Monday, September 12, 2011

RetroReview: Naan Vazhavaipen.

Note: RetroReview will look at fun old films from totally contemporary sense. No disrespect to the filmmakers, just a mix of respect and tease.

Rajini has made a total of five films the great actor Sivaji Ganesan. The most recent, Padaiyappa is a bore, with Sivaji playing Rajini’s father and quickly shuffling off under the guise of onscreen death, though I have a feeling that he’d rather not be in that dreadful film.

Before that, both were in Padikadhavan, though it’s a Rajini show all the way. Earlier they have both appeared in Justice Gopinath, and all these three show both of them having blood relationship.

That’s not fun. That’s not half as fun as nAn vAzha vaipEn where they are not father/son or siblings. They are almost enemies. And they kick each other’s butt, and that was what made me write this review. Actually they do that in Viduthalai too, but that's too horrible a film to write....maybe another day.

Movie starts from Sivaji playing Ravi, a poor travels agent who wears suit, and highlight the fact that his big-mouthed sister was wheelchair bound and his younger brother looks suspiciously like a girl and even sounds like one (don’t scratch your bald spot, those days “boys” usually played by girls, and Sri Devi made a fortune out of that).

We also get to know that Sivaji was the last to be seen with a murdered rich man, Ramaraj. Along the way we get to know that Sivaji also has brain tumour, but not in a fashion that is usually dealt with in Tamizh films. The buildup to what’s worst gonna happen was, well, quite bizarre for me. Only the lame dialogue ruined

what could have been an awesome scene. The doctor was played by Poornam Visvanath by the way. In order to make it interesting, let me reconstruct that scene from Scorsese's angle.

Doc: You see the spot here (showing X-Ray of a very normal looking brain)

Ravi: I ain’t seein’ no spot.

Doc: What’re’ye? Frickin’ blind.

Ravi: Who you callin’ frickin blind. I aint’ blind. I ain’t seein no spot that’s all. Frickin’ mook.

Doc: What’s a mook?

Ravi: A mook. A mook. Get on with it, will ya. What’s wrong with my head?

Doc: This spot here? It says you got toomer.

Ravi: A toomer?

Doc: Yeah, a toomer.

Ravi: A toomer?

Doc: What’re’yer frickin’ deaf? A toomer. A brain toomer

Ravi: Brain tumour? Holy shit. Am I dead?

Doc: Not yet. I am talking to you.

Ravi: You talking to me? You talking to me?

Doc: Ain’t nobody here. Yeah. You’re gonna die.

Ravi: Oh shit. I got family.

Doc: So do I, is that a coincidence or what, you dope.

Ravi: Who’s gonna take care of them if I am gone?

Doc: How the heck do I know? Okay, you can do an operation (surgery).

Ravi: Ah, what a relief. A minor operation. Phew.

Doc: Who said it’s a minor operation?

Ravi: It’s just at the corner of my head. Gotta be minor.

Doc: No, you stupid dope. It’s major. Here (drills Ravi’s head on the side with his finger), we’re gonna frickin’ open this and spill your noodles out, badabing!

Ravi: Jeesus. You gotta be kidding me. But that would make me alright, right?

Doc: What’s that?

Ravi: The major operation, it’d make me fine right?

Doc: Not really. There might be some side effects.

Ravi: Side effects? Like what? Scarred head?

Doc: Nonono, nothing bad like that. For a starter, you could have a stroke and get paralysed.

Ravi: Holy mother Mary!!!

Doc: Or you could be a retard for the rest of your life.

Ravi: Hare Krishna!

Doc: Even if you do live, you could become blind.

Ravi: Oh shit(reaches for his gun and shoots himself).

Well, no he doesn't shoot himself. That’s what the doctor tells him in a bizarre, build-upy way that either he dies of the tumour, or, after surgery, live with those aweful predicament ie, paralysed, become blind or a retard.

Ravi then does something more sensible so that his family is taken care of. He got to know that there’s a reward for those who provide information leading to the arrest of the rich man’s murderer. So, what he does? Yes, he makes himself the suspect and plants evidences pointing to him. A letter is dispatched to lawyer whereby once he is sentenced, a sealed note would be open that would instruct him to give the reward money to Ravi’s family.

Now then, the lazy cops swallows the trap, hook, line and sinker, and arrests Ravi. He gets death sentence, but before sentencing our friend gets a massive headache and is forced to undergo surgery done by the same doctor, Poornam Viswanath (PV).

