy She Devil. But frankly, I’m tired of all this nonsense. Just because the film borrows the basic plotline from a Western movie doesn’t make it a bad film.

Take Anbe Sivam for instance- would you dare argue that Planes, Trains and Automobiles (the original upon which Anbe Sivam borrows plot from) is a better film that Kamal’s version? No, by a million miles. Nothing is original in this world, and all of us take inspiration from one thing or another. Just because it isn’t completely original doesn’t mean the film’s quality needs to be disregarded.

And nor did She Devil get anywhere close to Sathi Leelavathi. The writers for this film fabulously lift the Hollywood plotline and transform it into a plot that is relevant to the current Indian society, and by this I do not mean adding fight scenes and masala mixes (like how Shankar borrowed Endhiran’s plotline from Bicentennial Man adding masala elements, and oh, how conveniently did the proud Tamil fans and reviewers ignored THAT fact eh?) but instead making the plotline realistically relevant to the current society.

Sathi Leelavathi, just like many of films which has the brand Kamal attached to it, is an underrated gem.

Consider this few important scenes:

A elderly woman (mami) advises Leelavathi (Kalpana) that even though machines have been invented to do jobs for us in every part of the house, no machine has been invented for one’s bedroom pleasure. She points out boldly to Leelavathi that whilst many women take pains to look after themselves prior to marriage, they leave it all once marriage happens.

This raises such an important issue of the healthy sex life and also takes a swipe at the Indian women’s tendency to put on weight after marriage (which, I believe, is a phenomenon that is hard to miss). It points out Indian women’s lack of understanding regarding the importance of staying fit whilst participating in a healthy sex life in order to prolong the marriage.

The song ‘Marugo’ involving Kamal and Kovai Sarala’s characters healthily depict a couple’s healthy sex life after marriage, and how important they consider sex life to be even though they are now parents to a child who is entering teenhood. Notice also how Kovai Sarala’s character is independent enough on her own even though she came from the village. There is a scene in the climax where she would drive off, leaving Kamal behind, where he would rue why he taught her how to drive.

As it is common in the often-chauvinistic Indian society, the so-called traditional housewives are rarely ever thought how to be independent enough, as it is with the case of Ramesh Aravind and Kalpana’s marriage. This scene shows the other side of the coin, where an educated doctor takes the effort to cultivate his wife into an independent woman. While Kalpana rarely even leaves the house on her own and tends only to housework, Sarala’s character is shown shopping on her own, and also heading to Marudhamalai alone without her husband (during the climax).

There is also that scene where Kalpana confronts Ramesh Aravind for cheating on her. She laments her size, saying that she became fat because she was busy tending to housework all these years, and that she would have kept fit if he had told her that she keeping fit is also important to their married life. She was doing things that she ‘assumed’ would be important for him and would make him happy, only to see him get involved with a younger, good-looking woman mainly for sexual satisfaction. This scene depicts another element that is lacking in many traditional marriages, communication. A guy can’t expect a woman to take care of his parents, children, and home hygiene while staying fit at the same time. It is important to communicate and indicate what are the expectations for such marriages from the beginning.

There is also a scene where Kalpana will coldly generalize men, by saying men would feel okay if they were to cheat and find pleasure elsewhere, but it would pain them to see the woman they are involved with be with another man. Well, this phenomenon is not something new isn’t it? It exists till today in this society. Like the famous saying goes, there is a word for ‘bitch’, but there isn’t a word for manwhores.

Subsequently, in another scene, Priya’s lover Raju would say that he is ready to accept Priya back if she repents on her mistakes. He remarks that just like how Leelavathi is accepting enough to get back her husband even he had slept with Priya, the same applies for Raju. Such characters, I would boldly say, are a rarity in our society. Men who would admit and swear by equality are hard to find, let alone men who are accepting enough of loved ones.

‘Love is about accepting one’s flaws’- one particular dialogue in the film would say.

