Friday, February 22, 2013

Ameerin Aadhi Bhagavan (2013)

Aadhi Bhagavan is a mistaken identity movie with a twist. Here's the catch. Unlike all such films where a nobody finds himself lured into a vast trap, this film takes a person who is a gangster in his own right and throws him in the mix to fend for himself. And what follows was pretty interesting. 

I make it a point to bitch about the so called International films we have been making of late. Aadhi Bhagavan falls in the category but, thankfully, Jeyam Ravi is not trying to save the world here. It is a well written film, but in spite of being original, it will often remind you of many other movies. There are shades of Samar and even the recently released Special 26. Until the big reveal which comes very late into the first half, the movie feels completely lost. There are a couple of puny villains but nothing too serious. The entire Mother-Sister angle, which is reminiscent of Scarface, adds little value to the already dull first act. It relies too heavily on its twist to make up for the dullness. Thankfully, the twist works and sets up an interesting premise for the second half.

[Spoilers ahead]
Even in an industry where actors count their double roles as achievements, it is not often that we see two characters share a same face without being biologically related. And to see them fight each other for reasons above material gains brings a fascinating amount of intrigue. The good thing about Aadhi Bhagavan is that even though it is partial to Aadhi, it doesn't paint Bhagavan as too bad a person. It gives the character enough gravitas to ensure the audience at least consider siding with him.

The film is very ambiguous when it comes to Bhagavan's sexual orientation. Is he just an effeminate male who is strongly attracted to women or is there something more to him? If not, why even bring up his sexuality in the first place? It becomes a mere gimmick in that case.
[End of Spoilers]

Ravi doesn't have a fan following. He never tasted success as a mass action hero. Actors like him have to build from scratch for every role they essay. It is good that he got to do this film and I am sure this will do good business. But there were so many moments where I couldn't convince myself he was the right person for this film. In the hands of some other actor, this film could have felt more full. Ravi has spent a good three years of his life on this project and the effort shows. But despite being bulky as a Spanish bull, he comes across as a very awkward gangster. 

This is a film which could have really managed to appear more intelligent by saying less. But it resorted to spoon-feeding- to spell out all its twists to the lowest common denominator. Instances such as these really disappoint me.

Most Tamil films truly suck at closing a film with an open ending. They explicitly mention a sequel which never ever gets made. In that regard, I found the ending of Aadhi Bhagavan interesting. It doesn't lend us the comfort of closure and leaves room for speculation. This unsettling quality is what defines an open ending and I am happy Ameer went for something like this.

All the songs except the Bhagavan rap, are very poor and eat up a lot of runtime. It could do with some trimming. The action scenes are choreographed well but the Christopher Rouse style rapid editing doesn't bode well. There are some lean patches but, on the whole, Aadhi Bhagavan is a satisfying watch.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver Linings Playbook, true to its name, is sort of a dreamy manual to help get one's life back on track. It uses all the known elements which we tend to associate with romantic comedies. From Football, dance competitions, to using  festivals to denote passage of time, it knows it belongs in the rom-com territory and isn't ashamed of it. By the end, it elevates itself to much more, while adamantly sticking to the genre's aesthetics.

Bradley Cooper's Patrick belongs to the world where the concept of lying hasn't been invented. Forget white lies, he is incapable of uttering niceties. And his flaws make him flesh out into a very real person. What makes him worthy of being rooted for is his undying positivity to get out of the mess he finds himself in and restart a life with his wife.

Tiffany's arrival makes the film more interesting. When mutual friends Ronny and Veronica decide to set these two broken, vulnerable people up in the hope that they could feed off each other, Russell puts the viewer in Patrick's place by holding back with certain parts of the story and investing in coincidences. Is Tiffany for real or a figment of Patrick's wild imagination? How does he keep running into her? And what are the odds of her being an equally broken person?

The film is handling an icky subject of mental illness and you don't see any of those scenes which milk the sentiment. We are not provided with any directives and we come to root for our leads on our own accord. One of the interesting aspects of the movie is how it hints at Pat Sr.'s own struggles with mental problems but doesn't go the distance to shed more light on the topic. It gives you a hint that Patrick's problems may have deep hereditary roots and it was going to burst out in open one way or the other.

