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Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya

Lead Actors: SimbuTrisha     Genre: Romance, Drama
Boy meets Girl, falls in love? Check. Boy and girl live in same South Indian conservative community? Check. (Boy’s family is a tenant of the girl’s). Boy is a college graduate without a job? Check. Girl is a responsible kid doing her bit for the family? Check. Boy trying really hard to woo girl? Check. Girl respects strict parents and won’t cross the line? Girl and boy belong to different religions? Girl takes time to realize ‘love’? Check. Check. Check. Boy and girl decide to elope irrespective of parents’ interests? OK, I don’t care about the plot…just tell me the boy and the girl are united at the end. Hmm..No.

So there, that’s the best part– the last few portions in the story. In short, it’s a love story with a practical ending, a twist if you will. Karthik (Simbu) during his pursuit of becoming a Movie Director, spots Jessie (Trisha) and falls head-over-heels in love with her. Soon after, Jessie ‘realizes’ her true feelings, and officially begins a relationship with Karthik. Her parents are in the know and don’t approve. Jessie ‘being herself’ is in turmoil and decides to end the relationship. Eventually it’s learnt Jessie was married and shipped off to the US. Two years after the break-up, Karthik has a readymade script (of his own love story) based on which he would direct his first movie. Shooting on-location in New York, Karthik and Jessie bump into one another. Later, a pseudo-climax follows which is really a dream, but is also the climax of Karthik’s movie. In reality, Karthik and Jessie did not meet although spotted each other while in New York. The real climax few moments later, is that a happily married Jessie and still-single Karthik are watching the premiere of his new movie with Jessie asking Karthik if he really thought she was so good-natured.

Simbu, after VTV will be officially moniker-ed the Young Super Star. It was time the actor not be ‘Little’ anymore, and the transformation is more apparent with his renewed acting capabilities in VTV. Simbu wasn’t given any room for dappan-kuthu dance to charm his audiences, so his only tool could be emoting, given the story line. In summary, he has carried off the movie well, and for the most part seemed like the only protagonist. He plays a character from a middle-class family, and his language, audible thoughts and lifestyle are well etched, accordingly. His role centered on being a puppy-dog in love and urge Jessie to like him enough until she fell in love with him. In first half of the movie, the emotions had to range from excitement to anxiety to happiness to anger and frustration. This is because Jessie hasn’t ‘liked’ Karthik yet. Simbu had to play a character who remains resolute through and through. This, he proves with the help from a new friend in the movie field Ganesh (Ganesh Janardhan), Karthik follows Jessie everywhere including Kerala and works on improving the friendship/relationship. This, to the extent of picking fights with her brother and being more loud and vocal. Although, the plot was designed in a way to characterize Karthik as an ardent lover, Simbu’s effort shows through his dialogues, emotions. 

From the initial looks of it, Trisha probably did not face a challenge to essay the role of a lover girl. That is not completely true because Jessie is a fickle-minded character who won’t cross the line, yet is involved with Karthik and wants to share life with him. Jessie’s characterization is complex but the credit must go to Trisha for portraying fickle-mindedness so well. Lot of Trisha’s effort is about dialogue delivery, and the adorable part is her *cuteness* (can't define here), which is Trisha’s forte. The viewer may label Jessie’s personality as bordering on the eccentric, but it’s not impossible for a girl to be under stress and be unable to decide who to ditch - strict parents or the mad lover. Trisha plays a Mallu girl born and brought up in Madras, so her Tamil is straight with a mild flavour of Malayalam. Trisha is Saree-clad mostly, or is in Salwar-Kameez; and has carried off both very well. Her make-up is minimal, and somehow the skin-tone along along with hairstyle and attire may remind some, of a South Indian Christian girl they may even know. Jessie is a year older than Karthik and that probably makes her assume some kind of upper hand in the relationship right from the beginning – Trisha takes the credit away here too, for playing a confident character who Karthik is madly after. For the most part, Trisha has been able to share screen space with Simbu very well, making the viewer take notice of her emoting abilities and not just her glam image.

Another personality needing mention is Ganesh Janardhan who plays Karthik’s friend and acquaintance in the movie industry. Ganesh is a sort of comic relief in the movie who's able to keep his cool and crack jokes in serious situations too. He is also Kathik’s punching bag, gives him the confidence to keep pursuing Jessie and ideas when necessary. Role-wise, he pushes Karthik to keep at it, so the story kinda moves with his help. He keeps up with Karthik through the end, also being instrumental in helping him gain a firm footing in the movie industry.Performance wise, Ganesh's character is loosely developed but it does not hamper the story in any way.

