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Audio Series: Insta Millionaire (Pocket FM)

(Rating: ****1/2) This is the story of Laxman Lal Aggarwal, aka Lucky, who hails from a humble background and is undeterred by his never-ending hardships. Strong and selfless, the young man works relentlessly to keep the love of his life happy but her lady luck keeps going away…writes Ila Sankrityayan

I have reviewed numerous movies, OTT/web series, plays, and even food and restaurants. But I have rarely reviewed any audio shows.

Lately, there has been a lot of noise around Pocket FM and their love for a long-form audio series. I would call them marathon audio fiction series, similar to any TV/OTT series.

In a recent media announcement, they claimed one of their series, ‘Insta Millionaire’, had surpassed a collection of Rs 10 crore in three months, and they expect to exceed Rs 50 crore for this series. I therefore decided to be the first to review an audio series, and started with ‘Insta Millionaire’.

‘Insta Millionaire’ is a rags-to-riches tale of how a young man hits paydirt after playing a game of luck. I reviewed the Hindi series critically while binged on the English version like any other listener.

This is the story of Laxman Lal Aggarwal, aka Lucky, who hails from a humble background and is undeterred by his never-ending hardships. Strong and selfless, the young man works relentlessly to keep the love of his life happy but her lady luck keeps going away.

Lost and broken, Lucky’s luck suddenly turns sweet. He receives a message on his phone stating that his hardships have ended and he has been endowed with huge wealth.

Would ordinary mortals be befuddled or turn arrogant with such a change in fortune? Well, the journey of millionaire Laxman Lal Aggarwal begins here.

Will Lucky stay grounded and unaffected by his newfound wealth?

When there is a rich man, there has to be the dope of romance. Laxman Lal Aggarwal gets second-time lucky with Radhika — a character with a struggling past. But will this relationship flourish, or will it have the same fate?

The 250+ episodes (the English version has over 850 episodes) remind me of any popular TV series with the right twists and turns to keep the audience engaged.

More importantly, I had not subscribed to the show in the first place. Instead, I tried out their first six episodes for free before buying the next 10 episodes for a small amount. And then, when I got hooked onto it and decided to review it, I bought the entire series.

From the technical standpoint, it has the best of both worlds, content and audio package. The background sound effects for the audio series are beautifully curated so that even with closed eyes, one can visualise and build one’s world of imagination.

Swapnil is the mind behind this intriguing storytelling. And I will not be surprised if I find him writing for Bollywood in future.

Suraj Kumar is the voiceover artist who has done a fabulous job modulating his voice according to the demands of the script. The modulation for each character in the series is well presented and has been instrumental in bringing more drama into the storytelling.

The content, storytelling format and pricing model are the factors why people are binging on this audio platform. I am impressed by their content and storytelling. I recommend everyone to listen to this series…it is a paisa-vasool package.

They are changing the face of audio entertainment as Balaji Telefilms did to TV. Mark my words. They might become the Netflix of Audio with their experimental and high-quality content.

I will soon be back with another audio series from Pocket FM. Till then, keep binging on ‘Insta Millionaire’.

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Ponniyin Selvan 1 : A complete Mani Ratnam Masterpiece

Director Mani Ratnam scores in almost every department, right from the casting. There is not a single actor who looks out of place…reviewed by Manigandan K R

Ponniyin Selvan 1 (Playing in theatres). Duration: 167 minutes. Released in theatres
Director: Mani Ratnam. Cast: Vikram, Karthi, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Trisha, Jayam Ravi, Prabhu, Vikram Prabhu, Jayaram, Prakash Raj, Sarathkumar and Parthiban, Rating: **** (4 stars)


Make no mistake about it, Mani Ratnam’s ‘Ponniyin Selvan – Part I’ is a masterpiece that deserves all your adulation and love.

The auteur does a phenomenal job of bringing to life the exceptional characters of eminent writer Kalki’s finest creation, ‘Ponniyin Selvan’.

The beauty of Part one of the two-part film lies in the fact that Mani Ratnam has not only made the story concise but has managed to do so carefully, taking adequate care not to dilute the essence of the novel or its charm.

