chembai

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Reviews

Idhayam
(1991)

Back when I was in college...
...this film was a major hit. Why, I have never been able to understand. Was it the music, or was it the campy college atmosphere, or was it the fact that the hero is a lower middle class guy who finally gets the affluent English-speaking girl? Perhaps a combination of all these factors. Like in countless other stinkers, Murali plays a medical college student and falls in love with Heera. Of course he's got a huge inferiority complex and is unable to express his love to her. The movie meanders along, helped by some wonderful songs by Ilayaraja, before screeching to a halt at a railway station. Somehow I can't stand films where the hero is tongue-tied and pines away for his love, and she finally understands what true love is and reciprocates. What a load of you-know-what! Apart from some lovely songs like "Pottu vaitha oru vatta nila" and "Poongodi thaan poothathamma", there's nothing much to save this film. Watch out for a young Prabhudeva dancing away in "April Mayile", which was on everyone's lips back then.

Bhairavi
(1978)

Too many times on TV
When the cable TV boom happened down South, every channel made a scramble to lay hands on any available title of Superstar Rajinikanth. The best ones were grabbed by the rich guys and their poorer brethren had to be content with airing films like this one. That's why many forgotten early Rajini movies, like Aaru Pushpangal and Bhairavi, end up being shown on TV, again and again. Still, I am yet to see Sivappu Sooriyan, Kuppathu Raja, or Aayiram Jenmangal, on the small screen. Bhairavi is certainly not a rotten film; just not very engaging. Tired old tale of master betraying henchman. I guess it was different for its time, and of course, anything with Rajini was a hit in the late 70s. I am told that this was the first film in which Rajini had a positive "heroic" role. Any fans around who can verify this?

Bhama Rukmini
(1980)

For old times' sake
This movie is a big disappointment for anyone expecting to see Bhagyaraj the actor. He could have been replaced by anyone else. None of his trademark expressions or funny dialogue. The comedy department is wholly handled by Nagesh. He is the pivot of the film, the guy who creates all the funny situations and the one who gets to say the funny lines. I think Bhagyaraj intended this film to be some sort of tribute to Nagesh and let him dominate the proceedings. Did I mention the storyline? Oh, it's about a guy who marries two women and all the troubles he has to go through as a result. Praveena (Bhagyaraj's real-life first spouse who died in the early 80s) and Radhika star as the two women sharing Bhagyaraj. Recommended only for Bhagyaraj completists.

Baasha
(1995)

Where are all the fans?
I am amazed that not one of Superstar Rajinikanth's millions of fans in the whole wide world has bothered to write a review of what is arguably his greatest hit and possibly his best entertainer. Like legions of his fans, I cannot find a single flaw in this superb flick. It's like a Bond movie; everything's possible because 007 is in charge. Rajini as Manickam and Badsha is simply scintillating; he gives his most impressive Bond-like performance to date. Actually I think Superstar should have quit films and entered politics after Badsha - he would have left in a blaze of glory and cemented his place in film and political history. There are many unforgettable scenes - when he speaks to the college principal for his sister's admission, the fight with Anandaraj ("ULLE PO"), all his scenes with Raghuvaran. I can go on and on. Instead I'll go and watch Badsha again. Maybe you should, if you haven't already.

Idaya Kovil
(1985)

Raja all the way
After all these years this film still manages to make one sit till the end, and IMHO the fabulous music by Ilayaraja is the sole reason. Classics such as "Idhayam oru koil", "Yaar veettil roja", "Koottathile koil pura", and "Naan paadum mouna raagam" are still a hit among Tamil listeners. My personal favourite is "Vaanuyarntha soliayile", written by Paavalar Varadarajan, Ilayaraja's brother and mentor. The storyline is nothing great - Mohan comes to the city, makes it big as a singer, Radha has the hots for him but he has eyes only for booze, and thereby hangs a tale. Mohan is surprisingly tolerable here. It's hard to believe this is a Mani Ratnam film, as it has practically none of the irritating features of his later films (like clichéd stilted dialogue, overdose of semi-darkness, insufferable heroines, bad comedy tracks). The Goundamani comedy track is quite good. Overall a watchable entertainer, but take out the songs and there's nothing.

Indru Poyi Naalai Vaa
(1981)

Hilarious
I have lost count of the number of times I have seen this classic comedy directed by K. Bhagyaraj, one of his earliest films in which he stars with a couple of his real-life buddies. Fabulously funny and original, the film is another testimony to Bhagyaraj's screenplay-writing abilities. Just thinking about the attempts the three guys make to catch Radhika's fancy has me rolling on the floor, laughing. Maybe these guys really did try all these stunts to impress some girl. Radhika does a fine job (I always thought she was good at comedy), as does everyone else. Ilayaraja's BGM heightens the comedy in every frame. Essential viewing for Bhagyaraj fans. I wonder why this film has not yet been remade in other languages!

Varavelpu
(1989)

Wonderful comedy
This is yet another Anthikkad-Mohanlal-Srinivasan gem about a Gulf Malayali who wants to settle down in Kerala. He buys a bus, and all his woes begin. Srinivasan's performance as the RTO officer is brilliantly hilarious. Must-see for all Mohanlal fans.

Aval Appadithaan
(1978)

Awesome
Widely regarded as the best Tamil film ever made, which I agree with, Aval Appadithan is an outstanding cinematic work that continues to provoke and impress all those years later. With an unlikely cast of stars, including Kamal, Rajini and Sripriya, the film explores the life of a woman prejudiced against men (Sripriya) and how Kamal enters her life, only to be mystified by her personality. Rajini is marvellous as the chauvinistic lecherous boss. The film is complete in every respect, be it direction, performances, screenplay, music (Ilayaraja, of course), editing, cinematography, et al. If there is one film that Tamil cinema can be proud of, it is this. Awesome.