Aside: Few words about PV. I always find him creepy, there’s something more to him than meets my contact lensed eye. Look at how lusty he gets around Silk Smitha in Mundram Pirai. Remember, he was the one who got Rajini in trouble in the first place in Tillu Mullu. As a father he was rotten, and remember how he chased out Kamal in Varumaiyin Niram Sigappu, only to be united years later in jail in Mahanadhi? End of Aside.

So, the operation was successful, and the doctor celebrates it by having a fag at the no-smoking zone (really, not making this up). Ravi does not get blind, paralysed or become a Vikram. Now, fully recovered he feels stupid, since he is healthy to the core, except maybe having few extra pounds of weight (This is Sivaji in post-lean looking years). He got death sentence on him, remember? Only way to sort things out is for him to find the actual murderer himself.

He escapes through the hospital room bathroom window (yes, the cops put him in a room where the bathroom window is big enough for tubby Ravi to go through). And in the course of finding the murderer, his path crosses with the pickpocket character played by Rajini.

If you have seen this movie, you will know Rajini's name. You will know his character’s name, because he keeps saying it goddamn, I don’t know, 57 times? “My name is Michael de Souza. I am a true Chris Chen”.

After a pickpocketing gig, we see Michael frolicking with a girl singing about sky is up there, and hell is somewhere down and we should be happy in the earth. He does few dance moves that later inspired K. Bagyaraj to pick up aerobics. Then, the unavoidable brush with Ravi, who has moved on from family burdened travel agent with brain tumour to full-form action figure.

“My name is Michael de Souza. I am a true Chris Chen”.

Ravi’s trace from a clue, a really terrible looking humongous gold ring, got him face to face with…

“My name is Michael de Souza. I am a true Chris Chen”.

Thinking that Michael killed the rich man Ravi confronts him and one thing led to another, and both end up brawling. Well, actually three of them if you consider Sivaji’s thinner double.

“My name is Michael de Souza. I am a true Chris Chen”.

Then, a gun turns up, and they sort things out and Ravi realises that Michael is not the killer. Oh, by the way, soon to be MGR’s successor, Rajini was actually wielding a revolver with no bullets (yeah, go ahead and do your Freudian analysis). Michael stole the hideous ring from someone and he has a photographic memory and would be able to assist Ravi in finding the real killer, but not without the intend of double crossing for money.

Aside: Michael’s photographic memory is triggered by the complex technique of pretending that your fingers are binoculars. Also, “My name is Michael de Souza. I am a true Chris Chen”. End of aside.

Probably he is not only a true but a good Chris Chen, Michael abandons the intend to betray Ravi and nails the actual murderer- Ramaraj’s brother, played by one of the most uncharismatic actor ever to grace the screen and yet get shitload of assignments, Major Sunderajan.

Upon identifying Sunderajan, the unflappable Michael immediately swung into action and said, “My name is Michael de Souza. I am a true Chris Chen”. Oh well, he was to bring our Major (I think his name is Jeyaraj, I forgot, who cares) and hand it to Ravi. Ravi arrives at some stupid location (abandoned house, etc, etc, why can’t they meet at Starbucks or something), some shootout ensues, and Michael gets shot, like three or four times, enough to kill an elephant, but this is a movie so he gets to live longer.

What follows is a series of shots of Ravi rushing in his cute little VW (sports version) to get a doctor, and the very dying Michael holding Major at gunpoint. It really looked pathetic, Major siting on the floor wanting to do overacting badly yet he was refused at gunpoint. Ravi comes with the doctor, and cops too (it’s complicated), Major gets arrested and Michael shuffles off to meet his Chris Chen god. Funny though, he was given a Catholic burial.

Despite my ribbing, the film was pretty good the second half. Sivaji sleepwalks in this role (again case of feeding twigs to an elephant), and Rajini does his best to lend some credibility to sell Chris Chenity or whatever he was preaching.

Most importantly, it has beautiful songs by Ilayaraja. Thirutheeril Varum Silayoo, Enthan PonVanname, Ennodu Padunggal, and the abovementioned Agayam Mele Paathalam Kizhe are all radio favourites.

Watch it if it’s on TV, especially the brain tumour scene. Also…

“My name is Michael de Souza. I am a true Chris Chen”

In the pix: Rajinikanth (the original Ajith) as whatsisname, Sivaji Ganesan (the original Rajini AND Kamal) and what looks like....oh my apparitions..arrrrrrr.....

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