He narrates with flair the intense and gripping story that has all elements ranging from bravery to conspiracy to romance to revenge to loyalty and manages to showcase the multiple layers of most of his characters.

The story begins with a comet appearing over the Chola skies almost a 1000 years ago. The Oracles predict that the comet will claim the life of someone from the royal family of the Cholas. That means the lives of Emperor Sundara Chozhar (Prakash Raj) and his sons – Aditha Karikalan (Vikram) and young Arun Mozhi Varman (Jayam Ravi) are in danger.

While Aditha Karikalan, who has already beaten the Pandyas and the Rashtrakutas, is now heading to Kalinga for his next conquest, his younger brother, Arun Mozhi Varman is leading a naval campaign to Sri Lanka.

While the brothers are busy expanding the Chola empire, there is danger lurking close to the Chola kingdom.

Aditha Karikalan, who is aware of backstabbers and betrayers, learns from his spies that a conspiracy is being hatched against the Royal family at the Kadambur fort back home.

He chooses his trusted aide and close friend, Vallavarayan Vanthiyathevan, a gifted warrior with a glib tongue and a sharp presence of mind, to head back to the Kadambur fort and find out what is being plotted.

Vanthiyathevan soon arrives and learns that a conspiracy is being hatched to pronounce Madhurantakan (Rahman) as the next crown prince by the finance minister Periya Pazhuvettarayar (Sarath Kumar), who is controlled by his wily wife, Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), who has her own loyalties.

The danger doesn’t stop there. While a conspiracy is being hatched inside the kingdom for the throne, the defeated Pandyas, who are craving revenge, have unleashed a group of assassins who make it their life’s mission to kill the Chola emperor and his princes.

Director Mani Ratnam scores in almost every department, right from the casting. There is not a single actor who looks out of place.

Jayam Ravi as Arun Mozhi Varman is just perfect. Strong, dignified, loyal and brave, he does a fantastic job and steals the show despite appearing only in the second half of the film.

Vikram as Aditha Karikalan is magnificent. Courageous like a lion, he roars his way into our hearts as he conquers kingdom after kingdom. Vikram plays his part with so much conviction, it is easy to see that the warrior prince is choosing to go to battle repeatedly to ease the excruciating pain and disappointment he is suffering from not being able to live with the love of his life.

Karthi as Vanthiyathevan and Jayaram as Azhawarkadiyan Nambi complement each other beautifully and their portions together are a treat to watch. Karthi does justice to the role of Vanthiyathevan, scoring on all three counts – a die-hard romantic, a smooth talker and a fearless warrior.

Aishwarya as Nandini and Trisha as Kundavai steal the show. Both ladies along with Aishwarya Lekshmi as Kuzhali, are just outstanding in their respective roles.

Sarathkumar as Periya Pazhuvettarayar and Parthiban as Chinna Pazhuvettarayar are equally impressive and majestic.

A. R. Rahman’s magical background score is what binds the entire movie as one and lifts its already high standard by another notch.

Ravi Varman’s visuals are nothing less than stunning and spectacular. In fact, they are so good that this film can just be watched just for its visuals.

On the whole, ‘Ponniyin Selvan 1’ is a job well begun. Now, let’s hope master film maker Mani Ratnam makes us conclude that its a job well done by making an equally spectacular ‘Ponniyin Selvan 2’.

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‘Cobra’: A decent action entertainer

A lot of thought has gone in to the film’s story and its making. But unfortunately, that is exactly what works against it…reports Asian Lite News

Duration: 183 minutes, Director: Ajay Gnanamuthu. Cast: Vikram, Srinidhi Shetty, Mrinalini Ravi, K.S. Ravikumar, Meenakshi Govindarajan, Irfan Pathan, Roshan Mathew, Miya George and Robo Shankar. (Rating: ***)

Director Ajay Gnanamuthu’s ‘Cobra’ is an intense but lengthy action entertainer that manages to impress you in parts.

The first half of the film is more of an action entertainer while the next half has equal doses of action, drama and family sentiment to offer.

The story begins with Rishi (Roshan Mathew) a ruthless business tycoon who fears no one, having a stand off with the Chief Minister of a state. Drunk on the power his business empire provides him, he orders the assassination of the Chief Minister who was looking to thwart his plans of business expansion.

