Fox Star Studios and The Next Big Film has come together after the successes of 'Engeyum Eppothum' and 'Raja Rani'. 'Cuckoo' made the right noise from the start, with its promotional teases, trailer and great musical album by Santhosh Narayanan. Written by Raju Murugan, a popular writer of the Ananda Vikatan magazine and a former assistant of N.Lingusamy, will 'Cuckoo' pull our heart-strings and drench us in love ?

Dinesh, who still had the halo of 'Attakathi' around him before this release, had finally released himself from the shackles. Dinesh carries the role with aplomb and it would not be an exaggeration to state that this was one of the finest blind acts, performed in Tamizh cinema. Kamal and Vikram nailed it in 'Rajaparvai' and 'Kasi', respectively and Dinesh follows suit with an earnest performance. His body language reflects the homework he did in preparation for this role. His theater background certainly helped in his dialogue deliveries and expressions. A lifetime performance, indeed ! Debutante Malavika Nair, who has acted in 'Vazhakku En 18/9's Malayalam version 'Black Butterfly' is no less impressive than Dinesh. Her eye movements and the pleasant personality she resonates, are charms of their own. She impresses particularly in the pre-climax and climax portions with brilliant conviction. Welcome to Tamizh cinema, Malavika ! Murugadass's dialogue delivery was spot-on, especially with the comical dialogues and shows that he is an untapped talent. Visually-challenged debutantes, Elango and Sangeetha gave lovely performances as well. The bunch of odd characters around the lead pair have great detailing to their characters which gave them space to leave a mark. 

Natraj's costume designing sufficed the need of the script, where all the characters portrayed comes from the lower strata of society. Malavika's attires, gave her a very pleasant look, throughout the film. T.Ramalingam's art designing was in sync with the script. Most of the film was shot in real locations, but the drama troupe ambiance, and props for most the of locations gave the film a very realistic look and color. Shanmugam Velusamy's editing could and should have been tighter. Though the film's story-telling follows a slow pace, there are excessive scenes which lengthens the duration of the film unnecessarily and the continuity slackens a little in the second half. M.K Leen's action choreography was in tune with the need of the script and scenes. P.K Varma, who made name with 'Attakathi' has cranked the camera for 'Cuckoo' as well. He has captured the director's vision very well and many shots spews artistic brilliance ! The close-ups, as well as the railway station and train sequences, are the highlights of the film. The moist and wet color tone used in the film, looks very appealing and further enhances the charm of the sequences and the accompanying background score.

Santhosh Narayanan's music proves that he is a force to reckon with, in Tamizh cinema music. The quality and aesthetic outputs in his albums, are nearly unmatched in recent times. The good show follows with 'Cuckoo' as well. "Enda Mappilai" plays as a background score, in a funny situational scene. "Potta Pulla" portrays the lead hero falling for his heroine and has montages of him trying to impress her and getting more friendlier with her. "Kalyanamam Kalyanam" is the only song which has a typical 'dance-and-song' setup to it. The song had good lighting against a night backdrop and featured the litany of minor character artistes dancing in celebration. The pick of the album, "Manasula Soora" highlights the love episodes of the lead pair and has plenty of cute and sweet montages. "Agasathe" has the reconciliation episodes of the lead pair, picturized using montages. "Kodaiyile Mazhai" was beautifully placed as a situational song in the climax, and really portrayed the heart-wrenching feel, needed for those particular sequences. Santhosh's background score definitely has a magical touch and feel and reminds us some of 'Isaignani' Ilaiyaraaja's brilliant melody scores. Exceptional technical output from Santhosh !

