Sui Dhaga: Made In india – A paean to Make In India

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A wholesome entertainer, ‘Sui Dhaga’ is a Horatio Alger movie with a marked desi flavour. Staid, prosaic and yet warming the cockles of every heart, Yash Raj films have attempted, and succeeded in delivering a film that is sub par on the stereotypical glamour quotient, but packing a punch on the substance front. If you expect to see dainty damsels clad in revealing chiffon prancing around trees, and chocolate boy heroes clumsily strumming guitars all the while reminiscing about their muses, then ‘Sui Dhaga’ is not the movie for you.

Mauji (Varun Dhawan) undergoes a series of humiliating taunts courtesy his employer, a dealer in sewing machines and driven by extreme exasperation quits his job after a melt down. Mamata (Anushka Sharma), his muted but powerfully influential and immensely well balanced wife supports his move and goads him on to be an entrepreneur. Facing intense opposition from his pessimistic father (Raghuvir Yadav) and having to put up with the nagging pleas from an ailing mother, Mauji is at a cross road in his life. Battered by an uncompromising world and bounced around amongst people with ulterior motives, Mauji has only the ever reliable Mamata to bank on if he has to succeed in his endeavour to carve out a niche for himself.

Varun Dhawan essays a commendable performance as a naive, honest and hardworking Mauji. He has acted out of his skin to make himself relevant, indelible and immaculate. This performance will undoubtedly go a long way in paving the way for Dhawan to carve an inimitable niche for himself.

If Mauji is the heart of ‘Sui Dhaga’, Mamata is its pulsating, calculating and remarkable brain. Sui Dhaga is made for, by and of Anushka Sharma. Effortless, fluid and phenomenal she carries the movie on her slender albeit able shoulders. Thoroughly de-glamourised and possessing a screen presence that is powerful, Anushka has pulled off a veritable coup. Standing like a rock beside her struggling husband, she punches beyond her weight to make things happen for him.

Raghuvir Yadav is his usual brilliant self. He irritable and gruff manner paradoxically endears him to everyone as does the incredible innocuousness of Yamini Das (Mauji’s mother).

The rest of the ensemble is stellar in the roles carefully devised for them and there is not a single character who either disappoints or disgruntles.

‘Sui Dhaga – Made In india’ – tailored to perfection!

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam – A Drama in Crimson

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Chekka Chivantha Vaanamis a subtle, succinct and searing tribute by Maniratnam to Quentin Tarantino. With unmistakable shades of “Reservoir Dogs”, assaulting the viewer in the closing phases of the movie, one of the most acclaimed directors in the annals of Indian cinema both delivers as well as disappoints. The innovative, ingenious and inimitable genius of Mani is explicitly missing in this movie. But the lack of originality is more than adequately made up for by a gripping plot, a flowing narrative and a couple of jackhammer twists that leave the audience craving for more.

Senapathi (Prakash Raj) is the archetypal gangster, who after trysts with both death and destiny has carved out an unassailable niche for himself as sophisticated gangster of reckoning. He is assisted in the management of his sprawling empire by his eldest son Varada (Arvind Swami). Senapathi has two more sons deeply engrossed in managing their own business (legal and illegal) affairs overseas. While Thyagu (Arun Vijayakumar) deals with the Sheikhs in Dubai, Ethi a.k.a Ethiraj (Silambarasan) has his personal dalliance with arms dealers in Serbia.

Senapathi and his wife Lakshmi (Jauasudha) on their way back from a temple are subject to a gruesome assassination attempt when two hired hitmen disguising themselves as policemen, fire at the car in which Senapathi and Lakshmi are traveling and toss a grenade inside the vehicle to make sure that the occupants are taken care of. Even though the couple barely survive, this tumultuous incident drives a vertical rift between the brothers who begin warring for power.

In the meantime, Chithr (Jyotika) the wife of Varada, enlists the help of her husband’s close friend and a cop known for his volatile predilections, Rasool Ebrahim (Vijay Sethupathi) to shield her husband from any untimely and unfortunate exigencies. What happens next is a couple of hours of intrigue, intensity and incredulity.