Rishi’s most potent weapon is a person nicknamed the Cobra (Vikram), a brilliant mathematician whose identity even Rishi does not know.

Rishi’s instructions are communicated to the Cobra, whose real name we get to know is Mathi, through a journalist (K. S. Ravikumar) and they are carried out with precision every single time.

The Chief Minister’s assassination is soon followed by the assassination of the Prince of Switzerland and the Defence Minister of Russia.

The only common factor in all the assassinations is the usage of mathematics, that is cleverly employed by the assassin. Hot on the trail of this assassin is not just the state police but also the Interpol, of which Aslan Ilmaz (Irfan Pathan) is a part.

Feeding secret information to the Interpol about the assassin is an anonymous computer genius, who delivers clues about who the next target of the Cobra is.

As the Interpol arrives in the country to gather additional information from the state investigating agencies, the hunt for Cobra intensifies.

Do the law enforcement agencies succeed in their mission of nabbing the Cobra? Why did the Cobra turn an assassin? What happens to Rishi on whose behest the assassinations are carried out? Cobra answers all these questions and more…

A lot of thought has gone in to the film’s story and its making. But unfortunately, that is exactly what works against it.

The plot of the film is so intricate and so complex that viewers have to keenly watch and pay attention to every development on screen, including the dialogues. One small miss and there’s every chance that the plot may well go over your head.

The first half of the film is fast and action-oriented and one is able to relish it. The second half is actually where the problem lies. It is distinctly different from the first and focuses on the introduction of a new character called Kathiravan (Vikram) that makes it exceedingly difficult for audiences to follow the developments.

Nevertheless, Vikram dazzles as both Mathi and as Kathiravan. He gives us a glimpse of that magnificent acting which he displayed in ‘Anniyan’.

One sequence in the film in particular is simply outstanding. In it, Vikram imitates the actions of the characters that appear in his hallucinations. Anandraj, who comes as one of the characters in his hallucination, is just equally brilliant in these seqeunces.

Both Anandraj and Vikram perform the very same body movements without looking at each other, even as they deliver the very same lines. Their actions are perfectly in sync with one another and leave you stunned.

Mrinalini Ravi’s chemistry with Sarjano Khalid, who plays the younger Mathi, works big time. Both actors deliver commendable performances and their portions add strength to the film.

Srinidhi Shetty, K.S. Ravikumar, Roshan Mathew and Robo Shankar too play their roles neatly and convincingly.

The background score is sometimes so loud that it overpowers the dialogues being spoken, making it difficult for audiences to follow proceedings.

Harish Kannan’s visuals are stunning and a delight to watch.

One wishes the editing was a bit tighter as the run time of the film is a whopping three hours and three minutes.

On the whole, Cobra is a decent action entertainer which is impressive in parts.

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Odela Railway Station: A well packaged film without cliches

The story skilfully combines various elements like crime, social interactions, sex education, and youthful idealism — without bordering on the boring…writes Narendra Puppala

(Streaming on aha). Duration: 90 minutes, Director: Ashok Teja. Cast: Hebba Patel, Vasishta N. Simha, Sai Ronak, Surendar Reddy and Pujita Ponnada. (Rating: ***1/2)

‘Odela Railway Station’, the latest Telugu original movie offering on aha OTT platform, is a decent watch. Dipping into real-life happenings, the realistic crime thriller set in a rural milleu maintains the suspense till the climax, without resorting to the worn-out cliches normally associated with the genre.

The story line is simple and straightforward. Odela, a small town in Telangana, is rocked by a series of rape-murders of newly-wed brides. The story begins at the railway station, where a woman, caked in mud, walks down to the police station, her hand clutching the severed head of a man.

The flashback takes the viewer through the events leading up to the climax as seen by a young IPS officer Anudeep (Sai Ronak) who is in town for a three-month field training stint. The identity of the perpetrator remains a mystery, as several potential suspects are found innocent. How the police officer goes beyond the call of duty to nab the criminal, and how Radhika (Hebba Patel) stumbles onto the truth makes up the story.

The cast is well chosen and all of them deliver well on screen. Lead actor Hebba Patel fits in effortlessly into the role of Radhika, the young washerwoman constantly looking down upon her husband Tirupati (Vasishta N Simha) for his drinking habit as well as his apparent inability in bed.

