Thursday, February 22, 2007

Review: Pachaikili Muthucharam

Whatever is the matter with Gautham Menon? Why on earth does he feel the need to alter a perfectly good plot in order to cater to the masses - especially when he seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to avoid doing just that? I mean, firstly he casts wholly against type - bulky mass hero Sarath Kumar as a happily married medical representative who gets beat up quite a lot, the anglicized-looking Andrea as the demure wife and the demure-looking Jothika as the fiery 'other woman'. Then he does a volte-face and makes Sarath Kumar turn into Nattamai all over again to bash up 25 goons. with a penknife through his palm. Decide what you want to do, dude!

I haven't watched 'Derailed' the movie, but I did enjoy the twists and turns in the novel by James Siegel. The best part of the book (for me) was all about how an average, everyday American Joe outthinks and outwits a criminal. Unfortunately, Gautham decides to ignore that very part of the book, and make it a match of brawn instead of brains - it is just this that sounds the death knell for the movie.

Sarath Kumar tries very hard to be as non-filmi as possible (though his masala origins give him away every now and then). In fact, this is probably a career-best performance for him, though I did think Arjun (from Shankar's 'Gentleman', 'Mudhalvan' etc) would have suited the ch
aracter better. I thought Andrea was very cute, though. Jothika plays the role straight, unfortunately, instead of nuancing her performance. She goes through her trademark gamut of 'cute expressions' in the first half of the movie, and then toward the end snarls and bares her teeth in a manner very reminiscent of Chandramukhi. Milind Soman is adequate, but he doesn't really have anything much to do.

Harris Jayaraj really needs to give up doing BGM scores. His score is a huge disappointment, and one piece in particular was very much like a song from 'Kaakka Kaakka'. He scores with the songs, though, and the film theme itself is nice. Actually, his BGM scores sound great musically, they are just not very situational!

In the end, the failure of this film is the failure of the director. Perhaps I had my hopes set rather high, but 'Kaakka Kaakka' and portions of 'Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu' had firmly established (to mymind) Gautham as a director of heaps of promise. However, this is definitely a step back from his previous movies. His villains are fast becoming stale, with the trademark long-haired and disheveled looks, dialogues mouthing Hindi obscenities etc. The song picturizations are sometimes atrocious (pray, what was that dream sequence doing in this movie?), and his hesitation to take that crucial footstep from the safety of mundane masala has been instrumental in the ultimate demise of this movie.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Monsters, Inc

Nah, this is not a review of the film. Its more like an attempt to take a look at the various morbid books about killers I have enjoyed. Its one of my favorite genres, actually - the sort of books where an FBI team/sleuth and one or more serial killers play mind-games with one another.

Think serial-killer, and one of the most common images that comes to my mind is Hannibal Lecter. The author, Thomas Harris, has written 5 books in 30 years, 4 of them about Lecter - talk about obsession! Though I didn't enjoy the latest one all that much, 'Red Dragon', 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Hannibal' pretty much make up for anything he may (not) write in the future. Hopkins has pretty much personified the role (and Kamal did a pretty good take on Lecter in 'Abhay' too), so I'd love to see what young Ulliel does to the character in the latest sequel.

Dennis Lehane is one of those authors whose books I regularly wait for. IMO its only a matter of time before he develops the sort of following, say, a Michael Connelly has. 'Gone, Baby Gone' was his first book that I read, and it just blew me away. Ever since, I have been an ardent fan. His investigators, Patrick and Angela, are great, great characters (his other books like 'Mystic River' are pretty awesome too). I just can't wait to get my hands on his next book.

Connelly, of course, can be depended upon to provide an enthralling read most of the time. In Harry Bosch and Terry McCaleb, Connelly has a set of great personalities to weave his tales with, and he seldom disappoints. I really have to thank my friend for introducing me to Connelly (I still consider 'The Poet' one of the best thrillers I have read); she seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth ever since her marriage, though.

The Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child is not morbid, but the character itself is so enigmatic that the first few books (especially 'Still Life With Crows') great reads. Pendergast is obviously modeled upon Holmes, but he has a few additional quirks of his own that make him pretty endearing.

Cody McFayden has a great first book to his credit - heck, he got even a morbid veteran like me hooked. Agent Smoky Barrett - even the name has a peculiar ring to it, doesn't it - is as flawed a character is as they come. I mean, she's an ex-FBI agent who's been raped, and what's more (worse), has had her daughter raped in front of her. Her trauma and recovery, even without the cat-n-mouse hunt, makes 'Shadow Man' a great read.

I've grown weary of the Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffrey Deaver. However, there's no denying that some of his books - especially 'The Bone Collector' and 'The Vanished Man' - are compelling reads. 'The Devil's Teardrop' is not a Rhyme novel, but its a terrific book too - about tracking down a criminal through handwriting analysis.

For the more discerning reader, I strongly recommend 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' by Lionel Shriver. Its a repelling, neverthless strangely fascinating book, as you try to unravel the motivation of a schoolboy to commit mass murder. The book is structured in the form of letters from Kevin's mom, who loathes him, to his dad, who dotes on him. Its a pretty long book, but a great book.