When I finished watching Sathi Leelavathi, I knew people were wrong to call it a ‘nice comedy movie’, but instead it is a socially important film with a very important message that we often tend to ignore.

This brings us to my new bone of contention, Manmadhan Ambu. It is no secret that whilst the film wasn’t a flop, they are many who are not satisfied with the movie because they consider it not to be funny enough. And some say the comical second half breaks off the good first half.

MMA carried with it similar marbles like the film I talked about earlier. The entire Kamal Kavidhai portion neatly describes men-women expectation and bias that is so prominent in today’s society.

There is the opening scene of the movie when Madhavan would suspect Trisha of two-timing him, and would ask her why is there an interconnecting door between her and Surya’s caravan. She would retort by saying ‘for the same reason there is a button on my blouse and a zip on his pants, for convenience’s sake’.

Have we ever come across such mature dialogues in Tamil cinema before?

When Urvashi tells Kamal of Ramesh Aravind’s health status, Kamal sits at the middle of a road in Paris and says ‘nadutheruvile nikuren maa’ (I’m standing in nobody’s land, symbolizing that he is hapless in the situation)

Notice also the lyrics of the song Dhagudhu Dhattam:

Dei Paanakara, Kozhi Thotta Sami Ke Enna Dhaanam Pannare,

Dei Paanakara, Ira Vakil Caaril Poi Beeram Pannare.

(Hey rich man, you are donating money to a priest who has touched the chicken (priests are supposed to vegetarians and clean people, implying corrupted priests who feast upon flesh)

Hey rich man, you travel in a posh car and you negotiate prices with a poor man

(In Kamal’s own words, when a rich man is renovating his house, he would opt for marble flooring. He would be ready to pay the money no matter how much the contractor quotes the price. The same rich man later can be seen at a wet market, fervently negioating the price of a vegetable- which would cost him peanuts anyway. It tells of the hypocrisy among the upper middle class in India)

But then again, if Kamal were to make a movie entirely of these marbles, would the masses be satisfied? It’s fair to say the man has taken enough financial battering whenever he dared to be different (see Hey Ram, Anbe Sivam, and Kurudhi Punal, all arguably his best films). The masses have indicated they needed laughter, and he inserted them towards the end of the story.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t demand a great story and a laugh-riot at the same time. Watch boss Boss Engira Baskaran if you want the latter. Obviously that film didn’t have a story. MMA, just like Sathi Leelavathi, had a story, a very solid story. Both tackled important issues. But as usual, Tamil cinema fans, like they have done so many times before, have missed the whole point.

Movies like Endhiran, despite giving financial ‘thonti gahanapathigal’ (bellies), will not carry the cinema industry forward all on its shoulders. For all of its graphical glory, Endhiran is not the ‘mature’ movie that we really need to make the world take our industry seriously.

Hollywood has had their shares of Terminators and RoboCops, why would they consider Endhiran a threat, or even an effort on par? The Kollywood obsession with getting ‘on-par’ with Hollywood will get us virtually nowhere.

We were too busy looking for telling movie, but like the famous saying goes, what you were looking for all along usually is what you failed to see in front of your eyes. Catch some of Kamal Hassan’s films on telly sometime and bother to open up your brains and hearts and intellectuality while paying attention to details.

You will realize, what gems were we looking for? We have had movies that proved we can take a Hollywood movie and do a remake that is even miles better than the original (Anbe Sivam). We have great movies that weave fiction into reality (Hey Ram). We have had movies that tackle the demon-god realm of the human mind (Raavanan). But we didn’t see?

We don’t need 300 obscene fat crores to make the world notice us. Even 4 crores is enough. But the problem is, we, like a greedy fat man who can’t look beyond his belly to see his own feet, can’t seem to see our own completeness as an industry.

That’s not victory, that’s failure.

What you think is just a nice comedy movie might very well have been the best quality film you have seen. Only if, you actually understand what quality means in the first place.

