I was disappointed with Petta, here’s why.

When Petta was announced, Karthik Subbaraj was quick enough to say that it would be a film for the fans, made by one as well. This was looked at with some apprehension by people who have grown to like the young filmmaker’s unique, maverick style of filmmaking. Will it be a Rajini film or a Karthik Subburaj film, they pondered. Well, now that the film is out, I see a lot of comments that it was a Rajini film rather than a Karthik Subbaraj one. Petta had almost all the motifs of Karthik (even though he says he doesn’t want to be associated, we have come to see a few in his films), even though he disappointed me in more than few places.

A constant feature of the Karthik Subbaraj story is that it weaves several genres or plot points that could have been independent films of their own. Similarly, Petta weaves in several genres into one mosaic with Rajini’s face on it. On one hand, it is a family drama, but there’s also a revenge saga, a campus story, a sand-mafia gangster tale buried in it. And there’s also the slightly bizarre but ironic endings that Karthik gives his characters. A laughter-hating don becomes a comedy actor; a blind man gets to see his family in Mercury… you get the drift. Petta has a similar ending for Pettavelan. Even the background score, is peppered with evergreen numbers from the yore — Anirudh gives a blazing soundtrack but at the same time you sense Karthik’s hand. The stylised visuals, the marginally darker frames — all are indicative of Karthik Subbaraj and his sensibilities.

Karthik has given us strong female characters; they are in the film because they make a difference. However, the women in Petta are a major disappointment. Right from his first film, Karthik’s on -screen women were in the story because they made a difference. Even Iraivi’s Malar (who has a comparatively smaller role than the other two women) is an admirably written character. However, in Petta, most of the women don’t have much to do except for the exception of Poongudi (Malavika Mohanan). As lovely as Mangalam (Simran) and Saro (Trisha) look, it was painful to see them be reduced to a few coy looks and smiles. Maybe, I wouldn’t have been so outraged if it had been someone else.

But this isn’t restricted only to the female characters. Petta has a long list of actors, in characters that don’t deserve them. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, for me, tops this list closely followed by Vijay Sethupathi and Mahendran. The more I think about it, the more Petta feels like a checklist film for Karthik Subbaraj. Considering he had Rajinikanth on board, did Karthik use Petta as an opportunity to work with all the actors he aspired to?

In more than one way, Viswasam, the other release for the week, and Petta are similar. Both are odes to the actor they idolise — it is about invoking the nostalgia and charm of the star they have become. (In fact,  I am more excited for Ajith’s film with H.Vinoth.)

Petta is a handcrafted love letter from Karthik Subbaraj to his matinee idol. There are more than enough references to Rajini’s avatars and previous films — the pambu from Annamalai, the ‘Ulle po’ and rolling chair from Baasha, the ‘haaan’ from Raja Chinna Roja. While it was extremely enjoyable to see Rajini in a young, energetic avatar, haven’t we enjoyed Rajini in his all-charming glory for so many years? Why is it that we want the rest of Kollywood to evolve, but exclude the biggest stars out of the process?

Which is why Kaala will still be my favourite Rajini film of recent times. While fans might disagree, what Pa Ranjith and Rajini did was unique and it was new. It was Rajini exploring.


Vijay Sethupathi suggested that I direct 96: Prem Kumar

Marooned by the 2015 floods, Prem Kumar just had with him one notebook to ideate and write the script of 96. He had missed his school reunion due to work, but the stories he heard from the meet gave him an idea for a script. The rains had just started as he began to sketch his story and soon, it was chaos. “I couldn’t have got myself more paper, had I needed it. There was no power, and once the candles ran out, I used my mom’s kuthuvilaku for light,” he says. He could only write at night, as the mornings were devoted to fetching basic supplies. “And it turned out to be a story that unfolds in one night,” adds Prem with a smile. Continue reading “Vijay Sethupathi suggested that I direct 96: Prem Kumar”

Jaanu from Premkumar-Vijay Sethupathi-Trisha’s 96

I finally watched #96 and I am not going to talk about the exquisite mood piece that it is, beautifully performed with enchanting music and cinematography. Rather, I want to talk about how Jaanu behaves; how her behaviour is a reflection of how we deal with bittersweet memories from the yore.

Sometime back, I read a short story where the author had described memories taking form of boxes that are safely lodged outside the shelves of our brains. Situations serve us a box, covered in fine dust, from time to time; least when we expect it.

What do we do then? We dust it off, open the box and relive the moments. Remember the warm moment and bask in the mellow glow of nostalgia. Follow the waves of emotion that tease us, push us back and pull us forward, and leaves us at the shore of ‘what-ifs’. What if things had ended differently, where would I be now? Whom would I be with? The indulgence begins. At some point, we are forced back to reality, where we draw parallels to reassure our bruised souls. ‘I haven’t ended up in a very bad situation now, have I?’; ‘I’m still doing okay.’ When these boxes get too close for comfort, you shut it out. Close your eyes and leave, before you get pulled in beyond the point of sanity. Over the time, the box gets additions — newer information. We tuck them away again until something else, or someone else brings it out and hands it to us.

Jaanu for me was a personification of a memory that one can never forget. Her entry is, similarly, unexpected. She sweeps Ram back into the past, placing him in the corridors of their memories. There’s reluctance, nostalgia, questioning, indulging in what-ifs, struggle with adieu and finally, addition of newer colours to the has-been.

Crystal is dysfunctional but with a beautiful heart: Trisha Krishnan on her character in Hey Jude

Not many might have noticed the winsome Trisha Krishnan when she made her first film appearance in the 1999 film Jodi. But then Ameer’s Mounam Pesiyathe happened and there was no turning back. For fifteen years, Trisha has been one of the most-sought after heroines and continues to be so. In fact, the pretty actress has several interesting projects in the pipeline such as Sathuranga Vettai 2, Garjanai, Mohini, 1818 and 96 among others. She recently signed Kuttrapayirchi, a film based on the first Indian female detective. Trisha is also making her Mollywood debut with Nivin Pauly-Shyamaprasad’s Hey Jude releasing this week. Despite her tight schedule, Trisha is too sweet to deny my request and promptly agrees for a quick conversation. Continue reading “Crystal is dysfunctional but with a beautiful heart: Trisha Krishnan on her character in Hey Jude”

Mohini movie review: Save your money, skip this one

There was one moment where I thoroughly enjoyed Mohini. Unfortunately, it came after the film ended. As we were watching the end credits, someone walked in and asked ‘Oh, idhu pei padama?’ (Is this a horror film?) and the few of us who were still in the theatre burst out laughing. It was a rare moment where a common emotion unanimously linked the audience. I was dearly praying that Mohini had at least one such moment that saved the film. But we weren’t lucky. Not even a ridiculously beautiful Trisha can save this film. Continue reading “Mohini movie review: Save your money, skip this one”

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