The story skilfully combines various elements like crime, social interactions, sex education, and youthful idealism — without bordering on the boring.

Ashok Teja, who has helmed the movie, does a good job of it. Without taking recourse to unnecessary gimmicks that are usually the hallmark of suspense-thriller movies of late, the director let’s the story play out naturally. Editing too is a crisp affair.

All in all, ‘Odela Railway Station’ is a well packaged film that should keep viewers sufficiently interested till the end.

The icing on the cake — expect ‘Odela 2’ soon.

ALSO READ-Dobaaraa: A must-watch for anyone who enjoys good cinema

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Dobaaraa: A must-watch for anyone who enjoys good cinema

The film requires active audience participation as it traverses tricky alleys of four different timelines, each affected by one other, much like a butterfly effect…reviewed by Akshay Acharya

‘Dobaaraa’ (Releasing in theatres). Duration: 132 minutes, Director: Anurag Kashyap. Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Rahul Bhat, Pavail Gulati and Sukant Goel. (Rating: ***1/2)

Anurag Kashyap has returned ‘dobara’ (once again) with ‘Dobaaraa’, two years after his last streaming movie ‘Choked’ on Netflix. The film not just marks his reunion with his ‘Manmarziyaan’ actress Taapsee Pannu, but also marks his return to the genre of thrillers, his last outing being the Vicky Kaushal and Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’.

The film is an official remake of the Spanish mystery-drama film ‘Mirage’.

Kashyap, who is known for his offbeat stories, doesn’t miss a beat in the film as he sketches up a fine thriller that will keep you hooked till the last frame and will linger in your thoughts long after you have stepped out of the cinema.

The treatment rendered to the film is such that you have to be heavily invested as a viewer, for the devil lies in the details. The film tells the story of a nurse, Antara Vashisht (played by Taapsee Pannu), who saves a child named Anay from impending death by accessing and altering the events in the past through a television.

This is also where it gets interesting. The changes in past occurrences have their repercussions on Antara’s present and future, as both get altered, a phenomenon known as the ‘Consistency Paradox’ in Physics, which is conveniently ignored in the majority of films that deal with time travel.

The film requires active audience participation as it traverses tricky alleys of four different timelines, each affected by one other, much like a butterfly effect.

Kashyap is able to both narrate a stellar story and flesh out his characters within two hours and 12 minutes (2:12, ‘do-baarah’, don’t miss the word play!). And there’s not a single dull moment in the film.

The maker moonwalks through the four timelines without missing out on anything. He sets into motion a domino effect with what can be described as a “glitch in the matrix”. As the film progresses, each domino tile does its job, thereby putting together the puzzle that ‘Dobaaraa’ is.

With ‘Dobaaraa’, Kashyap reminds the audience why he is a fine writer and an even better filmmaker.

Kashyap’s storytelling is ably supported by his cast. Taapsee, who leads the pack, blends into the film’s universe completely. You get to see a new side of her as an actress.

Rahul Bhat, who plays Taapsee’s husband in the film, and has reunited with Anurag after the disturbingly dark ‘Ugly’, does a fabulous job. He makes you hate the character with his perfectly sketched indifference and antics.

Pavail Gulati, as a sensible and compassionate cop, too, does a competent job. Behind an innocent face, the actor hold the tremendous power to emote without letting out too much, as is demanded of his character.

Sukant Goel, who played an unnamed character in Dibakar Banerjee’s short in ‘Ghost Stories’, has the least screentime out of all, but he pulls off an remarkable act. The actor is a delight to watch on.

Like all Kashyap films, the background score is impressive, though it occasionally sounds like the theme of ‘Stranger Things’.

Sylvester Fonseca beautifully captures the intricacies of the story in his lenses. There’s an instance in the film where puts up the classic 4:3 aspect ratio of television using the frame-in-frame technique. You can actually sense the director and cinematographer working in tandem like the pieces of a well-wound-up clock.

The production design team isn’t behind. The props bring out the essence of the mid-1990s and makes you revisit an era gone by in your head.

