Monday, March 14, 2005

Raam - an engrossing experience

I don't remember much from Amar's birthday party. I must have been in the 8th or the 9th Standard at that time. Jeevan, a classmate, had invited some of us for his brother's birthday party. His brother, Amar, must have been around 10 years old then. As birthday parties go, Amar probably had a nice time, but I don't remember much of it. Anyways, after close to a dozen years, some months ago, I heard that R.B Chouwdry was launching his son, Jeeva, as a leading man in Aasai Aasaiyai. It took me by surprise considering that my friend Jeevan was way past the age most guys become leading men. But I started smiling the moment I saw "Jeeva" smiling at me from pictures on an entertainment website. It was not Jeevan, but Amar!

I personally did not see the movie, but have read since that Aasai Aasaiyai did decently at the box office. His next movie, also from his father's production house, was Thitthikudhe. I don't know how it did, but when D told me that he was planning to watch Raam last night, I told him that I would watch it with him, initially only because of Ameer, the director.

Ameer really shone as a director in his debut Mounam Pesiyathe. In fact, me and my roomies loved it so much that not a week went past (for almost a year) without us watching the movie on our VCR. The songs were not laudable, but the background score was totally in another level. And the humor really came across as down to earth, with Surya in particular showing us, much before Pithamagan that he has a good comic sense. Total nakkal.

Raam is a whodunit. I would have wanted to watch it on the big screen, but I got to do with what I have. The movie is engrossing. The Hindu's reviewer calls the movie a "luminous feather" in Ameer's cap. And I cannot disagree. Ameer reaffirms that the glimpses from Mounam Pesiyadhe were no one time tricks. A good screenplay and a inspired casting does this for him.

Jeeva does an excellent job as a moody, almost autistic teen. He does not have too many lines, but the few lines and the body language impress. Though some of the lines refer to philosophy and god, the movie is certainly not religious. In fact it surprises some with the portrayal of god men. It is refreshing to see a disheveled godman mouthing pithy sayings in English. And we certainly haven't seen too many "heroes" who seem to sing and chant more than they speak (Vikram's Chitthan and Kamal's Guna notwithstanding).

Saranya seems to have done a good job too as his mother, but her voice (dubbed?) sometimes comes across as jarring. Mallu actor Murali essays yet another role as the strict, but just father (remember Jothika's father in Dum Dum Dum?) while Raghuman seems to be an inspired choice for the role of Murali's superior officer. Gajala does not do much, apart from shedding a few tears, but it is a competent role for her as Jeeva's neighbor (and Murali's daughter) who fawns over Jeeva, without getting anything significant in return. But someone else stands out. And that is Kanja Karuppu (source: The Hindu). He gives you wisecracks, laced with sarcasm, with a straight face and one can't help but laugh at those lines. I hope he escapes from the type casting that seems to have drowned so many before him.

YSR seems to have been in a Kadhal Konden induced hangover while composing for Raam. But that impression could be because one of the prominent voices in this sound track is Vijay Yesudas and he certainly proves to be a chip off the old block. The old block is in here too and KJY certainly does not disappoint. The sound track features two songs (Yaaro Arivaal, Manidhan Solkindra ) with both their voices and is on the whole melancholic, keeping with the theme of the movie. Yaaro Arivar and Nizhlinin Nijamum impressed me. But I do hope YSR refrains from singing in his soundtracks. His voice seems to be off key most of the time, or maybe I lack the knowledge to appreciate his yodeling.

If this was a couple of years ago, I would have said that a movie like Raam is not the ideal vehicle for someone not quite past the debutant stage. But Dhanush's experience seems to have been the catalyst, with every new face attempting a role with a psychotic tinge without hesitation. Dhanush's recent efforts were totally un-watchable and it remains to be seen if Balu Mahendra's gamble to cast him pays dividends. So, for his sake, I hope Amar and his father view Raam as just the means to an end result that looks much rosier than Dhanush's given that Amar seems to be capable of underplaying roles. Amar, Well done da....

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