After more than a year hiatus, Dhanush hits the ground running with by teaming up with acclaimed ac advertisement film-maker Bharat Bala, known for his classic "Vande Maatharam" video clip, teaming up with A.R Rahman. One of the most eagerly anticipated films of 2013, 'Maryan' tells us an inspired tale of three Indian workers being abducted in Sudan, and the protagonist being one among them, and how and why he landed in Sudan in the first place. Backed by a fantastic acting cast and a brilliant technical crew, did 'Maryan' blew us away ?

Dhanush has been doing a balancing act between doing out-and-out commercial 'masala' entertainers and well-scripted films. His acting prowess needs no extra introduction as his National Award speaks on behalf of him. In 'Maryan', Dhanush delivers another masterclass performance and is slowly raising the bar higher and higher among the younger lot of Tamizh heroes. His emotional outbursts, intense agony, shone through his expressive eyes, and the extreme physical difficulties he had to endure for challenging scenes, all paid big time for him. The emotional projection by Dhanush of Maryan, was simply brilliant. Awards galore, is certainly ticked in Dhanush's planner for 2014 ! And keeping him company would be Parvathi. She has given Dhanush a very tough competition in the acting department. She's neck-to-neck with Dhanush in delivering emotional sequences and also for grasping her character of Panimalar, very well. Her dialogue delivery is brilliant as well, and her timing is perfect. Its such a pleasure to watch an A-class performance from an actress in a main lead role, after a very, very long time ! Fellow National Award winners, Salim Kumar and Appukutty, alongside Jagan Purushottam, Uma Riyaz Khan, Vinayakan T.K, Ankur Vikal, Immanuel Annachi, Hari Krishnan and etc have done decent jobs with their limited scope of screen time presence. The African cast such as Christopher Minnie (the antagonist), Dogbe Tweh, Barry Mydou and etc were pale in comparison with the Indian cast in terms of acting, but they are ought not to be blamed, since they are not professional artistes.

The stunt choreography has been well handled by Dhilip Subbarayan and 'Action' Prakash for the Indian episode, while Kareen Noorist handles the African portions. The action sequences were well shot and conceptualized and adds strength to the emotional core of the script. Sheenu and Ingrid Bergman's costume designing for the Indian and African episodes, respectively, was functional and fulfilled the nativity factor needed. Vivek Harshan's editing quality is a mix-up, as his works in the melancholic songs were pretty good, but the overall film editing was a little less smooth. Especially with the non-linear mode of story-telling being implemented, here. Bharat Bala's line productions have taken care of the production design and their detailing for the fishing village of the fictional Neerodi and the interiors of the character's small hamlet-style houses, were intricate and precise. One among the three pillars of the film is the cinematographer. Mark Koninckx AFC, BBC from Belgium, known for his works in the French film 'Johnny Mad Dog', has given an outstanding output from his camera. Fantastic wide-angle shots of the coastal sea areas, dry and brazen desert, and the beautiful close-ups of the artistes, which captured the intense and lovely emotions of the performers, are dazzling piece of works. A real celluloid poem !

As for the second pillar of the film, it has to be none other than the music composer, A.R Rahman ! He has created magic with his compositions, which were actually reminiscent of his earlier works of the 90's. The tunes were simple but the mastering of the instrumentation, brought the level of the songs, several notches higher. "I Love My Africa" is a theme music for the African episodes, used sparingly for certain situations, especially during the opening and interval sequences. "Sonapareeya" is a celebratory song, shot in the coastal areas of Kanyakumari and Nagercoil, featuring the lead pair and also some of the character artistes. "Enge Pona Raasa" is a montage song, showcasing the agony of the heroine not knowing what has happened to her hero and the sense of longing for him, which has some poetic rain shots. The song also appears briefly, just before the end credits. "Innum Konja Neram" is a melody song, shot on the lead pair , also in montages, picturing them falling in love and their romantic escapades in their village. Some of the shots taken in the interiors of the house, are brilliant. "Netru Aval Irundhal" was the best picturized song in the film, with shots oozing in splendor and beauty, which comes right after the interval. The wind-angle canvass was wonderfully utilized for this song, shot on the lead pair. "Kadal Raasa Naan", a chart-busting song was the most disappointingly picturized song, of the whole album. The opening of the song, though emotional, falls completely flat, and fails to capture the actual mood and feel of the song. The dual visual tracks of the coastal flashback and the current African desert, is of no help either. "Nenje Yeazhu" is the other best shot song of the film, with the harsh, plain deserts, with Dhanush as the focal point, wonderfully shot by Mark. The background score by A.R Rahman is a huge complementary factor to the screenplay and for most of the time, aides the artistes in bringing out the true essence of script.

