Singam 2: Too Lite

Singam 2 white shirt 2 Singam 2: Too Lite

First time in all my Tamil movie-watching in New York and New Jersey, I witnessed in person Friday night that massive hero worship of Tamil film fans.  When the opening credits of Singam 2 started rolling, folks were already clapping and whistling, and when Surya appeared on screen for the first time, they burst into hoots and roars, and this went on for a couple of minutes.  The girl in front of me snapped a couple of pictures of the screen with her phone and promptly sent them off to her friends.

Interesting too – and also my first time seeing this here – was the very notable Sri Lankan presence at the cinema.  When an ad was run for some satellite channel’s upcoming cricket coverage, when clips of the Lankan team were shown, several clusters of moviegoers in the crowd went crazy – you’d think we were actually watching a big Sri Lanka vs. India match right then and there.

One group were seated right in front of me, mainly older teens, one of whom jokingly scolded a relative as he slowly progressed up the stairs in the darkness, searching for the rest of the family: “Oh, that’s mad lame!  Uncle, you’re so funny – wearing a shirt and tie to the movies!”  To which the now embarrassed, middle-aged man stammered “Er, well, I wasn’t sure….” before scuttling off to sit with the family members closer to his own age, leaving me to enjoy the engsters’ entertaining commentary throughout the film.

The hard thing about sequels is (usually) that everyone remembers the predecessor fondly and how great it was, so you have that Sword of Damocles to contend with from the get-go.
In several important ways, Singam 2 feels more like Singam Lite.  The music itself is nothing as fun or memorable as songs like En Idhayam, Kadhal Vandale or even Naane Indhiran were from the original, and the biggest gap for me was the one left by Prakash Raj.

Whereas he was Mayil Vaaganam,  the big don, in the original, here, there is a combo of three villains-in-one, and none of them are that compelling to watch.  Moreover, dialogue comments directed to the African member of that triumvirate were racist: at one point he was referred to as “…, you African monkey.”  And I write “African” because while I might guess the actor playing Danny “King of the Indian Ocean” was from West Africa, perhaps Nigerian, I don’t believe the film actually specified a country of origin for him.  But the people of the African continent aren’t the only ones targeted, there’s also a supposedly humorous bit where Singam’s sidekick Susai (Santhanam) is trying to evade some goons at a tea stall and when he turns around to face them, he pulls his eyelids sideways and make some jokey Chinese reference.

SIngam 2 under cover 2 Singam 2: Too Lite

The story itself (set primarily in Tuticorin, which allows for some beautiful coastal and ocean shots) has the honest cop Durai Singam undercover as he tracks the goings on of some drug smugglers using the cover of salt exports to ship out their product.  This posting – which has him pretending to have resigned from the police force and now managing a high school – has also set back his plans to marry Kavya (Anushka Shetty), since his own father (not hers) finds the whole thing so humiliating, he can’t go through with the union of the two families.  Throw into the mix Hansika Motwani as Sathya, a well-to-do and rather spoiled girl who develops a heavy crush on the hero and pursues him relentlessly.

Singam 2 cut baniyan 2 Singam 2: Too Lite

It’s an action flick and so yes, there are some engaging fights sequences, one in particular that I enjoyed, with a ripped and dripping Surya in a plain white short-sleeved shirt over a crisp veshti which he has hitched up to mini level, in order to be able to fight in a soaking downpour that suddenly erupts  (thank you, director Hari).  But the m.o. becomes repetitious quickly – beat one thug up, fling him through the window of his SUV, beat the next thug up and do the same, and on and on.

Happily, this film did come with subtitles – something you can still never be sure of when going to see a Tamil film in the U.S. – and they provided occasional moments of puzzlement and mirth.  I don’t know when the last time was that I saw the word “fillip” included among song lyrics (in Hindi or Tamil) and I did raise an eyebrow when Durai Singam scolded Sathya after one of her bigger attempts to claim him as her own and told her she was behaving “like a brazen hussy.”  I often wonder who it is that does these subtitles, but whomever they are, I’m convinced he/she must have degrees in English literature, with specializations in Dickens or Austen.

Final thoughts

If you’re a die-hard Surya fan, then po.

He seems to do so few movies lately that you appreciate anything he appears in, though I did find myself thinking at times “Jeez, I wish someone would give this guy some other kinds of roles where he can stretch a bit more than his muscles.”