Arvind Swami as the self-professed heir apparent of Senapathi, essays a very suave and selfish portrayal. Fierce as an underworld don and fecund as a key protagonist in a dysfunctional family, this veteran actor is a joy to behold.

Arun Vijay as Thyagu is refreshing. We see an uninhibited and smooth style, the credit for discovering which has to go to Manirathnam. This film might be the stepping stone for Arun’s future successes.

Silambarasan as Ethi sizzles! If Arvind Swami is the engine of the movie, Silambarasan is the heart. Spontaneous, graceful and natural, Simbarasan carries the day in most of the scenes where he appears. His verve, vivacity and viciousness makes one wonder why an actor of such talent and caliber is such a poor judge of characters to be essayed by him. Directors of note and repute better watch this movie in general and Silambarasan in particular!

But without an iota of doubt, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is Vijya Sethupathi’s movie. This phenomenally talented actor has delivered a performance to be remembered, and has executed a role to be revered. As the abrasive, humorous, loyal and conflicted custodian of the law, Vijay Sethupathi dazzles, revels and regales his audience. While fans will drool over this performance, many will transform into fans! A Rasool Ebrahim, Sethupathi is simply brilliant. Whether it be dialogue delivery or the timing, this splendid actor leaves nothing to chance.

While Jyothika and Prakash Raj are as usual effortless, it is a joy to behold the evergreen Jayasudha onscreen.

The soundtrack by A.R. Rahman is haunting if not indelible and the Santosh Sivan’s Cinematography does not disappoint. The dialogues are appropriate and the stunts aesthetic. However, Chekka Chivantha Vaanam is both a highlight and a disappointment. A disappointment because this is not Manirathnam at his original best, but paradoxically a highlight on account of the overall context and content of the movie.

Chekka Chivantha Vaanam – A drama in crimson!

KRRISH 3 – (K)ATASTROPHE

Mutilate a few characters from X-Men; plagiarise a part of an ending from the latest Superman release; put Robocop to unbridled shame and Presto – you are left with an unpalatable concoction titled KRRISH3! Deficient in intent, demoralising in content and deplorable in execution, India’s indigenous Superhero elicits more derision rather than entice demand. The movie has for a plot, the demented intentions of a devious scientist going by the clichéd name of Kaal. Not only is Kaal deranged in mind, he is also debilitated by quadriplegia. But the physical deficiencies are more than made up for by an inexplicable supernatural power which allows him to lift, levitate and line up objects using the magic of telekinesis. Just to demonstrate the extent of his prowess, Kaal for the benefit of an exhausted audience manages to shatter a few glass windows, shear his adopted father with a knife and spin chairs around a room, all with a face that though meant to be contorted is in reality constipated! The role of Kaal is played by Vivek Oberoi who for most part of the movie keeps traipsing through his ‘state-of-the-art’ laboratory in a wheel chair and staring at a bank of blinking monitors with an unblinking eye.  As the movie would have you believe, blame it all on a mischievous strain of DNA! It is a matter of great mercy that the pioneers in the field of DNA Watson and Crick are not around to see this fiasco. But there is no denying that the two of them would be screaming, kicking and cart-wheeling in their respective graves!

As Kaal indulges in his favourite past-time of creating deadly strains of virus, deliberately spreading their toxicity across the globe and concocting an antidote from his – yes you guessed it right – BLOODY DNA, all with the intent of making tons of money to find a cure for his quadriplegia, there is an imminent need for a superhero to stop the mad genius in his tracks. Not only is it amply evident that Kaal has no inkling of more temperate or intemperate money making avenues such as playing the share markets or perpetuating scams, he banks on India as a potential target for the most obvious reason – more the population, more the spread of infection and more the spread of infection, more the quantum of anti-dote required and more the quantum of anti-dote – you guessed it right – more the rolling of banknotes! At this juncture I would request the forgiveness of an exasperated reader as I could have explained the rationale in a few words, but attribute this condition to the movie! I am affected or rather infected! By the way the choice of India is arrived at by Kaal by a contemptuous twirl of a compact globe accompanied by the same constipated look of purpose!

