Monday, April 6, 2015

Pisasu: A Haunted House Story

Pisasu (or Pissasu, I’ve seen it transliterated both ways) was an odd, little film but I enjoyed every second of it. Much like the earlier (and also excellent) Tamil horror hit Pizza, Mysskin’s Pisasu isn’t so much a “horror” film as it is a suspense film with a few chills thrown in. To that end, I’ll repeat my warning from my Pizza review and say that if you are intrigued by the idea of a moody Tamil horror film starring a moody, floppy fringed newcomer then peace out now and make sure you don’t read a single thing about it before you see it because most of the plot details are given away in the imdb synopsis and as well as most of the reviews and I’m going to give away the ending. Nobody can keep a secret these days. Well, almost nobody… you have been warned.


Friday, April 3, 2015

Indru Netru Naalai First Look!

So, this looks promising: time travel, Vishnu Vishal, weird future shit…

I like it.

Proving once again that the most creative films being made right now are coming out of South India.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Anegan… beneath the tree where I died

By sheer coincidence, just a few days before I saw Anegan I happened to watch the X-Files episode titled “The Field Where I Died.” In the episode, Agents Mulder and Scully try to stop a doomsday cult from committing mass suicide while Mulder is confronted with evidence that he and one of the cult members may have known each other in a past life. What I enjoyed about this episode--and in many of the best X-Files episodes--is that the viewer is left to draw her own conclusions. Was it two souls meeting again in a different life or does Mulder just believe every crazy idea that wanders in his direction? The evidence goes both ways, depending on how you look at it.

K.V. Anand pulls off that delicious X-Files-ian sense of unresolved mystery with aplomb in Anegan, the third film of his I’ve seen so far. Anand has a knack for melding masala and mystery with deeper issues. These aren’t just mindless entertainers. Ko tackled political corruption while, also, featuring some really great song sequences. Maattrraan was about the dangers of genetic engineering and Surya’s amazing--and more touching than it had any right to be--performance as conjoined twins. Now, we have my favorite Dhanush in a film that melds mystery, drama, filmi nostalgia, and… complex thoughts on the nature of our fantasies.

The film begins in Burma just before the expulsion of the Tamil population in 1962. Dhanush is Murugappa, a poor Tamil laborer who saves the peppy, wealthy, Sadhana-fringed Samudhra (Amyra Dastur) from certain death. Samudhra is smitten with her swarthy rescuer and, quite understandably, pursues him with all her might. The two fall in love over a very nice travelogue song but all is not well in Rangoon. The military seizes power; the Tamils are expelled; and Murugappa and Samudhra are forcibly parted, to tragic effect.

Or are they? Burma fades away to reveal a psychiatrist’s office. Samudrha is really Madhu, a peppy, wealthy, modern girl who works in the upper echelons of an IT company. The previous 40 minutes were all in her mind. A past life! With romantic dreams of Burma still filling her mind, Madhu latches onto Ashwin, one of the computer tech drones in her building, who happens to look just like her Murugappa.

The next section all takes place in the modern era. Ashwin is alternately annoyed at Madhu’s fantasies and attracted by her openheartedness. He finds himself falling for her almost despite himself. But a tragic accident once again sends the film careening into the past--this time Chennai in the 1980s.

Dhanush is Kaali, a 1980s hero with 1980s hair, and he’s introduced to us in a big, old-fashioned hero introduction song. There’s violence, gangsters, kiln-fired gods, and a beautiful, beatific, peace-loving heroine, Kalyani (Amyra). Again the lovers are forcibly separated, to tragic effect. But this time the consequences spill into the present. Madhu instinctively knows where to find two bodies buried under a tree. How? Why? And what does the scar-faced Inspector Gopinath (Ashish Vidyarthi) know about it?

Anand gives us four settings--mythological film, modern Chennai-set trendy film, 1960s style film, and a 1980s mass film. Each setting is treated exactly like the films of the time, down to plotting, characters, costuming. Anand does it all straight. I don’t know enough about older Tamil films to pick up specific references but having seen quite a few Hindi films of the 1960s and 1980s, I can recognize the determined, powerful 1960s heroine; the macho, forceful 1980s hero. Each was done to perfection. Amyra was delightful as the plucky 1960s protagonist, her eyes aglow with mischief and Dhanush was divine as the swaggering 1980s Kaali. And Anand picks the best of each era for the song picturizations. A 1980s hero introduction, a 1960s falling-in-love-with-flowers, a mythological sequence in nature, and a cheeky, modern club song featuring the droll lyric “YOLO,” as in “you only live once.” Ahem.