Overall, ‘Dobaaraa’ is a must-watch for anyone who enjoys good cinema. Will ‘Dobaaraa’ be the second breakout moment for Anurag after ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’? Or will it emerge as a sleeper hit, much like his earlier films? These questions will be answered in the weekend ahead.

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Highway: An interesting watch over for the weekend

The technical excellence that Director K.V. Guhan brings in with his cinematography, fails to lift up the weak story line…reviewed by Narendra Puppala

(Streaming on aha), Duration: 163 minutes, Director: K.V. Guhan, Cast: Anand Devarakonda, Manasa Radhakrishnan, Sayiami Kher and Abhishek Banerjee (Rating: **)

People expect highway rides to be fast, racy, and smooth. But on screen, Telugu movie ‘Highway’, ace cinematographer KV Guhan’s third directorial venture in Telugu, suffers on all three fronts. Interesting in patches but largely predictable, ‘Highway’ could yet appeal to die-hard fans of the ‘cat and mouse’ type serial killer genre.

The movie’s basic premise is set around a serial woman-killer and a determined lady cop in Hyderabad. ‘Highway’ shifts scene when a young village lass lands in his clutches, with her new love hot on their tracks. Despite the initial promise of a taut thriller, ‘Highway’ ends up meandering along to a rather unbelievable ending.

Vishnu, a promising photographer in Vizag sets out on a wedding coverage assignment in Bengaluru. On the way, he and his friend come to the aid of Tulasi, a village belle from near Amalapuram, in search of her father in Mangaluru, Karnataka.

They promise to drop her off at Kalyandurg, from where she can take a bus to Mangalore. Although it confuses the mind as to why she can’t tag along with them till Bengaluru which is closer to her destination.

Parallelly, in the city of Hyderabad, female cop Asha Bharat is on the trail of a serial killer who keeps leaving cigarette butts and tyre tracks at the crime scenes.

Das, played by Abhishek Banerjee, is the smouldering villain, who keeps staking out potential victims, as he keeps cruising around in a beat-up ambulance van, right under the cops’ noses. All the while, the female cop keeps snarling and mouthing the b****** and f*** words to vent out her frustration and determination.

How Tulasi lands in Das’ clutches, Vishnu tracks her down, and finally rescues her, form the crux of ‘Highway’.

The cast comprising Anand Devarakonda, Manasa Radhakrishnan, Sayiami Kher and Abhishek Banerjee try their best to do justice to their roles.

Anand Devarakonda as Vishnu, and Manasa as Tulasi, appear naturally rigid and restrained as a young couple who are waking up to their mutual attraction.

Sayiami Kher is passable as the lady cop intent on catching the serial killer. Abhishek Banerjee, with a perpetual sneer writ on his face, is the bad guy in the movie which happens to be his Telugu debut.

The technical excellence that Director K.V. Guhan brings in with his cinematography, fails to lift up the weak story line.

There are instances where the director makes it too easy for the antagonist to kill and escape. Similarly, other inconsistencies in the storyline add to the overall inadequacies of the movie.

As can be expected, Guhan handles the camera with panache, while Simon King’s music score helps maintain the story tempo.

For thriller movie fans willing to overlook the details, ‘Highway’, despite the plot-holes, may still prove to be an interesting watch over the weekend.

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‘Duranga’: A decent adaptation of K-drama ‘Flower of Evil’ 

The dialogues sound flat, a lot of times, during the course of the series. When you have two brains working on putting together a series like this, the least expected for the series is to be engaging throughout its course…reviewed by Akshay Acharya

Series: ‘Duranga’ (Streaming on ZEE5). Duration: Nine episodes (30-32 minutes each). Directors: Pradeep Sarkar and Aijaz Khan. Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Drashti Dhami, Abhijit Khandkekar, Zakir Hussain and Amit Sadh. (Rating: **)

Whenever Gulshan Devaiah takes on a part, one can be rest assured that he will do a brilliant job with it. His work in the recently released series ‘Duranga’ is another addition to the list.

The streaming series has been co-directed by Pradeep Sarkar, who has earlier helmed films like ‘Parineeta’ and ‘Mardaani’, and Aijaz Khan, who has earlier directed the 2018 drama film ‘Hamid’.