There are cliches and then there are comforting cliches. Silver Linings gives us exactly what we want to see. It didn't inspire me as much as it did a few others, but it was always, you know, nice. In Patrick's words, the world is a pretty messed up place as it is and we don't need another sad Hemingway ending.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

While The Hurt Locker periodically offered potent doses of thrills, Zero Dark Thirty brings out the frustrating and hard ways of gathering intelligence and constantly hitting dead ends. The film follows breadcrumbs, sparsely sprinkled across the length of the breadth. The trails are so thin, there are times when the story appears to be going nowhere. It's a densely written work with a lot of facts and names. We all know how things end. The important task for Bigelow was to keep us invested in the process and sustain our interest till the very end. I must say she has managed to do exactly that.

I must confess I was most excited about the final scene. Honestly, I was a bit curious to know how the leads appeared but I didn't care much for them next to the actual raid. That was a historical moment. It's like recreating the Kennedy assassination. We've all read about it and seen animated representations on CNN but the picture never came clearly to our head. The fact that they are selling it as "the greatest manhunt in history" itself underlines the importance of the subject. The film sears you with boundless thrill as two choppers stealthily fly low over a dark and sleepy Pakistan. In that moment, I had this photograph appear in my head; the one that was splashed on newspapers across the world; the one with Obama, Clinton, Biden and other top staffs attentively watching a television screen showing live-feed from the cameras on the Navy Seal Team's head gear. How much this one event meant to them, not just politically, and to the world in general was what that made watching the climax all the more special.

During the raid sequence, the film sticks to minimal action and known facts. I remember reading that one of the two Navy SEAL choppers crash landed inside the Abbottabad complex. It was just a piece of information whose gravity didn't get to me. But watching the dramatized version made me realize how absurdly wrong things went. Zero Dark Thirty is an action film but unlike any other. In the film's most important juncture, Chris Pratt's character whispers 'Osama' in a fake accent hoping to lure his prize out. I hope it was intended to be funny, because it was hilarious. Just because the trick worked for him once before, him trying the same once again turned the moment into something so funny that every last bit of tension was diffused. Even the most important bullet in the film is fired without any dramatic build-up and OBL lays dead before you know it.

It is not a cheery movie. In its closing moments, it doesn't fill us with optimism and leaves our veins pumping with patriotism. The film actually continues with the "The rush of battle... for war is a drug." theme previously explored in detail in The Hurt Locker. Here is a person who was recruited to CIA straight out of high-school, is not an easy person to work with, has no real friends and has a career solely defined by this one single mission. She cannot afford to fail. And the inevitable sense of loss that washes over her at the end is palpable. She's the superhero who lost her nemesis and couldn't help but shed a tear. Once the weight gets lifted from her shoulders and she comes face to face with the sudden closure, the magnitude of the emotions bears her down. 

William Goldenberg, who also worked on Argo, has co-edited this film and the pacing is very good. Boasting a stunning ensemble cast, Zero Dark Thirty is a very well crafted film. It may not break my top 10, but I am glad I caught this on the big screen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mama (2013)

Mama is my first horror film on the big screen, discounting Pizza and the awful Charulatha. At the cost of sounding boastful, I must say horror movies don't easily scare me. I even criticized Pizza for falling flat when it came to scares, scares which largely worked on most of the people I discussed the film with. Despite knowing how well films of this genre open at American box-office, I was unsure if they were actually effective when, in spite of the great sound, one is surrounded by hordes of people. My Mama experience has left me with mixed thoughts.

Because watching the trailer beforehand marginally diminished the film's impact, I will refrain from going into the story and try to be vaguer than I usually am. After being rescued from the cabin in the woods, the girls take a long time to get used to civilization. The older one is closer to society, but the little one appears to have been scarred beyond recovery. Their uncle Jaime Lannister and his girlfriend, played by a delicious looking Goth Jessica Chastain, devote their time to rebuild the girls' life.