Raju Murugan has iterated that this story of 'Cuckoo' is based on a true story of visually-challenged man he met during his writing days. Keeping that in mind, Raju Murugan must be appreciated for getting all those tiny detailing, in terms of characterizations and plot setting required for such realistic narration. He definitely has a good framing sense, especially with the close-up shots for the right sequences, bearing testimony to it. Raju Murugan's comedy sense is great, especially for his dialogues for Murugadass and Dinesh. Playing as himself, Raju Murugan's narrator role does not leave much impact on the script and his own character suffers some continuity issues, in terms of screen timing. Raju Murugan has been sincere to his script by not incorporating unwanted commercial elements into it, but the screenplay suffers due to a long running duration. Also, instead of being emotional and sensitive, the script goes highly melodramatic and sentimental, especially in the climax, which reminds us of the yesteryear tearjerkers of Tamizh cinema. The scenes are structured in such a manner, where explicit sentimental and tear-jerking scenes are arranged one after another to invoke sympathy upon the lead pair. Nevertheless, Raju Murugan has handled a touching love story of a visually-challenged pair with deft. A better screenplay handling would have yielded much better results.

'Cuckoo' - Love is Blind !

Ratings: 3/5 STARS



P.Samuthirakani is back as director after 'Porali' which was released 3 years back. Known for his powerful dialogues and social messages, he has collaborated with a team of stars beyond his usual circles for 'Nimirnthu Nil'. 'Jayam' Ravi who's last was the poorly received 'Aadhi Baghawan' badly needs a hit to sustain his stature in Tamizh cinema. Produced by Vaasan Visual Ventures, can P.Samuthirakani and 'Jayam' Ravi strike a clean success ?

'Jayam' Ravi, who donned double roles in his last flick, ironically does the same with 'Nimirnthu Nil' as well. Though the roles are lesser challenging and brooding than the one's in 'Aadhi Bhagawan', but still 'Jayam' Ravi makes the most of his opportunities and came out with a decent performance. As Aravindan Sivasamy, Ravi sort of impersonated the naive and rule-abiding "Rules" Ramanujam of 'Anniyan'. The shocked reaction which he occasionally displays, is a little overboard, though. His dialogue delivery, especially after the changeover shown in the film, packs a few punch. There were more variations in his expressions, especially in the second half, delivered convincingly. Whereas as Narasimha Reddy, we get to see a more flamboyant and joyous Ravi, and he shows his prowess in handling various languages at ease. Amala Paul, looking very cute and petite, has a very limited and substantial role, but fits her role well and aptly dubbed by Raveena Ravi. Soori gets to be more than a comedian here yet kudos to him for his well-timed dialogues and voice modulation. Vijay TV fame, C.Gopinath plays a very important role and he impresses in his sequences. There's an overabundance of casting crew in this film, from the likes of Anil Murali, Nassar, Prof.Gnanasambandham, Namo Narayana, Chitra Lakshmanan, Thambi Ramaiah, Subbu Panchu, Badava Gopi, 'Munnar' Ramesh, Gnanavel, G.Marimuthu, Dhilepan, K.K.P Gobalakrishnan, Kanthasamy, V.K Vijayakumar, Sriranjini, Rithika, Latha Rao, debutante Ragini Dwivedi from the Kannada cine industry and etc who made their marks. Also, we had Sarath Kumar making a 20 minute cameo appearance. We also have M.Sasikumar giving a voice-over in a scene !

Costume designing by Priya Manikandan and Karishma Sharoff was good, especially with 'Jayam' Ravi's looks for both characters and also for the homely, contemporary costumes for Amala Paul, which made her look beautiful. Jacki's art direction sufficed the needs of the script. His works behind the properties of the protagonist's post apartment, the police station set, the secret hideout offices, the television station setup and etc are commendable works from Jacki. A.L Ramesh's editing was passable, though he could have trimmed the second half and also a little of the first half and his cuts could have been smooth. 'Stun' Siva's action choreography was "over" over-the-top, especially with the Bangalore highway sequence. Farcical, at its best ! M.Sukumar and M.Jeevan handles the cinematography department, and they have done a decent job, especially with the combination sequences of both the double characters played by 'Jayam' Ravi. The lighting for the indoor sequences were natural though the highway action sequence, could have been handled better. Especially, with the VFX's teams tacky final output.

