Archive for January, 2007

First stills of Dasavatharam!!!

The first stills of Dasavatharam are out in the latest issue of Kunkumam. The stills reveal 2-3 get-ups of Kamal and not surprisingly, people’s predictions seem to have gone wrong.

Dasavatharam: rumours & more

There is some more rumour about the story of Dasavatharam — Kamal playing the roles of a Veera Vaishnavite, an old woman, ‘Bush’ and ‘Osama’, Asin in a double role, etc. Also, the release is said to be in August. The next phase of shooting is scheduled to be in Malaysia.

Yet another rumour talks of the crew and the producer being bogged down by the story controversy.

Vijay Yesudas wedding

Kamal attended the wedding of Vijay Yesudas, son of renowned playback singer KJ Yesudas. Check out the photos on KollywoodToday.com. Kamal is seen in his latest look and people around seem to be enjoying his presence.

Update on Jan. 28: some photos…

[Picture courtesy: BehindWoods]

Book release function & more

Kamal has many friends in the literary world. One such person is Dr. G. Gnanasambandan, who is more famous for his oratory skills and moderation of debates (’pattimandram’).

A couple of his books were released and one was by Kamal. Check out photos and a video too on IndiaGlitz. Kamal sports another change in his look.

Kamal and Vairamuthu seemed to have made some comments about the Dasavatharam story controversy, but that hasn’t been covered properly in the press. Also present in the function was Sujatha, the writer, who is among the better known literary friends of Kamal.

Dasavatharam release stayed

Yet another roadblock for yet another Kamal movie. This time, the story controversy has turned into a PIL which has led to a stay order on the release of Dasavatharam. This means that the shooting can go on but the release is under threat. For some strange reason, almost all Kamal movies seem to get into trouble these days.

I first noticed the news on NDTV and then found more on Sify.com.

Kamal flags off Moser Baer’s revolution

Moser Baer, the CD giant, launched its foray into the home video market. With the low prices, it is potentially revolutionary. With a combination of aspects like technology, anti-piracy and distribution, who better to launch it than our very own Kamal!

Kamal launched the VCD and DVD of Ullam Kaetkumae and also unveiled 101 Tamil titles. He attended the function with his brother and production partner, Charuhasan.

Check out photos on IndiaGlitz, including his updated Dasavatharam look. More news is available from The Hindu.

Some post-USA events

After returning from the USA, Kamal has become very visible in various events and functions. I had been away for 10 days and am now catching up on them.

An interesting event Kamal took part in was a screen-writing seminar conducted by Hollywood guru Syd Field. Arranged by UTV Motion pictures, the seminar was also attended by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Kamlesh Pandey, Sanjay Gadhvi, Ramesh Sippy, Rajkumar Hirani, Sanjay Gupta, Farhan Akhtar, Ritesh Sidhwani, Shashanka Ghosh, Govind Nihalani, Anees Bazmee, Rahul Da Cunha, Shabana Azmi, Atul Kulkarni, Soni Razdan, Saurabh Shukla and Yana Gupta. Read more about it on BusinessofCinema.com and IndiaGlitz. It would be good if we could get more information on Kamal’s experience at the event.

Kamal also participated in another function where he and Shruthi released a VCD / DVD collection of Crazy Mohan’s plays called Maadhu + 2.

The other function was the launch of Moser Baer’s foray into entertainment. But that deserves a separate post for reasons close to Kamal’s heart.

Dasavatharam updates in the new year

Dasavatharam Poster 2Apparently, there’s a break in the shooting of Dasavatharam, visible from Kamal’s presence in various functions. CNN-IBN covered the movie recently. Check out the video report which includes Kamal speaking on the progress.

Meanwhile, there is some news of the US leg of shooting being affected by Mallika’s absence.

Also, check out a slightly dated article that talks about the security arrangements of Dasavatharam and Sivaji, to prevent any leaks to the media.

Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu: Kamal salvages Gautham’s lapses

Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu is really two films: the first of these (roughly the first half) is a taut detective story, seamlessly merging the script and director Gautam Menon’s technically slick vision, while also doing justice to a parallel budding friendship and romance between DCP Raghavan (Kamal Haasan) and Maya (Jyotika), neighbors at a New York hotel where Raghavan has landed up to continue a murder investigation begun back in India; it is rare indeed to find such an “adult” representation of a man-woman relationship in a mainstream Indian film. And if the masala fan in me was none too thrilled at seeing a film so very Hollywood (and hence, broadly, derivative), I was nevertheless enthralled by Menon’s control, and by Kamal Haasan’s excellent articulation of a middle-aged, low key cop (low key, that is, barring the somewhat incongruous opening sequence, wherein Raghavan beats the crap out of an entire gang all by his lonesome), one tormented by his failure to save his late wife from criminals eight years ago, and anguished by the brutal rape and murder of his best friend’s daughter.

Unfortunately, the second film, which begins when the killers are introduced, is a crude, lurid crapfest of a movie, involving much yelling, pointless plot developments, and rather lurid violence against women. The result is that Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu is one confused movie, its two halves never quite gelling into anything coherent. I couldn’t shake the impression (confirmed by Menon’s recent interview with Baradwaj Rangan) that Menon felt he had to compromise on his vision in order to make a commercially safe film; one wonders if he went too far: certainly Menon’s previous film — Kaaka Kaaka — was very successful, and that “episode in a police officer’s life” did not have the acrid smell of blatant compromise so thick about it.

Overall, I would say that the film is worth watching more for Kamal’s performance than anything else, and Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu confirms my impression that he is best in relatively understated roles; within the parameters of mainstream cinema he certainly has one here, and he handles it with authority laced with the odd vulnerable moment, the latter highlighting the fact that although the film may have begun on an “overman” note, DCP Raghavan is no larger-than-life mangod. More pity, then, that Menon did not stay true to his vision: either an out-and-out masala film, or a relatively realistic policier, would have been preferable to this mish-mash, which cannot but impinge on Raghavan’s characterization in all sorts of unfortunate ways.

Kamal and Jyotika make for a good pair, and are that rarest of things, namely a mature couple playing characters close to their real ages. In the film’s first half their interludes highlight the grey nature of the world Raghavan and Maya inhabit; in the second half one is relieved to get some reprieve from the baddies.

A word on the songs: Harris Jayaraj’s music is better than some of his recent (disappointing) fare, though the videos are uniformly disappointing (it is especially difficult to forgive Menon his lame conceptualization of Paartha Mudhal).

All in all, this is a disappointing outing for Menon as far as I am concerned, and only Kamal fans (that is to say, all cinephiles who wish to see a compelling actor turn in a performance that holds a mediocre film together) will be sad to miss this one.

[A note on the DVD: Ayngharan (the version I’ve reviewed) is by far the best Tamil film DVD company on the market, and the transfer for Vettaiyaadu Vilayaadu is no exception, doing justice to the crispness of Menon’s images (in the film’s first half in particular). Ayngharan DVDs also have the best subtitles by far — by which I mean that, although I do not know Tamil, the subtitles are generally grammatically correct, and it is obvious that most dialogues are “accounted for”, unlike for instance Pyramid DVDs (as to which it is really a shame that Mani Ratnam’s masterpiece Iruvar, and one of my favorite Indian films, is only available on a substandard Pyramid DVD version). And while I’m at it, the same mercifully holds true of Kamal’s own directorial masterpiece Virumaandi, which is also available on an Ayngharan DVD that brings the vibrant, violent rural Madurai district of Kamal’s imagination to life.]