Cutting to the chase, the green coloured, miniature kidney-bean shaped virus (why are these obnoxious things always green making them look more eco-friendly rather than esoteric?) is transported to India by a couple of mutants, one of whom has the ability to morph and take the form of any living human and re-morph into a female mutant looking more like a product straight out of a Lakme Beauty Salon rather than an intimidating alien! Appropriately she is named ‘Kaya’ (played by Kangana Ranaut). Giving Kaya Company are two mutants, one of whose power lies in a tongue capable of extraordinarily ugly elasticity and whose utility ranges from the trivial (such as flicking ice creams off cones) to the terrible (slurping butterflies and strangulating unsuspecting necks). Very soon India, or rather Mumbai is held in the throes of an incapacitating virus and a great many casualties occur.

Enter KRRISH or to be more precise KRRISH and his father! The offspring by this time is understandably tired after having pulled off an incredulous rescue act, involving the freeing of a locked landing gear of a Boeing 747, or was it an Airbus A-320? Who cares, the flight was really big anyway!  Unlike Superman who instinctively materialises at the scene of an impending disaster, KRRISH (3 that is – not the father), seems to rely upon the accuracy and reporting timeliness of News Channels on Cable Television. For in what must indisputably be the singular instance of its kind, a News Channel telecasts the fact that a flight approaching the Mumbai Airport has developed landing gear snags. Our Superhero appropriately is tuned in to the television set at the right time. Decorating his face with a suitably grim look, he dons his flowing black attire complete with a cape, puts on his mask, the latter looking like one that is strategically torn before being worn, and half-flies, half-jumps, adding slinging and catapulting motions before attaching himself to the front wheel of the aircraft in distress. The rest is not worth describing.  Enough of digression. Back to the insidious virus! After a couple of emotional father-son bonding within the confines of a laboratory, a cure for the virus is finally found and Mumbai is relieved of the mayhem. This not only puts Kaal to furious tumult, but also results in a statue of KRRISH being unveiled. The unveiling is inevitably accompanied by a song and dance sequence involving, inter alia Mrs and Mr.KRRISH!

What follows is an intolerable, indecipherable and incomprehensible sequence of mangled mutants, men enraged, machines engaged and matters dissolved. The scene where pieces of metal mysteriously cling themselves onto a rejuvenated Kaal, is sufficient, in isolation to bring unrestrained tears of regret to the movie goer. The intended-to-be-ROBOCOP look fails miserably and Kaal ends up looking as though his wardrobe was designed by a street side scrap metal vendor. However the most peculiar bit in the movie involves a continuous voluntary trembling of the head and face of KRRISH when he dons the mantle of a superhero! It is as though the superhuman powers are accompanied by an unfortunate bout of Cerebral Palsy, or maybe the shaking leads to strength – after all it is common to “shake well before use”.

Even after reading this review, if you feel like watching the movie, remember this phrase “Light Leads to Life” or was it “Light gives light”? But please do not deny that you were forewarned! If there were to be a filter embedded in the human brain which would weed out the ridiculous and retain the relevant, the only bits that would remain after a viewing of KRRISH 3 would undoubtedly be the trailers of the other ensuing releases! By the way I had just watched “Thor” the previous day and to describe my sacrilege in the parlance of KRRISH and Kaal, it was like “consuming poison after partaking the anti-dote!”

Hrithik Roshan as KRRISH disappoints and Hrithik Roshan as KRRISH’s father disappoints tremendously! Priyanka Chopra as Mrs KRRISH is completely wasted as her only value add lies in either emphasising the fact that she is pregnant, or vigorously shaking her hands and legs to uninspiring tunes with utter disdain to her pregnancy! Vivek Oberoi as Kaal, must surely be regretting his choice in the role. If not then definitely he ought to get his DNA examined! He might be mutating from an intelligent specimen to an imbecile! Kangana, first as a mutant on a mission and then a maiden in love, has done no good whatsoever to her career prospects. The soundtrack is incredibly insipid. It also does its bit to disturb great souls resting peacefully in their graves. For example, after listening to the track “Raghupati raghava Raja Ram” (especially the bit hummed by a Jamaican looking Barbadian or an Antiguan or a Trinidadian), Gandhi would surely abhor all tenets of non-violence, if he were to be reborn! None of the songs have an iota of retention value. The action sequences range from the macabre to the heartlessly mimicked.