Mama has a decent story and is a generally well made horror film which avoids the genre's cliches. It doesn't go for cheap thrills and never ceases to be interesting. It is also supported by strong crafts. Yet, ultimately, it doesn't deliver on the scares even as much as I would have liked it to. So, again, like with Pizza, I think I should be recommending this film nevertheless.

The back-story about this particular person who the kids refer to as 'Mama' presents itself to the many lead characters in the form of dreams (nightmares, actually). It makes sense that characters take their time before realizing that they are in a horror movie where weird things can happen. But everything is pretty apparent to the viewers who know what they have got their selves into. So once the revelations stop being revelatory, it is up to them to go all out on the scares. I honestly don't know how films belonging to this genre work. I am just telling you what could have made this far more interesting for me.

On more than one occasion, we are made to believe everything we witness in a static frame is normal, and then, by the introduction of newer information, we suddenly understand that things are not okay. It is of the more interesting devices the film uses, and to great effect. Sometimes, the joke is on us; rest of the times on Chastain, who happens to be our only connection to this story where strange things can happen.

In our movies, we don't like to see good people get hurt. From the little horror I am accustomed with, I understand the world works in such a way that people get hurt/die when they are not particularly affable or are a little too curious. This rule holds true in Mama, where generally everyone is good in their own way and make their own share of sacrifices to look after the girls' betterment. But in order to have some sort of catharsis, we have a circumstantial antagonist in the form of the girls' grandmother who is out to secure their custody from their uncle. So even though she's not a bad person, people were very pleased to see her come in harm's way because she is placed relatively low on the goodness scale.

I saw it in a theater which boasted fancy Dolby Atmos sound system and I am still not convinced these films work better on the big screen. I think Mama is definitely a film worth checking out. I leave it up to you to decide how you want to watch this film. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Lincoln (2012)

In the film's opening scene, a black soldier comes up to Lincoln and respectfully asks for equality for his race. He hopes: "in a few years perhaps they (White people) can abide the idea of Negro lieutenants and captains. In fifty years, maybe a Negro colonel. In a hundred years - the vote." He couldn't have imagined in his wildest dreams that in a little more than 150, America would have a Black President. Lincoln's cultural and historical significance is astonishing. It makes sense why the release date was played around with, so it won't be used as a vehicle by either parties to gain political mileage during the recent Presidential elections. And Lincoln was a Republican.    

It is not often that a film makes you respect a character who you knew almost nothing about. I would liken my experience to watching Devar Magan, where I couldn't keep my clasped hands from going up with reverence during the final scene. Lincoln is like that. You don't see the grey sides to him, but do we really have to see some negative traits when, chances are, they never prominently existed? 

An interesting attribute to Lincoln is that he has a story for every argument or discussion. This is not a movie about Lincoln's childhood or about his losing the many elections before finally becoming the president. He has seen the horrors of war and the underbelly of Washington politics. He has even lost his son to one, making him all the more protective towards his youngest. The man has lead a full life now. His stories are such good companion pieces to the point he is trying to drive home. There's even a funny scene where one character shouts out in bewilderment as Lincoln begins to tell another one of his stories.  

There were some complaints about the film's length and that kept me from watching it at home. But surprisingly, the pacing is excellent. The dialogues are so well written that your attention never wanders. Opening with the presidential inauguration, the film immediately jumps into Lincoln's plans to table the 13th amendment in the house of Representatives. He may be the most loved person in every room he's in, but his first term was completely shrouded by the devastating Civil War. This one historic piece of legislation could be his legacy. Like this year's Argo, the film leads to a nerve-wracking high, where despite knowing the outcome, you hang on to every last syllable, with your heart beating like crazy. 

Lincoln is an important movie. It focuses on only a few months of his life but it still is the Gandhi of this decade. It needed to exist so the world could know what a great man he was. I think we can trust Kushner for depicting the events with sufficient accuracy. Like many of Spielberg's previous films, the victory is balanced with a sense of loss. Enough blood has been spilled. The fact that this bill wouldn't have passed for a long time if not for Lincoln gives the whole aspect an extra gravitas. This is a wholesome movie. That the movie delves deep on Lincoln's relationship with this wife Mary Todd was itself a nice touch and makes for some truly marvelous scenes.  

