Review: Chekka Chivantha Vaanam

There was a time when Mani Ratnam was a master of his art. He took the best out of every actor; even actors about whom we thought were average have performed beyond our expectations in Mani Ratnam films. When melodrama was the signature characteristic of Tamil cinema or Indian cinema in general, Mani Ratnam’s characters did it subtly, spoke not just with their words, and they went straight to our hearts. Well, that’s a thing of past now.

(Possible spoilers ahead)

In “Chekka Chivantha Vaanam”, you see the director struggling to keep the audience consistently engaged with the characters. Even the characters are emotionally disconnected with each other (and I’m not talking about the plot’s context). There is a scene when Jyothika’s character is dying and Aravind Swami is confessing something to her. This supposedly is a very emotional scene, yet it is one among the many cold scenes in the movie.

The first half of the movie was totally racy though. So much so that you wouldn’t realise how that one hour went. Mainly thanks to the towering performance of Prakash Raj (that actor is a gem!). But once the initial plot for each character is set, the director is clueless about how to take this forward on the shoulders of the three leading actors. Though at the end he gains some hold on the craft.

Jyothika is the only consistent performer in the movie, other than Prakash Raj and Jaya Sudha. Vijay Sethupathi does justice to his role, but it is not convincing enough that all his subtlety throughout the film was for the climax. Aravind Swami’s performance is not what I would except in the company of Mani Ratnam but maybe that is expecting too much.

Rahman’s background score is gripping at times but falls to melodramatic lows at times. And please don’t sing anymore, Rahman! You startled me with your voice during that funeral scene of Ethi’s wife.

Mani Ratnam does a Ram Gopal Varma with “Chekka Chivantha Vaanam” and that is not what his fans go to theatres for. I hope he doesn’t forget that even if the movie does well in the box office.

Nagesh – A tribute

[Nagesh will be remembered as one of the most talented comedians in Tamil Cinema, says KK Moidu in today’s guest post].

Cyril K Nagesh, popularly known as Nagesh, has left a void in the Tamil cinema industry. The death of the septuagenarian on Jan. 31 due to complications related to diabetes and heart ailment put an end to an era. The 76-year-old actor is survived by three sons, including actor Anand Babu.

Nagesh, who carved a niche for himself, was most often casted as the man who stands next to the hero. He had enough luck to share screen space with three generations of actors like MGR-Sivaji, Rajinikanth-Kamal Hassan and the latest Tamil heartthrobs Ilayathalapathi Vijay and Ajith Kumar. Most of the people today remember Nagesh as a funny man but many don’t know yesteryear’s front-line heroes like MGR and Sivaji Ganesan were waiting for his arrival on the sets. For producers, his presence in films was necessary for commercial success. He was not able to find enough time and worked on an hourly basis on each film per day. For the last couple of years, Nagesh was rarely seen on screen and his last film was Dasavatharam, where Kamal Hassan played ten different roles. He was one of the leading comedians of the 60s and 70s during the reign of MGR-Shivaji and was a regular in their films. Nagesh, a good dancer, was praised for his pairing opposite Manorama in several films.

CK Nagesh was born as Gundu Rao in a Brahmin community to Kannada speaking Brahmin Madhwa parents in 1933. He left his home as a teenager, telling his parents that he would return only after establishing himself. He travelled to Chennai and started his career as an employee of the Indian Railways. After watching a Tamil play Kamba Ramayanam presented by his colleagues, he felt that he could do a better job. His role in a play as a man suffering from stomach pain staged at the Railways Cultural Association won him appreciation from MGR, the chief guest of the programme. Nagesh began his career as a theatre artiste by playing minor roles and finally reached stardom.

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