All in all this is a movie which needs to be avoided like the plague! KRRISH 3 – DON’T EVER CONSIDER EVEN IF ENTRY IS FREE!

For those of you who have already been mind numbed and brain murdered by an unfortunate viewing – please read up “The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA” – by James Watson. You will understand that the makers of this movie had no clue as to what they were engaging in!

SPECTRE – An Apparition that fails to haunt

Right from the time Sam Smith begins his nerve jarring wailing with “The Writing’s On The Wall” and till such time the dust settles at the end in a crescendo of explosion, Sam Mendes’s latest James Bond flick “Spectre”, grunts, gasps, heaves and barely remains alive as it gets mashed, blended and ultimately lost trying to be a medium between the past glittering offers of the franchise and the current stirrings of time.

Whether it be the clichéd muttering of “hello Pussy” (a lame attempt at sacrilegious innuendo) by 007 whilst being latched on to a torture chair, or remorselessly trying to whip women up into bed (including one inconceivable sexual jaunt right after a funeral with the wife of the deceased), “Spectre” loses its plot massively. What begins with a bang ends with a predictable whimper, and an extremely feeble one at that.

The movie begins with a heart stopping, gravity defying, high altitude fight sequence within the confines (and at times outside) the confines of a helicopter, that has as its audience a packed mass of frenzied crowd celebrating the Festival of the Dead in Mexico City. Two deaths and a destruction of a massive block concrete, later, Bond is grounded by M as the Mexican fiasco was an unauthorized mission. However, the unyielding Bond refuses to be shackled to inaction and with the aid and assistance of a reluctant Q, smuggles himself out to Rome for attending the funeral of the very man whom he had assassinated.

A sexual romp, a high speed car chase, and a solo investigative mission to Austria gets Bond not only a sniff into the murky underbelly of an insidious organization called “Spectre”, but also gets him acquainted with a beautiful doctor going by the name of Madeleine Swan. Avid Bond aficionados will remember Spectre as the very organization which first made its dreaded appearance in the 1971 Bond offering, “Diamonds are Forever”

In the meantime, in a radical move, MI5 is merged with MI6 to create a gigantic institution of Surveillance, with a Charter known as “Nine Eyes”.  This part of the script has an uncanny resemblance to the immortal Dystopia of George Orwell, “1984”, where the “Big Brother” looms over all he can survey. The new Head of the merged Network, Max a.k.a “C”, takes an instant aversion to the “007” programme and intends to replace the work of human agents with mechanistic modes of Surveillance.

What is the objective of this invidious organization called “Spectre?”; Is there a method to the madness of the “Nine Eyes” Charter?; Who is the elusive Dr.Madeleine Swan?. Bond has to risk his life and take hitherto envisaged gambles to go to the root of these mysterious questions.

The answers lie in the long drawn out, but very paced 148 minutes of bedlam and bedding.

Christoph Waltz as Ernst Stavro Blofeld, distinguishes himself as the brain behind the monstrous Spectre. While holding his own on most occasions, he tends to lapse into moments of extreme melo-dramatic monologues that do very little to embellish an otherwise brilliant performance;

Lea Seydoux as Dr.Madeleine Swan, manages to stay pretty as well as stern. But unlike the normal Bond girl, who possesses a detached attachment towards the protagonist, she manages to evoke passions that can only colloquially be described as “mushy” in Bond. This is where she unfortunately fails when compared with say, for instance the spectacular Eva Mendez in “Casino Royale” or the sexy Halle Berry in “Die Another Day”

Ben Whishaw as “Q” displays his innate talent as an actor but is made to mouth irrelevant and meek humoured dialogues, most of which concern his shared habitation with a pair of cats;

Naomie Harris as “Eve Moneypenny” has barely any role worth its muster;

Dave Bautista as “Mr.Hinx”, the silent assassin, just grunts and groans through murders and portrays a feeling that he would do well to return to the ring in the World Wrestling Federation rather than try his hand in acting as a formidable adversary of the most celebrated fictional agent on the Planet;

Andrew Scott as “Max Denbigh” a.k.a “C” is a refreshing antidote to disappointment. With an irritating accent and equally exasperating actions, he manages to get on to the nerves of the watcher and at times elicits feelings of murderous rage – an outcome which was exactly what was expected out of him;

Monica Bellucci, as “Lucia Scarria” is completely wasted as all she has to do is fall to the seductive temptations of Bond, bed him and flee the silver screen thereafter!