Bharat Bala's vision and direction is astute and focused. His conceptualization of the scenes pertaining to the actual core point of the script, the love portions of the lead pair, is top-class. The struggle of the hero, the sorrowful departure from the heroine, the abrupt and painful loss of friends and the intense yet beautiful love portions were all well scripted. The poetic nature of the story telling brings the script further forward and the romantic scenes ties up our attention. But, when the story shifts gear to other elements, especially the abduction and torture episodes, the script loses the intensity and this is where Bharat Bala's story starts faltering. The same detailing in the love scenes, were not devoted to other other portions, which is the main negative point of the film. A main reason was the weak characterization of the African antagonists role, whom doesn't thrill or shock us, nor were the characters being convincingly, terrifying enough. A powerful villain could have done wonders to the role, alas the weak screen presence of the African artistes, played foil though they were actual child soldiers. The non-linear screenplay by Bharat Bala and Sriram Rajan, does not help either, as the languorous pace tests our patience at certain points. R.N Joe D'Cruz's dialogues were functional, though not memorable and powerful enough to be etched in our memories forever. Some continuity mistakes are there, especially with Dhanush's appearance in the African episode. A complete, stronger plot would have done great wonders to the overall script, with more punch and style.

'Maryan' - Intense acting, poetic cinematography, soul-stirring music. The actual and only three pillars of the film.

Ratings: 3.25/5 STARS



Sequels are a pretty pain-in-the-ass for most director, as there will be the omnipresent expectations and heavy pressure, due to the success of the first installment. What more when it has one of the most important artiste of the film industry as its protagonist. Director Hari has taken the daring plunge in coming up with a sequel to his 2010 blockbuster, 'Singam' starring the smashing Suriya in the titular role. The first installment did end up with a promise of a sequel, and finally Hari has indeed delivered one. Will this be a springboard for Suriya to regain his place in the blockbuster arena after two under-performed films in '7am Arivu' and 'Maattrraan' ?

With the majestic and awe-inspiring larger-than-life persona and screen presence, Suriya shoulders the weight of the entire script on his well-built shoulders. His passion and dedication in living the role of Duraisingam, is evident with his strong and powerful emotions, dialogue delivery and expressions, especially with his eyes ! The actor handled the pressure with relative ease and he performs even meaner and power-packed. His cinematic role as a police officer, brings great stature and respect to the khaki uniform he donned. A raw and powerful, inspiration perhaps ! Suriya has proved big time, that he is capable of handling commercial, 'masala' protagonist roles with conviction and the necessary oomph factor. Way to go, Suriya ! There is a long, long list of ensemble cast, atypical of Hari's films. International artiste, Danny Sapani plays the main antagonist role and aided by veteran Rahman and Mukesh Rishi. Danny's role was projected off well initially, but peters out towards the end. Rahman and Mukesh, play the quintessential commercial cinema villains, to 'perfection' ! Anushka and Hansika Motwani charms in their respective sequences, though the latter has a more meatier role here. Vivek, who rocked as 'Erimalai' in the preceding film, has a limited screen timing, but still delivers the goods. The current 'Comedy Superstar' Santhanam, never fails to rock and he continues his fine form here as well with some side-splitting comedy portions, especially when he does a Suriya and Kamal Haasan in the film ! Radha Ravi, Nassar, Rajendran, Mansoor Ali Khan, Manorama, Vijayakumar and etc, etc, etc, performed their roles to a T, in limited and inconsequential roles.

Sai and Perumal Selvam's costume designing was apt for a commercial pot-boiler like this, especially for the lead pair in the songs, and for the rest of the character artistes, as well. 'Rocky' Rajesh and Anal Arasu's stunt choreography was well suited for such loud and larger-than-life films, which is a little low in terms of logic and common sense. Suriya performs with great energy and vigor, which actually helps us to overlook the flaws of the choreography. Editing by V.T Vijayan and T.S Jay, was efficient and neat, though the second half was a little prolonged, except for the abrupt ending ! K.Kathir has done a brilliant work with his production design. Most the sets looked perfect, especially the small town jails and lock-ups, interiors of the character's homes or the colorful but simple sets for the song sequences. Job, well done ! Priyan has tried some roving camera tricks here and his camera doesn't seem to rest at all ! However,there are no fantastic or outstanding visuals from him and his works were mostly functional, except for some action sequences.

Devi Sri Prasad, who has been retained for the sequel, has performed badly with his scores and almost all the songs are below average, for current standards. "Vaale Vaale" is the opening song, shot in a boat and around the port of Tuticorin, with a special appearance from a rather flabby-looking Anjali. The song also has some minor shots, featuring the vigilante work of the protagonist. "Puriyavillai" is a montage song for Hansika Motwani, who develops a crush for the masculine protagonist. "Singam Dance" is a peppy club song, shot on Suriya and Anushka and has colorful blue-themed sets by Kathir and good lighting from the cinematographer. "Kannukkulle" also follows the same style, with a more simpler sets. "Achamillai" and "Vidhai Pole" are situational songs, praising the histrionics of the protagonist, shot in montages. The background score is unimpressive, with loud and familiar sounds most of the time !