Otherwise, think it over.  It was interesting to me that the two elements I felt most lacking compared to the original Singam, the better music and Prakash Raj as Surya’s foil, were both referred to repeatedly throughout Singam 2.  Maybe they can bring Prakash back as his own twin in the inevitable Singam 3

Aiyyaa: Let’s hear it for the girl

Aiyyaa%20poster%202%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

When I was a teenager in Catholic school, somewhere in either Junior or Senior year, I remember sitting in Mass one day and hearing the priest tell the congregation during the homily (the discussion of that day’s gospel reading) that sensuality is bad, and I remember thinking “Really?  But why?”  His sermon didn’t answer my question, but I reasoned that it must be because Catholics are told not to put so much emphasis on the fleeting things in this life, because it’s really the next life that we need to worry about and work toward.

But to my thinking – willful child that I was – I couldn’t imagine how any Supreme Being would be so perverse as to be responsible for placing His people amid so much beauty and so many pleasurable things in His world, and then tell us “Nuh-uh, mustn’t touch!”

If that priest were to see Aiyyaa, I think his head would explode.  Sachin Kundalkar’s treatment of the story of the attraction that Meenakshi (Rani Mukherjee) feels for Surya (Prithviraj) is awash in sensorial pleasure.

what%20sagai%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

Meenakshi, a spirited, daydreaming Marathi girl, works in a library at the local fine arts school where Surya’s a rather surly artist and student, who is also Tamil.  All it takes is one whiff of him, followed quickly by one glimpse of him, and Meenakshi’s lost.  She half-heartedly protests her parents’ earnest attempts to find a groom for her, but for naught.  She’s trussed up in a variety of lovely saris as all size and shape of potential grooms come to call with their families in tow.

brooding%20Surya%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

One thing that stood out from that parade of men is what Mama’s boys they all were, and how not just the mothers, but also the sisters, would cluster around the latest contestant and fan him, feed him, and look adoringly at him.  To that notion of elevating the male above the female, something which society certainly does, Kundalkar is clearly saying “Hah!  Just watch….”  (It’s not for nothing that later, Meenakshi will say to Madhav, the very considerate fiancé “Thank you for asking me what I like and what I want.”)

Like many of us good girls have done in the past, Meenakshi doesn’t so much directly disobey her parents’ wishes as work around them in pursuit of what she wants and desires, which is to know more about Surya.  She is soon doing what is essentially stalking.  She looks his details up online, interrogates his buddy (the young Tamil chaiwallah on campus), starts learning Tamil and watching Tamil movies (lucky girl), and even finagles a way into Surya’s home to meet his mother (during which she also grabs one of his paint-splattered t-shirts).  Sure, on paper this sounds just so wrong, but between the director and Rani Mukherjee, it comes off as quite innocent and harmless.

Rani%20daydreaming%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

In fact, one of the scenes I loved the most was of Meenakshi at home with that blue t-shirt, inhaling Surya’s scent before she goes to sleep, and then actually pulling it on over her own pajamas, and curling up in bed, enveloped in the closest thing she has to the object of her desire.

And on the subject of objectification – there’s plenty of it (of Prithviraj) and it’s about time that women got their due and had a Hindi movie show that yes, we do it too, and good for us!

Rani%20floor%20Aga%20Bai%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

While Rani looks staggeringly beautiful throughout the entire film (as she says to herself in the mirror in one scene, with filmy exaggeration “That face! Those eyes!”), the camera clearly loves Prithviraj.  Actually, “love” is too mild a verb.  The camera does to Prithvi what Mickey Rourke did to Kim Basinger in 9 ½ Weeks, before it got too dark, and the audience is fortunate enough to be along on that ride.  (I did hear nervous giggles in the cinema Saturday night when there was a quick cut to Prithvi’s rather hirsute chest glimpsed through a shirt open several buttons down.)

more%20than%20one%20button%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

First up in the exaltation of male beauty, it’s Dreamum Wakeupum, the pretend-Tamil-for-non-Tamil-speakers song which takes a cue from Silk Smitha’s days, and puts all that on its head.  Here, Prithviraj has been waxed ’til not one hair on his torso was left standing.  His upper body is framed in black, then blue, variations on an odd little garment some women wear called a shrug, except here, Prithvi’s has epaulets.

Dreamum%20drumming%20and%20epaulets%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

In another shot, he’s wearing not so much a conventional shrug as a length of turquoise blue fabric that has been rolled into a rope and lovingly coiled around his bronzed, glowing musculature.