Gautam Menon chose a simple plot and given a twist to it, at the end though. The story really is about how the girl dilly-dallies and finally makes an important decision as choosing a partner. The plot is thinner than the usual Desi love story but the treatment and performances make it somewhat a worthy watch. Elements like strict parents, unsettled career situation, religious differences, and last but not least, the age difference has been used in multiple ways and situations to move the story along. There definitely are some unjustified sequences, and scenes that are not built on a strong platform – a) How Jessie soaks in Kathik’s proposal in Kerala b) How Jessie is able to be a friend, yet let Karthik kiss her in the train on way back from Kerala c) Jessie’s on and off confusion whether or not to accept Karthik d) Karthik’s growth in the movie industry e) Scenes with Karthiik directing his first movie.

Everything about Jessie’s confusion has been portrayed well by Trisha, but the script-content is not adequate. The nature of the script allows only so much for the actor, and Jessie’s erratic behaviour is more realistic than cinematic. This movie did not offer much scope for screenplay, given the thin plot. The actors had to say and emote a lot of the same thing at length, and with pauses. But to carefully observe, the second half has more content-rich than the first. It’s in the second half that Jessie sets out to marry and calls off the wedding, Karthik goes to Kerala, Jessie agrees to begin a relationship with Karthik, his career takes off, his parents and Jessie’s parents fight, the action scenes between Karthik and Jessie’s brother, and finally the climax. Performance scope wise, the movie provided a pure white canvas to the actors and looks like they have stretched beyond expectations. But the best part, to re-iterate, is the climax. Menon has been brave enough to try and show what most of the viewers can relate with – that an unhappy ending is just as common. The protagonist need not lose himself to being a Devdas if things don’t work out and they can continue pursuing their dreams!

Cinematography by Manoj Paramahamsa is worth mentioning. The slow motion of the actors, the song sequences in European locales, Kerala backwaters (Allapuzha), movie sets with K S Ravikumar, etc are well-captured. Indoor scenes in homes have good interiors like in most of Menon’s movies. Solo shots with just Trisha or Simbu have been well-done to highlight the sharp features of both actors, who otherwise haven’t dressed extraordinarily well. Manoj has been been extremely good with emotional give and take between Simbu and Trisha with Simbu’s outbursts or Trisha’s stolid stance. The best picturization though is of the Central Park bench scene. 

He is called the Mozart of Madras and it is for a reason. A R Rahman continues to do a brilliant job with Tamil music. Two songs which are absolutely awesome are Anbil Avan, and Aaromale. The visuals in both are very good too. The album has a couple of peppy numbers like Hosanna and Kannukul and a couple of slow, sad numbers which run in the background as the story progresses. The background music is also by ARR and the experience shows, really. For example, the first scene (in the Church) with Aaromale guitar strumming in the background generates great amount of curiosity for the viewer. The quality of the sounds used is very appealing and the overall background music is new-age fusion, Indian and Western.

WHY 3/5:
The plot could have been developed better by including more elements – like making Karthik’s resolution somewhat unstable, or by allowing more time for the love relationship to mature before it fell apart. Elements like these add more uncertainty even to an experienced movie-watcher. How Karthik carves a career for himself is not justified fully, but that’s not the crux of the movie anyway. It’s good that unwilling parents are not shown to act like goons and act human, which is the saving grace. Simbu and Trisha have delivered well and are able to justify their roles by also displaying varying ranges of the same emotion at different times. All in all, the climax makes the viewer’s heart go all out to Karthik. The viewer knows by this point how much he wants Jessie back in his life; gets an opportunity to meet her by chance only to learn his dreams are now crushed forever. A performance oriented film, not a chick-flick for sure and a movie meant for mature audiences not looking for nitpicks in a romantic story.

Karthik Calling Karthik

**This review does not reveal the suspense in the story **

Lead Actors: Farhan AkhtarDeepika Padukone
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Rating:  3.5/5

PLOT: This is a suspenseful story about Karthik Narayan, who is a timid individual working in Mumbai for a construction firm. Karthik lives alone and does not have life beyond work. Karthik is a hard worker (as is portrayed), but does not claim any credit for the duties oaf his co-workers that which he takes on without being able to say no.  In the eyes of his boss he’s a worthless dud. Not being able to say no is only one of his many shortcomings. Karthik manages to stay holed up in his office cube all day, complete all work thrusted upon him and go back home to stare at his television before hitting the sack. Karthik does not have any friends and his non-work related excitement in life is the office Architect, Shonali. He seeks counseling from a shrink to improve his life, but the sessions are not fruitful.

Karthik’s life changes through a phone call he receives on his birthday from a person, also called Karthik (‘K2’ for purpose of this review). K2 sounds like Karthik, knows Karthik in and out and continues to call Karthik at 5am every day. K2 counsels Karthik, makes him wordly-wise and worldly-wise. Karthik forms a bond with K2 although they never meet and the counseling sessions are only on the phone. Karthik soon becomes a confident individual, gets a grip on life and manages a promotion at work. Shonali takes notice, and they eventually fall in love. Karthik eventually reveals his little secret to Shonali against K2’s interests; she does not buy the story and asks Karthik to get treated by a shrink. Karthik manages to prove to the shrink and Shonali that the calls do come at 5am. K2 does not like that the secret is out, and takes control to spoil it all for Karthik who goes into hiding. The rest of the story is about how Karthik comes back to being himself and revealing the identity of K2.