The value of Judy Dench as the conscious keeper of Bond, and the irreplaceable “M”, is brought out in stark detail from watching the performance of a stiff Ralph Fiennes. No way near the perfection attained by the marvelous Dench, he ploughs his way through his role with poker faced expressions, that at times are literally painful to watch;

But the saviour of the movie is Mr.James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. In his fourth installment as the celebrated, womanizing, cold blooded agent and assassin, the Englishman waltzes and breezes through the movie with effortless panache and élan. Exquisitely fine tuning his expressions and whole heartedly plunging into his action sequences, Daniel Craig provides a clinical demonstration behind the current reasoning of him being the best Bond, post the Sean Connery era. It is a travesty that Sam Mendes has not strived to extract the best out of this invaluable performer. Making Bond mouth corny lines instead of candid conversations, choosing to cast him as a sex maniac instead of a cleverly plotting, conniving seducer, and more than everything else, placing a god dammed white cat on his lap and making him mutter “Hello Pussy” under his breath (an unwarranted, unforgivable and unwanted act of travesty) takes some gloss and sheen out of an otherwise impeccable and extraordinary performance.

The action sequences are as usual, magnificently shot and the background music deserves wholehearted applause and appreciation. To reiterate, although the movie is a bit too lengthy for comfort, the sensible pacing of it compensates for the exertion that could have been. Sam Smith’s “Writing’s On The Wall” is a charade, when weighed against the brilliant Adele’s “Skyfall”

Overall, this 24th movie to roll out of the stables of the James Bond franchise, even though possessing the customary thrills and the expected spills, inexplicably loses its way in trying to establish a connect between many previous sub-plots that are intricate. Sam Mendes forgets to look to the future as he gets too very occupied and enmeshed in traversing the past.

SPECTRE – An Apparition that just refuses to haunt!

STAR WARS – THE FORCE AWAKENS: A GLORIOUS RESURRECTION

The preternatural anxiety surrounding the release of the George Lucas spectacle climaxed last night with the Seventh installment of the iconic Star Wars series being premiered. Only this time the wait has been exacerbated by a thirty year break which for some hard core fans has been just too long to tolerate. Directed by J.J.Abrams, “The Force Awakens” does not disappoint and does more than just living up to expectations. Without nursing a sadistic intention of mercilessly dousing the enthusiasm of Star Wars freaks and fanatics, let me construct an extremely broad and simplistic overview of the plot characterizing “The Force Awakens”.

Luke Skywalker has vanished (yes you read that right) leaving no perceivable clue as to his whereabouts. While concerted searches for him come to a frustrated nought, an insidious force terming itself the “First Order” prepares to wreak wanton destruction on the Rebel forces led by Leia Skywalker a.k.a General Leia Organa by employing a machine of Death and annihilation, capable of putting even the Death Star to literal shame. The First Order decides to hunt down Luke with the intention of obliterating the existence of the sole remaining Jedi Knight. The Republic on the other hand, pulls all stops to ensure that the unthinkable does not materialise. Will the Republic be able to ward off this seemingly unstoppable peril? Will the First Order be successful in spreading the perverse influence of the strong and vile Dark Force across the Galaxy?

The movie blends an eclectic mix of exuberant old faces and egregious new and young characters. The cliched mix of youth and experience combines to deliver a performance worthy of acclaim. Right from the moment the omnipresent theme music signals the commencement of events “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away”  till the appearance of the ending credits, the movie keeps one engrossed and riveted. Among the old suspects, the peripatetic Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) holds the  movie aloft with an impeccable exhibition of effortless acting. Combing gallows humour with a gullible filial emotion, Ford breezes through his sequences in a manner which is inimitable, unique and incapable of being mimicked.