The series is the official adaptation of the Korean show ‘Flower of Evil’. It follows a series of murders and unearth’s the past of the show’s lead played by Gulshan.

Resurgence of a serial killer, a copycat killer on the loose with similar modus operandi to the original dreaded killer, or the offspring of the original killer? ‘Duranga’ explores these possibilities as the Mumbai crime branch officer Ira Jaykar Patel (played by Drashti Dhami) investigates the case.

While there are few instances where the series does engage the viewer, it comes across as a drag for most part. Charudutt Acharya’s writing is inconsistent as it fails to hold the audience’s attention for a long time. The series follows a non-linear narrative with the story travelling back and forth from past to current events.

The dialogues sound flat, a lot of times, during the course of the series. When you have two brains working on putting together a series like this, the least expected for the series is to be engaging throughout its course.

Performances from the cast, however, are the saving grace to the series. As mentioned earlier, Gulshan does an impressive job as the lead. He is supported well by the other cast members. Drashti as the tough cop and compassionate wife puts up an amazing act. Sequences where she leads the team have been executed really well, one can see the seamless sync between the actress and the director(s).

Another good performer in the series is Abhijit Khandkekar, who plays the crime journalist Vikas Sarode. The viewers should lookout for scenes where he swings between the extremes of power dynamics of his character. His voice modulation, facial expressions show how deep he has delved into his character.

On the technical front, the series manages to do a decent job. The urban and rural settings have been well taken care of by the production design team. It’s imperative for the art direction team to be a notch higher than other departments as the lead character is an artist and has a workshop, and the art team doesn’t disappoint.

What does disappoint is the sound design and dubbing. The dubbing seems to be off at a few instances. The background score too is very mediocre – again a red flag for a thriller. The cinematography offers nothing new and follows textbook shots only to be bogged down by the lacklustre editing.

‘Duranga’ is a series that viewers can see when they have plenty of time to kill, but they won’t miss out on anything if they choose not to watch it.

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‘Thiruchitrambalam’:  A full-fledged entertainer with Dhanush’s wow act

It is under these circumstances that Pazham goes to deliver food one day to a posh apartment where a party is on. The person at whose placed the order was happens to be Pazham’s old school mate…reports Asian Lite News

Duration: 133 minutes, Director: Mithran R. Jawahar, Cast: Dhanush, Nithya Menen, Bharathiraja, Prakash Raj, Priya Bhavani Shankar, Raashi Khanna and Munishkanth. (Rating: ***1/2)

Director Mithran R. Jawahar, who delighted audiences with his brilliant remake ‘Yaaradi Nee Mohini’, proves that he hasn’t lost any of that magical touch with his latest offering, ‘Thiruchitrambalam’.

The film is about a delivery boy named Pazham alias Thiruchitrambalam (Dhanush), who leads a mundane life. There are two people in Pazham’s family. One is his grandfather (Bharathirajaa), with whom he shares not just his name but also nature, and the other is his dad (Prakash Raj), a police officer who Pazham holds responsible for the deaths of his mother and sister.

Father and son share a torrid relationship, with angry outbursts being the order of the day.

Pazham has just one dependable childhood friend called Shobana (Nithya Menen), a software professional who stays in the same building as he does. Pazham shares all his worries, desires and problems with her and she, like a good friend, listens, consoles and guides him as and when necessary.

It is under these circumstances that Pazham goes to deliver food one day to a posh apartment where a party is on. The person at whose placed the order was happens to be Pazham’s old school mate.

Recognising Pazham, the old school mate gives him a condescending look and it is at this precise moment that Pazham happens to catch a glimpse of his old flame, Anusha (Raashi Khanna), at the party. He hurries out of the place to avoid being spotted by her in the uniform of a delivery boy. As luck would have it, she meets him at a fuel bunk later, takes down his number and offers hers in return.

Anusha flirts and leads Pazham on. The poor boy mistakes her flirting for love. Eventually, he proposes to her and she bluntly turns it down. Pazham chooses to take her refusal in his stride and looks to get on with life. However, that is not to be.

One day, a big fight erupts between Pazham and his dad Neelakandan. Pazham says some strong words to his dad, blaming him for the accident that killed his mom and sister.