G.V Prakash Kumar scores for P.Samuthirakani's film for the first time and to put it frankly, the songs have turned out to be quite average for their standards. "Kadhal Nergaiyil" is a slow melody and shot with montage on the lead pair, with some cute and funny moments featuring in the song, especially with the contradicting characteristics of the lead pair. "Gita Verses" is a situational song, with some sequences interspersing in between the song. Though it fits the situation well, the score tends out to be too loud at certain places. The pick of the album, "Negizhiyinil" was shot in the beautiful locations of Athirapally waterfalls and the Bekal Fort. The cinematographer has handled some interesting angles and camera movements for this song, with apt framing for some shots. "Rajadhi Raja" is the opening song of 'Jayam' Ravi's second character and also featured Ragini Dwivedi in a glam makeover. The song looked like a typical village or rural celebratory song, with plenty of village props and colorfully attired dancers. "Don't Worry" featured 'Jayam' Ravi with the host of character artistes appearing in the song, which had a party-like atmosphere to it and also 'Gaana' Bala's cameo appearance. The background score by G.V Prakash Kumar and additional outputs from C.Himesh Babu, sufficed the mood of the script, though its not the best of works from him.

As always as it is with P.Samuthirakani's films, 'Nimirnthu Nil' too has plenty of social issues tackled with a few messages delivered in atypical Samuthirakani dialogues. But the problem is, it gets way too preachy in this script, especially in the second half, which lessens the entertainment value. Also, we get a sense of déjà vu because of the similarity in the vigilante-style story, which is synonymous with Shankar films and bears a resemblance to a host of other popular flicks such as A.R Murugadoss's 'Ramana' and Saravanan Subbiah's 'Citizen'. Besides that, the element of logic taking a backseat, in a very pretentious manner, is a turn-off for sure, especially when you consider the factor of the film coming from P.Samuthirakani's stable. Nevertheless, the social issues and messages delivered in the film is thought-provoking, aided by some power-packed dialogues, albeit with an overdose of melodrama. But its unfathomable to digest the fact that Samuthirakani, has succumbed to the pressures of thrusting needless commercial elements into his script. What could and should have been an gripping encounter such as 'Nadodigal', peters out into an average product. Its about time for P.Samuthirakani to realize that powerful dialogues and social messages, blended along with a mass "masala" concoction alone, will not guarantee a great end-product !

'Nimirnthu Nil' - With a meekly written screenplay, that's quite an arduous task to do !

Ratings: 2.5/5 STARS



In the new wave of Tamizh cinema's next-gen directors, here comes another entrant from the 'Naalaiya Iyakkunar' stable. P.Ramesh, winner of the reality show's Season 2, makes his debut with 'Thegidi', an intriguingly titled thriller. Produced by C.Senthil Kumar on behalf of Vel Mediaa, the brother of C.V Kumar of Thirukumaran Entertainments, this small-budget flick made good promises with its theme and slick trailer, involving the world of private detective agencies. With a talented technical team backing him, can P.Ramesh pull it off in feature films too ?

Ashok Selvan, who previously did the lead role in Pizza II - Villa, plays the protagonist here. He has done a fairly good job with his performance, but he can definitely work out on his expressions and emoting capabilities. Though subtle expressions worked out well for the role in this film, more would be needed for films of other styles and variations. He tries to balance the equation of being slick & smart and the man in trouble, quite well. But he certainly shares a good vibe and chemistry with Janani Iyer. Janani, looks sweet & pretty and has good scope to perform, though her character has its limitations, in terms of contributing to the screenplay's importance. Jayaprakash proves yet again that he is soon becoming a master in doing any sort of character roles with finesse and ease. Kaali, was particularly impressive in the short and cute role of the protagonist's confidant. The rest of the cast such as Jeyakumar, 'Kavithalaya' Krishnan, Sounderajan, Venkatesh, Rajan Iyer, Rekha Suresh, Shalu, Asritha and etc meted out decent performances, within their scope. A small but befitting cast !