Daniel Day-Lewis gives a performance to last for eternity. From the slight slouch to the voice, he nails it on all points. His imposing stature could make anyone go weak in the knees as he lovingly places his hand on someone's shoulders or refers to them by their first name. He *is* Abe Lincoln. He is supported by an excellent cast, one of the best ever assembled. I don't recall seeing so many known faces in a movie before. Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, John Hawkes, Jackie Earle Haley, Tim Blake Nelson,  Jared Harris, Lee Pace, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lukas Haas, Dane DeHaan, David Costabile and Adam Driver. Phew. I simply had to write that down.

Kaminski, Williams and Kahn.. they all deliver. This is a great movie. Damn. It really is. Lincoln is the most fun you'll have in a history class. It is enlightening and wildly entertaining for such a wordy movie.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Vishwaroopam (2013)

Hmm. Where.. do we begin? I took my time to write about this film. Pushing off my initial reactions, I gave the film a lot of thought because I wanted to be really sure. My views haven't changed a bit. Vishwaroopam is disappointing. 

The film opens with a beautiful Haneke-ish static shot showing a few pigeons fluttering and cooing in their shelves. A mysterious looking man, who could be Kamal under heavy makeup, appears and sets a few birds free. What is happening? The action quickly shifts to a woman confessing about her marital and extramarital problems to a psychiatrist. When asked to go in detail about her husband, she takes more than a moment to say something. And then we see the man himself- dancing more gracefully than ever. The first 30 or so minutes of Vishwaroopam is great fun. The film is heavy on Kamal's trademark humor and fills you with a lot of curiosity. Sadly, the film peaks too early. Everything goes downhill from here, ending in a dull climax.   

Tamil Nadu is a small state in a big country. We have a thriving film industry but we don't have the muscle of Bollywood in terms of eyeballs. In recent times, we have started making a lot of international films. By international, I am only referring to using foreign locales not just for dancing in colorful clothes but also to drive the story forward. There are so many logistical issues when a Tamil film is set in a foreign place. With some films, the story is such that they cannot but be set in a foreign land. Shankar's Jeans is a fine example. There has been a significant rise in number of such international films. Most have faltered due to their inability to handle the scale. Vishwaroopam's problems are not because it bites more than it can chew. It's because it fails to keep the thrill alive after the halfway mark. 

In the league of balls-out campy absurdness, Dasavatharam is up there. After watching Kamal's latest, I have begun to like his previous film better. It has aged well and slowly slipped into the So-Bad-It's-Good territory. The writing is decent enough and there's a proper story arc to most of Kamal's avatars. I have yet to watch it again after the first time but the memory is still fresh. Though it appears to have been cut from the same fabric as Dasavatharam, it is too early to look at Vishwaroopam in the same light. After all, it is a movie which thinks of itself as high-minded action film which looks at the developing tissues of terrorism.

In spite of what I said in the previous paragraph, Vishwaroopam is not an easy movie to label. It doesn't follow the same mood throughout. It starts off as something and becomes something else before ultimately turning into a one-man-saves-the-world movie. It is constantly evolving and unable to make up its own mind as to what it really aspires to be. It can be a good thing and bad thing. I don't know if this aspect of the movie has made it any better but it certainly wasn't problematic in any way.

A huge chunk of the film is set in Afghanistan where one Wasim Ahmed Kashmiri joins al-Qaeda. Rahul Bose's Omar, who is running the operations, accepting Wasim with open arms only pays off when he sees how highly skilled he is. His nationality and knowledge may come in handy if ever al-Qaeda decides to plan attacks on India in the future. It is here that the movie begins to lose steam and is unable to capitalize on the established mystery. The film recreates the time and place very well but the entire portion is too long for comfort and never particularly enlightening.