Avan Oru Charitram
(1976)

yeah yeah i sat through the whole of this film
I can't believe it, but I have seen this film more than once. Such a bad movie, with Sivaji as a IAS officer turned do-gooder who's out to expose his sister's pop-in-law, with some romancing, dancing and singing along the way. The biggest problem with the film, apart from its sheer badness, is the number of characters populating it. Just too many. Miss it, pal.

Arangetra Velai
(1990)

Not-so-bad remake
This is the first Fazil remake of a Malayalam film not directed by him in the original. A remake of Ramoji Rao Speaking, it's not half as funny, but does have its enjoyable moments. One good song I can remember is "Aagaya vennilave". Nothing much to write about.

Arangetram
(1973)

Yuck
What does a poor Brahmin girl do to keep the home fires burning? Become a prostitute, of course! Only K Balachander could come up with such puke-inducing moralistic baloney, peppering the film with his so-called 'touches'. Horrible, to say the least.

Azhakan
(1991)

Strange feeling in the stomach
K Balachander has mastered the art of giving you a headache and make you feel you want to puke at the same time. This is one of his masterpieces that succeeds in doing exactly that. Bhanupriya and her dances are unbearable, while Mamootty does a credible job. Madhubala and Geetha both test your patience. The only redeeming factor is the fine music of Maragathamani, especially Sangeetha swarangal. Please do yourself a favour. Skip it.

Ayirathil Oruvan
(1965)

Thalaivar Vaazhga
This film became most famous for being the last one in which MSV and TKR scored music together. MGR is at his swashbuckling best, while Jayalalitha is stunning. The film is a delightful entertainer with all the essential ingredients in the right proportions. Don't miss it.

Azhiyatha Kolangal
(1979)

Memorable
One of the earliest coming of age films in Tamil, this film is a beautiful depiction of the experience. Shobha and Pratap Pothen play out their parts perfectly, and Salil Chowdhury's music is memorable. Balu Mahendra ought to remember the time when he used to make such watchable films.

Azhagiya Kanney
(1982)

Intriguing
A strange story of a girl with paranormal powers, this film had the potential to develop into a classic mystery, but falters and fails somewhere down the line. One of the main reasons is the unnecessary comedy track. Ilayaraja's music is surprisingly unimpressive. Maybe for Mahendran's sake, but not recommended otherwise.

Avargal
(1977)

So-so
This film had the reputation of being a radical look at the life of a woman, and I reckon it still enjoys relevance, if not in whole. But K Balachander's approach spoils the party, and what could have been a powerful story of a single mother turns into melodramatic bull. Sujata plays the title role well, but I personally can't stand her. Rajini is terrific and Kamal comes up with a gem of a performance. Watch it to get an idea of the kind of cinema that was lauded as radical in the 70s.

Avvaiyyar
(1953)

All-time classic
The story of Avvaiyaar, the saint who chose to forgo her youth for the sake of the Almighty, this film is a grand production. The elephant sequence is one of the highlights. KB Sundarambal fits the title role to the T. The songs, in her inimitable voice, are outstanding.

Vandanam
(1989)

Good fun
This movie came in the wake of Chitram's super success. It starts off with plenty of comedic routines by Mohanlal and Mukesh, and then the plot unfolds. The highlight of the film is the last scene (can't tell you that). Definitely worth watching.

Valayam
(1992)

Ahhh...smells like Kerala
This film oozes Malayalee nativity through and through. Ably directed by Sibi, with an taut storyline and excellent performance by Murali and Manoj K Jayan, it's a well-made entertainer about the lives of lorry drivers. Highly recommended.

Aayiram Naavulla Ananthan
(1996)

Okay timepass
Another tale of two brothers who become sworn enemies due to certain misunderstandings, only to reunite and fight the villain who caused it all in the first place. Though it's such a formulaic film, it manages to hold your attention till the end. Pretty tight script and good performances all around.

Aalkkoottathil Thaniye
(1984)

Absorbing
This film ranks among MT Vasudevan Nair's best works in Malayalam and came when he was at his peak in cinematic endeavours. The story revolves around Seema, who loves and loses Mammootty. MT proves that he's unparalleled when it comes to portraying relationships and problems within the family. A film for all seasons.

Aarilirindhu Aruvathu Varai
(1979)

Watch it now
One of the rare films in which Rajini plays a simple guy who remains just that, without becoming Superman. A well-told middle-class tale, it has excellent performances by Rajini and Cho, and comes with plenty of heart-tugging scenes. Ilayaraja scores a winner again, with a magnificent song in Kanmaniye kaadhal enbathu. Definitely worth watching once.

Achamillai Achamillai
(1984)

Goes bad pretty soon
K Balachander returns with a moralistic tale of how politics and power can corrupt the best of men. Told of course in the cliched exaggerated style that he has become infamous for, the initial one-third of the film is quite absorbing. Sarita, Rajesh and Delhi Ganesh throw in wonderful performances, and VS Narasimhan's melodies remain fresh even today.

Ore Iravu
(1951)

Old gold
Perhaps one of the earliest murder/action/thriller films, it stars Nageswara Rao and features some evergreen songs. The plot meanders along before finally settling on the right course. I saw this one a long time ago, and wouldn't mind watching it again.

Nam Iruvar
(1947)

Nostalgia
Watching such movies, and especially this one, makes you miss the 40s, even though you weren't born then. Everything seemed so good. This is a family drama that has enough of sentiment, patriotism, melodrama, okay acting and some great songs. You'll like it.

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