Dreamum%20pink%20blue%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

Instead of only the girl thrusting and pouting as the guy lays his hands all around her, in this song, Rani also gets to softly slap and air kiss Prithvi’s bod, and so she should!  It’s all joyful fun as the leading man, in blue aviator frames flashing toothy smiles while jumping up and down on an oversized four-poster bed, then waving playfully at Rani a few minutes later, is a stark contrast to the taciturn, brooding, red-eyed artist Meenakshi encounters at school.  That’s why it’s a fantasy – you get to rewrite the parts of Real Life you wish were different.

Dreamum%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

If Dreamum Wakeupum is playfully sexy, then Aga Bai, the next fantasy song turns up the heat and intensity several notches.  Here, Meenakshi is being dragged to buy clothes and jewelry for her upcoming engagement party, but her mind is on Surya, who this time appears to her shrugless.

Aga%20Bai%20black%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

In between what’s been shown of this song video online and on TV, those images are intercut with other shots the video doesn’t include, of Meenakshi imagining Surya throwing her down on the cushions amid all the saris she’s looking at with her parents, and passionately kissing her neck while they try to drape her in gold.

One split-second thing the director did here, that set this song apart from so many hundreds of others, is carry that shot a bit further ahead, and as Surya nuzzles one side of Meenakshi’s neck, rather than cutting away there, as every other director would do, Kundalkar stays for more, and has Prithvi remain, moving around her neck, kissing her even more passionately directly under her chin.  If you blink, you’d miss it, but to me, it was emblematic of what he was doing with this film – not playing coy, and not running away just when things are getting good.  It’s as if he’s saying “This is what a real woman’s desire really looks like” unlike all that fake finger-biting that went on in The Dirty Picture and in the live promos for the same, which I felt was completely done for the male gaze, and not at all an expression of genuine desire on the part of Vidya Balan’s character.

Aga%20Bai%20gold%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

But ojo, Aga Bai is probably not a song you would want to watch with your grandparents in the room or kid siblings, because in between the shopping and belly dancing fantasies, one more fantasy is there – that of Surya as the petrol station attendant in overalls, filling up Meenakshi’s scooter, and it is the most overtly suggestive.

Hats off to Vaibhavi Merchant, who’s done some unusual, playful, choreography (including the incorporation of many Tamil filmy dance elements into Dreamum Wakeupum).  Equally, Amit Trivedi has created some vibrant and unforgettable music I know I’ll still get a thrill from weeks, months, years from now.

It’s been interesting to take a look around online and see how many men have strongly disliked the film.  Somewhere one guy commented words to the effect of “Go away, Rani Aunty, you cougar” which I think says a lot about what men are willing to accept, or not, when it comes to women – especially women age 30 and beyond – being portrayed as normal, sexual beings who do (sorry to tell you, boys) have “those” thoughts and feelings.

Aiyyaa, for all the talk about Meenakshi’s sense of smell, is also visually and tactilely rich.  Rani has been filmed in such a light that she always looks glorious.  And as her character stalks Surya, she grazes her hands over and sniffs the paint on his canvases, which, in prior shots, we’ve seen him mixing and touching those paints, and later we see him (filmed from underneath) plunging his paint-splotched hands into a basin, as the blue spreads out, comingling with the water.  After having some back-and-forth on Twitter yesterday about the merits of seeing a film on the big screen in a cinema versus on an iPad or phone, for me, this is one movie that definitely has to be seen on a cinema screen to be appreciated.

With this as his Hindi debut, Prithviraj says very little until the second half of the film, with the first half mainly consisting of him looking good while brooding.  When he finally does open his mouth to speak at length, it’s welcome.

The rest of the cast have less to do.  Meenakshi’s family are an eccentric little group, with the mother being rather ebullient and shrill, and the father a well-meaning, hapless man who smokes a lot and tinkers with old, broken phones, the blind grandmother is a live wire who sports a gold grill that her lucky (?) granddaughter is set to inherit when Aai is no more, and then there is the brother, Nana, a dropout whose main calling is to care for stray dogs (bully for him, I say – the world needs more people like that, India included).

Subodh%20Bhave%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

Rounding out the cast are Madhav (Subodh Bhave), who plays the milquetoast fiancé and Mynaa (Anita Date), a severely buck-toothed girl  whose dress sense is a nod to Lady Gaga and who works next to Meenakshi at the library, when she’s not expounding on the virtues of John Abraham’s physique.