When it comes to action, Vishwaroopam leaves you wanting more. Not because the action is so good but because it never gives you much in the first place. There's a Guy Ritchie style real-time/slow-motion fight which is very entertaining. Then there's a car chase which is special in no way. The big set-piece takes place in the Afghan training camp when the natives are bombarded with aerial attacks. Okay, this kind of action has never been seen before in an Indian movie and I am sure it required a lot of hard work, given the budget constraints. But is that a reason good enough to celebrate it? Especially when it is so ordinary? Maybe we shouldn't write sequences which we couldn't materialize.

This new fad (old?) of showing villains with deformities hasn't gone well with me. And Kamal whose legacy itself is prosthetics has tried a couple of things. In spite of it all, Rahul Bose's Omar is a very tame, toothless villain who is not menacing in the least. After the point which I'll simply refer to as the 'transformation', there's never a moment where Kamal's Vishwanath appears vulnerable. 

In a movie about butterfly effect and chaos theory, there is ample space for coincidences. Talking about Vishwanath's relationship with his wife Nirupama- after his stint in Afghanistan, he is hibernating in the States under an identity of a classical dancer from India who couldn't hurt a fly. He is harmless and wouldn't raise even slight suspicion as to who he really is. To appear even more, for want of a better word, respectable in the society, he decides to get married. From Nirupama's confessions to her shrink, we know that her marriage was a one way ticket to fulfilling her dreams. There's no love in the relationship but just an understanding- a mutual agreement of sorts. Such is his devotion towards his work that he transforms himself into an effeminate person who is an embarrassment to his own wife. His closest confidante is another undercover officer named Ashmitha who becomes his student to stay close and communicate better about their operation. He may or may not be screwing her. I guess not. Everything's okay till now.

After reaching shore, Nirupama decided to do her doctorate in Nuclear Oncology. After years of study and research, she now works for a company headed by an Indian man who she is romantically involved with. Turns out the company is under Vishwanath's watchful eyes for channeling funds which may be used for something dangerous. Now how convenient is that? Or are you are telling me the marriage was just an excuse to get a student from India who is likely to become a Nuclear Oncologist and may just happen to work in the said company to gain an 'easy' access to the dirty inside workings? Wow. In that case, their plan is at least ten times more elaborate than even the terrorist's plans.

Nirupama coming around and instantly developing feelings for this newer, improved version of her husband is actually very understandable. It is said that some women are turned on by violence. Remember Maria Bello having passionate, rough sex (rape?) with Viggo Mortensen in A History of Violence, right after she sees who he really is? Nirupama slowly turns into another Iyer lady with a big mouth - very similar to Asin in Dasavatharam, though, thankfully, never as annoying.

See, I love Kamal Hassan. My respect for him has grown manifold over the last few days. It's this instinctive feeling to support a man who has become a victim of the system. Travelling all the way to Bangalore to watch the film was in itself our own little rebellious way of giving the finger to JJ and showing solidarity with Kamal. But my not liking Vishwaroopam is my opinion. Though it sounds like it. I am not being defensive. With all due respect, people around me are so blinded by the controversy that they are mixing two things up. Their romanticized views have no place in a healthy discussion. I am happy if you liked the film and have valid reasons for it. But immediately questioning someone's judgment because that person didn't like a movie as much is plain silly.

Kamal as a director has a taken up a project which is working on a very big scale. I still think he ghost-directed Dasavatharam, or had more than necessary creative control. He still continues to use clunky looking props. Here, he abuses the Bullet Time technique to little effect; it leaves no impact whatsoever. The dialogues are not particularly good with instances where they are very bad. Remember that female cop during the interrogation? It's a tough movie to make for an Indian crew and the strains show. Sanu Varghese has done a good job. Vishwaroopam could have been better if the sequence of exposition were tweaked a bit. The final act is devoid of any sort of thrill and monotonously reaches an end. Like Dasavatharam, which ends with sympathy porn montage of Kamal getting his makeup applied, Vishwaroopam too overwhelms with some fast-cut, high-octane shots from action sequences, which we quickly learn belong to the sequel.