What's great about the technical department of this film, is the fact that they are not only young and talented, but can work in sync, with one another ! 'Billa' Jagan's action choreography was neat and well executed, especially with the posh bungalow house fight sequence between Ashok Selvan and Jeyakumar. The non-fight sequences, could have been handled and presented in an more realistic manner. S.S Murthy handles the art designing and his work complements' the story and director's presentation and vision of the script. The interiors of the detective agency setup, the protagonist's home, the heroine's simple middle-class colony and etc were very propped and presented well for the audience. Leo John Paul's editing is smooth and almost spotless, ensuring that the movie follows a steady pace in the second half, but at the same time, ensuring the movie is crisp. Dinesh Krishnan.B, who made name with 'Soodhu Kavvum', scores yet again in the cinematography department. His visuals are clean, fresh, and pleasing for the eyes. There's not much gimmicky acts from him, but his work sufficed the need of the script.

Debutante Nivas K.Prasanna, makes a very promising debut with 'Thegidi. The songs are very soothing and melodious. "Neeyum Dhinam" is the opening song, played during the opening credits sequence, which had the film's scenes, portrayed in a cartoon/comic strip style. "Needhane" is a haunting tune, which was shot on Ashok Selvan, who was portrayed to be in the middle of his assignments of "shadowing & surveillance", shows in montages with some clever editing pattern. The pick of the album, "Yaar Ezhudhiyadho" was shot on the lead pair, depicting the protagonist, following the heroine as part of his assignment. The indoor shots were very impressive, particularly the lighting, especially with the library scenes. "Vinmeen Vidhaiyil" is a love duet, shot on the lead pair again. The song had montages of the lead pair developing their relationship. The shots of the urbane park and lake was impressive, especially with the color tone and hue, used by Dinesh Krishnan.B. "Kangalai Oru" is a situational, pathos song, highlighting the issues of trust between the lead pair. Nivas K.Prasanna, impresses in the background score as well, especially in the climax and pre-climax sequences, with engaging sounds and implementing silence at the appropriate moments. 

P.Ramesh must be appreciated for not exaggerating anything beyond the means and needs of his script, just because of his transition from short-films to the silver screen. The premise of private detective agencies and the theme of "hunter becoming the hunted" is interesting. P.Ramesh kept the cards close to his heart, and slowly started piling up the suspense elements before the interval. Though the film is a thriller, the romance angle was very tastefully written, with brilliant dialogues and apt direction, which makes us to root for the lead pair. The research and detailing work was apt for the script, but more in-depth details could have given a more complex mood to the script. The thriller and suspense track is quite simple, to be frank, and for those who are thriller/suspense aficionados, this film's plot would be a piece of cake, when it comes to cracking the answers. The minor loopholes and gaps in the story-line and some screenplay continuity issues, can help the active-thinkers to easily connect the dots, especially when half the suspense is revealed quite early in the second half. The motive given by the antagonist characters for their actions, is quite new and refreshing to notice. Though the climax was supposed to be the sucker punch, the writing could have been better, especially with the antagonist's reasons and justifications for "its" actions. The ending though was open-ended and reminded us of a tiny element which some audience could have overlooked. A 'Thegidi - Part 2' ? Maybe. 

'Thegidi' - A simple and interesting thriller, executed neatly !

Ratings: 3/5 STARS



Director Arivazhagan, who made name with the well-made thriller 'Eeram', is back after a hiatus with 'Vallinam'. Being in the making for about 3 years, this sports based flick has Nakulan aka Nakul making a comeback of sort. Produced by Aascar V.Ravichandran, can Arivazhagan deliver another well-packaged film and make a firm mark in Tamizh cinema ?

Nakulan takes it serious this time and has delivered an earnest performance. His enthusiasm and physical atheleticism fits the role of an amateur basketball player. The vigor and energy he posessed helped him to adapt quite naturally as a sportsman and its very much commendable of his effort to undertake basketball training as a preparation for the film. He has experimented with his dialogue delivery, which is more subtle and mellow compared to his earlier films, but its not convincing overall, especially in the climax. Nevertheless, its a very decent performance and hoping he delivers more. Debutante Mrudhula Basker carries herself comfortably as the heroine, though she has not much scope as a character in the film's overall plot. A standard performance, standardly dubbed by Savitha. Siddharth Jonnalagadda plays the antagonist and his body language and facial expressions fits the character well, and aptly voiced by Aravind Krishna but his character loses steam as the film progresses. Jagan provided the comic relief and his satirical comments and one-liners are fun to listen to. Jayaprakash scores in his brief but important character role with a gray shade but Atul Kulkarni's true potential was not utilized at all though his character carries some weight in importance to the story. The rest such as Amzad Khan, Anumapa Kumar, Chandru, Mathivanan Rajendran, Santhana Bharathi were adequate with good cameos from Krishna and Aadhi, as well as RJ Balaji.