The next morning, Pazham’s dad suffers a stroke, paralising his left side. What happens then is what ‘Thiruchitrambalam’ is all about…

The film keeps you engaged from start to finish and there is not a single minute of boredom. Every few minutes, a new unpredictable development happens and spices up the plot.

Superficially, the film’s story might appear plain and simple but to the careful, observant eye, the film has several meaningful and pertinent messages to offer to the masses.

For instance, the film, without lecturing, gently emphasises the fact that one needs to take time to look into the needs of their care-givers. It also highlights how people tend to overlook the significance of individuals who are genuinely concerned about one’s welfare and are available for them.

Dhanush comes up with a brilliant performance yet again in this film. In particular, he is magnificent in certain scenes like the scene in which he proposes to Raashi Khanna.

In this particular scene, Raashi delivers a lengthy dialogue, explaining that flirting and falling in love are two different things. The minimalistic expressions Dhanush uses — a slight nod of his head — in reply to make her understand that she’s made her point is a delight to watch.

The climax scene is also another scene in which Dhanush scores comprehensively. Explaining about it in detail could ruin the suspense for viewers and therefore is not being done.

Nithya Menen as Sandhya is just equally impressive. Her character reminds one of the times when children staying in apartments would barge into a neighbour’s home to play with the child there, without having to worry about complaints. Her performance as well as the story brings back fond memories of an era gone by.

Priya Bhavani Shankar appears for a very brief period as Ranjani but she looks convincing and comfortable in the character she portrays. Raashi Khanna as Anusha does a fine job. She looks the part and aces it comfortably.

Anirudh’s music and Om Prakash’s visuals are both big pluses for the film.

In all, ‘Thiruchitrambalam’ is an entertainer and a full-fledged one at that!

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‘Viruman’ an entertainer that wins your heart

Muthaiah is an expert when it comes to making such family dramas that have adequate portions of romance, action, comedy and drama and he has just proved that once again with ‘Viruman’…reviewed by Manigandan R

Viruman. Duration: 151 minutes (Releasing in Theatres), Director: M. Muthaiah. Cast: Karthi, Aditi Shankar, Raj Kiran, Prakash Raj, Saranya Ponvannan, Karunas, Soori, Vadivukkarasi and R.K, Suresh. (Rating: ***1/2)

Director Muthaiah, who is known for making wholesome commercial entertainers, is back with another such entertainer in ‘Viruman’.

Like most of his previous films, the story of this film too has a rural backdrop and tries to showcase the strength of relationships in a family.

The film begins with a young boy chasing his dad with a dagger in hand to kill him. Eventually, we learn that the boy, Viruman ( Karthi), is the fourth son of Muniyandi (Prakash Raj), a Tahsildar by profession.

A young Viruman tells in court that he wishes to stay with his uncle (Raj Kiran) rather than with his father after the death of his mother. The court grants his desire and young Viruman grows up in his uncle’s place while his three brothers grow up at his father’s place.

As the story progresses, we learn that Viruman has built a memorial for his mother at the place where she committed suicide and is on a mission to make his father and his brothers pay their respects to her there. Why she committed suicide and how Viruman reforms his father and brothers is what the film is all about.

Director Muthaiah, who highlighted the beauty of a good father-in-law, son-in-law relationship in ‘Komban’, now tries to showcase the bond between a powerful but selfish father and a rebellious but good son who attempts to reform his dad who believes that money matters more than relationships.

Muthaiah is an expert when it comes to making such family dramas that have adequate portions of romance, action, comedy and drama and he has just proved that once again with ‘Viruman’.

The film is engaging from scene one and does not disappoint you right till the very end. Apart from a good plot, the film also has a brilliant cast that breathes life into the story.

Karthi as Viruman is just perfect. Fearless and arrogant on the one hand and deeply loyal and affectionate on the other, Karthi plays the part with flourish. The manner in which he celebrates a thug slapping his dad in public and how he chooses to reward the thug with a golden ring is just hilarious.

Actress Aditi Shankar, the daughter of ace director Shankar who makes her debut with this film, is just a natural when it comes to acting. She looks very convincing as the character ‘Thaen’ and is absolutely at ease in front of the camera. She does a neat job of playing a hard-working, no-nonsense girl who believes in standing up for her rights.