Director Hari's successful films, have one thing in common. A racy screenplay. From the word go, Hari did not stop for a single moment, and has scripted a screenplay which is full of power-packed action sequences, which were very convincingly played out by Suriya. What differs between 'Singam' and this sequel, is the lower importance given to the other commercial elements of a 'masala' film. Sentiments, romance, and comedy portions were evenly proportioned in the first half, but the sequel highlighted more and more of the brain and brawn of Duraisingam, rather than the other elements in/surrounding him. The antagonists roles, especially of Danny's was ill-written and lacks the necessary counter-effect to the heroics of the hero. Though the duration of the film, especially the second half is a little draggy, Hari keeps his scenes, tight and short, which gives us the impression of a speedy story telling. Some continuity factors were not properly ironed out, and raises a few questions pertaining to logic. The ending was handled in a very abrupt and rushed manner, it spoils the good-ride one was enjoying all the while !

'Singam II' - A near-perfect 'masala' concoction. A thoroughly enjoyable film, but strictly for commercial enthusiasts. A powerful and kingly show from Suriya !

Ratings: 3.25/5 STARS



Bharathiraja, the man who revolutionized village-genre in Tamizh cinema, is back in the limelight after a 5-year hiatus from his last, a brilliantly-themed 'Bommalaattam'. 'Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum' has the premise of Bharathiraja's forte, and it made a big noise with the launch and the consecutive cast-changes. Parthiban, Ameer, Iniya, all made their names checked and then dropped for reasons, known only to them and the director. The film saw the daylight with a newcomer, as the protagonist and Karthika Nair, doing her second film in Tamizh after 'Ko'. So, does Bharathiraja enthrall us with his village-themed film, without losing the sensitivities of current film-making styles ?

Lakshman Narayan, makes his debut in Tamizh cinema. As the gullible and innocent young village chap, he tries his best to be comfortable and confident with his first outing. But a lot of improvement is definitely needed, if Lakshman thinks of pursuing his career as an artiste. Karthika Nair, carries her role much better, thanks to her experiences (and possible tips from her veteran mother, Radha). She tried her best to shed her urban body language, and has succeeded to some extent, especially in the second half. Some bold scenes are thrown out in the second half, and Karthika has handled it quite well. Manoj Bharathiraja was the real scene stealer, with his willy and funny antagonistic role ! His expressions, dialogue delivery and voice modulation, brought out the best in him, in the best-written role of the film. The rest of the cast such as Manojkumar, Rama Prabha, Meenal, Subiksha, Angusamy Sundaramahalinga Thevar, Vairamala, Veerasingam, Malaysia Sivaganesh and etc had little screen space, but fails to leave any significant mark in the film.

Shankar's costume department delivered an apt output, but more detailing could have gone into Karthika Nair's make-up. Its pretty much unconvincing to see a 'smooth' and 'refined' looking dame, as a rustic village girl ! Do village girls actually have such perfect make-up touches ?? 'Super' Subbarayan's stunt choreography was done neatly, keeping in mind the abilities and limitations of the two important male leads. Palanivel's editing kept the film to a tolerable pace and duration, for a village subject. His montage portions could have been more smoother during the transitions. Salai Sahadevan's cinematography was adequate and functional.

G.V Prakash Kumar handles the soundtrack of the film and has delivered quite a few numbers here. "Kolavalai Edungada" is the opening credits track and has a few montages, showcasing some village festivals shot. "Aavaram Kaattukulle" is the first love melody of the film and was shot on the lead pair, romancing playfully each other in the village setting, with a few montages thrown into. "Porale" is an emotional, situational song shot on the three main characters of the film, and appears during a critical point of the script, with some dramatized weather effects, utilized for the song. "Pinnaaru" is a bit-song, which highlights the lead pair reminiscing each other during their separated lives. "Pothivachaa" also follows the same track with some more montages, but with a pleasant mode instead. "Nariga" is a conventional village duet song, shot on the lead pair, in a simple village house set, with elaborate village costumes for the lead pair. "Anname" and "Usure Uruvi" are two situational bit-songs, appearing during crucial climax portions. The background score of the film is handled by the Sabesh-Murali duo, and they leave their mark in the film, with re-recordings of their own touch, instead of mimicking G.V Prakash's songs.

Though Bharathiraja was the pioneer for village-based films in Tamizh cinema, times have drastically changed. Though rural themed films are welcomed, the style and presentation of the current generation directors are way different than what Bharathiraja has done with his latest depiction. Especially when you have watched path-breaking films such as 'Paruthi Veeran' and 'Aadukalam'. The nativity and authenticity were well brough out, but the story telling is not compelling and has a deja-vu feel to it. The script has a good resemblance to the director's classic '16 Vayadhinile', in terms of characterization and plot setting. The director has still tried to instill some 'bold' elements into the script, which comes in the second half. But its not enough for an actual film-lover to be hooked up with the film. The themes and issues handled in the film is certainly not topical, with old school framing and sequence setting and if it wasn't for the performance of Manoj, the film would have fallen flat. Worse still, its appalling and highly unfathomable to have Karthika portrayed as a prepubescent girl !  The emotional content is too shallow and the script is filled with too much of mushy and melodramatic moments. R.Rose Mugilan's dialogues, were very much in-tune with the milieu, the best lines were reserved for Manoj.

'Annakodiyum Kodiveeranum' - Archaically outdated and wrongly treated !

Ratings: 1.75/5 STARS