I don’t know why Mynaa was portrayed with such extreme dental issues, if not, perhaps to suggest that all women, even those not as blindingly beautiful as Rani, have a right to their feelings and to pursue what and whom they wish.  The moment when Nana, trying to find his missing sister, appears at Mynaa’s John-Abraham-themed apartment with its blue glow, the words “Pedro Almodovar” flashed through my head.

While many viewers were discovering Prithviraj for the first time, for me, it was Subodh Bhave.  He has an interesting face and based on his work in Aiyyaa, I’m curious now to see his earlier films.

On the subject of Prithviraj, he’s someone who has made varied film choices over the length of his decade-long career and I give him credit for jumping into this unique movie, which called on him to play it down (except for the fantasy songs).  I think that’s harder than doing the yelling and overacting that a lot of mainstream roles call for.  Some of his films I’ve liked the best have been those where he is low key yet intense (Anwar, Veetillekkulla Vazhi, Raavanan, Mozhi).

One segment that could have been lopped off altogether was a sidebar of Nana and Meenakshi stealing off in the middle of the night (in their pajamas?) to buy drugs, because someone erroneously planted the idea in Meenakshi’s head that Surya’s intoxicating smell and constant red eyes are the result of his much rumored drug consumption.

Recommendation

See it in a cinema and quick.  This film seems to be ahead of its time and may not be allowed to gather momentum before it gets yanked, which would be a shame.

Sachin Kundalkar has stepped out beyond Hindi cinema’s comfort zone and done something quite different, while giving his audience a chance to revel in two hours plus of pleasure and visual beauty (it sure beats 15-minute fight scenes, if you ask me).  Moreover, he’s created an on-screen world where a good Maharashtrian girl can learn the Tamil for “Please don’t close your top button” to say to the man she wants.

Sachin%20Kundalkar%202 Aiyyaa: Lets hear it for the girl

This is what sets Aiyyaa apart from The Dirty Picture.  In the latter, we were told early on that Silk was boldly setting herself beyond the conventions of society and ended up paying a big price for that, as she was degraded and dragged towards blue movies, and ultimately a sad end.

In Aiyyaa, you get the message that there’s nothing shameful or dirty about what Meenakshi and Mynaa feel, and if there’s any price to pay, it would be the longing, and wondering, and dissatisfaction that you would live with if you didn’t follow your heart.

Le Tamoul – for a change!

When recently directing a friend who was in Paris to the website for L’Harmattan bookstore there, and their amazing selection of Francophone African literature, and all variety of “international books,” I couldn’t help but notice a brief paragraph on the page promoting an upcoming salon about Indian writing (in November) this year.

Wonderful, of course, but what really caught my eye was this little image:

Lindes%20des%20livres Le Tamoul   for a change!

I thought it interesting to see that – for a change – they had gotten away from the usual faux-Devanagri lettering so many people use for shop signs, restaurant menus, and which I also considered briefly back at the dawn of this site, and the designer/artist/blogger had instead done an adaptation of Le Tamoul script, which I think is kinda’ cute.

The little man in the big turban?  Hmmm….. I leave that one to you, dear reader….

 

NY Indian Film Festival: A Boon for Tamil Film Fans

NYIFF2012logo%202 NY Indian Film Festival: A Boon for Tamil Film Fans

If you love Tamil movies, but you don’t often get to enjoy them on a big screen in the NYC metro area, then today is your day.

The Indo-American Arts Council‘s 2012 New York Indian Film Festival – which already ran Aadukalam and Azhagarsamy’s Horse yesterday – is showing quite a selection this afternoon.

At 12:30 is Varnam, which stars, among others, Sampath Raj, who left such a great impression most recently with his work in Aaranya Kaandam last year:

Then at 3:30 you can catch the film that gave rise to that Kolaveri song, 3 , starring Dhanush and Shruti Hasan, and directed by Aishwarya Rajnikanth Dhanush:

And even if you’re not a Tamil film fan (as incomprehensible as that may be to me), there are plenty of other films from all around the Subcontinent on offer today (and tomorrow), including Chitrangada by Rituparno Ghosh, as well as a take on what happens to one firang boy from the UK when he lands in the capital in Delhi in a Day starring such cinema heavyweights as Lilette Dubey (who has clearly cornered the market on the upscale Delhi housewife roles between this film, Monsoon Wedding and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Victor Banerjee, and a tribute to Dev Anand with the screening of Hum Dono Rangeen.

Here’s the full schedule and the movies are showing at the Tribeca Cinemas in lowe Manhattan.

Life’s filmi soundtrack

This is a piece that appeared on Firstpost today, under the title How I met and fell in love with AR Rahman:

On my commute to work the other day, plugged in like always to my iPod, I scrolled through playlists, trying to find something I hadn’t listened to lately. I stopped at a playlist labelled Kadhalar Dhinam assuming it must have been some movie soundtrack I brought back from a past trip to Chennai and had forgotten.

As the song Kadhalenum started up, it was like someone had splashed ice water on my face. I remembered getting the album around 1999. Kadhalar Dhinam, a Tamil film starring Sonali Bendre, was also released in Hindi as Dil Hi Dil Mein.  When I first stumbled across the music by AR Rahman, even though I never saw the film, I just couldn’t stop listening to it.

At the start of the new millennium, after a slow and lengthy long-distance friendship, I had fallen in love with TamBram boy just over a decade my junior, who was living – where else – out by Edison, New Jersey. Every Friday, as soon as work was over, I’d drive out of Manhattan to his place, and we’d spend the weekend together. As I would exit the Lincoln Tunnel and Kadhalenum play from this soundtrack, I would be in great form. The weekend was starting and there was a cute boy 25 miles away waiting for me, sometimes — in the heat of summer — standing shirtless in the doorway of his garden apartment, watching me park the car.

We had talked about marriage though he was fearful of how his rather orthodox parents would react to me as his choice of spouse (hmmm, let’s see, their only child and only son involved with an Irish-American Catholic 10 years his senior…. I bet you know how this story will end, don’t you?)

But at that time, the bloom was still on the rose and we couldn’t get enough of each other, so when the shehnai blast signalled the opening bars of the film’s wedding song Nenaichchpadi, I allowed myself to daydream about what our wedding might be like. (Never mind that the reverie was soon interrupted by thoughts like, “I always perspire like crazy in silk when the temperature goes above 70 degrees, how am I ever going to make it through an entire wedding ceremony in Madras wrapped in a full-on Kanjeevaram and not look a complete mess by the end?” and “How lopsided it will all be, his huge family from the city and all corners of the globe in for the wedding, and on the bride’s side, my Mom and whatever few family or friends who’d manage to travel all the way from the US and Ireland …”)

I needn’t have worried, because within a few years, soon after we defied his parents’ and my mother’s disapproval and moved in together, he secretly posted a profile of himself on an Indian dating site and started an affair with a girl in his office.

And here’s where that soundtrack comes in again. One late December evening, just a few days shy of New Year’s Eve, he returned from supposedly “a drink with the guys at work” and announced, “You know, maybe I don’t want to get married and have kids.” It all went into slow-motion and the foundation of my life disintegrated like a sandy ledge under Wile E. Coyote in those cartoons. Soon after, we negotiated our separation. He offered to do me a huge favour and delayed his departure to remain in our home until I returned from a business trip to Malaysia: mind our cat and sign for deliveries of the new furniture I would buy to replace what he was taking with him.

I had thought that he was The One I’d be with ‘til the end, and the break-up cut me off at the knees. It was one of the darkest times of my life and I moved like the walking dead through the conference in Kuala Lumpur, somehow holding it together, just barely.

The day the conference concluded, an acquaintance in KL offered to take me on a drive to see some of the city. As I played with the radio dial on the car, I stumbled across a Malaysian Tamil station. Alternating DJ chatter and film music played in the background while we talked about the city’s architecture.  And then it happened.

That wedding song I used to daydream to while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike suddenly came on the radio and for a moment I froze, biting the cheek inside my mouth to keep from crying, the joyfulness of the song a wicked contrast to my actual situation. At that very moment, if my soon-to-be ex- wasn’t back in New Jersey entertaining his new girlfriend, he was in our apartment, boxing up his belongings in anticipation of moving out right after collecting me from the airport.

My life as a musical

But that was quite a few years ago, and this time, summer 2011, listening again as the first track of that album played, then another and another, on a lovely sunny morning, I could appreciate the beauty of the songs’ melodies. Those other memories were like watching a jittery movie clip on YouTube. It was an awful time to live through, but I survived and have thrived since then, and come to realise what a disaster it would have been if we had married or had kids.

Music has always been such a vital part of life.  Even as a little girl, spending my summers at my grandfather’s home in Ireland, I was in love with musicals like West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof.  I would take his little portable Grundig tape recorder and ensconce myself in the apple tree in the garden, while I blared I Like to be in America and If I Were a Rich Man at full volume for my maximum enjoyment, until the poor neighbours would appear on the other side of the hedge and ask me to turn it down.