 Farhan Akhtar has shown great maturity in acting right from his first movie as an actor, Rock On, where he shared screen space with multiple actors. In this flick, Karthik shuttles between 2 mental modes – shy, frightened and recluse to being a confident, happy character. Farhan as Karthik is brilliant and he makes the movie look like a one-man-show. Farhan as the shy Karthik generally has a straight face and is often confused about why he is being a pushover. He has a lot of screen time being the protagonist. He has used his husky voice, and his looks - short hair, spectacled face well to act out the shy Karthik. The 5am phone call scenes are amazingly done, especially after K2 and Karthik fall apart and K2 turns to threatening and being negative. Farhan as the confident Karthik is not as impressionable as the sad and frightened Karthik. Farhan has made a conscious effort to not overdo the happy Karthik bit, so it’s easier for the viewer to understand the behavioural change of Karthik's role. His emotions are well-rendered through his eyes and this is Farhan’s plus point, even in movies to come. Farhan looks stylish after the transformation (loses spects too) and his language is generally urban. As such, Farhan has decent chemistry with Deepika Padukone (playing Shonali). He's been able to portray intimacy, flirting and physical proximity without any  awkwardness.

Deepika as Shonali is alright. IMHO though, Deepika as Shonali is not indispensable. Within the realms of the subject, Shonali is a glam doll and that’s that. Deepika with her sense of style, dressing, and body language plays a confident Architect who’s newly out of a relationship and is trying to make a long-term commitment to Karthik. Deepika was expected to look good, and…period. The role does not require her to add weight to the storyline, except create a turning point after she’s flabbergasted with Karthik, when he reveals about his phone-counselor, K2. She has played Shonali's part to perfection though, by being a flirtatious single and uptown girl newly in love, one who’s not conservative about getting intimate with a new guy friend. Deepika hasn’t done a ‘news-reader’ this time, she's more into the role and her diction does see some improvement. She's a fine add to the movie and adds adds the ‘sexy’ quotient to this  thriller.

Given the genre, it’s not the type of story which ambushes the viewer with facts never revealed until the fag end. The ‘clues’ are right there, the viewer just needs to stretch their brain muscles a bit more as and how the story progresses by constantly evaluating the cumulative set of events. If you have seen a lot of Bollywood cinema, you have all tools you need to analyze the movie right from the word go. But Vijay Lalwani, the director and has developed the plot well and the revelations/turning points in the script are timed well. The best part of this project is the background work of direction, screenplay and editing. The treatment is intelligent in that nothing is very obvious for the viewer. For most part of the story the viewer may not see the missing piece. It takes careful observation because the information is made available subtly. The development of Karthik’s character was very important for the viewer to think on line of what-would-Karthik-do. Scenes like Karthik losing his elder brother as a child, his counseling sessions with the shrink, and phone calls with K2 add right amounts of thrill. There are really no viewers-don’t-digest moments and the editing has been done in a way to logically prove K2’s presence and intentions. The Rublik’s cube has been used well – incomplete cube for scenes where Karthik is all undone, and somewhat patterned correctly when his life is under better control.

by Sanu Varghese is alright. Scenes with phone calls, counseling sessions with the shrink, Karthik in deep thoughts, are some crucial sequences with focus on conversations than the set-up or personalities. One significant thing throughout is the dim lighting, probably to dramatize scenes more. The sets used, in general are practically designed and not overdone. Most of the visuals probably are live locations. Again, the movie is absolutely about Karthik’s intrigue than any other person or thing.

 Songs are by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and the album is a good mix of dance/romantic numbers like Uff teri Ada and Hey Ya. The latter is an amazing composition and the tune runs in the background quite a bit. Lyrics by Javed Akhtar are very urban too! The songs as such don’t propel the storyline. They are picturized well but the videos are not loud by any means. The background score by Midival Punditz and Karsh Kale is commendable. The montage, the pauses or the KCK theme, all add up to get the viewer hooked onto the suspense. Scenes meaning to throw off the viewer have great background compositions in form of electronic jazz, guitar; Eg.K2’s call while the shrink or Deepika are at Karthik’s apartment or when Karthik sets out of Mumbai to begin another life. Kudos to the new folks.

WHY 3.5:
The suspense unravels slowly but comes all-too-easy to the viewer at the end, in the manner of deliberating around Karthik's nature. It would have helped to throw off the viewer a bit by encompassing some superfluous characters or distracting events. Focus on Farhan Akhtar is a lot, but could have been avoided. Even otherwise, the viewer does not mind the plot. In any case, the movie is sensibly made. The flick loses 1.5 points because the script is not extraordinary, neither is the treatment which I was expecting. If I were given one thing to change about the movie in a minute, I would change the name. Farhan Akhtar, Direction and Editing are the USP-in-toto. Watch if you like drama, or even plain Bollywood.                                                                            

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