But at the heart of Anegan is this idea of fantasy. The fact that Madhu and Ashwin work for a video game company selling prefab ideas to us, that Madhu’s visions of past lives all take the form of films we’ve seen before, what does it say about us? Are we content to sit and gobble up what’s served, dwelling inside our own heads, or should we be out interacting with the world? As Madhu gets more stuck up in her own fantasies, the less appealing she becomes. It’s the Madhu who is kind to and engaged with people that is the Madhu we like. But, on the other hand, Ashwin’s complete dismissal of Madhu’s visions is also extremely unappealing. To be frank, he’s kind of a dick until he starts to see things her way… at least a little bit. Without the idealism, the peaceful “fantasy” of 1980s Kalyani to temper the 1980s Kaali, he’s nothing but a swaggering, 1980s dick. Without the romance, the emotional “fantasy” of 1960s Samudrha, the 1960s Murugappa would be just be nothing but a manual laborer. And without the spiritual element, the dreamy “fantasy” of 2010s Madhu, 2010s Ashwin has nothing but his graphics card to come home to. We can’t let fantasy dictate our lives but we can’t live without it either.

(And I couldn’t find her name but a huge shoutout to the actress playing Dhanush’s very practical younger sister. She was hilarious.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bollywood for Beginners!!

Well… I wrote a book! "Bollywood for Beginners: And the Best of Filmi Girl" is now up at the Amazon Kindle Store!

I rewrote my Bollywood for Beginners series and compiled and edited a collection of the best of my blog--100 Crore Club, Box Office Poison, etc.--and put them all together in a e-book! It was quite the journey, let me tell you. It was really a strange feeling to watch my opinions change and morph over almost ten years. And I had forgotten how important Kites was to my filmi-watching career. Meeting Hrithik really was a game changer for me.

I could see where I'd been reading a lot of theory, where I'd taken that writing class, where I was feeling really depressed… ten years is a long time, friends.

Anyways, I hope you enjoy re-living those years with me. This blog has been an important part of my life. ♥

GABBAR IS BACK… Returns!

Well, Akshay may not have the dialogue delivery skills of Amjad Khan but may I state a tentative excitement for this one? Akshay is really rocking that salt-and-pepper look. Dang!

I'm not the biggest Shruti Hassan fan but she has grown on me a bit, especially after her performance in 3. I'll be curious to see how she does here.

Also… did we all see the poster for Tanu Weds Manu Returns?! Eee! Kangana, Madhavan, Deepak Dobriyal, Jimmy Shergill, and Dhanush in one movie?! Clearly this is being made for me. Clearly.


I really, really liked Anand Rai and Himanshu Sharma's work on both the first film and Raanjhana so I have high hopes for this sequel. Both of those films captured something… they weren't the broad hero-giri masala that gets trashed everywhere by critics but they definitely weren't aping Miramax-y Hollywood films either. They felt very fresh, were well cast, used music very well, and gave me a lot to think about. Especially Raanjhana. Hats off to you, sirs!

And confidential to Asim, it doesn't look like Maddy's Irudhi Suttru is out yet and a quick search revealed no release date. Maybe somebody else has more information?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Yennai Arindhaal: The Story of a Man

In Yennai Arindhaal, our salt-and-pepper haired Ajith plays Sathyadev, a man faced with a crucial life choice: is he going to channel his rage towards kicking bad guy ass or is his rage going to warp him into becoming a bad guy himself? As Sathyadev says in the film, it’s a fine line separating criminal and cop.

The plot unfolds with a standard pre-interval flashback. We start in the present day with sassy IT consultant Thenmozhi (Anushka Shetty) flying home from visiting her sister in America. She happens to be seated next to a studly older guy--Sathyadev (Ajith!). Obviously Themozhi falls for him immediately. (I mean, come on! It’s AJITH!) But the stud is acting suspiciously. Is he stalking her?! Protecting her?! She confronts him at a coffee shop but before getting any answers they’re interrupted by a gang of rowdies led by some guy named Victor (Arun Vijay), who seems to know our salt-and-pepper Sathyadev.

We flashback to Sathyadev’s past and learn that his beloved father was killed by gangsters and his mother passed away--presumably from grief--soon afterwards. What was young Sathyadev to do? We flash forward to a slightly older Sathyadev in jail. He befriends another prisoner about to be released… Victor! The two become quite close, to the point of Victor vouching for Sathyadev to join his gang.

(The friendship is really cemented in the song “Adhaaru Adhaaru”, a perfect use of a wedding song if I ever saw one. I loved this cam version with the crowd in the theater just going crazy!)

But… it turns out Sathyadev hadn’t chosen a life of crime after all! He was undercover!

Victor is betrayed. The gang goes down in a brutal blood bath but Sathyadev lets Victor live, telling him that he knows Victor has the potential to be good.

Sathyadev takes down a lot of gangsters. Taking down gangsters is his entire life until he meets Hemanika (a wonderfully mature Trisha). Hemanika is a professional career woman and single mother. She runs her own dance studio, performs concerts, and takes care of her little daughter Isha (Baby Anikha). Sathyadev loves her independence and spirit; Hemanika seems to find his tenacity and open-heartedness towards her just irresistible. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s AJITH. The two share a wonderful chemistry.