Manmadhan Ambu – Movie Review

Known for delivering laugh-riot hits such as Avvai Shamugi, Panchathanthiram, and Thenali, Kamal Haasan and KS Ravikumar have both teamed up for the fifth time, though this time they have returned to the light-veined rom-com genre after the heavy, yet below-par Dasavatharam.

I was among one of many who wailed in agony about Kamal’s decision to stick with KSR for Dasa a couple of years back. A script that was potentially worth weighing in gold seemingly got lost in translation as KSR was caught out of his depth trying to direct an utterly intelligent, meaningful movie.

The heavy dose of humor in Dasa literally saved the film from being a sinking ship, since it got the important elements all wrong. Dasa was not supposed to be a comedy film and yet it looked like one. And that’s a cardinal sin.

So I was questioning Kamal’s decision to go back to KSR instead of reviving his home production Marmayogi. I had taken Unnaipol Oruvan as the ‘light’ film Kamal often does after a heavy one a-la Dasa. I was not expecting another light venture from him, even though judging by the budget allocated for this flick it was anything but light.

MMA starts by piloting straight to the point. You get introduced to vital characters and one important element of the plot that would resurface later on flashes by without any time wasting. From there on, the story flows seamlessly.

Here is the crux of the story:

Madanagopal (R. Madhavan) is the ever-suspicious lover of Ambujakshi (Trisha), a film actress who goes by the pseudonym Nisha. After he suspects her having an affair with fellow actor Suriya, Ambu requests that her marriage with Madan be put on hold until she completes all her film commitments.

Some three years later, Ambu is on cruise ship touring Europe along with her childhood friend Deepa (Sangeetha), a divorcee and a mother of two.

Wanting to get her mind off her ever-possessive fiancée and decides to make this a get-away trip. However, Madan hires Major R. Mannar (Kamal Haasan), a retired army officer, to spy on Ambu during the trip.

But the turn of events soon bring Ambu and Mannar together, at the same time Mannar spins a lie in a desperate attempt to save his ailing friend Rajan (Ramesh Aravind)

One important factor of MMA is that the pace of the film is maintained throughout. Characters aren’t just thrown into a comedic mix like in the previous comedy films by Kamal and KSR, but instead Kamal, through his script, takes time to develop each character, and even the character charade is much smaller than the ones that came in his previous films.

Kamal as usual sleepwalks in his role as the charming, yet grieving Major. In the span of one song, he evokes sympathy for the man who had lost his wife. Every twitch of muscle in his face conveniently portrays emotion, and he doesn’t need too many scenes to move you.  Trisha is a fresh breeze in what is, in my opinion, her career-best performance. She is very likeable as Ambu and you end up wishing the real-life actresses did have another side to their character, like one that Ambu has.

Madhavan’s role looks like an extension to his role as the jerk of a lover in Jhootha Hi Sahi, and he delivers plenty of laughter with his dialogue delivery as the drunkard.

Sangeetha completely steals the show in almost all the comedic parts, especially in the climax. Ramesh Aravind’s shaven head itself evokes sympathy as he plays a cancer patient. Usha Uthup exudes a kind of coldness never seen before in mother roles.

However, there are myths that need to be solved about MMA. The film isn’t an out and out comedy, and there are actually more scenes that will try to bring tears to your eyes than ones that will make you laugh. In contrast to all other comedies, the love track is given importance in this film and Kamal takes his sweet time to develop the love story.

Even at 56, Kamal still manages to create chemistry between him and Trisha. But the film stands out because the story is realistic, and doesn’t proceed at any knee-jerk manner like many laugh riots do. The film doesn’t try to be a comedy; Kamal and KSR allow the story to take precedence over the laughter effect.

That said, MMA is technically superior to any movie Kamal and KSR have ever done together to date.

Hollwyood rom-coms have always been the flavor of lovers who go for such rom-coms so that they can relax. If you are looking for a rom-com in the Tamil language, you might not be able to exactly find one such film with the exception of MMA. That pretty much defines what the film is all about.

