Oh My Dog movie review: Arun Vijay’s sweet, sappy film bogged down by commercial platitudes and predictable writing

It is fascinating to see how indispensable fight sequences are to Tamil cinema. That is the case not just with commercial cinema. It seems inconceivable for our creators to have a protagonist and not have him fight, no irrespective of the genre the film belongs to.

After all, can anyone be a hero if they cannot fight? Sarov Shanmugam’s debut film Oh My Dog is the latest addition to the long list of films bogged down by commercial platitudes and predictable writing.

Oh My Dog has quite a simple premise. Professional dog breeder Fernando (Vinay Rai in yet another single-note villain character) asks his men to kill a blind pup from one of his dogs. The pup escapes the killers, and is be spotted by Arjun (Arnav Vijay), who adopts him. He hides the pup, Simba, from his family, which is already reeling under financial pressure. But eventually, the family and their friends rally around the pup, which brings them closer.

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Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu movie review: Akshara Haasan’s is a cute but middling film on female desire

The ‘good’ woman, according to ancient Tamil literature, has four characteristics — Achcham, Madam, Naanam, and Payirppu. Loosely translated, Achcham means fear; Naanam means coyness; Madam is modesty bordering on ignorance — even if a woman knows something, she is supposed to pretend otherwise. And finally, Payirppu, which roughly translates to chastity.

This patriarchal notion of who is a good woman has been, for long, romanticised by popular culture. Tamil cinema, in specific, has a long history of enshrining patriarchy. Almost every leading star has, at some point or the other, delivered a sermon on how a woman should behave dress or be.

Continue reading “Achcham Madam Naanam Payirppu movie review: Akshara Haasan’s is a cute but middling film on female desire”

Ms. Representation: The lone tigress

The global percentage of women in the human population, and in India, is close to 50 percent. However, if you look at our cinema, often thought to be a reflection of our society, you rarely get this impression. The Token Female TM, also referred to as The Smurfette Principle, is one of entertainment’s most common tropes. It is when a lone woman is included in an otherwise entirely male ensemble. It’s a trope quite common in Hollywood. If you exclude love interests and women villains, this Token Female is ubiquitous in action films, from The Avengers to Inception. This slowly gave way to the ‘Two Girls in the Team’ trope in which creators seem more ‘equal’. There’s representation, but the content is carefully tailored so as not to look like it’s just for women (An all-male cast though is considered perfectly unisex).

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Ms. Representation: Our mothers need to be saved

“You know, had that been my bandaid, you would have asked me to shut up and fix it myself,” says Mare to her mother Helen, in the HBO series, Mare of Easttown (streaming on Disney Hotstar). “Oh, is that something you talk about in therapy?” Helen asks, with a small smile, before acknowledging that she had indeed used her daughter as a vent for her anger. “Your father wasn’t the man I thought he was, I couldn’t fix him. I was so angry, and I took that on you.” When Mare forgives her, Helen says, “Good, because I forgave myself long ago”, before breaking down into tears. And then comes the clincher. “You need to forgive yourself too, Mare… for Kevin. It is not your fault,” she says. (For context, Kevin is Mare’s drug-addict son, who dies of suicide.)

Continue reading “Ms. Representation: Our mothers need to be saved”

Putham Pudhu Kaalai review: Warm, but a tad too sweet

The pandemic, and the subsequent lockdown, has several faces. People on the streets without food or shelter, the vulnerable struggling to reclaim the little stability they had — that’s the scary face. The more privileged of us experienced a kinder side. It pushed us to introspect, contemplate on the multiple personas we have; discover and acknowledge the same in other people. Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil anthology, has captured this benign side of the pandemic. (With the intense shooting restrictions, it might have been tougher to explore more dynamic scenarios) It was said that the anthology was about hope, second chances, and new beginnings. But for me, these shorts are also bound together by this introspection: the discovery of faces (both of ourselves and others) we had hidden from the world.