Unfortunately, Hemanika doesn’t live to see the second half of the film and Isha is left with Sathyadev, who takes his new responsibilities as a father very seriously and essentially gives Isha the childhood experiences he wishes he’d had with his father. Still his work weighs heavily on his mind and inevitably he must return to Chennai to do what only he can do--kick bad guy ass.

It’s in this final stretch that Thenmozhi comes back into the picture. Sathyadev figures out that she’s the next target of some gangsters that he’s chasing and fate plays itself out for Victor and Sathyadev.

The film was very satisfying on a number of levels but the biggest surprise for me were Ajith’s three leading ladies: Anushka Shetty, Trisha, and Baby Anikha. I was told that Gautham Menon's lady characters are always like this. I plan on finding out more because all three roles were so well-written and well-acted that I ended up really caring about what would happen to them. Anushka Shetty was a firecracker. As Thenmozhi she played the kind of “got her shit together” career woman who will burn a dude so fast at an arranged marriage meeting for surreptitiously trying to find out if she can cook that it will make your head spin. SHE AIN’T GOT TIME FOR YOUR BULLSHIT, BRO! In the hands of another director (or actress), Themozhi would be some spoiled rich bitch needing to be brought down but here we clearly understand that just because she’s wealthy and knows she’s beautiful, it doesn’t mean that she’s not also selfless and caring. Thenmozhi may be quick with her insults but she’s also quick to do the right thing.

It’s been a long while since I’ve seen Trisha on screen and in the intervening years she’s become such a lovely, mature woman. I never cared for her girlish avatar but I loved her as the independent, single mother. She’s not going to throw herself at some guy if it means her baby will suffer. Even if she really, really likes the guy and even if that guy looks like Ajith. Family comes first.

And Sathaydev’s relationship with them was so caring and respectful and, dare I say it--manly. I like machismo (on screen) as much as the next girl but there was something really refreshing about Ajith’s manliness. He wasn’t boyish or coquettish or teasing. He wasn’t demanding female attention outright or even passive-agressively whining that women weren’t paying enough attention to his navel-gazing pain. No, Ajith as Sathyadev was a real man. A real man who shows that he cares about women by treating them like fucking human beings with brains and feelings and not objects to be chased after.

Let me tell you the moment that Sathyadev won me over. I’ll start with a little flashback to the time I gave up on dating. A guy I’d been out with a couple times started hounding me to send him pictures. “There are some on my blog,” I told him. “I looked at that,” he replied. “It’s just Indian pop culture stuff.” Just Indian pop culture stuff. JUST INDIAN POP CULTURE STUFF?! That was it for me. I was done. Anybody who really cared about me would never see all this writing as “just” anything. It’s important to me. By the same token, when Sathyadev goes to see Hemanika perform, he watches her and is interested. He compliments her dancing at the end. He doesn’t just say, “You were beautiful.” HE TALKS TO HER ABOUT HER DANCING. I mean, game, set, match. I fell for Sathyadev right there and then. And I believe Hemanika did, too.

And then there’s Baby Anikha. What does it say about how mistrusting we, as a society, become of men that I had some initial misgivings over Sathyadev becoming her foster parent. I didn’t want to suspect our salt-and-pepper hero of pulling a Humbert Humbert; I shouldn’t suspect our salt-and-pepper hero of pulling a Humbert Humbert; there was nothing in his performance to even hint in Humbert Humbert’s direction but there you go. The thought crossed my mind.

And it’s because the thought crossed my mind that I think it was so wonderful to see their father-daughter bonding play out in the song, “Unakenna Venum Sollu.” Sathyadev doesn’t treat her like a little girl, he treats her like a person. A child. She runs and plays and scampers around. He wants to show her the wonder of life, to make sure that her mind isn’t poisoned by the losing of a parent the way his was. It was really, really touching. (And Baby Anikha is that rare creature--the charming child actor! I’m very glad that the film never showed her in peril. I wouldn’t want that image and I really thank director Gautham Menon for never giving it to us.)

Sathyadev, Victor… and Isha. All of them lost somebody important to violence. Will the cycle of violence continue? Are they the ones to continue it? The ending was actually a bit ambiguous on that point. Not Isha but Sathyadev. He crosses a line, is pushed too far. Will he make it back in one piece?

So, there you have it. Yennai Arindhaal is a good film. It has good music, good acting, and a nice story. It may not be flashy or full of meta-narrative gimmicks but one thing is for sure: if every man treated women like Sathyadev does--with caring and respect--instead of emulating Ricky Bahl or some “cool” Hindi rom-com hero, the world would be a better place. No, two things. Hair dye is overrated.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bombay Velvet trailer is here...

Um… it looks okay? Nothing we haven't seen before, I'm afraid. Can we stop with the nostalgia period pieces? PLEASE?!

Whatever. I'd much rather watch this:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

For no reason...

I was just reminded of how much I loved Asin in Ghajini and thought I'd remind you, too.

What a great character. What a great film. A good heroine is just… ♥

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl