The beginning of 2014 seems good with four South India’s top actors featuring in films. But the result is not as good as the promise

The New Year has been ushered in with the release of four films starring superstars in Tamil and Telugu to the delight of delirious fans. This is not the first time Ajith and Vijay films have been released on the same day. It was a casting coup for ‘Jilla’. Vijay is extremely popular in Kerala where his films do nearly as well as in Tamil Nadu. Casting Mohanlal alongside, to play a powerful character only adds to the frenzy. The irony in our films is that justice and punishment for any crime is swift unless the perpetrator is played by the hero. Here Vijay plays a ruthless criminal in the first half and a conscientious cop in the second. As someone who hates anyone wearing khaki, even the hapless heroine who plays a cop Vijay, pre-interval is the cold blooded underling. The transformation, as usual is unbelievable. The twists in the tale are banal and utterly predictable. The pressure of dealing with two superstars bears down on debutante director Neason. In his eagerness to please he pumps in every kind of sentiment he can think of be it father, mother, sister or brother. This tiresome enterprise chugs on for more than three hours.

While Vijay is as good as ever its Mohanlal who adds something special to a role that definitely did not deserve his talent. Now only the fans of a star can never make a film a hit. They help initially by thronging the theaters. A lengthy run at the box-office is possible only when others watch it which will depend entirely on the word of mouth. The logic is that if only the fans are responsible for a film’s success then ‘Thalaiva’ should have been as big a hit as ‘Thuppaki’. Sources in the trade have declared ‘Veeram’ a bigger hit than ‘Jilla’. The latter is not a flop but the former is a bigger hit! Acknowledgement of defeat is when the running time is trimmed. Ten minutes of ‘Jilla’ have been sacrificed. ‘Thala’ (Ajit) has won this round of his box-office battle with ‘Ilayathalapathi’(Vijay). This also does not mean that Ajit is a bigger star or ‘Veeram’ is a much better film but like a long time industry watcher said, family sentiments have always had an edge over mindless mayhem. When fans get tired it’s the ever dependable family viewers who help a film.

In Telugu it was a clash between Mahesh Babu’s ‘Nenokkadine’ and Ram Charan Teja’s much delayed ‘Yevvadu’. The directors of both films tweak straight narratives by trying to do something different and mess up the proceedings. The two films remind you of Hollywood hits. They start off promisingly enough but get lost in a quagmire of confusion and twists that confound you. The best thing about ‘Nenokkadine’ is Ratnavelu’s cinematography be it capturing a rock show or a car chase. Mahesh Babu and Ram Charan do a fine job in their respective films but are let down by scripts that are directionless. A definite box-office verdict is not yet out but a source says that the lukewarm response to ‘Yevvadu’ has helped ‘Nenokkadine’ a bit.

A long time regret has been the inability to understand Malayalam since they still make the most interesting films in South India consistently. I had heard so many positive things about ‘Drishyam’ that I was prepared to be disappointed. You develop a state of mind where you are determined to find fault. ‘Drishyam’ is a visual balm to senses numbed by tripe, in one word, brilliant. You can see that the director made sure he had a watertight script before entering the sets. Starting out at a languid pace establishing a close-knit family in a sleepy, picturesque town the films hurtles at breakneck speed in the second half when the family’s honour is threatened. The film is an edge of the seat thriller that I feel would have impressed even Alfred Hitchcock. Every scene is written with care and conviction which makes everything entirely convincing. A common man cornered in an emotional quandary outwitting the powerful with more brain than brawn is executed brilliantly. If you’re a budding filmmaker watch it for a lesson in writing a taut screenplay. The performances are stellar, be it Mohanlal, Meena or Kalabhavan Shajon. Please watch the original or you’ll be forced to watch remakes modified to suit local tastes. That’s an insult to us viewers but that’s how filmmakers treat us.

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