Despite being the closest people in our lives, they are also somehow the farthest from our truth. Four of the five shorts explore this irony in our families and relationships, In the case of Sudha Kongara’s Ilamai Idho Idho, it was about the forgotten individual behind the parent mask. We see another version of this in Gautham Vasudev Menon’s Avarum Naanum/Avalum Naanum. With Reunion (Rajiv Menon), it is about remembering our forgotten younger selves, and Coffee Anyone acknowledges the dynamic nature of human emotions. What we feel today about someone, may morph into something completely different tomorrow. Karthick Subbaraj’s Miracle stands alone in terms of tone and theme, exploring acceptance from a different vantage point, and providing a much-needed change in terms of socio-economic representation.

While all of them deal with interesting premises, Ilamai Idho Idho and Miracle make the best of the restricted time they are given with. To tell a story with nuance in 25 minutes is not particularly easy, but these two shorts do it well without incongruous exposition in terms of writing. In Ilamai Idho Idho (my favourite of the lot), not only does the writing swiftly establish the setting and characters, it creates enough space for organic cute moments between the couple. Despite the adorable chemistry between Kalyani Priyadarshan and Kalidas Jayaraman, I couldn’t help but wonder what the film would have been if it had been Jayaram and Urvashi throughout. I would love to see that thread fleshed out into a feature film. (A special shout out to GV Prakash and Kaber Vasuki for that nostalgic musical tidbits) Miracle, on the other hand, picks a smart premise and tells it with undeniable intrigue. One can sense Karthik Subbaraj’s comfort and experience in the space — as he delivers precisely what is required.

The other three shorts feel a bit rushed, resorting to some amount of exposition to create the nuance in their narratives. Nevertheless, we get some fine performances from the likes of MS Bhaskar and Andrea, who breeze through their roles. One can also feel the restrictions in terms of space, but the shorts manage it well. They look good even if there are more hand-held shots than one bargained for.

Are these short films glossy? Yes. Could they have had more emotional gravitas? Yes. But they work as small, shiny nuggets of warmth. These are also stories you don’t generally find on the big-screen. Thus, It marks an interesting journey of experimentation. With the pandemic, several big-wigs have begun to make content for the digital space, with anthologies becoming the ‘form of the season’. So, I am treating this as the new beginning, a hopeful one, for better narratives in the future.

Suhasini Maniratnam: I cannot think of direction as my day job

The first question I had asked Suhasini Mani Ratnam when meeting her for an interview two years back was, “Why aren’t you directing more?” She had laughed and said it would be a matter of time. And now, two years later, 25 years after her directorial debut, Suhasini has worn the director hat again for Amazon Prime Video’s first Tamil Anthology, Putham Pudhu Kaalai. “I began writing short stories in 2009 after taking a course. These were not published but worthy enough to be so. I have kept them to myself, but perhaps OTT is a good place for them.”

In this freewheeling chat, the actor-director talks about her return to filmmaking and what it’s like to work with her own family.

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People want to see the latest films sooner: Amazon Prime Video India’s Vijay Subramaniam

They say art reflects life, but I say how art is consumed is also a reflection of our lifestyle. Amazon Prime Video has become an important player in the ever-changing universe of film exhibition—so much so that ‘wait for it to come on Prime’ has become a legit line to use in the context of film releases. “We aim to serve the customers across the length and breadth of this country. India is diverse, and we recognise that. The idea is to make the canvas as wide as we can,” says Vijay Subramaniam, Director and Head, Content, Amazon Prime Video India. Here’s Vijay discussing the nitty-gritty of the streaming universe, and the part Prime plays in it…

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I don’t think any series has a finale as dynamic as Breathe: R Madhavan

“Smile ah, adhu oru mile ku pogume” – Actor Vivek’s dialogue from Dum Dum Dum flashed across my mind as R Madhavan greeted me with a brisk and warm handshake with a flash of that famous impish smile. While women (and apparently men too) across the country are still going gaga over his smile, it is impossible to notice the affability when he calls himself an ‘unconventional looking hero.’ After a blockbuster Vikram Vedha, Madhavan is now stepping into the digital arena with his first web series, Breathe. With a successful career spanning more than fifteen years, the actor’s choice might raise a few eyebrows. But Madhavan says he has always known that digital content is the way ahead. “I have been doing the research for quite some time. I didn’t forecast brands like Amazon and Netflix to step in, but I realised that there will be an explosion with digital content around 5 years back,” he recalls. Continue reading “I don’t think any series has a finale as dynamic as Breathe: R Madhavan”

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