Shanmugha Priya handles the costume designing and her works sufficed the need of the script, since its a college based script, which has not much of an extensive research and execution. Sibu Joseph J.V's editing pattern fits the style and story presentation of Arivazhagan's script, though many a few sequences could have been edited out to make it a little racier. Silva's action choreography was good, especially in the pre-climax fight scene as well as the much spoken about train sequence in the very early stages of the film. T.Suresh's production design must be commended, especially for the climax basketball court set, which really imbibed a basketball tournament feel to it. Also, the props used for interiors such as the swanky and posh heroine's home, or the boys hostel rooms were very apt and realistic. Bhaskaran K.M's cinematography is a real asset to the film. The basketball game theme provided a good platform for him to showcase his expertise in coming up with creative shots and angles. The credits should be shared with Arivazhagan who handled each basketball matches' game and action set pieces, alongside with specialist game choreographer, Mime Gopi. Besides the games', Bhaskaran K.M's color tone and the light hue approach for some scenes, are eye-pleasing. But he could have avoided the overusage of shadows, particularly in the beginning sequences. 

S.S Thaman's previous collaboration with Arivazhagan in 'Eeram' was splendid and it looks like Thaman has found a partner who extracts the best from him. 'Vallinam' has very good scores and background music as well, which fits the mood and nature of the script and proves to be very effective in conveying the director's vision. "Maaman Macha" is a typical college-buddy song, with plenty of montages and dance scenes interspersed in betweem. Bhaskaran K.M's cinematography in this particular song was good, especially with the light tone. The pick of the lot "Uyiril Uyir" is a letdown, in terms of picturization. The song had montages of the hero finding himself falling for the heroine, as well as dance sequences against a cowboy and hip-hop theme bacgrounds. "Nakula" is a romantic number shot on the lead pair, on the beaches, during the high-tide moments. "Vallinam" is a situational song, highlighting the progress of the hero's basketball team in the tournament, which had good lighting for the basketball matches. "Uyiril (Reprise)" is a bit-song showing the separation of the lead pair and had good framing from the director and cinematographer. Thaman's background score works very well for the film, especially with a special 'Vallinam' theme track which plays during the opening credits scene.

Arivazhagan has chosen basketball as a tool to highlight the actual theme of his script, which is the discrimination and marginalization of sports in the society and the over-trumpeting of cricket. Its interesting to note that the director has chosen cricket as an 'antagonist' for his film. Arivazhagan's subtle story presentation and sharp dialogues, goes hand in hand, pretty well and proves to be his forte and USP. But the film has its own shares of flaws. There's no depth in the writing, where more intensity could have really revved up the proceedings of the screenplay. The romance and friendship portions are shallow in terms of writing, and the dramas fail to make a serious mark. The detailing in narration is missing, which is essential for these sort of story presentation, which has a slow and steady pace screenplay. A more organic development could have helped the film to achieve better output and its annoying to notice Arivazhagan's attempt in adhering to standard Tamizh cinema "masala" commercialization. But Arivazhagan should be appreciated for showing the basketball game as a proper game and his artistes as proper basketball players. The authenticity and detailing in those aspects are applaudable. Also, one can note that Arivazhagan has a a good sense of setting up frames, which shows his distinct touch of quality. In conclusion, Arivazhagan deserves kudos for choosing a sports-based theme for his script and highlighting the plight and discrimination of other sports in the state, but its definitely not on par with his 'Eeram'.

'Vallinam' - A not-so hard consonant ! Expected more.

Ratings: 2.75/5 STARS