In all honesty, I am not at all excited to see this evolve into a franchise. I hope this genius who made Hey Ram would spend his time and talent on a better world. But do go and watch Vishwaroopam on the big screen. For Kamal's sake. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Kadal (2013)

Before starting with Baradwaj Rangan's 'Conversations with Mani Ratnam', I decided to catch up on films by the renowned director which I had not seen. I saw Mouna Ragam and it immediately struck me how I was giving way too much credit to newer Tamil films for getting certain things right. This is a man who had made such mature dramas decades ago. His Raavanan was a misstep, but the intention was novel. This juggling between Bollywood and Kollywood business didn't bode well. Like everyone else in this part of the country, I was in love with Rahman's soundtrack but my heart sank low when I saw the trailer. My fears came true when I saw the movie earlier today.

The concept of Good vs. Evil has been done to death in countless movies before Kadal. I wanted to love Kadal. I am still looking for reasons enough to make me fall in love with it but slim pickings. It starts off interestingly but ends up becoming this confused, repetitive sea monster looking to finish things off with a bang.

Some of the most iconic villains gained that status by having motivations which are above the inane material needs. Arjun's Berchmans is driven by his need to seek revenge from Aravind Swamy's Father Sam. Not plain killing him, but by pushing him into a corner and making him renounce his goody goody ways. That's okay but it never quite comes across convincingly on the screen.

Thomas' childhood is filled with despair. He is born illegitimately to a Mother who is widely known in the hamlet as one fisherman's mistress. Right after her death and the gruesome burial, Thomas is disowned by his Father and thrown out to fend for himself. Growing up facing scorning rejection from every corner, he turns into a damaged and spoilt young boy who builds a shield around to save himself from further rejection. Father Sam's entry into his life changes everything. After instinctively abusing him on their first meeting, he loses control on his facade and breaks down, revealing a boy seeking acceptance and wanting a normal life. 

After an unrewarding stint with Hindu mythology in Raavanan, Ratnam dabbles into Christianity to further explore the good vs. evil idea. In the fast life of  cities, religion has taken a backseat and people probably would have scoffed had the central story of Kadal been located in a one. Christianity thrives in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu and what better place to set the story in. But how essential is the whole fisherman thing? After a point, the setting becomes redundant, helping only to put across the Christian babble. Kadal is not a film about people questioning their own belief in God. Everyone is pretty confident about their unwavering faith and continue to remain so. Aravind Swamy is the Saint, Arjun is the Satan, Beatrice is an angel of mercy and Thomas is a wandering sheep. They know which side they are on.

During the stunningly well shot climactic sequence taking place right in the middle of a storm of biblical proportions, you cannot not get reminded of The Dark Knight, with Arjun hanging upside down and talking crazy things like The Joker. This is the most climaxy sort of climax you will ever find in a Mani Ratnam film. It all leads to this one big moment. It may have thematic depth but appears unnecessary on the surface. 

There are filmmakers who use cute kids and make us go aww right before we throw daggers at them for being so damn manipulative. Deiva Thirumagal was one big culprit. Ratnam is known to be good with child actors and he himself did the manipulation bit in Anjali. But with Kadal, he has turned things on its head. It is like he realized this practice and challenged himself to do the exact opposite. Which is to cast an actor who is not very easy on eyes as his female lead and make the audience care for her. I commend you for going the extra mile, Mr. Ratnam, but I simply couldn't look at your heroine for more than 5 seconds at a stretch. I know there is no way of talking about this and not sounding like a complete jerk. If I am asked for one reason as to why this film doesn't work as well as it should, I will immediately point to casting Thulasi Nair as Beatrice. I will only get offensive if I write anymore about her. I am sure she is a great kid but.. okay I will shut up now. I remember Samantha was cast in the role but had to quit due to some health concerns. Oh just imagine how much better the movie would have been. Oorla ponnada illa? 

Technically, Kadal is superior product in so many ways. Rajiv Menon's DI-heavy cinematography achieves a really interesting look for the film. The dialect is impeccable and sometimes incomprehensible. Gautham Karthik is a true star material and I hope he does a lot of good work. His performance is pretty good. A special mention to the two kids who played younger Thomas. 