More from Gautham

Baradwaj Rangan (Indian Express) has done a fine interview with Gautham Menon. Gautham speaks frankly about various things, including Kamal and VV. Excerpts:

Gautham, who then presented to his star a one-liner of the story that would eventually become Pachaikili. “He said it was nice and asked me to work on it. So I wrote the entire script in 40 days. But then he had second thoughts and said no. Then for a month I sat and thought about what Kamal could play. A cop? A convict on the run, like Sigappu Rojakkal 2? And I decided to make him a cop.

Then the suicide episode happened and, “Kamal said the entire thing had left a bad taste in his mouth, and he didn’t want this film at all. But the producer’s council told him he’d taken an advance – I’d also taken an advance – so we had to finish the film.” So Gautham narrated the story of Véttaiyaadu. “He said, ‘I don’t have time to get fit if I’m playing a cop.’ I said that wasn’t a problem. He asked if I could start shooting right away and finish the project. I said yes.”

And that’s how they started the film, “without Kamal sir getting a full narration of the script,” says Gautham. “He’d get the scene, read the dialogues, and start acting. All he knew was that he was a cop. He didn’t know where Jyotika would come in, where Kamalini would come in. He didn’t know who the two villains were – I didn’t introduce them to each other. The first time they acted together was the first time they met.”

Some people said Kamal Hassan didn’t look very interested in the project, “but it worked for me, because I wanted the character to be like that. We know every expression of Kamal’s. I’ve watched every film of his. I’m like a die-hard fan. I wanted a character that is very simple, very underplayed. And he was brilliant. There are some things you cannot write. You can write the dialogue, you can say the artist is going to look at Jyotika like this – but what he adds to that is mind-blowing. All of us were stunned.”

But this excellence came at a price. “In Véttaiyaadu, the first half is what I wanted to do. The second half is what I did for the producer and Kamal sir.”

“It’s very difficult to write in a Tamil cinema setup because you have to cater to the hero. That entire opening ten minutes is just an introduction of the hero. You can remove those ten minutes and start the film when Kamal touches down in Madurai. In fact, when Kamal first heard the script, he had reservations. I asked why. He said, ‘You’re making a film with a hero. Now this script will shift to the antagonist at some point. Then there’ll be a cat-and-mouse. There’ll be footage where I’m not there on screen. That’s not the kind of film you want to make.’ I understood. He’s a superstar. He has fans who need to be catered to.”

“When Kamal finally faces the last villain, I wanted a fight sequence. But he felt the audience would want to know about Jyotika, and a fight would only prolong this discovery. And so we had the villain die instantly.” But a lot of people came up and said that this villain was so evil, he needed to have been the recipient of some dishoom-dishoom from the hero. “If I hadn’t let Kamal tell me, I would have shot it. Even now, I feel there could have been a 100-feet fight between both of them.”

“…Without Kamal sir’s remuneration, Véttaiyaadu was shot at five-seventy five, which is awesome. It’s only because of Kaja’s – the earlier producer’s – overheads that it became a breakeven film, with a little bit of profit. Otherwise it’s a major money-spinner.”

For Véttaiyaadu, I wanted a title with a hunt kind of feel. I was talking to (the lyricist) Thamarai, and she said there’s this old song and started humming it. And that was it.

“The producer told me not to have these English portions. I said, ‘Sir, this character goes to New York. He can’t talk in Tamil.’ Then the producer asked me to at least have subtitles. I said you can’t read it because it goes by too fast.” But they insisted, and now, Gautham says, they’re saying the subtitles shouldn’t have been there because no one can read them.

“I had only three songs in my first draft. Harris comes to me and says we have a track record, so we need to have five songs. And the guy who comes to buy the audio rights says the same thing.” So the situations for Uyirilé and Neruppé were shoehorned in. “I was not even there when they shot the song, because I didn’t like the situation and I’d already started Pachaikili. But then these are factors that you have to play with.”

Gautham’s earlier interview with Sudhish Kamath (The Hindu) now seems very complementary. Read more on Baradwaj Rangan’s blog.