Sunday August 29, 2010

Naan Mahaan Alla (Tamil, Susindran)

Posted by Karthik

If there’s one recent Tamil film that evoked a rather loud ‘What the f***?’ from me, it is Naan Mahaan Alla. Here’s a film that has everything going for it but actually ends up making a hapless mishmash of it all!

The template seems largely similar to Vetrimaran’s vastly-superior Polladhavan, starring Dhanush. The stark lower middle class setting (parental attitude towards the wayward son is different, though!), the falling in love with a upper middle class, much prettier girl, the bunch of friends, a job involving the use of bikes (only to some extent, in this film, compared to the former) and the gruesome turn to violence as it progresses…it seems very, very similar.

Where they differ is in one critical part – Polladhavan had a fantastic story arc that never wavers off the protagonists point of view – he and his bike were the focal point of Polladhavan, despite the director letting us invest in the villains’ (Kishore and of course, villain’s villain, Daniel Balaji) stories too. In Naan Mahaan Alla, the story moves pointlessly into its violent, but stupendously handled portions after setting us up to something that is oh-so-frothy and likeable.

The incongruity is of the in-your-face jarring variety and like a television megaserial that has been asked to stop after 300 episodes due to lack of TRPs after the initial promise of 500 episodes, the film forgets everything that it builds so well and just ends abruptly. And very, very annoyingly.

Karthi is endearing, but merely replays his Paiya persona, much like he replayed his Paruthiveeran persona in Aayirathil Oruvan. This type of stereotyping, every two films, so early in his career, is a huge problem. He reminds me of 80s Karthik and if there’s something who can pull of Karthik of Mouna Raagam, it would be Karthi, in my opinion. He’d perhaps be better in choosing his films with the kind of intelligence that his brother does, much later into his career.

Kaajal has a flimsy role, much like Ramya in Polladhavan, or just about any other eye-candy heroine in such Tamil films. Eye-candy, she definitely is and is conveniently and almost rudely forgotten, after a point in the film.

The action choreographer Anal Arasu, cinematographer Mathi and Yuvan play a huge part in the climax action scene set intriguingly amidst Tsunami-affected, deserted dwellings. This show stopper scene makes it seem like the director and lead actor almost planned the entire film around on how well they can picturize this and built every other part of the film with this as the base!

The 5 college kids who play the motley villain gang are amazingly scary, mainly because we do not have any background to them beyond their drug-induced introductions. The problem is that Susindran seems massively confused about the screen time he should devote to the crime-loaded fivesome vis-a-vis Karthi and his gang. The result? We get 90% of Karthi’s life and 5% of the crime gang’s operations and motivations, and 5% of how both intersect.

That equation has gone completely awry as we are left with an ending that comes so sudden and leaves all that has been built for 90%, in a state of lurch. Almost everything that has been created in the film gets hung abruptly as Karthi ends the film in spectacular style. The irony is that Karthi barely displays the angst and interest in taking on such anti-social irritants, barring one exclamation over a bridge after having witnessed a police investigation and another scene where he accompanies his father for an identification in the mortuary. Yes, the murder of his father would naturally lead to the angst, but it is unfortunate to see the director turn the genre completely around and forgets everything that we had seen till that revenge-laden fight.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in the audience who was left to wonder, ‘What happened after the 6 months Priya’s dad gave Jeeva?’, ‘Did Jeeva’s sister get married?’ or even, ‘Did Jeeva get a f’ing job finally?’. I’m all for slice of life films that have limited story arc and all that jazz, but Naan Mahaan Alla is an exercise in getting many individual scenes brilliantly right, while collectively, they make for horribly poor cinema. It is a pity that this poor cinema is delivered by the guy who gave us Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu.



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August 2010
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