Carrie Fisher as Leia is dignified and almost minimalist as the situation demands. Her loss at the disappearance of her dearest brother and savour makes her taken on a weather beaten yet determined appearance, a paradoxical combination of resignation and resoluteness. The taken-for-granted ebullience is replaced by a quiet and knowing elegance. The perennial Chemistry between Hans Solo and Leia Skywalker is unwavering and electric. Their interactions are pregnant with meaning and premonitions. Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca evokes smile and sorrow in equal measure. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren manages to distinguish himself well in a role cleverly designed to invoke scores of surmises and conjectures amongst a  perplexed audience, while John Boyega as Finn puts in a creditable performance. However the star of the show is undoubtedly Daisy Ridley. Donning the role of Rey, a Space Scavenger, Rey is a central character in the movie and disappoint she doesn’t! Without resorting to overtly extravagant acting exaggerations, she smoothly weaves in and out of sequences with the dexterity of a seasoned veteran. Rey will be the central element and unavoidable focus of all ball room discussions, board room deliberations and booze induced debates until George Lucas demonstrates a willingness to appease the inveterate curiosities of a zillion fans by bringing out the eight portion of the franchise.

There is much to cheer in this extravagant offering by J.J.Abrams. The Millenium Falcon is back to ply business as is the inseparable combination of R2D2 and C-3PO. The light sabre duels pitting the red against the blue are back and how! But the most telling point made by J.J.Abrams lies neither in the awe inspiring Computer Graphic Imitations nor in the breathtaking action sequences, but in the scintillating tug and pull of syncretic human emotions. Deceit and devotion; Resilience and Revenge; Slavery and Sycophancy all conflate, collude and collide to produce a myriad mix of both predictable and unpredictable outcomes. Power metamorphoses into vulnerability while weakness transforms into determination. There are no long drawn out, enervating talks for stillness and silence constitute a powerful medium of expression. There are a couple of twists and turns capable of bringing a tingling chill up the spine of the viewer. The usual blend of dry humour and wit is present albeit in a degree that is disappointingly subdued. This is the sole aspect of the movie that evokes some consternation as the generally conspicuous element of thought provoking punchlines is unusually inconspicuous.

On the whole, “The Force Awakens” is a brilliantly conceived culmination of a prolonged wait of thirty years. It’s time to sit back, let your hair down, relax and watch the fated conflict between good and evil; darkness and light; Jedi Knights and the dark forces and more than everything, between truth and deceit.

Watch out for a killer of a climax though! The final minute is capable of making one’s hair at the nape of the neck stand and bristle!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – The Glorious Resurrection of a Buried Saga!

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH US ALL

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI – AN EXERCISE IN INTENSITY

Intense; Taut; Gripping; Edge of the Seat Thriller. Michael Bay’s adaptation of Mitchell Zuckoff”s 2014 book “13 Hours” must surely rank as one of his best ever offerings till date. While the plot is unerring, its execution is near flawless. Although a wee bit lengthy at 144 minutes of running time, 13 Hours leaves you reeling and enervated by the time the credits roll out.

The year is 2012. The much despised despot Muammar Gaddafi has been brutally deposed by his own countrymen. However, Libya is in a state of dangerous flux. Insurgents and separatists clash openly on the streets causing wanton mayhem not to mention about the destruction of people and property. Amidst this raging inferno of civil unrest, all the foreign embassies shut shop and flee to safety. Only the United States mans a Special Mission in the dangerous city of Benghazi, along with a ‘supposedly’ secret CIA outpost, not so imaginatively termed the “Annex”. The Annex is guarded by a team of Private Military Contractors.

In an act of foolish optimism and misplaced confidence, the US Ambassador to Libya, J.Christopher Stevens decides to arrive in Benghazi to further the fabric of diplomacy between the two nations. The Ambassador makes the Special Mission (Embassy) his temporary residence paying little heed to the fact that the security at the Mission is to say the least, sparse. All hell breaks loose when the Embassy comes under brutal siege, courtesy a Group of rampaging Libyan fundamentalists. The CIA Annex, alerted to this catastrophe makes desperate calls to various US military bases and air support pleading for help. As all their impassioned pleas go in vain, a meagre and motley band of six Soldiers are forced to hold at bay, armed militants teeming around their place of refuge like savage predators.