Raj Kiran, one of the veterans who has delivered several commendable roles before, comes up with yet another powerful performance in this film. As Karthi’s uncle, Raj Kiran delivers not just a mature but a majestic performance.

Prakash Raj, who plays Karthi’s dad, as always comes up with a clean and memorable performance.

The film’s background score by Yuvan Shankar Raja deserves special mention. Especially, the BGM when Karthi is introduced is just peppy and accentuates the mood of the scene. Throughout the film, Yuvan’s music plays a crucial part in amplifying the mood.

Selvakumar’s visuals in the film are a mixed bag. While some visuals are striking and neat, some others, especially those right at the beginning, seem dull and devoid of adequate lighting.

All said and done, Muthaiah’s ‘Viruman’ is an entertainer that wins your heart!

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‘RK/Rkay’: A delight for cinema lovers

The film opens with a background score weaved from French horn, pizzicato and clarinet as a tuxedo clad Rajat tries to find himself through different doors…reviewed by Akshay Acharya

(Released in theatres). Duration: 95 minutes. Director: Rajat Kapoor. Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ranvir Shorey, Chandrachoor Rai, Mallika Sherawat and Kubbra Sait. (Rating: ****)

Even as the debate surrounding the future of event films and independent titles continues to spiral and evolve with new factors adding to the churn, the box office this week will see two films from the respective territories of tent poles and indie space dropping on big screens.

The other film that has taken the brave onus to square off against ‘Shamshera’ is the Rajat Kapoor directorial ‘RK/Rkay’ which incidentally also has Rajat playing the double role – that of a film director RK and the protagonist of RK’s film – Mehboob Alam.

Kapoor has returned to direction 2 years after his last film ‘Kadakh’. This time, he delves into the world of cinema and brings the story which is not just a food for thought but also entertaining in many ways.

‘RK/Rkay’ tells the story of a film’s protagonist who goes missing from the film’s negatives and permeates into the real world through a porous membrane between the reel and real world.

Who we really are? Does free will really exist? Or is it a simulation being fed to us by a higher authority operating from a different dimension? ‘RK/Rkay’ attempts to solve this conundrum with its sleek narrative of 95 minutes.

The film opens with a background score weaved from French horn, pizzicato and clarinet as a tuxedo clad Rajat tries to find himself through different doors.

Mehboob Alam (played by Rajat Kapoor) – the plum coloured tuxedo clad protagonist of RK’s film transcends to the normal world where he lives, eats, breathes, prepares food, pretty much everything thereby leaving his own world behind.

He is exactly like RK, only with lots of charm and likeability, something which trickles down from RK’s ink – every writer always wants their characters to be charming and likeable, don’t they? Initially perplexed as to what is going on around him, Alam soon becomes acclimatised to his surroundings and eventually proves to be a better version of RK.

RK, on the other hand, is frustrated, for the ending of his film has now been thrown out of gear as Mehboob refuses to return to the universe of the film – a dimension where he belongs. To add to that, people connected with RK soon start finding Mehboob better.

However intellectual his line of cinema is, Rajat never fails to entertain the audience. The subtle use of perfectly timed humour shines through in ‘RK/Rkay’ as well.

The film also boasts of a powerful cast in the form of Manu Rishi Chadha, Ranvir Shorey, Chandrachoor Rai – three of Kapoor’s dear friends and two entrants – Mallika Sherawat and Kubbra Sait. The performances from the cast complement the writing and direction and there’s never a dull moment in a film which touches upon a philosophical nerve.

The other superstars are the film’s production designer Meenal Agarwal and the director of photography Rafey Mehmood. Since RK’s film is set in the era of 60s, it’s a no-brainer that the production design had a major role to play and Meenal doesn’t disappoint, she has designed a world so perfect that scatters a million shades under the magical lens of Rafey Mehmood.

Another highlight (pun intended) of the film is the way it has been lit, full marks to the gaffer for putting up such a good show with light that brings to life the stark contrast between the RK and Mehboob.

While Mehboob bathes in the warm spotlight, RK is shown in cool light temperatures for a generous part of the film’s length, something which ‘reflects’ in the choice of cool coloured clothing for RK’s character as well.

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