MMA is Kamal’s treat for Christmas. And yes, you do feel the cupid’s arrow in the film. I do not know why the naysayers of the film look for a ‘comedy’ flick. The film’s title is cupid’s arrow, and that is exactly what you will find here. Go for the cupid’s arrow and you won’t be disappointed.

The film is an absolute whiff of fresh air.

But that said, Kamal is too good to be doing these movies. This is good entertainment, but as a fan, I’d love to see him do a Marmayogi soon.

Kamal Kavidhai lyrics translation in English

Kamal Kavidhai (Kamal Hassan’s poem) from the film Manmadhan Ambu.

Deciphering this poem was no easy task, the translation appeared thanks to efforts from from KL, Sungai Petani, and Rantau (if I’m not mistaken). Kamal would have been so proud to have seen such effort to decipher his poetry.

Thanks Rathi and Thiviya. And thanks Kamal for the poem and the courage to write a poem regarding an issue so taboo, and above all thanks to me, cause this is the FIRST translation on net!

A man’s warning to another man about a woman:

If she looks straight into your eyes,

She has no dignity, so beware;

Did she hold hands with you in an instant?

She is a (bitch); beware,

If she talks aplenty while undressing,

She has plenty of experience (on bed); beware,

If she talks aplenty after intercourse,

She might fall in love with you; so beware

If she speaks of literature and poems,

She is one who will have no respect for money; so beware

Does she say she loves being with you and wants to remain with you?

That’s definite trouble; beware.

A woman’s desire on all this perceptions:

Just like how you wait for the seeds to grow after you plough,

Treat lust just as such, Reap it only when the time is Ripe;

If being together is the only purpose of all,

Lust can wait to be secondary;

Do not think too much about what women think about you,

Take life as it comes your path,

Men and women are like the dice,

It goes either way; There is no superiority,

In an act as bygone as lust,

Assure that love doesn’t get mixed into it;

A woman’s prayer to song to Varalakshmi (Kamal recites):

I want a husband, With white perfect teeth,

Who will whisper slowly into ears after intercourse,

And gently bite my neck,

I want a husband,

Who smells like a baby, sans any smell in his mouth,

I want a husband, who after intercourse,

Stays back and helps me wash off the acts of lust,

And not be disgusted by it;

I want a husband;

Who will help me while I’m cooking;

I want a husband,

Who will provide me with a shoulder to lie on;

At times when I want release my anger,

He should have a chest as strong as rock to take my hits;

But beyond that chest, I want a soft, compassionate heart,

I want him to have a head with big brains;

I want him to have loads of savings in his bank account;

And plenty of money to live life with;

I want loyalty, I want devotion;

At times when I demand for my own freedom,

I want him to have the presence of mind to grant me my freedom;

So that I’ll get a husband as such,

I prayed for nine days; (Navarathri),

And I went searching for the one believing that my Varalakshmi will grant my wishes;

(To the beach)

As I placed my feminine steps on the beach and walked,

I saw men with big fat bellies walking the beach;

I saw saints,

Who gave up all their posessions, and submitted themselves to the will of God;

(naked, sans property of clothes)

Who were sleeping on bed with naked women;

I saw my elder sister’s husband;

Even though he fits most of my criterias;

At moments when my sister is not around;

He desires for a (keep, extra marital fling);

I stopped caring about religion and race,

And I searched everywhere;

But I realized men with husband material are a rarity in the marriage market;

I ask my Varalakshmi again;

From you I asked a wish to be granted;

I shall ask you Varalakshmi;

How did you find your husband?

How far did your wishes come true as far as your husband is concerned?

How is your man, whom I can only see lying down all the time?

(Referring to Lord Vishnu)

All the stories that are told about your husband,

All the tales;

Did they happen for real?

Does any woman, you (Varalakshmi) included, ever get the husband who fits all the criteria?

If it really came true for you, you are truly lucky;

If as such; do give similar luck in finding,

Sri Varalakshmi Namostutey.