The courageous deeds of the six brave hearts who went many a mile beyond their call of duty forms the spine and substance of the movie. James Badge Dale as Tyrone “Rone” Woods puts in a compellingly power packed performance stealing both the show as well as the adulation of the audience. John Krasinsly as Jack Silva, a former Navy SEAL plays able second fiddle to Dale. David Constabile as “The Chief”, the Benghazi Chief of Base, CIA both exasperates as well as enthuses, in equal and alternative measure.

The most engrossing part of the movie is the depiction of the pitched battles at ground level pitting six no hopers against a massive aggregation of hate filled barbarians. The action sequences are deeply penetrating and endearingly meaningful. Although the historical accuracy of the facts as portrayed in the movie has been clouded by some  controversy, there is no denying the fact that the Director who enthralled us all with fare such as “Armageddon”; and “The Transformers” series is back at doing what he does best – entertain. But this time the entertainment does not involve any juvenile trying to ram a cube into a metallic chest of a gigantic monster. This time the entertainment is engaging, inspiring and for real.

Watch out for the last 30 minutes of the movie and if you can refrain from gripping the handle of your seats until your knuckles turn white and demolish a third of your fingers along with the nails, you would have accomplished a commendable feat of restraint!

As the real names of the six brave hearts roll out at the end of the movie, you are left with nothing but a feeling of respect for the selfless soldiers who did not even bat an eyelid before putting their own lives on the line to keep their brethren out of the vicious jaws of death.

13 Hours – Michael Bay’s marvelous tribute to the magnificent men of Benghazi!

KABALI – OVERCOOKED YET UNDERDONE

First it is time for a confession. I am not a Rajini fan; I am a THALAIVAR FANATIC! So much so that when the legend was in Malaysia for shooting the very movie which I would be reviewing below, I hunted him down like a bloodhound for 3 days playing Russian Roulette with fate before the latter gave up its obdurate stance, yielded and contrived to bestow upon me my life’s greatest privilege– a private audience with the Superstar for 15 minutes and an autographed personal copy of Living With The Himalayan Masters!

Now that the facts are out of the way it is time for an unbiased, impassioned and candid review of Kabali, the directorial offering of PA Ranjith. The hype surrounding the movie (as is the case with any Rajini release) was close to unprecedented with Airlines vying with jewelers to nudge themselves into the maniacal marketing pyramid. The last time Rajini wore the mantle of a full fledged gangster was in the immortal and eponymous epic “BAASHA”. Hence it was with great anticipation and unbounded expectations that I rushed to view the premiere screening of Kabali at an archaic shopping mall in KL which boasted a theatre imaginatively named “MY Cinemas”. MY Cinemas’ desperate and urgent need of a makeover mirrored the lacuna that is the feature of Kabali! Yes you read it right! Kabali is 150 minutes of unmitigated disaster! If Manick Baasha was the Don Vito Corleone of Indian cinema, Kabaliswaran a.k.a Kabali is an abstruse saviour of the downtrodden Tamil populace in Malaysia. Kabali leaves his ardent fans ambivalent, agonized and asking “WHY?”

While Ranjith leaves a lot to be desired and more, the following are the 7 primary and gaping reasons why Kabali does not strike a chord with even the most ardent of Rajini worshippers

1.       Total Absence of a formidable Foe

A Rajini movie is invariably made memorable by the presence of an antagonist who duels with the protagonist in an unrelenting and gripping way. While Manick Baasha squared off with the evil Anthony, Padayappa found his feminine nemesis in Nilambari. The Luddite Annamalai had to test his skills against Ashok while the king of Style Shivaji/”MGR” had to contend with the devious and ruthless Adikeshavan. Even Lingaa faced a low profile albeit impactful enemy in M.P.Nagabooshan. More the stellar cast of villains, more memorable the movie! The late Raghuvaran, Ramya Krishnan, Suman, Prabhakar and Jagapathi Babu all combined to enhance and embellish the aura that surrounded Rajini.

