Love Today - A quirky 21st century rom-com

Life is a tragedy seen in closeup, but a comedy in long-shot. Ranganathan is aware of this, and the switches between comedy and tragedy are executed masterfully.

Prince: A royal pain

Horror, much like most other genres, elicits laughter when it fails. Failed comedy, on the other hand, leaves the viewer horrified. This was my experience of watching Anudeep KV’s Sivakarthikeyan starrer ‘Prince.’

Sardar: What Cobra could have been - a competently made spy thriller

Having seen the teaser for PS Mithran’s latest release ‘Sardar’, I had braced myself for a repeat viewing of ‘Cobra’ released earlier this Summer. The film’s star Karthi appears in multiple disguises and costumes - which was also Cobra’s primary marketing point - and I was overcome with flashbacks to rolling my eyes and sighing with the Vikram starrer. Thankfully, ‘Sardar’ is a better feature in almost every aspect.

Ponniyin Selvan 1: A mighty triumph

‘PS1’ is a screen adaptation of the Kalki Krishnamurthy epic serialised from 1950 to 1954, following the rise of the golden age of the Chozha dynasty in the 10th century AD – touted as the greatest empire in Indian history. We witness the events unfold following a prophecy told once a comet appears in the sky. The Chozha rulers are warned of the spilling of Chozha blood, which sets off a plot of treachery, treason and double crossing. The film travels with Vallavaraiyan Vanthiyathevan, portrayed excellently by Karthi, a trusted friend of the heir to the throne, Vikram’s Aditha Karikalan, who assumes the role of a messenger. Vanthiyathevan is the glue holding together the multiple concurrent stories in ‘PS1’, and the casting decision for the part was crucial for the success of the film. Karthi breezes through this role, playing the part as if it had been written with him in mind.

Naane Varuvean: Selvaraghavan’s (strangely) tamest Tamil feature

Less than a month after watching a film about an immoral set of twins in ‘Cobra’, Selvaraghavan’s ‘Naane Varuvean’ is released. Thankfully, this film is much better.

Natchathiram Nagargirathu: A determined march towards utopia

It has been a decade since Pa Ranjith debuted with his film ‘Attakathi’, a seemingly simple rom-com following the life of a hopeless romantic. Since then, Pa Ranjith has been one of a handful of directors responsible for revolutionising Tamil cinema and subverting the discourse surrounding caste, with his groundbreaking films ‘Madras’, ‘Kabali’ and ‘Kaala’. Last year’s ‘Sarpatta Parambarai’ garnered much acclaim despite being released on streaming services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ranjith seems to have come full circle with his latest release ‘Natchathiram Nagargirathu’, as he returns to the subject of love. Through this, we witness the extent of his development as a filmmaker. The politics of love were hidden in the background of ‘Attakathi’, whereas in ‘NN’, Ranjith brings all the guts and glory of love to the forefront.

Vendhu Thanindhathu Kaadu: Gautham Menon’s finest work to date

I have always considered Gautham Vasudev Menon a vastly overrated director. Other than ‘Vettaiyadu Villaiyadu’ , his films seemed cold and ultimately hollow. His most recent feature film ‘Enai Noki Paayum Thota’ continued this trend of stylish metropolitan storytelling, despite some interesting visual choices. For Vendhu Thanindhadhu Kaadu , Menon collaborates with Silambarasan TR and AR Rahman for the third time following 2010’s ‘Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya’ and 2016’s ‘Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada’ . Third time might indeed be the charm, because VTK is mostly a success.

Cobra: Over-ambitious, overcooked

An hour into Cobra, I started compiling a list of films where Vikram had played a character who spent the film sporadically ‘murdering’ seemingly random targets - a style of film popularised by Shankar’s 1995 film Indian. The first film that came to mind was Balaji Sakthivel’s Samurai, a pale imitation of the Shankar plot, which besides the soundtrack, was mostly forgettable. Next, there is Shankar’s own, and perhaps the best iteration, 2005 film Anniyan. Finally, the 2009 Susi Ganesan contribution, Kandhasamy, an unintentional so-bad-it’s-good film, where Vikram can be seen as a vigilante serving out his own brand of justice dressed as a chicken. And suddenly, I had a list of films to compare Cobra to. And despite having a bigger budget and wider scope, Cobra may be the worst of the bunch.

Thiruchitrambalam: A breezy, lighthearted rom-com

Mithran Jawahar started his career on a high note. Remaking his mentor Selvaraghavan’s only Telugu film ‘Aadavari Matalaku Arthale Verule’ in Tamil as ‘Yaaradi Nee Mohini’ starring Dhanush, Selvaraghavan’s brother, Jawahar benefitted from the solid and nuanced screenplay. Jawahar has since remained in the rom-com lane, his other film of note being another Dhanush starrer ‘Uthamaputhiran’, a riotous sequence of laughs which bolstered Jawahar’s reputation for comedy. However, I was not a fan of Jawahar’s ‘Kutty’, causing some apprehension entering this film.

Viruman: An underwhelming feat

It's a terrible sign when the interval card rolls up and you let out a sign of exasperation, realising there’s another hour and fifteen minutes to sit through. The film opens with the usual cocktail for Tamil commercial ventures: the hero enters to an action block (in this instance, a wrestling match) followed by a song where his strength, bravura and good nature are praised, and soon after we are introduced to the romantic interest.