Kadal may be disappointing but I will take an ambitious failure over a mediocre film any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

P.S. Please do stay and watch the end-credits. Arvind Swamy singing Anbin Vasale is hilarious.

Friday, February 1, 2013

David (2013)

I have followed Bejoy Nambiar since his days on a reality show on Sony Pix -- a show which he went on to win. Returning with his sophomore feature film, David tells the story of two people living in different time periods but share the same name. Does he deliver this time? 

Vikram's David is a fisherman by profession and a drunkard by choice. He gets into bar brawls which are complete with guitarists playing a Goan jingle in the background - reminiscent of scenes you are likely to find in a Mexican Western starring Antonia Banderas. When he is drunk (which is all the time) he sees his dead Father's happy spirit possessing random people to have a drink with David. After his bride ran away at the altar, he has never fallen in love again. On top of everything, he has a bizarre secret identity. As if he didn't have enough problems on his plate, he goes ahead and falls in love with his best friend's fiancee.  

Jiiva's David is a guitarist looking for that one big break which will change his fortunes. Living with his devout priest Father (Nasser) and two sisters in a Bandra suburb, his life takes a turn for worse after an incident where someone close to him gets used as a pawn in a larger political game. 

One of the film's biggest problems is the jarring imbalance in tone as we alternate between a lighthearted love story and contrasting, darker companion which is laced with politics and societal inequality. Since the life story of one David is clearly superior and interesting than that of the other, the film loses its good work done every time the other story starts. 

With David, Nambiar has given us a visually striking film which is a little too conventional in its storytelling, coming from someone like him -- someone I expected a lot more from. His taste in music and aesthetic visual choices are awe inspiring (remember 'Khoya Khoya Chaand' from Shaitan?), but what he does with these devices at his disposal is what I am concerned about. I keep thinking how he's the Indian equivalent of Zack Snyder. There's this scene where a dazed Jiiva beats up a few goons in rain as Manamey plays in the background.. it is absolutely stunning. Jaw-dropping beauty. In another instance, the film's theme Vaazhkaiye is used to perfection to create the right atmosphere. But such moments are few and far. 

I don't know if the women in Nambiar's world were too strange for the general Tamil audience, but the kind of chauvinistic comments I heard in the theater today made me throw up a bit in my mouth. On Jiiva's side we have his sister who smokes and a widowed lady who is caring towards him when he's in need. On Vikram's side, there's a deaf and mute girl whose display of affection is misconstrued by David himself. Then there's his friend and closest confidante Frenny who runs a massage parlor, and is happily married with a kid. Because of the film's non judgmental stance, I am glad that it exists. I don't know how long it will take to change the perception of people but this is a step in the right direction.  

I am not very hopeful of the film's chances of doing good business. Not because the film is too radical or unapproachable (it is not), but because of its not so tight writing and predictability. It's a film which puts all its cards on the table very quickly, and a after a point, the outcome becomes inconsequential to us. The film finds a way of connecting its two stories, but very loosely and without a compelling reason. 

Throughout the film, I kept wishing I was watching the Hindi version. It is clear beyond a speck of doubt that the film is meant to be seen in that language. No matter how much it tries to pass itself as a Tamil film, it continues to remain an awkwardly dubbed film which was hastily put together. It is not just about everyone speaking a language of a land far away; it's the politics itself. When you look at the scene of a political rally, it's stylization makes you wonder if it is set in Nambiar's alternate reality even. 

The Neil Nitin Mukesh portion which takes places in the 70s may be too alien to relate to for the Tamil audience. But without it, the film is never quite able to compensate. And since I knew that there exists a version of the film the way it was originally written, it became even harder to shake off the feeling that a huge chunk of the film was missing. David IS meant to be seen in Hindi. Even if that version is not as good as this, it would still be a failure of an ambitious vision- opposed to something like this which feels like a compromise from the word go. 

David is entertaining in parts but suffers due to tonal imbalance. I strongly feel that if you must watch it, may it be in Hindi. It is under-written and over-directed. David: 0 Goliath: 1.