What or who do we have in Kabali for the ultimate face off? A Chinese gang lord going by the ill conceived name of Tony Lee (Winston Chau) who has a coterie of Indian lackeys to do his hacking and haggling! The incomprehensible mumbo jumbo of Tamil spoken (or miserably attempted to rather) by Winston Chua jars the nerves and makes for some extremely painful viewing. With no actor of repute to essay the most vital role of an anti-hero, Kabali disappoints immensely in all its confrontational sequences.

2.       Zero Punchlines

The punch lines of Rajini constitute the lifeline of his movies. Even a Rajini fan to whom Tamil sounds like a customized version of Greek and Latin would more often than not be successful in proudly hollering “NAAN ORU THARAVAI SONNA NOORU THARAVAI SONNA MAADHIRI” or “EN VAZHI THANEEEE VAZHI”. Kabali however does not have a single comparable punch line of note to offer. The dialogues are subdued, the challenges mellow and the narrative damp. What is a Rajini movie without a proper punch line? The answer – KABALI

3.       When Magizhchi does not actually mean good

When the official teaser of Kabali hit You Tube, one phrase attracted the viewers no end – Rajini elegantly folding his palms and saying “Magizhchi”. This captured the imagination of millions and the word almost found a welcome revival in the Tamil Lexicon. However in the actual movie, a total hash has been made of this term. It has been over employed to the extent constituting abuse. One would be tempted to ask for a ban on using “Magizhchi” in movies more than 3 times! The beautiful word has been over laundered so much that it resembles a shirt that has been carelessly albeit repeatedly washed by a Dhobi before his donkey chews away a good part of it!

4.       Rajini Laughs

Thalaivar has a laughter that is distinctive yet ominous. Whenever threatened with dire consequences, Rajini first breaks into a hearty laughter with an ominous ring to it, before wading into a stream of powerful riposte. PA Ranjith either has not seen BAASHA, PADAYAPPA, MOONRU MUGAM, & ENTHIRAN or has no clue how to manipulate this unique laughter. What happens with Magizhchi gets extrapolated to this laughter. Needless laughter punctuates many scenes thereby taking the life out of many potential winning sequences.

5.     Free Life Foundation

The less said the better!

6.       Who the hell is Ranjith’s Target Audience

The popularity of the Entertainer of the Decade and one of the most influential and adoring personas of Indian cinema is encapsulated in a powerful dialogue by Lakshmi in Padayappa. She says that Padayappa has the characteristic traits of camphor. A ball of camphor immediately lights up irrespective of whether the hand striking a match to it belongs to an affluent individual or a poverty stricken wretch. Rajini transcends both class and mass. His is an inimitable stratosphere which to the other aspiring and established actors will always remain a distant and unreachable dream. Fans of Rajini straddle all social, economic and cultural strata. This precious tenet is rend asunder by PA Ranjith in Kabali. With many scenes having been shot entirely in the language of Bahasa Melayu, the official language of Malaysia, and the audience is left reeling having to cope with disjointed moments which resemble a crude cut and paste job on a word document . PA Ranjith seems to be at a loss to decipher whether this movie is meant solely for the Malaysian audience or for the consumption of the global public.

7.       Where art Thou THALAIVAA?

In Samuel Beckett’s celebrated play “Waiting For Godot”, two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. After the first 10 minutes of Kabali, following the introduction of Rajini (a crude take of Nicholas Cage exercising behind bars in Con Air), the devoted fan is left – thirsting like a man with parched lips desperately scouring for an oasis in the middle of a scorching desert – waiting for his demigod to appear on the screen. The regal and magisterial presence that unmistakably looms large and overshadows every other actor is unfortunately non-existent.

Like Vladimir and Estragon, I also waited – waited for my Thalaivar with a heart swelling with pride and blood pumping and coursing through my veins. Alas! PA Ranjith, – woe betide the man – never gave me the unbridled pleasure of experiencing him!

While Radhika Apte and Dhansika do veritable justice to their roles, Nasser impresses with a cameo performance.

Neruppu Da leaves a lingering note in the ears long after the movie is done.

It is time for Thalaivar to get rid of the avant garde young guns and revert to the proficiency of the big daddies. We want the Thalaivar verve, the Rajini Swag and the Superstar Style to knock us sideways and senseless – yet again!

Place that SOS call to Shankar and get CHITTI 2.0 off the Production Line NOW!