After Hindi movies became a regular part of life, so too did all the music, and not just from films, but from pop and bhangra stars too. When that TamBram boy and I were together, I introduced him to DJ Rekha’s monthly Basement Bhangra event in Manhattan, and we soon became regulars. Very happy and bolstered by one or two caipirinhas, we’d dance for hours to Mary J Blige’s Family Affair and Dil le Gayi Kuri by Jasbir Jassi. Even now, when I hear that song start up, it’s hard to not dance and sing along with the music.

It’s funny how evocative just a snippet of a song can be. To this day, when I hear Stereo Nation’s album Jambo, I’m transported back to a holiday in Padua, Italy with my mother, going for a run early in the morning, still sleepy, letting the high from the bouncy music of Oh Carol and Devotion keeping me going until the runner’s high took over.

Or Khuda Jaane from Bachna ae Haseeno evoking memories of another family visit to Venice. This time with Deepika Padukone standing in the very piazza where my Mom and I toasted each other with an aperitivo (she for my birthday and me, for Mother’s Day).

I’ll be all right

My mother raised me all by herself and it was always just the two of us. Through her career with an airline, we were able to travel the world together at least once or twice a year, until time and smoking took their toll. It was while taking my Mom’s remains home to Ireland in 2008 for her funeral that I escaped one night to try and distract myself from the approach of the dreaded day, and watched the newly released Ranbir-Deepika starrer in a Dublin cinema.
This is what I think is such a tremendous, genuinely life-affecting gift that we receive from Hindi (or Tamil or Telugu, etc) films: even if a particular movie is not to your liking, there’s a strong possibility that there may be at least one song from the film (or more) that will either improve your mood, make you want to dance, or touch your heart very deeply.

Shaad Ali and Tarun Mansukhani don’t know it, but both of their films have given me a boost when I desperately needed it. Shaad Ali’s bright and cheery Bunty aur Babli so lifted my spirits in the first few months that I was still reeling from the aftershocks of that awful break-up.

And Mansukhani’s Dostana, particularly the song Jaane Kyun / I’ll Be Alright was the one I played every morning as I marched the last few blocks to office in the three months after my Mom died and the reality slowly sank in that I had lost her, and I also found myself at the risk of possibly losing my job. As the buoyant music and that “I’ll be alright” refrain poured into my head, I kept reminding myself that the two things I had dreaded most in the world had happened, only a few years apart from each other. I had lost the boyfriend and then lost my mother. And to my surprise, I’d survived, so I just had to hang on somehow, keep moving forward and I would indeed be all right eventually.

And I was!

Aaranya Kaandam

 

aaranya%20poster%202 Aaranya Kaandam

Just some quick thoughts based on seeing the film Aaranya Kaandam at last year’s SAIFF.  Am going back tonight for a second viewing now that the film is out today.

What has stuck with me since that night seven months ago is this: I recall a gritty, stylish, violent and often funny story of one day in the lives of several people that intersect at one point or another, all connected in some way to the Chennai crime world.

Jackie Shroff has put any vanity aside and let it all hang out as Singaperumal, a mean, angry, aging don who slaps his girlfriend Subbu (Yasmin Ponnappa) around when he can’t perform in bed.  And wait til you the shagadelic wallpaper in their bedroom.

jackie%20sampath%202 Aaranya Kaandam

Jackie Shroff and Sampath Raj

Then there’s his young gofer (played by Ravi Krishna) who’s got a crush on Subbu.  And the wonderful Sampath Raj as Pasupathy, a man in Singaperumal’s gang with some problems of his own.  Add to this Somasundaram as Kaalayan, a drunk, pea-brained father who is bossed around by his whip-smart and foul-mouthed little son (Master Vasanth).

Sadly, my Tamil is not extensive enough to appreciate it, but I do recall some folks last year relishing the colorful usage of curse words in the film’s dialogues, which ended up delaying the release until the producer could make his case before the censor in Chennai and then in Delhi and convince them that 50+ cuts were not the way to go.

But I did enjoy the discussion among Singaperumal’s guys about women and how you could tell – based on whether a girl liked Rajnikant or Kamalhaasan – how likely you’d be to bed her.  Priceless!

See it or skip it

See it!  I’ve been waiting months for a chance to watch it again, that must tell you something.  Amazing debut from director Thiagarajan Kumararajan.